2022 NFL preview: Top 10 storylines, including a potential last ride for Tom Brady

·5-min read

The NFL always keeps itself in the headlines even when the season is months away, but this offseason was especially interesting.

There was unprecedented player movement, and just about every team had some impactful change. That leads into what should be one of the more interesting seasons we've seen in a while.

Here are the top 10 storylines to be tracking as we head into the regular season.

10. The likable Detroit Lions

"Hard Knocks" shined a long and positive light on the Lions. They're the easiest team to root for in the NFL, given their unfortunate history. Bettors have been lining up all offseason to wager on the Lions this season. Maybe a breakout is coming. The Cleveland Browns used to be the most lovable loser in the NFL, but they have ruined that reputation. Now the Lions become the team that any fan, outside of maybe NFC North rival fanbases, can get behind.

9. Will Rams and Bengals have a hangover?

The Super Bowl hangover is real. It's hard to get all the way to the final game of the NFL season and then do it again the next season. The Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals had awesome runs to the Super Bowl last season and gave us a dramatic game with the Rams coming out on top. The Rams had to retool a bit but should be contenders again. The Bengals, behind young stars Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase, have to prove they weren't just a team that got hot in the postseason. Both teams will be in the spotlight all season.

Cooper Kupp and the Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals to win last season's Super Bowl. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Cooper Kupp and the Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals to win last season's Super Bowl. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

8. Can New York football get better?

Technically, football in New York state is just fine. The Buffalo Bills should be awesome. But the two teams with "New York" in their name, who actually play in New Jersey, have been terrible. The Giants are trying to turn things around with a new coach, Brian Daboll. The Jets are hoping second-year coach Robert Saleh and second-year quarterback Zach Wilson can help turn around an improving roster. The NFL would probably like if the biggest media market had a top team. We'll see if either franchise is moving toward respectability.

7. 2nd-year QBs take center stage

Unless there's an unexpected change, no rookie quarterback will start Week 1. It will be the first time we have no rookie QBs on opening day since 2007. That means there could be more focus on the batch of second-year quarterbacks that have a lot to prove. Trevor Lawrence didn't have the rookie season he wanted, Zach Wilson struggled last year, Trey Lance barely played, Justin Fields has to carry a poor Chicago Bears team, Mac Jones struggled in preseason after a good rookie campaign, and Davis Mills has a chance to establish himself as the Houston Texans' QB of the future. That's a lot to keep an eye on.

6. When will Lamar Jackson sign?

Every few weeks it seems we're getting a new mega-deal for a quarterback. The one we've been waiting for is Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson is acting as his own agent, which could be affecting negotiations and definitely has slowed down the news about what is holding things up. Until the deal gets done, there will be a lot of interest over what happens next.

5. Many new faces in new places

Russell Wilson's trade from the Seattle Seahawks to Denver Broncos set off perhaps the most interesting NFL offseason we've ever seen. Quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson, Baker Mayfield and Matt Ryan joined Wilson in switching teams. Elite receivers like Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill and A.J. Brown were on the move. Star defenders like pass rushers Von Miller, Chandler Jones and Khalil Mack, cornerback J.C. Jackson and linebacker Bobby Wagner changed teams. It'll take a few weeks this season to get used to all the changes.

4. Deshaun Watson's return

It's not a feel-good storyline, but you won't be able to escape Watson's return to the Cleveland Browns lineup after he finishes a 11-game suspension. He will be a controversial central figure to the latter half of the NFL season. It will get even hotter if Watson and the Browns make a deep playoff run.

3. The wild, wild AFC West

The AFC West is one of the best divisions in modern NFL history, especially at the quarterback position. All four of the quarterbacks are capable of throwing for 5,000 yards this season. All four teams are capable of making the playoffs. The Kansas City Chiefs have owned the division the past few years, but they'll be challenged this season. Every single game between AFC West teams will be fantastic entertainment.

2. Buffalo Bills try to deliver

The Bills, famously, have never won a Super Bowl. They haven't won a championship since 1965, when they were in the AFL. Buffalo has lost two playoff games in a row at Kansas City, last season in an overtime heartbreaker. This season the Bills come back with a loaded roster, an MVP candidate in Josh Allen and the Super Bowl favorite spot. Can the Bills finally bring a championship to Buffalo?

1. Tom Brady's last season?

For 40 days, we thought Tom Brady was done. He came out of retirement, but it seems very likely this will be the final season for the most accomplished player in NFL history. Can Brady, at age 45, leave on a high note? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be in the playoffs again, and then a lot of the focus will shift to Brady. Just imagine if Brady's final game is his 11th Super Bowl.