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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Biggest surprises of the 2022 NFL season so far

Upsets, injuries and bad starts through 11 weeks of the regular season 

 

By PATRICK FIGUEROA — sports@theaggie.org

 

While the 2022 NFL season has  been as expected in some ways, like the Kansas City Chiefs being one of the best teams in the AFC, there have been many other things that fans likely did not expect. In fact, the 2022 NFL season has arguably had more surprises than previous seasons.

 

Two anticipated NFC contenders likely to miss the playoffs

One of the most surprising revelations during this season is that the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams are having unsuccessful seasons so far. 

Last season, the Rams won Super Bowl 56 after a good regular season in which they had 12 wins and five losses. This season, the Rams currently have three wins and seven losses through 11 weeks. Football Outsiders projects the Rams to have a 1% chance of making the playoffs this year. For believers of the Super Bowl hangover — a curse that says that teams who appear in the Super Bowl will have an unsuccessful following season — the Rams serve as  confirmation. 

Meanwhile, the Packers had the best record during the 2021 NFL season, with 13 wins and four losses. Despite losing in the divisional round of the 2021 playoffs and trading away star wide receiver Davante Adams, the Packers were still expected to be one of the best teams in their conference during the 2022 season. However, through 11 weeks, the Packers currently have four wins and seven losses. Football Outsiders projects them to have a 8.6% chance of making the playoffs. The 2022 season has definitely been a disappointment for reigning back-to-back MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. 

 

Many surprising teams likely to make the playoffs

There are also teams exceeding their preseason expectations and are likely to make the playoffs in their respective conferences. These teams include the Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans. 

The Seahawks were expected to be one of the worst teams coming into the 2022 NFL season. However, they have six wins and four losses through 11 weeks, giving them a 85.4% chance of making the playoffs, according to Football Outsiders. A large reason for their success has been quarterback Geno Smith’s performance. Despite being a backup for most of his career, Smith has thrown for 2,472 yards, 17 touchdowns and only four interceptions, putting his name into the MVP and Comeback Player of the Year conversations. 

Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins have seven wins and three losses through 11 weeks, giving them a 86.6% chance of making the playoffs. Dolphins’ quarterback Tua Tagovailloa has been crucial to their success. Despite the fact that the Dolphins were involved in rumors to acquire other quarterbacks, such as Deshaun Watson, Tagovailoa has silenced the doubters. Tagovailoa has 2,265 yards, 18 touchdowns and a 71.5% completion percentage in eight games, leading one of the best passing offenses in the NFL. It also helps when star wide receivers Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill have combined for 10 touchdowns and over 2,000 receiving yards. 

The Titans traded away star wide receiver AJ Brown this past offseason. A move like this usually means that the team is aiming to save money and rebuild their roster. However, the Titans have seven wins and three losses and a 98.1% chance of making the playoffs through 11 weeks. Titans’ head coach and the 2021 Coach of the Year Mike Vrabel deserves lots of credit for another successful season that will certainly put him in the conversation to win another Coach of the Year award.

 

What is even happening here? 

While these teams may have had some hope at the beginning of the year, the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders have had quite disappointing seasons so far. 

The Colts made headlines when they fired their head coach Frank Reich, who had a winning record (40-33-1) before he was fired. Despite a disappointing beginning of the season — the Colts had three wins, five losses and a tie before firing Reich — he was in a tough situation with a young starting quarterback, Sam Ehlinger, a below average offensive line and star running back Jonathan Taylor dealing with injuries. However, NFL fans were most shocked when Colts’ owner Jim Irsay appointed former Colts’ offensive lineman Jeff Saturday as head coach, despite the fact that Saturday had no coaching experience at the collegiate or professional level. 

When the Broncos acquired quarterback Russell Wilson from the Seahawks, and signed him to a contract extension before the season even started, fans believed that this would solve the team’s quarterback problem. However, the Broncos have only three wins in comparison to seven losses through 11 weeks. First-year Broncos’ head coach Nathaniel Hackett has also had a rough start. His questionable clock management caused the Broncos to hire a “helping hand” to assist with timing. The season, which previously looked promising for the Broncos, now looks like a disaster.

Similarly, when the Raiders acquired Davante Adams and signed him to a contract extension during the offseason, fans expected them to compete for a playoff spot. Unfortunately, they have three wins and seven losses through 11 weeks. Despite the poor season and many fans calling for Raiders’ first-year head coach Josh McDaniels to be fired, Raiders’ owner Mark Davis stood by his head coach, saying that McDaniels is “doing a fantastic job.” For a team that has not won a playoff game since 2002, it is hard to see this trend ending anytime soon. 

While many of these surprises have been unpleasant for different NFL fanbases, the surprises are what makes the NFL entertaining. Anything can happen in any given matchup in any given season. It would help NFL fans to begin expecting the unexpected if they plan to continue watching professional football. 

 

Written by: Patrick Figueroa — sports@theaggie.org