The 2022 NFL season kicks off Thursday night, when the reigning Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams host the Buffalo Bills (8:20 p.m., NBC). Both are among the prime contenders to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy at the conclusion of the season.
After a wild offseason, we will finally have answers to some of this season’s biggest questions.
Can Russell Wilson take his new team, the Denver Broncos, to the playoffs? Will Derek Carr and Davante Adams dominate the passing game for the Las Vegas Raiders? Will the Philadelphia Eagles win the NFC East?
Our NFL Nation reporters have you covered with intel and projections on all 32 teams ahead of kickoff. ESPN analyst Matt Bowen also makes bold predictions on big questions including: Will the New England Patriots miss the playoffs? Will Tony Pollard take over for Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas? In addition, we have preseason power rankings, fantasy breakout players, over/under on wins, depth charts, schedules and rosters for every team.
This is everything you need to know for the start of the season, which will conclude on Feb. 12 at Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona.
Let’s get started with the Arizona Cardinals and go in alphabetical order:
Preseason power ranking: No. 18
The season will be a success if … the Cardinals finish strong.
It’s something they haven’t done the last two years. But first, the team needs to weather receiver DeAndre Hopkins‘ absence during the first six games while he serves a suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. If they can do that and avoid a second-half swoon, this season could end with a playoff appearance. — Josh Weinfuss
Impact newcomer: Marquise Brown, WR
The Cardinals traded for the receiver on the first day of the NFL draft, reuniting him with his college quarterback, Kyler Murray. Having that kind of familiarity — Brown and Murray throw often in the offseason — should help Brown hit the ground running in Week 1. And he’ll be needed with Hopkins out for the first six games. Then when Hopkins gets back, the Cardinals will have one of the best receiving duos in the NFL. — Weinfuss
Describe the QB situation in three words: Time to win
Murray is coming off signing a mega extension this offseason that’ll keep him in Arizona through the 2028 season, but it’s time for Murray to show why he was worth $230.5 million and win a playoff game for the first time in his career. — Weinfuss
Fantasy breakout candidate: Rondale Moore, WR
Moore saw 65 targets as a rookie, a number that should climb in 2022 with Hopkins suspended the first six weeks. A player with dynamic traits and open-field juice, Moore can be schemed manufactured touches in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, in addition to what he brings as an interior route-runner with quarterback Murray. — Matt Bowen
Over or under nine wins? Over
Not the rosiest offseason, but they have a dynamic offense, and it’s hard to defend with just one week of preparation. I do not see a losing season, so I will take the Over — Doug Kezirian
Bold prediction for 2022: Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will be one of the top head-coaching candidates next offseason.
Joseph’s ability to scheme and develop will be on display this season for a Cardinals defense that is currently lying in the weeds. Look for Joseph to be one of the top candidates after his Arizona defense registers top-10 numbers this season. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 32
Breakout player: Kyle Pitts, TE
Can a breakout player be a guy who was a Pro Bowler last year? If it’s Pitts, then yes. He had one of the best rookie years ever for a tight end (68 catches, 1,026 yards, one touchdown), but he has all the tools to become one of the NFL’s best tight ends this season. His skill set allows him to break away from defensive backs and linebackers, and his lack of touchdowns last season feels like an aberration. Don’t be surprised if Pitts is pushing for the top five — and maybe higher — among tight ends this season. — Michael Rothstein
Describe the QB situation in three words: Long-term planning
While the Falcons of course want to win in 2022, the quarterback spot between Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder comes down to whether either one of them shows to be the capable long-term starter beyond this season. If Mariota or Ridder — or, potentially, both — show they can fit the role for Atlanta, it leaves the Falcons with many more draft options in 2023. If they don’t, Atlanta will know it has to be in the draft or free agency quarterback market next offseason. It’s an answer we won’t know for at least two months, if not the whole season. — Rothstein
Most important discovery at camp: Atlanta’s secondary might be really talented — and deep.
The defensive backs always looked like the best group on the roster, but a strong preseason from Darren Hall, slated to be the top backup at outside corner, and the emergence of Dee Alford, who can play inside or outside likely as a reserve, offers Atlanta more depth behind starters A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward. Richie Grant, the team’s second-round pick last year, has shown improvement at safety, and there’s a good mix of talent and experience around him. It’s a position group the Falcons can feel really good about. — Rothstein
Fantasy breakout candidate: Drake London, WR
With the 6-foot-4 frame to play as a boundary X receiver or bump inside as a big slot target, London is the pick here, given the volume he should see opposite tight end Kyle Pitts. Stretch the seams, work the outside matchups and win in the red zone. Bet on traits and skill with the rookie here. — Matt Bowen
Over or under five wins? Under
It’s a rebuild season. The Falcons swapped veteran Matt Ryan for Marcus Mariota, Calvin Ridley is suspended for the season, they have a daunting schedule and they are expected to regress after going 7-2 in one-score games last season. — Erin Dolan
With the pocket poise and mechanics to produce in coach Arthur Smith’s offense, the rookie out of Cincinnati gets the nod much earlier than expected. Ridder is an easy answer for Smith’s play-action-based pass game, and it allows a rebuilding Falcons team to evaluate the position for the future. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 9
Breakout player: Odafe Oweh, OLB
A first-round pick from a year ago, Oweh was the Ravens’ best defensive player in training camp, using his quickness to repeatedly get into the backfield. He is coming off a rookie season in which he recorded five sacks in his first 11 games before a shoulder injury limited his effectiveness. Oweh is primed to become the first Ravens defender to record double-digit sacks since Terrell Suggs in 2017. — Jamison Hensley
Injury to watch: Ronnie Stanley, OT
The most important comeback for Baltimore is Stanley, who was a first-team All-Pro left tackle in his last full season in 2019. He has missed 28 of the past 29 games due to an injured left ankle. When Lamar Jackson was the NFL MVP in 2019, he played behind one of the league’s best offensive lines. When Jackson threw a career-worst 13 interceptions last season, he received lackluster protection from his blockers up front. The success of the line hinges on Stanley, who was activated from the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 26. — Hensley
Describe the QB situation in three words: Betting on himself
It looks like Lamar Jackson will decline the Ravens’ offers for a contract extension and play out the final year of his rookie contract. Ten years ago, Joe Flacco chose not to sign an extension with Baltimore entering his fifth season, just like Jackson. Flacco went on to win a Super Bowl and parlayed that championship into becoming the NFL’s highest-paid player. Could history repeat itself? — Hensley
Fantasy breakout candidate: Rashod Bateman, WR
I see Bateman as a prime candidate to make that second-year jump as the primary wide receiver for Jackson in Baltimore. As a rookie, Bateman dropped just two of 68 targets, and he showed some upside over the final month of the season, posting 100 receiving yards in one contest, a touchdown and a game with double-digit targets. He can get loose at the second and third level of the Ravens’ play-action passing game too. — Matt Bowen
Over or under 9.5 wins? Over
This offseason, the Ravens improved their offensive line to further protect Jackson and solidify their running game. Last season, Baltimore lost two overtime games and four tilts by two points or fewer. With favorable matchups against the Giants, Panthers, Jaguars, Jets and Falcons, the Ravens might have better luck in close contests this season. — Eric Moody
Bold prediction for 2022: Lamar Jackson will not sign a new deal this season.
Jackson and the Ravens are my pick to win the AFC North, and I see Jackson playing his way into the MVP discussion, but without a new deal that both sides can agree on, the Ravens ultimately will use the franchise tag on him this offseason. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 1
Breakout player: Isaiah McKenzie, WR
McKenzie is in line for a big season. The speedy wideout won the camp battle at slot receiver over Jamison Crowder, and the offense is going into the campaign with an emphasis on improving yards after catch (last in the league in YAC per reception in 2021), which could mean big things for McKenzie. — Alaina Getzenberg
Injury to watch: Tre’Davious White, CB
The 2019 All-Pro corner is making his way back from a torn ACL in his left knee suffered on Thanksgiving. He was placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list to start the NFL season, and he will miss at least the first four games. His timeline to return in unknown. — Getzenberg
The season will be a success if … the Bills win the Super Bowl.
It’s the highest bar to clear for a team with title expectations. This is one of the most important seasons in recent memory because of the talent the front office has put together. Making the Super Bowl would certainly be a significant step forward, but the only way this season will be a true success is with the franchise’s first Lombardi trophy. — Getzenberg
The Fantasy Football Podcast crew breaks down how likely it is for Gabe Davis to lead the Bills in touchdown catches.
Fantasy breakout candidate: WR Gabe Davis
With more anticipated volume in one of the league’s top offenses, Davis has serious breakout potential as a No. 2 target for Josh Allen. A wide receiver with vertical ability and red zone chops, Davis caught five of his seven touchdowns last season inside the 20-yard line. And his numbers from the divisional playoff loss to Kansas City — eight receptions, 201 yards receiving, four touchdowns — point to his upside in the Bills’ passing game. — Matt Bowen
Over or under 11.5 wins? Over
Bold prediction for 2022: The Bills will win Super Bowl LVII.
With one of the league’s most explosive — and quarterback-centric — offenses, Allen and the Bills will be there in February. However, it’s the fundamentally sound defense — with three levels of playmakers, including new offseason addition Von Miller — that will close out games for Buffalo on the postseason stage. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 29
The season will be a success if … QB Baker Mayfield becomes the player the Browns thought he would be.
If the 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick plays close to his 2020 level — when he had an 11-5 record and a playoff win — there’s enough talent around him on offense and the defense is good enough to make Carolina a playoff contender. — David Newton
Injury to watch: Christian McCaffrey, RB
He has missed 23 of the past 33 games due to injuries, which in part contributed to the Panthers’ inconsistencies at quarterback. (Sam Darnold was 3-0 with McCaffrey to start 2021.) McCaffrey hopes a change in preparation he received, in part, from Marshall Faulk will keep him healthy and help him return to the level he was in 2019, when he had 1,000 yards rushing and receiving. — Newton
Coach on the hot seat: Matt Rhule
Rhule has gone 5-11 and 5-12 his first two seasons. He has overhauled his staff to add more experience and strengthened the overall roster. His issue has been bad choices at quarterback. If he has made another one with Mayfield, and the Panthers don’t contend for the playoffs, team owner David Tepper might not have the patience to give him a fourth year. — Newton
Fantasy breakout candidate: Robbie Anderson, WR
In 2020, Anderson’s first season with Rhule and the Panthers, he caught 95 passes and topped 1,000 yards receiving. Producing consistent WR3 numbers in 2022 might be a stretch, but with Mayfield’s deep ball ability, he should see an increase in volume and opportunity as a potential No. 3 option behind DJ Moore and McCaffrey. Keep an eye on second-year wideout Terrace Marshall Jr. here too. — Matt Bowen
Over or under 6.5 wins? Under
The Panthers went 5-12 last season, and they have gone under their preseason win total in each year under Rhule. I haven’t bought in on this team under Rhule despite the addition of Mayfield and McCaffrey returning to the field. — Erin Dolan
Bold prediction for 2022: Mayfield will sign a contract extension with Carolina in December.
The Panthers have mismanaged the quarterback position during Rhule’s time in charge. Look for the team to re-sign Mayfield to a multiple-year extension after the veteran jump-starts the offense this season. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 25
Breakout player: Cole Kmet, TE
Kmet more than doubled his targets, catches and yards from his rookie season to Year 2. The chemistry he has built with Justin Fields has consistently been on display throughout the offseason and only projects to increase as he becomes one of the quarterback’s top weapons in 2022. With Jimmy Graham gone, the third-year tight end can expect to inherit those red zone opportunities and cement himself as a foundational player in the Bears’ offense. — Courtney Cronin
The season will be a success if … Justin Fields shows tangible signs of improvement.
The Bears have a lot of work to do in building around the former first-round pick, and they won’t truly know whether he’s their long-term option until the end of this season. Chicago hasn’t put Fields in position to succeed yet, but if he can prove he is the right player to build around, the Bears will take a step toward solving their chronic quarterback issues. — Cronin
Impact newcomer: Kyler Gordon, CB
The Bears’ top draft pick is in line to start at nickel corner in Week 1. The notoriously difficult position is one Gordon assumed immediately in training camp, and he has shown off his incredible range playing both inside and outside. Gordon provides clarity at a position that has been rife with uncertainty. The Bears will be leaning on his contributions to turn around a secondary that struggled mightily last season. — Cronin
Fantasy breakout candidate: Justin Fields, QB
Fields has an opportunity to produce lower-end QB1 numbers this season in a new offensive system that will cater to his dual-threat traits. In 2021, Fields rushed for 420 yards — and two scores — in just 12 games played. And with more play-action and misdirection concepts, the Bears can set the table for Fields on schemed throws to the second and third level of the defense. — Matt Bowen
Over or under 6.5 wins? Under
The Bears hired a first-time head coach (Matt Eberflus) and didn’t help Fields by adding playmakers or upgrading the offensive line. There will be few games this season in which the Bears won’t be underdogs. — Eric Moody
Bold prediction for 2022: Safety Jaquan Brisker will lead all rookies in interceptions.
In Eberflus’ system, Brisker can play top down on the ball and create disruption in the middle of the field. The second-round pick out of Penn State brings a playmaking element to Chicago. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 5
Breakout player: Hayden Hurst, TE
Hurst is a fluid tight end who should give the Bengals a great receiving option as teams look to stop Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase. Hurst is out to show he can be a quality starter in the league and could be a key player for a Bengals team looking to field one of the best offenses in the NFL. — Ben Baby
Impact newcomer: Alex Cappa, OG
Anyone who watched the Bengals for five minutes last postseason knew the offensive line needed to improve its pass blocking. Cappa was the marquee addition who earned nearly as much in guaranteed money ($11 million) as the other two new starters on the offensive line — center Ted Karras and right tackle La’el Collins ($6 million each) — combined. — Baby
Contract-year player: Tee Higgins, WR
The Bengals’ third-year wide receiver will be up for a contract extension in 2023. He has had a strong start to his career and is coming off a 1,000-yard season. But Cincinnati also will have to pay Joe Burrow (2023) and Ja’Marr Chase (2024) in upcoming years too. The Bengals will be looking to see how Higgins will fit in their long-term future. — Baby
Fantasy breakout candidate: Trent Taylor, WR
Taylor is hardly young at 28, and the Bengals have three other wideouts clearly ahead on the depth chart, but if one of them gets hurt, perhaps Taylor emerges. He had a strong preseason, and in this offense, everyone else has already broken out. Opportunity is everything. — Eric Karabell
Over or under 9.5 wins? Over
There might be some trepidation among bettors when making predictions on the win totals of Super Bowl losers. Considering that Joe Burrow has a high percentage of his offensive playmakers returning along with an improved offensive line, this is a modest total. — Eric Moody
Bold prediction for 2022: Higgins will lead the team in touchdown catches.
Chase will find the end zone plenty of times this season given his explosive-play juice, but it will be Higgins who will stretch the seams in the red zone and use his vertical matchup ability to rack up touchdowns. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 17
Breakout player: Jordan Elliott, DT
The Browns are banking that the third-year defensive tackle is ready to emerge. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods noted that Elliott showed up to training camp weighing 320 pounds while looking like he only weighs 280. If Elliott can transform into a consistently disruptive force inside, Cleveland’s defensive line featuring Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney will be all the more daunting for opposing QBs. — Jake Trotter
Contract-year player: Kareem Hunt, RB
Hunt, who was a hold-in for two days of training camp, has demanded that the Browns either extend him or trade him. Neither is likely to happen at this point. Hunt is too important to the Browns’ offense. But he also is in a crowded Cleveland backfield led by Pro Bowl rusher Nick Chubb. Ultimately, if Hunt wants a big contract next offseason, either from the Browns or another team, he’ll need to produce this season while staying relatively healthy. — Trotter
Describe the QB situation in three words: Potentially a mess
Deshaun Watson is suspended for 11 games. Jimmy Garoppolo is staying in San Francisco, at least for now. That means backup Jacoby Brissett will have to keep the Browns in the playoff picture for a lot longer than initially anticipated — and with a receiving corps that underwhelmed during the preseason. — Trotter
Fantasy breakout candidate: David Bell, WR
The third-round pick from Purdue enters a relatively wide-open wide receiver situation with the skills to provide immediate aid in catches out of the slot. — Eric Karabell
Over or under 8.5 wins? Under
It is difficult to be confident in the over with Watson out for 11 games and Brissett expected to start under center for the Browns. With suboptimal quarterback play, Chubb, Hunt and Amari Cooper can accomplish only so much. — Eric Moody
Bold prediction for 2022: Myles Garrett will win Defensive Player of the Year.
Garrett racked up 16 sacks last season, and he has 58.5 over just five years. As the league’s best edge rusher, I expect Garrett to post ridiculous numbers again this season for a defense with playmaking talent at all three levels. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 10
Describe the QB situation in three words: Alright, alright, alright
Dak Prescott is healthy. The surgically repaired right ankle is not an issue. The shoulder strain that kept him off the practice field last summer is 100 percent. So is the calf strain that limited his movement from the middle of last season and the left shoulder injury that required minor surgery in the offseason. While Prescott is fine, will his offensive line be fine? Will his receiving corps be fine? The Cowboys are asking a lot of Prescott, but that is what’s expected of a $40 million quarterback. Physically and mentally, he appears ready for whatever comes his way in 2022. — Todd Archer
Contract-year player: Ezekiel Elliott, RB
Technically, he isn’t in a contract year; but in reality, he is. There is no more guaranteed money in his deal beyond this season, which would make it easier for the Cowboys to move on from him in 2023. But what if Elliott has a terrific season? He was on pace for more than 1,500 yards last season, before a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee took away his burst. He looked as quick and smooth as he ever has this summer, and with left tackle Tyron Smith‘s injury, the Cowboys will lean on the run. If Elliott lights it up, the Cowboys could look to rework his contract similarly to what they did with DeMarcus Lawrence this offseason. — Archer
Mike Clay shares why Michael Gallup could be a big steal in fantasy in Dallas’ pass-heavy offense.
Injury to watch: Tyron Smith, OT
Smith is out until at least early December because of surgery to reattach his left hamstring to his knee. The timing is dreadful, because it is so close to the start of the regular season, and the Cowboys don’t have a ready-made replacement at left tackle. First-round pick Tyler Smith was said to be the left tackle of the future as he competed for the left guard spot. The future looks like it starts now. The Cowboys’ hope is they are in the playoff chase when Tyron Smith is able to return. Remember: The Cowboys have six regular-season games in December and January. — Archer
Fantasy breakout candidate: Tony Pollard, RB
The efficient Pollard enters his fourth campaign with a chance to push Elliott for a larger share of touches and perhaps his first 1,000-yard rushing season. — Eric Karabell
Over or under 10.5 wins? Under
The Cowboys’ offensive line takes a step back this season with Tyron Smith’s injury and the departure of Connor Williams and La’el Collins. Prescott and Elliott will struggle in an offense that will be missing Amari Cooper. — Anita Marks
Bold prediction for 2022: Pollard will replace Elliott as the Cowboys’ lead back.
Elliott’s diminishing speed and production will force the Cowboys to turn to Pollard by the end of October. A dual-threat player with home run ability, Pollard will emerge in the Dallas offense. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 12
Breakout player: Jerry Jeudy, WR
Courtland Sutton has a 1,000-yard season and Pro Bowl trip on his résumé and looks like the Broncos’ WR1. But if you are looking for a guy primed for a big jump, that’s Jeudy. Quarterback Russell Wilson has spent plenty of time getting in sync with Jeudy, who has been a regular in the quarterback meetings to try to speed up that process. Jeudy is simply too good a route runner, and few things symbolized the quagmire of the Broncos’ offense last season more than the fact Jeudy finished a season without a touchdown. — Jeff Legwold
Describe the QB situation in three words: Whole lot better
The Broncos’ stumble through the quarterback wilderness over the past six seasons has been a big part of their playoff drought. Wilson’s arrival changed everything, and if he plays near a Pro Bowl level, a lot of folks are going to say the five picks and three players the Broncos gave up to trade for Wilson aren’t going to seem like that big a price tag. Even with wideout Tim Patrick‘s season-ending knee injury, the Broncos have enough playmakers to make it all go. They have to keep Wilson out of harm’s way, and he has to be willing to get the ball out more quickly than he has at times previously in his career. — Legwold
Contract-year player: Bradley Chubb, OLB
Chubb was the Broncos’ No. 5 overall pick in 2018, and he is in the final year of his rookie deal. Chubb hasn’t really had everything go his way since his rookie year — when he finished with 12 sacks — due to a number of injuries. He’s been healthy this offseason, and new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero plans on being aggressive in the pass rush. Chubb is poised to be a problem for the tackles across from him, especially if free-agent signee Randy Gregory has the season the Broncos hope he can. — Legwold
Fantasy breakout candidate: KJ Hamler, WR
Hamler is a true downfield threat who is back to health after an ACL tear in his left knee. He gets to play with Russell Wilson too. Hamler figures to break out to some degree in his third season. — Eric Karabell
Over or under 10 wins? Under
The win total will be close, but the Broncos feel like a wild-card team. The giant upgrade at QB to Wilson is significant, and the defense is strong enough, but will coach Nathaniel Hackett have smooth sailing in his first season? — Doug Kezirian
Bold prediction for 2022: Cornerback Pat Surtain II will be named first-team All-Pro.
It’s the coverage traits and the physical profile of Surtain that vaults him into the discussion of the league’s top cornerbacks. The former Alabama star put together some impressive rookie tape last season, and I expect him to play at an extremely high level in his second pro season. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 26
Most important discovery at camp: Malcolm Rodriguez, LB
The rookie linebacker — a sixth-round pick out of Oklahoma State — has impressed early on and could find himself starting in Week 1. Inside the Lions’ facility, his growing popularity has earned the nickname “Rodrigo,” and he has become a star on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” Detroit’s coaching staff is doing its best to keep the hype under control, but there’s no denying his early production. — Eric Woodyard
The season will be a success if … Detroit can win at least seven games.
The team, which finished 3-13-1 last season, is still in the midst of a rebuild, but the front office has upgraded the roster through free agency and the draft this offseason. Given the improvements, the Lions should at least double their win total. Lions fans might have higher expectations, but a truly successful campaign would be hitting that benchmark and improving Detroit’s standing in the NFC North. — Woodyard
Impact newcomer: DJ Chark, WR
He’s a man on a mission. The former Pro Bowl wideout knows he is on a one-year, “prove-it” deal, and he sees a big opportunity to be an impact player for the Lions. My bet is that he’ll show up. He has established trust with quarterback Jared Goff through their offseason work together, and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has confidence in Chark’s attention to detail and playmaking ability. — Woodyard
Fantasy breakout candidate: D’Andre Swift, RB
Swift is already quite valuable in fantasy, but the upside is there — should he stay healthy and earn more volume — to become one of the top running backs in the league. — Eric Karabell
Over or under six wins? Over
With continuity on their coaching staff, the Lions have continued to add offensive and defensive playmakers and upgrade Jared Goff‘s O-line. In 2022, Detroit could surprise bettors. — Eric Moody
Bold prediction for 2022: No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson will lead all rookies in sacks.
Hutchinson’s playing style, paired with defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn’s scheme, puts the rookie in a position to create pocket disruption and the ability to win one-on-ones. Look for Hutchinson to post 10-plus sacks. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 6
Breakout player: Allen Lazard, WR
After taking the long route to an NFL starting job — from undrafted free agent to being signed by the Packers off of the Jaguars’ practice squad — Lazard has a shot at being the Packers’ WR1 now that Davante Adams is gone. Lazard established career highs last season with 40 catches for 513 yards and three touchdowns in a secondary role. As quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, “I really think Allen is ready to make a jump and be a No. 1 receiver, and I’m excited about the opportunity to work with him.” — Rob Demovsky
Injury to watch: David Bakhtiari, OT
It’s been more than 19 months since he tore his ACL, and that left knee is still an issue. Even if Bakhtiari is able to get back on the field, is he still the All-Pro left tackle he had been before the injury? His return, along with guard Elgton Jenkins coming back from a torn left ACL, could solidify the offensive line. Without one or both of them, however, the line is a major question. — Demovsky
Impact newcomer: Sammy Watkins, WR
With all the focus on rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, the veteran Watkins will actually start the season ahead of them on the receiver depth chart. When asked recently about the pecking order behind Lazard, Rodgers said: “There’s definitely some guys that you feel really good about. Obviously, I can play with Cobby [Randall Cobb] in my sleep, and when he’s healthy, he’s a premier slot receiver in the league, [and] I feel better with Sammy.” — Demovsky
Fantasy breakout candidate: Romeo Doubs, WR
The rookie wideout seemed to earn the trust of Aaron Rodgers and had a big preseason. That might be all it takes to supplant one of several ordinary veteran wide receivers. — Eric Karabell
Over or under 11 wins? Under
While Rodgers is coming off consecutive MVPs, this season will be much different without Pro Bowl wide receiver Davante Adams, who commanded a large target share. In spite of a strong running game, offensive line and defense, I’m leaning toward the Under — Eric Moody
Bold prediction for 2022: AJ Dillon will lead the Packers in rushing yards.
In an offense leaning on the run game, look for Dillon to emerge as the lead ball carrier this season. The 6-foot, 247-pound back can hammer the ball between the tackles with the footwork to scoot past defenders. He’ll see the necessary volume to push past Aaron Jones in rushing totals. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 31
Breakout player: Jonathan Greenard, DE
Greenard flashed the ability to get to the quarterback in 2021, as he netted eight sacks in 12 games. Throughout camp, he looked primed for another step to enter the upper echelon of pass-rushers. The goal for Greenard should be the mid-teens in sacks because the ability is there. — DJ Bien-Aime
The season will be a success … if quarterback Davis Mills takes the next step.
If Mills improves and shows he could be the Texans’ long-term answer at QB, the team will be in a great spot — even if it doesn’t make the playoffs. Houston could use its two 2023 first-round picks to build around him instead of replacing him. — Bien-Aime
Most important discovery at camp: RB Dameon Pierce is going to be a force.
Pierce’s vision, along with his explosiveness to power through defenders, is eye-popping. There’s no question he is the Texans’ best running back. He should take quite a bit of pressure off of Mills, power the run game and allow the Texans to have an efficient and balanced offense. — Bien-Aime
Fantasy breakout candidate: Nico Collins, WR
Collins emerged as the Texans’ No. 2 wide receiver during the last five weeks of 2021, when the former Michigan Wolverine averaged six targets per contest and had two games with at least 65 yards and a score. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Collins thrives in contested situations, dominating on the outside and in the red zone. He is in line for upward of 90 targets, with 10% to 15% of them in the red zone. — Liz Loza
Over or under 4.5 wins? Over
Mills exceeded expectations in the Texans’ four-win 2021 season, and don’t forget about the surprising victories against the Chargers and Titans. I expect the O-line to be healthier and the defense to be slightly better with the talent added to the secondary. — Erin Dolan
Bold prediction for 2022: Mills will join the discussion as one of the top second-year quarterbacks.
Mills flashed some of the critical factors needed to produce consistently as a pro during his rookie season. We can look at his composure, repetitive mechanics, timing and more. Also, the Texans’ offensive roster is better than most think. Mills will continue to develop and open some eyes this season. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 14
Impact newcomer: Stephon Gilmore, CB
Gilmore is completely healthy for the first time in two years, and his improved health resulted in a dominant showing during training camp. The Colts, ever reluctant to invest significantly at cornerback, broke with their recent tendencies and got aggressive by signing Gilmore in March. Gilmore will turn 32 on Sept. 19, but so far, he doesn’t look his age. — Stephen Holder
Injury to watch: Shaquille Leonard, LB
The All-Pro linebacker practiced last week for the first time since last season and said the recent surgery to resolve a nerve issue that was causing lower-body pain has set him up to be pain-free for the first time since his rookie season in 2018. While the problem is believed to have been addressed, the recovery period has been lengthy and is ongoing. How long will it take? — Holder
Describe the QB situation in three words: Colts significantly upgraded
It remains to be seen how much 37-year old Matt Ryan has left, but the Colts are confident they will see better results than they did with Carson Wentz under center last season. Specifically, Ryan’s accuracy and timing make him an ideal fit for coach Frank Reich’s West Coast-style offense. Look for a much-improved passing game. — Holder
Fantasy breakout candidate: Mo Alie-Cox, TE
The Colts signed Alie-Cox to a three-year deal worth $18 million ($8.2 million guaranteed). Given that financial investment and more than 150 targets vacated in Indy (including 40-plus via TE Jack Doyle’s retirement), the converted basketball star (VCU) could emerge as one of the team’s primary pass-catchers. With tight end-friendly Ryan under center, Alie-Cox could post career numbers and emerge as the sneakiest breakout of the season. — Liz Loza
Over or under 9.5 wins? Over
The Colts have one of the easiest schedules in the league after a 9-8 season, and don’t forget that Jonathan Taylor led the league with 1,811 rushing yards last season. — Erin Dolan
Bold prediction for 2022: The Colts will secure the No. 2 seed in the AFC.
The Colts feature one the best run games with Taylor behind an upper-tier offensive front, and the pass game will be much more efficient with the addition of Ryan. There are difference-makers on defense here, too. And with a softer schedule, the Colts are primed to finish with one of the top records in the AFC. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 27
Contract-year player: Josh Allen, OLB
The Jaguars picked up the fifth-year option on outside linebacker Allen, but 2022 is a big year for him if he wants to earn a long-term deal. He had 10.5 sacks and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2019 but has had just 10 sacks in the 24 games since. He had his best year when Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue were with him. The Jaguars hope the addition of Travon Walker will have the same impact on Allen. — Mike DiRocco
Breakout player: Christian Kirk, WR
Kirk is now the Jaguars’ No. 1 receiver after playing as the No. 3 in Arizona behind DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald. He had career highs in receptions (77) and receiving yards (982) last season, but based on training camp and his play in the preseason (eight targets and five catches in two quarters), he should not have trouble surpassing both if he stays healthy. — DiRocco
Most important discovery at camp: CB Tyson Campbell was the Jaguars’ most impressive defensive player.
He struggled with locating the ball early as a rookie in 2021, which made him a bit of a liability in man coverage, but he came on late in the season and was markedly better in camp. He’s had some lockdown matchups with Jaguars receivers, including Kirk, and his confidence is soaring — which is always a big thing for corners. — DiRocco
Mike Clay highlights Christian Kirk’s previous season stats and what to expect from him this upcoming season.
Fantasy breakout candidate: Travis Etienne Jr., RB
He has elite acceleration and an uncanny ability to spin and slip through a variety of tackles. Recording 16 career touchdowns of 40-plus yards at Clemson, there’s no denying Etienne’s skills in space. He’s also a deft pass-catcher who connected with former college teammate and current Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence on 95 passes for 1,083 yards and seven receiving TDs from 2018 to 2020. — Liz Loza
Over or under 6.5 wins? Under
Jacksonville had the worst record in the league last season with three wins. I still have low expectations for this team as their biggest upgrade is head coach Doug Pederson. — Erin Dolan
Bold prediction for 2022: Etienne will catch 60 passes in Doug Pederson’s offense.
After missing his entire rookie season with a foot injury, the former first-round pick has flashed on preseason tape in Year 2. He has been explosive and fast and will be deployed on backfield releases, screens and flex from the formation to create favorable matchups. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 4
Impact newcomer: George Karlaftis, DE
The rookie had a strong preseason and looks poised to make a big contribution in his first season. That’s important for the Chiefs, who are looking to ignite a pass rush that was 29th in the league in sacks last season (31). Significant improvement in that area doesn’t fall solely to Karlaftis, one of the team’s two first-round picks this year, but he needs to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. — Adam Teicher
Player on hot seat: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB
Edwards-Helaire hasn’t been a bust, and he is in no danger of losing his job right now, but he hasn’t had the expected impact of a first-round draft pick. Edwards-Helaire rushed 119 times for 517 yards, caught 19 passes for 129 yards and scored six total touchdowns in 10 games last season. The Chiefs will have to make a decision on his fifth-year option at the end of this season, and the addition of rookie Isiah Pacheco to the running back group could lead the Chiefs to decline that option if Edwards-Helaire doesn’t produce. — Teicher
Contract-year player: Mecole Hardman, WR
Hardman spent his first three seasons with the Chiefs in Tyreek Hill‘s considerable shadow, which can at least partly explain his inconsistent production since being drafted in the second round in 2019. That obstacle is removed, which means it’s time for Hardman to prove he’s more than just a fast, gadget-type of player. His next contract depends on it. — Teicher
Fantasy breakout candidate: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR
Smith-Schuster could draw upwards of 120 looks in an offense with more than 250 vacated targets. He’s a well-rounded pass-catcher, whose experience as a Z offers fantasy managers a steady share of regular opportunities. At 25 years old and with solid YAC ability (top 15 in 2020 prior to the shoulder strain that forced him to miss 12 games last season), Smith-Schuster could be a top 25/30 receiver. — Liz Loza
Over or under 10.5 wins? Over
A very tough number because it feels like they’ll have 10 or 11 wins. But I will lean to the over because they still have Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid, despite losing Hill. — Doug Kezirian
Bold prediction for 2022: Smith-Schuster will have more than 100 receptions.
Smith-Schuster brings an added element to the Chiefs’ pass game as an inside/outside target for quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He’s a physical receiver who is willing to work the dirty areas of the field, and he’s more explosive than you think after the catch. In coach Andy Reid’s system, Smith-Schuster has the traits to produce immediately as a volume target. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 13
Injury to watch: Darren Waller, TE
Waller missed most of the second half of training camp with what was described as a hamstring issue, even as rumors floated that the 2020 Pro Bowl tight end was “holding in,” waiting for a contract extension. Only the 17th-highest-paid tight end in the NFL, Waller is a game-breaker when healthy but missed six games last season because of back and knee issues, and coach Josh McDaniels would not commit to Waller playing in the season opener. — Paul Gutierrez
The season will be a success if … the defense can match the expected play of the offense.
Yeah, you know all about quarterback Derek Carr‘s many options on offense, starting with new wide receiver Davante Adams, continuing with slot receiver Hunter Renfrow and moving through tight end Waller and running back Josh Jacobs. But the remade defense, under new coordinator Patrick Graham, has to show up and keep games manageable. Edge rushers Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones will feast so long as the retooled secondary — with new cornerbacks Rock Ya-Sin and Anthony Averett — can cover — Gutierrez
Impact newcomer: Davante Adams, WR
Adams is the best receiver in the NFL, and rejoining his old Fresno State running mate in Carr — along with a modern playcaller in Josh McDaniels — is expected to pay off with another playoff appearance. The chemistry with Carr is real, and so is Adams’ preternatural ability to get open and come down with the tough catch. The key, then, is a questionable offensive line giving Carr enough time to find Adams downfield. — Gutierrez
Fantasy breakout candidate: Derek Carr, QB
Despite his previous reputation as a checkdown king, Carr recorded 142 deep-ball attempts over the past two seasons. He also managed a top-eight YPA and a top-12 true passer rating in back-to-back seasons. Reuniting with Adams and getting a healthy Darren Waller back figures to improve his efficiency and push his passing touchdown total above 30. — Liz Loza
Over or under 8.5 wins? Under
There’s good reason for all the optimism, but ultimately the offensive line is a giant weakness and the division is too tough. They can improve from last season and still not have as many wins. — Doug Kezirian
Bold prediction for 2022: Carr will throw a career-high 35 touchdown passes in McDaniels’ offense.
In McDaniels’ schemed pass game, Carr will be set up to attack open coverage voids and cut it loose on deep ball throws. The Raiders have multiple pass catchers who can get open with their route-running traits. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 8
Injury to watch: J.C. Jackson, CB
The Chargers signed the cornerback to a five-year, $82.5 million contract in free agency, then he underwent ankle surgery on Aug. 23 after feeling discomfort in practice. “A very minor procedure. More for comfort, more than anything,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “It’s not a structural problem. There’s no injury, so to speak.” Jackson’s estimated return is two to four weeks, which means he could miss back-to-back division games against the Raiders and Chiefs to open the season. — Lindsey Thiry
Breakout player: Joshua Palmer, WR
A third-round pick in 2021, Palmer produced modest numbers as a rookie, with 33 receptions for 353 yards and four touchdowns. But after an impressive training camp, watch for Palmer to play an increased role and become more of a sought-after target by quarterback Justin Herbert. “There was a volume to the offense that can become overwhelming to a rookie, and he’s not dealing with that, so he’s able to go out and play fast,” offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said about Palmer. In a preseason matchup against the Cowboys, Palmer caught three passes for 75 yards, including a contested over-the-shoulder 41-yard reception and an 18-yard catch-and-run touchdown. — Thiry
The season will be a success if … the Chargers advance to the AFC Championship Game.
That’s a lofty expectation for a team that failed to advance to the playoffs last season and has appeared in the postseason only twice since 2013. However, Herbert helped produce one of the NFL’s top offenses in 2021, and after significant shortcomings on defense, the Bolts invested significant resources on that side of the ball. They traded for All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack and signed Jackson — the NFL’s interceptions leader (25) since 2018 — along with defensive linemen Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson and Morgan Fox in free agency. — Thiry
Fantasy breakout candidate: Gerald Everett, TE
He didn’t boom in his 2021 reunion with Seahawks OC Shane Waldron as much as many had hoped, though he did pull off a career effort (48 receptions, 478 yards, four touchdowns). In Los Angeles, he’ll take over the veteran TE role that Jared Cook filled in 2021. Cook’s departure frees up 80-plus targets, which could lead to some monster efforts for the South Alabama product. He’s a top-20 fantasy player at the position and worth a dart throw in the late rounds. — Liz Loza
Over or under 10 wins? Over
This is their time. Herbert is elite and they have improved their defense. The offense will click more, and they should have enough to make a legitimate title run. — Doug Kezirian
Bold prediction for 2022: The Chargers will make the AFC Championship Game.
The addition of defensive playmakers will give Staley’s unit a boost, but it’s the high-octane offense, led by Herbert, that gets L.A. to the doorstep of Super Bowl LVII. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 3
Injury to watch: Matthew Stafford, QB
The quarterback played through a right elbow injury last season and is still dealing with soreness. Stafford did not throw every day in practice during camp as the Rams worked to build up his arm. Head coach Sean McVay said while “you’d like him to be totally pain free,” he’s not concerned going into the season because he looks “like that Matthew that I know” during camp. Stafford said the pain in his elbow is getting better and he feels he can do everything he needs to do on the field. — Sarah Barshop
The season will be a success if … the Rams win the Super Bowl.
For the defending champs, there’s really no other answer, especially for a team that brought back — and also gave contract extensions to — several core players. The Rams have a tough road schedule in 2022, but the expectation in the building is certainly to be back hoisting that trophy in February 2023. Los Angeles starts with one of its toughest tests of the season on the same night it will unveil the Super Bowl LVI banner: Thursday night against the Buffalo Bills. — Barshop
Contract-year player: Rob Havenstein, RT
The right tackle is going into the final season of the four-year, $32.5 million contract extension he signed in 2018. The Rams had turnover at two positions on the offensive line this offseason, including left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who retired after the Rams’ Super Bowl LVI victory. Havenstein is a leader for this Rams offense, but he said before training camp that he’s letting his agent worry about a new contract so he can focus on football. — Barshop
Fantasy breakout candidate: Allen Robinson II, WR
Last season’s plummet in Chicago was disturbing, and he just turned 29. But Robinson has been one of the NFL’s most talented receivers for nearly a decade, and now we finally get to see him with a top quarterback and offense that has done wonders for other veteran receivers. He has looked good this summer while developing a rapport with Stafford. — Mike Triplett
Over or under 10.5 wins? Under
Their star power makes them thin, and the injury factor has me leaning Under But there’s a lot to love about this team, so I wouldn’t be shocked if they rack up a lot of wins, either. — Doug Kezirian
Bold prediction for 2022: Leonard Floyd will lead the team in sacks.
Aaron Donald is the best defender in the NFL. But Floyd has registered 20 sacks in his past two seasons in L.A. With Von Miller now in Buffalo, and a Rams defense that will scheme fronts and bring pressure, I see Floyd posting big totals this season. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 19
Impact newcomer: Erik Ezukanma, WR
Because of the presence of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, there aren’t many targets for other players in Miami’s offense, but Ezukanma, a fourth-round pick in April, has a real shot at becoming the Dolphins’ No. 3 receiver by the end of the season. He’s a vertical threat who can generate yardage after the catch and win contested catches. He will need to beat out Cedrick Wilson Jr., but the opportunity is there for the Texas Tech product. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Injury to watch: Byron Jones, CB
Jones began training camp on the PUP list after offseason Achilles surgery and missed the entire preseason. He will also start the season on the PUP list, meaning he is out for at least the first four games of the season. He’s not expected to miss significant regular-season time, but his absence brought to light Miami’s lack of depth behind him. Former first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene did not take the step forward the Dolphins hoped for this summer and would represent a clear target for opposing offenses if he had to start games this season. If Jones’ injury lingers throughout the season, the Dolphins’ pass defense could become a major issue. — Louis-Jacques
Describe the QB situation in three words: They’re all in.
For the first time in his NFL career, Tua Tagovailoa is being surrounded with elite talent. The third-year quarterback enters a pivotal season — after which Miami will have to decide whether to pick up his fifth-year option — but he does so with three-time All-Pro Hill, the NFL’s record-holder for rookie receptions in Waddle, a revamped backfield and an offensive-minded coach in Mike McDaniel. The Dolphins invested heavily in the supporting cast of their most important player. — Louis-Jacques
Fantasy breakout candidate: Chase Edmonds, RB
“Breakout” might be a little strong, but Edmonds is my “bang for your buck” choice since he is currently being drafted outside the top 32 RBs in ESPN leagues. I assume most drafters are scared off by the Dolphins’ overcrowded backfield, but Edmonds has impressed this summer and seems to have emerged as the guy they’ll count on most — in his usual pass-catching role and maybe more. — Mike Triplett
Over or under 8.5 wins? Under
The Fins’ defense will struggle without Brian Flores. The jury is still out in regard to Tua Tagovailoa — especially playing behind a suspect offensive line. The travel and strength of schedule is much more difficult this season, with road games at the 49ers, vs. the Chargers and vs. the Bills. — Anita Marks
Bold prediction for 2022: Miami will trade tight end Mike Gesicki before the November deadline.
Without a true fit as an in-line tight end for McDaniel’s system, the Dolphins will move Gesicki. The veteran has the pass-catching ability and target frame to produce as receiving option for multiple other teams. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 23
Breakout player: K.J. Osborn, WR
Osborn stood out throughout training camp, even while sharing the field with superstar Justin Jefferson. He has earned the trust of quarterback Kirk Cousins, whose advocacy last season helped spur Osborn to seven touchdown receptions. Depending on veteran Adam Thielen‘s health, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Osborn emerge as the Vikings’ next 1,000-yard receiver. — Kevin Seifert
Describe the QB situation in three words: Now or never.
Cousins has a coach in Kevin O’Connell that not only believes in him, but has the kind of even-keeled personality that almost certainly fits him best. He’s got one of the NFL’s best groups of skill position players around him, and at 34, he is still in his physical prime. Cousins is already an above-average quarterback, but this is probably the best opportunity of his career to jump a level into the leagues’ top 10. — Seifert
Most important discovery at camp: Christian Darrisaw, OT
The left tackle appears to have taken a big step since his rookie season, a huge development at such an important position. Darrisaw looked comfortable and appears to be the least of the concerns along the Vikings’ offensive line. Heads began turning when All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams sang Darrisaw’s praises following two days of joint practices between the Vikings and 49ers. — Seifert
Fantasy breakout candidate: Adam Thielen, WR
I’m really stretching the “breakout” definition, but I think Thielen is being overlooked because of his age and recent injury history. He hasn’t disappeared in Jefferson’s shadow. In fact, he has 24 TD catches over the past two seasons and is fully healthy heading into 2022. I like his chances to exceed draft value more than tight end Irv Smith Jr., who has been dealing with a thumb injury. — Mike Triplett
Over or under nine wins? Over
Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook and the Vikings’ offense should be great this season, but their defense should not be overlooked. The over is a good bet because Minnesota could surprise bettors. — Eric Moody
Bold prediction for 2022: The Vikings will finish with the top scoring offense.
In a new offense under O’Connell, plus an explosive group at the skill spots, Minnesota is going to score points this season. A lot of them. With Jefferson bolstering the passing game and running back Dalvin Cook‘s three-down ability, the table is set for Cousins to have his most productive year as a pro. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 16
The season will be a success if … the Patriots register at least one playoff win.
Owner Robert Kraft set the expectation in March when he said, “More than anything, it bothers me that we haven’t been able to win a playoff game in the last three years.” That might be asking a lot in a loaded AFC, especially with promising QB Mac Jones adjusting without former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels while learning a new offense. In addition, the schedule also looks challenging late in the season, with two games against the Bills and one versus the defending AFC champion Bengals. — Mike Reiss
Impact newcomer: DeVante Parker, WR
Injuries have limited him for stretches over his seven-year career, but he hasn’t missed a practice in camp while developing a quick rapport with Jones. Parker’s 6-foot-3, 219-pound frame has given him an edge on slants and on 50-50 balls that Parker refers to as 80-20s in his favor. Jones likes the way Parker attacks the ball, and pairing him with three other capable receivers in Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne gives the Patriots a diverse set of options. — Reiss
Most important discovery at camp: The defense might be legit.
For all the focus on Mac Jones and the offense, the defense was swarming at times, with lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. noting how “dominating” the unit was in a joint practice with the Panthers. One challenge is deciphering how much the defensive success was a result of the Patriots’ offense experiencing its own “growing pains.” Jalen Mills has emerged as the team’s No. 1 corner, coach Bill Belichick referred to Davon Godchaux as “one of the best defensive linemen in the league,” while Matthew Judon and Josh Uche have been disruptive pass-rushers. — Reiss
Fantasy breakout candidate: Rhamondre Stevenson, RB
I don’t want to overvalue Stevenson, since the Patriots’ backfield is rarely fantasy-friendly and he could split reps with both Damien Harris and Ty Montgomery. But the 230-pounder has the most breakout potential of the trio and has shown some passing-down growth this summer, along with his running ability. — Mike Triplett
Over or under 8.5 wins? Over
The Pats won 10 games last season. Mac Jones led all rookie QBs in completion percentage (68%) against the fifth-most-difficult schedule against the pass. It gets easier this season, and he will be playing behind an improved offensive line and with a solid backfield. — Anita Marks
Bold prediction for 2022: The Patriots will miss the playoffs.
The Patriots are going through a major transition in offensive philosophy after the departure of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Also, the lack of team speed is visible versus the NFL’s top competition. In a loaded AFC, I don’t see the Patriots as a playoff team. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 20
Breakout player: Paulson Adebo, CB
Adebo was thrown into the mix as a rookie last season when the Saints were short on cornerbacks. He played well enough to hold off veteran Bradley Roby all season even though the Saints sent the Texans a third-round and conditional sixth-round pick for Roby last September. Adebo looks like he has grown by leaps and bounds this preseason, and with Roby likely taking the nickel slot once occupied by C.J. Gardner-Johnson, there’s no question about him starting outside Marshon Lattimore. The only question is whether his great training camp translates to the regular season. — Katherine Terrell
Injury to watch: Michael Thomas, WR
He finally worked his way back from the left ankle injury that has taken over his career for the past two years, but a new hamstring issue popped up at the end of training camp. Thomas hasn’t played in a game since January 2021, so it’s hard to know whether he’ll return to form. He looked like his old self again in camp, but his two injuries will be something to monitor as they get him back in the lineup. — Terrell
Contract-year player: Marcus Davenport, DE
He is playing out his fifth-year option, and the main concern is his health. Davenport had nine sacks last year despite playing in only 11 games, but he has never played a full season. Davenport had offseason surgery on his right shoulder and also underwent surgery to amputate part of his left pinky, so moving forward from those things will be key. — Terrell
Fantasy breakout candidate: Chris Olave, WR
Temper expectations for all of the Saints’ pass-catchers since Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Olave and Jarvis Landry will have to share the pie. But Olave is a smooth route-runner who looks polished for a rookie — and Jameis Winston will love his downfield ability. Olave is an especially good choice in dynasty formats. — Mike Triplett
Over or under eight wins? Over
The Saints face some stiff competition in the AFC North and NFC West, but the offense and defense should still be solid after hitting nine wins last season. A healthy Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas will help the team this season. — Erin Dolan
Bold prediction for 2022: The Saints will win the NFC South.
The Saints have the ability to push the ball down the field with a healthy Jameis Winston at quarterback. But this is really about new coach Dennis Allen’s defense. That unit can create disruption, take the ball away and slow down the best quarterbacks in the league, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ Tom Brady, who has yet to beat the Saints in four regular-season games over the past two years. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 28
Injury to watch: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE
The rookie is dealing with a sprained right MCL. His projected timeline makes it a race to Week 1 against the Titans, but the Giants need to think big picture with the No. 5 overall pick. Thibodeaux had a strong start to the summer after being a top-five pick in April, but it would be counterproductive to have him at anything less than 100% given his dependance on that explosive first step. — Jordan Raanan
Describe the QB situation in three words: DJ’s last chance.
This really is the last opportunity for Daniel Jones to prove to the Giants that he’s their franchise quarterback. The new regime has already declined his fifth-year option, meaning Jones is a free agent at the end of the season. He has to prove on the field that he can be a consistent high-end starter. He hasn’t done that so far. No more excuses. — Raanan
Most important discovery at camp: Saquon Barkley is back.
The running back might not ultimately be what he was in his rookie year (1,307 rushing yards), but this is the most explosive he has looked in a while. Most importantly, he has been healthy. Barkley is also more confident, something he admitted this offseason, and it has made a discernible difference. He is running more decisively and harder than last year post-ACL injury. — Raanan
Fantasy breakout candidate: Kadarius Toney, WR
A first-round pick in 2021, Toney has as much potential to make you regret drafting him — or make you regret missing out — as anyone on this list. Injuries have been his biggest hurdle, and he has already been banged up in camp. But new coach Brian Daboll should make the Giants’ offense more functional. And whenever Toney is on the field, his big-play ability could win you weeks. — Mike Triplett
Over or under seven wins? Over
Coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen are the best things that could have happened to Daniel Jones. The Giants improved the offensive line, drafted more talent that can contribute immediately and have one of the easiest strength of schedules in the NFL this season. — Anita Marks
Bold prediction for 2022: The Giants will struggle again, which means they will draft Alabama QB Bryce Young in 2023.
The Giants will move on from quarterback Daniel Jones after this season, shifting their focus to the draft prep of Young. A timing and rhythm thrower with the pocket mobility to create space in traffic, Young fits the offensive scheme under first-year coach Brian Daboll. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 30
The season will be a success if … second-year QB Zach Wilson makes a leap.
This season will be a positive if Wilson improves significantly in every area and leaves no doubt that he has the talent, durability and mental makeup to lead the Jets to a championship. No one expects a title or even the playoffs this year; we’re talking about 2023 and beyond. He has the arm, but he has to be better at reading coverage and playing within the structure of the offense. Recovering from another knee injury, which could cost him a game or two, Wilson must eliminate the emerging narrative that he’s injury prone. Another rocky season will spark speculation about finding a replacement in the QB-rich 2023 draft. — Rich Cimini
Most important discovery at camp: The offensive line is a bigger question mark than anyone could’ve imagined.
The starting five had only 21 game reps together in the preseason, and it didn’t look good. The problems started when 2020 first-round pick Mekhi Becton lost the left tackle job to George Fant, then suffered a season-ending knee injury at right tackle. They signed Duane Brown, 37, and moved Fant to right tackle, where he’s not as good. Prepare for early-season struggles against some stout defensive fronts. — Cimini
Impact newcomer: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB
The Jets allowed the eighth-highest passer rating (99.9) on targets to wide receivers, per NFL Next Gen Stats. Gardner, with help from free-agent addition D.J. Reed, can change that. Gardner, drafted No. 4 overall, has lockdown potential on the perimeter. They will need it in a division that includes Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Stefon Diggs. Gardner will have growing pains, sure, but he has the skill and swagger to change the personality of the defense. — Cimini
Fantasy breakout candidate: Elijah Moore, WR
Lots of intriguing candidates on the Jets with rookies Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall. But don’t let the new kids make you forget about the flashes we saw from Moore as a second-round pick in 2021. He was a top-eight receiver in Weeks 8-12 in receptions, yards and TDs before getting hurt. He has remained the Jets’ top playmaker this summer. — Mike Triplett
Over or under 5.5 wins? Under
The Jets could potentially have 13 starters who are either rookies or second-year players. Wilson starts the season with a knee injury, and the team begins its schedule with four straight games against AFC North opponents. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets begin the season 0-9. — Anita Marks
Bold prediction for 2022: Defensive end Carl Lawson will rack up 12 sacks.
Lawson missed the 2021 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon, but his fit and potential impact hasn’t changed in Robert Saleh’s defense. With schemed fronts and twists/stunts, Lawson has the power and closing speed to win matchups. He can be a disruptive force for a Jets defense that will feature some young talent this season. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 15
Describe the QB situation in three words: Hurts trending upward.
Coach Nick Sirianni said the joint practices with the Miami Dolphins on Aug. 24 were Jalen Hurts‘ best practices since Sirianni arrived in Philadelphia. “It seemed like everything had slowed down for him and he was getting the ball out on time,” he said. “I thought he was at the top of his game and that’s a great development for us.” Hurts’ growing comfort in the system is leading to quicker decisions, and his accuracy has jumped up a notch as well. He needs to carry those improvements over to regular-season action, of course, but signs are pointing to an improved Hurts in 2022. — Tim McManus
Impact newcomer: A.J. Brown, WR
Adding to Hurts’ comfort level is the presence of Brown, who was acquired from the Titans on the first night of the draft for first- and third-round picks. Brown’s ability to operate over the middle and create after the catch is making Hurts’ job easier. They are good friends off the field and already seem to have a strong connection between the lines, with Hurts targeting Brown early and often this summer. — McManus
The season will be a success if … the Eagles win the division and at least one playoff game.
They have one of the best rosters in the NFL top to bottom and are especially strong along the offensive and defensive lines. The NFC East is very winnable — even more so following the injury to Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith — and the conference overall looks kind of weak, if we’re being honest. A trip to the NFC title game is within reach assuming Hurts makes strides in his second season as the full-time starter. — McManus
Fantasy breakout candidate: Kenneth Gainwell, RB
Last season, Gainwell averaged 19 fantasy points per game in his best four games. During those contests, Gainwell averaged 15 opportunities (rushing attempts plus targets). With Miles Sanders‘ struggles catching passes, Gainwell could see even more targets as a receiver out of the backfield in 2022. — Eric Moody
Over or under 9.5 wins? Over
The Eagles check all the boxes. They are talented and stacked at every position. Football is won in the trenches, and the Eagles’ offensive and defensive lines are among the best in the league. Plus, they will be playing a very easy schedule this season. — Anita Marks
Bold prediction for 2022: The Eagles will win the NFC East.
General manager Howie Roseman went all-in this offseason, adding impact players on both sides of the ball. The offseason acquisition of Brown boosts the pass game for Hurts, and Philly’s defensive upgrades give this unit a much more physical and versatile profile. The Eagles will also compete for the NFC’s No. 1 seed. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 22
The season will be a success if … the Steelers can both run the ball and stop the run.
The defensive front seven and the offensive line will dictate the Steelers’ success this season. If the offensive line can correct the array of mistakes on display in the preseason and give Najee Harris room to run — along with protecting the quarterback — the Steelers will do enough offensively to support a stacked defense. The defense, though, has a glaring weakness in stopping the run, one that will hopefully be improved via the additions of Larry Ogunjobi and Myles Jack. — Brooke Pryor
Describe the QB situation in three words: Future is now?
Kenny Pickett proved he’s not only a capable backup — he might have played himself into a starting job earlier than the Steelers anticipated. Mitch Trubisky hasn’t done anything to lose the starting job, but Pickett’s intuition and energy might push the Steelers to insert him into the starting lineup if Trubisky falters early in the season. — Pryor
Impact newcomer: George Pickens, WR
Pickens will be an instant playmaker for the offense. He has already shown his chops at training camp and earned a reputation for good footwork, impressive hands and otherworldly body control. If that seems hyperbolic, it’s not. Pickens fell in the draft after an ACL tear in his right knee in 2021, but he has shown no lingering effects from the injury. No matter who’s throwing the football, Pickens will undoubtedly make plays. — Pryor
Fantasy breakout candidate: Pat Freiermuth, TE
Freiermuth tied for first among tight ends in 2021 with 20 red zone targets. In 2022, he could see his numbers skyrocket now that Eric Ebron is no longer on the roster. — Eric Moody
Over or under 7.5 wins? Under
Coach Mike Tomlin has not had a losing season in 15 years with the Steelers. He will, however, be without Ben Roethlisberger this season. Considering that — along with a subpar Pittsburgh offensive line that ranked 31st in pass block win rate and a subpar defense — you should take the Under — Eric Moody
Bold prediction for 2022: Pickens will lead all rookies in TD catches.
With the traits of a WR1 and the body control to track the ball, Pickens has the ability to win isolation matchups outside the numbers and post up defenders in the red zone. The rookie out of Georgia will rack up the touchdown catches this season. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 7
Describe the QB situation in three words: Work in progress.
The Niners won’t ask Trey Lance to be the focal point of a team with championship aspirations. Their defense and surrounding offensive talent should help lighten the load. But they will ask Lance to take care of the ball, make the occasional big play and, most important, improve as the year goes on. If he does that and the Niners stay healthy, they believe they can return to the Super Bowl. — Nick Wagoner
Breakout player: Brandon Aiyuk, WR
Lost in the shuffle of Aiyuk’s slow start to last season was the fact that he was one of the 15 most productive receivers in the league from Week 9 on. Aiyuk followed that strong finish with his first full “normal” offseason spent working out with Lance and honing his route-running ability. On a team with Deebo Samuel and George Kittle, don’t be surprised if it’s Aiyuk who leads the team in receptions and receiving yards. — Wagoner
Impact newcomer: Charvarius Ward, CB
Ward battled a muscle strain in the middle of camp, but before that, he looked every bit the part of the No. 1 cornerback the Niners hoped he’d be when they signed him to a three-year, $42 million contract in March. A healthy Ward can solidify the position that was the 49ers’ biggest defensive weakness a year ago, and he could be the player who pushes their defense back to 2019 levels of dominance. — Wagoner
Mike Clay breaks down what makes Trey Lance more valuable than other QBs in fantasy this season.
Fantasy breakout candidate: Trey Lance, QB
Lance is expected to thrive in Kyle Shanahan’s fantasy-friendly offense. With Samuel, Kittle and Aiyuk among the 49ers’ receiving playmakers, the dual-threat quarterback will add a vertical element to the 49ers’ offense. — Eric Moody
Over or under 10 wins? Under
I do not believe in Lance, but I do believe in Shanahan. The surrounding players are there, but it’s hard to see 11-plus wins with the unproven Lance. — Doug Kezirian
Bold prediction for 2022: Kyle Shanahan will win NFL Coach of the Year.
The 49ers held onto quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, but Shanahan will win Coach of the Year because of the development of his replacement, Trey Lance. In an offense that caters to the quarterback’s dual-threat ability, Shanahan takes the Niners deep into January. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 24
Describe the QB situation in three words: HOF to meh.
As in, the Seahawks are going from a likely Hall of Famer in Russell Wilson to a pair of options that aren’t all that inspiring. Drew Lock has flashed plenty of talent. But he hasn’t done enough in Pete Carroll’s view to overtake former Wilson backup Geno Smith, who will start Week 1. Smith had the edge from the jump thanks to his experience in Shane Waldron’s system and hasn’t relinquished it. It seems likely that Lock will find the field at some point this season. And the Seahawks seem likely to be drafting a QB early next April. — Brady Henderson
Injury to watch: Kenneth Walker III, RB
The rookie is trying to make it back by Week 1 following a mid-August hernia procedure. Before that, the second-round pick had been playing his way into a significant role alongside Rashaad Penny in Seattle’s post-Chris Carson backfield. Pete Carroll raved about his improved pass-protection, describing him as a three-down back. Penny’s long injury history and the presumed plan to not overwork him means Walker should get plenty of touches once he’s back. — Henderson
Player on the hot seat: Jamal Adams, S
Adams isn’t in danger of being released anytime soon, but the two first-round picks the Seahawks traded for him in 2020 and the $70 million extension they signed him to a year later didn’t look like good investments last season. After a stellar 2020, he was held without a sack and saw his season end in December because of his second labrum tear in as many years. He broke a finger again this summer, continuing a troubling injury trend. The Seahawks believe their revamped defensive scheme can get Adams back to being a pass-rushing force, but he’s got to stay healthy to do that. — Henderson
Fantasy breakout candidate: Rashaad Penny, RB
Now that Kenneth Walker III is out after undergoing a procedure to repair a hernia, Penny is the lead back in the Seahawks’ committee. Over the last six games of the 2021 season, he averaged 19.5 fantasy points for a Seahawks team that relies heavily on the running game. — Eric Moody
Over or under six wins? Under
This is not a strong team. They do have home games against the Falcons, Giants and Jets, but overall, it’s too tough of a schedule to envision seven-plus wins. — Doug Kezirian
Bold prediction for 2022: The Seahawks will lead the NFL in rushing.
With limitations at the quarterback position and two downhill backs, Seattle is going to pound the ball between the tackles. Look for Penny and Walker to lead a rushing attack that posts over 2,500 yards. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 2
The season will be a success if … the Bucs win the Super Bowl and only if they win the Super Bowl.
That’s not me putting unfair expectations on them. Quarterback Tom Brady called his comeback after a 40-day retirement “unfinished business.” It was eating him up inside watching the Rams, who narrowly defeated the Bucs in the playoffs, in the Super Bowl. — Jenna Laine
Contract-year player: Mike Edwards, S
While the Bucs have a trio of defensive backs all up for new contracts, Edwards — the defensive backfield’s top ball hawk — is the one getting his first look as a full-time starter at safety. They want to see if he can generate even more interceptions with more snaps, but this could also make him more vulnerable in the open field as a tackler. — Laine
Impact newcomer: Julio Jones, WR
Jones is a future Pro Football Hall of Famer and will help offset the loss of WR Antonio Brown and TE Rob Gronkowski‘s productivity in the red zone. But the goal this offseason was to get younger, faster and more physical along the interior defensive line, and Akiem Hicks, who’s 32, paired with Vita Vea could make for a devastating pass rush. You could see glimpses of that during joint practices with the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans. Run game coordinator/assistant head coach Harold Goodwin likened practicing against them to “trying to stop a motor home.” — Laine
Fantasy breakout candidate: Cameron Brate, TE
The retirement of Gronkowski and O.J. Howard‘s departure opens up a larger workload for Brate in 2022. Howard and Gronkowski combined for 110 targets, 937 yards and seven touchdowns last season. — Eric Moody
Over or under 11.5 wins? Over
The Buccaneers are tied for the highest win total after going 13-4 last season. Brady is still Brady, and there is no counting him out, even if he is facing more difficult opposing quarterbacks than last season. — Erin Dolan
Bold prediction for 2022: Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will be one of the top head-coaching candidates at the end of the season.
After another year of leading one of the NFL’s best offenses, Leftwich will have his pick of the top jobs available in 2023. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 11
The season will be a success if … Ryan Tannehill reverts back to the QB who was one of the league’s best comeback players in 2019.
Tannehill has 13 game-winning drives since joining the Titans in 2019, one behind Derek Carr for the most over that span, including the playoffs. He had an opportunity to lead the Titans on a game-winning drive against the Bengals in the divisional playoff game last season, but he joined Brett Favre and Dom Strock as the only quarterbacks since 1980 to throw an interception in the final minute of a tie game in the postseason. Tannehill’s four red zone interceptions last year were the most in the league, as well. That’s a big difference from 2019, when Tannehill led the Titans to an NFL-best 75% red zone touchdown scoring rate and the AFC Championship Game. — Turron Davenport
Most important discovery at camp: Kyle Philips emerged as the top slot receiver and punt returner.
It’s rare that a fifth-round pick emerges as a likely starter and contributor on both offense and special teams. Tannehill has already shown a tendency to go to Philips in third-down situations because of his sure-handed pass catching and ability to find open windows. Philips’ 35-yard punt return in the second preseason game was an example of the dynamic playmaking ability that resulted in nine returns of 22 yards or more last year at UCLA. — Davenport
Contract-year player: Jeffery Simmons, DT
The Titans picked up Simmons’ fifth-year option, but a player of his caliber should not be playing on a $10.7 million salary in 2023, considering that lesser interior defensive linemen are making upward of $20 million per year. Simmons caught fire last season, posting a career-high 8.5 sacks in the regular season and three of the Titans’ nine sacks in their divisional playoff loss to the Bengals. The fourth-year defensive lineman checked into training camp with a much trimmer physique that he said will allow him to be faster while maintaining his strength. Another big season for Simmons should lead to a multiyear deal worth more than $100 million total. — Davenport
Fantasy breakout candidate: Robert Woods, WR
Robert Woods is projected for 106 targets and has an average draft position of WR46 in ESPN leagues. As Treylon Burks goes through the inevitable ups and downs a rookie experiences, Woods might be leaned on more in the Titans’ offense than originally expected. — Eric Moody
Over or under 9.5 wins? Under
The Titans have won at least nine games in each of Mike Vrabel’s four years at the helm. A healthy Derrick Henry is their best weapon, but I see regression looming for this team, especially after losing wideouts A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. — Erin Dolan
Bold prediction for 2022: Derrick Henry will top 1,700 rushing yards.
The foot injury he suffered last year might hamper Henry’s efficiency and durability entering the season, but I still see him as one of the game’s most dominant players. Despite being a volume ball carrier, he has home run ability and can still wear down opposing defenses, and he will remain a big focus of the Titans’ offense. — Bowen
Preseason power ranking: No. 21
Describe the QB situation in three words: Better than before.
Carson Wentz has issues — he can be inaccurate and make questionable decisions under duress. He has also been traded each of the past two offseasons. But Washington owns the NFL’s worst combined Total QBR over the past four seasons with 10 different starting quarterbacks. Wentz represents a solid upgrade and gives the Commanders potentially their best passing attack since they had Kirk Cousins in 2017. Wentz still has a strong arm and seems comfortable in Washington — he also has much to prove. — John Keim
Injury to watch: Chase Young, DE
Young tore his right ACL and MCL on Nov. 14 and will open the season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. By rule, he’ll miss at least four games, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him miss a few more. How will that impact his play — and that of the defense — when he does return? When he’s rushing right, as he did in the second half of 2020, Young is a dynamic defensive playmaker, but one who needs to mature as a pass-rusher. The Commanders’ defense, under pressure after a poor season, will need his playmaking. — Keim
Most important discovery at camp: WR Curtis Samuel‘s health.
Washington eased Samuel into training camp as the team wanted to be extra cautious about some hamstring tightness after a year in which soft-tissue injuries limited him to five ineffective games. But Samuel soon started practicing daily and looks like the player he was in Carolina two years ago, when he finished with 1,051 combined yards from scrimmage. He won’t be Washington’s top offensive threat, but his versatility and quickness underneath will impact their offense. — Keim
Fantasy breakout candidate: Jahan Dotson, WR
It is fair to say that Dotson had one of the best performances among offensive skill players during OTAs and minicamps, and that has continued into training camp and the preseason. Dotson will play a key role in the offense, finally giving Washington an outside receiver to complement Terry McLaurin. — Eric Moody
Over or under 7.5 wins? Over
Wentz is an upgrade at the QB position and has a lot of athletic and talented players around him to work with. Washington not only will have one of the easiest schedules this season, but its defense will face the fifth-easiest slate of offensive opponents (per offensive efficiency). — Anita Marks
Bold prediction for 2022: Defensive end Chase Young will register 12.5 sacks.
Young has the physical tools to be an elite edge-rusher. The former Ohio State standout will show more refinement and technique, racking up big sack numbers a year after suffering a right knee injury. — Bowen