Three Potential Overachieving NFL Teams For 2022

Nick Ashooh looks at who could have a better-than-expected season

Sure, we have plenty of time before the NFL season kicks off, but that doesn't mean we should just ignore the futures market. We know the NFL loves to give us a team or two that beats preseason expectations, and this year will likely be no different.

It's never easy to find that potential organization, but there are certain characteristics that tend to stand out, whether it's talent upgrades, coaching changes, or just who they might see on their schedule.

Here's three potential teams that could exceed expectations in 2022:

Jacksonville Jaguars (6.5 wins)

Last Year's Record: 3-14

The Jags sit with the third-best odds to win the AFC South (+700 consensus), with a win total sitting at either 6 or 6.5, depending on where you're shopping. This for a team that won just three games last season, and spent most of it trying to ignore the distraction that was former head coach Urban Meyer.

Now, enter Doug Peterson, a Super Bowl-winning coach who has the ever-important task of getting No. 1-overall pick Trevor Lawrence's development on track. If he can look like at least a capable and consistent starter in year two, that's already a major improvement in Jacksonville.

There's also this year's No. 1-overall pick Travon Walker, who has wild combine numbers and a high ceiling. He should add to their pass rush, along with rookie linebackers Devin Lloyd and Chad Muma, along with multiple moves in free agency on the defensive side of the ball as well.

Don't forget, they're also in a great position at running back, with Travis Etienne set to return from the Lisfranc injury he suffered in last year’s preseason, his rookie year, which in a sense makes him almost an offseason addition as well. James Robinson is recovering from a torn Achilles and it may take some time for his return, but that's a dangerous backfield once they're both healthy.

You'd expect the Jags to improve from their 27th-ranked offense, and with a schedule that's tied for 26th toughest (yes, this is only so accurate), at least seven wins might not be that crazy if you're looking to take the over.

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New Orleans Saints (8.5 wins)

Last Year's Record: 9-8

Sure, the Saints were over .500 last year, but that was during the Sean Payton era. Now it's Dennis Allen's team, with an offense led by Jameis Winston.

Neither has a resume anywhere close to what Payton and Drew Brees brought to the table, but that doesn't mean this is a lost season for the Saints. It's clear the organization is willing to build around Winston, at least in the short term, and they just might surprise the NFL in 2022.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the heavy favorites to win the NFC South (-320, FanDuel), with the Saints sitting with the second-best odds, all the way down at +380. Sure, this makes sense given what we've seen during the Tom Brady era in Tampa, and their win total of 11.5 feels right. The Saints, though, come in at 8.5, with even money currently on the over, and it at least makes you stop to think: could the Saints be better than expected?

They signed receiver Jarvis Landry recently after drafting talented wideout Chris Olave in the first round, while also adding left tackle Trevor Penning in that same round, giving away next year's first-round pick in what's considered a deep quarterback draft in 2023. There's also hope to finally have Michael Thomas healthy again to anchor that receiving corps.

Add those names to Alvin Kamara in the backfield and Marquez Callaway as potentially your fourth receiver, and it's not unreasonable to have high expectations for this offense.

We already know Winston can air it out, the question has always been more about his decision-making. Last year, in a much more restrictive offense, Winston went 5-2 as a starter with 14 touchdowns and just three picks. He also added a career-high 102.8 QB rating to the mix, showing he's certainly capable of being more under control.

The question now becomes whether or not offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael will bring a less conservative approach than last year, which led to just 186 passing yards a game from Winston before the torn ACL.

If the offense improves, and it comes with what was the seventh-ranked total defense in the NFL last season, and we could be looking at a playoff team that hits the over on the 8.5 win total in 2022.

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Baltimore Ravens (9.5 wins)

Last Year's Record: 8-9

Right now there is a ton of questions surrounding the other three teams in the AFC North. The Bengals need to show they were more than a fluke last year; the Browns don't know what the NFL will do about Deshaun Watson yet; while the Steelers have entered the post-Big Ben era.

All have the potential to be winning teams, but there's a significant boom-or-bust for all three, which bodes well for the Ravens.

Let's also not forget they're playing a last-place schedule that includes the NFC South and AFC East, and they'll see teams like the Giants, Jags, Panthers, and Falcons, which should help pad them towards 10 wins when it's all said and done.

Lamar Jackson's contract situation aside, this team has had Super Bowl aspirations dating back to his MVP season in 2019. As with every NFL team, their season rests on quarterback play first and foremost. At this point it's clear the Ravens just want to double down on what they do best, running the ball like an old-school NFL team, and letting Jackson just be himself. There's even a chance this team comes away with two 1,000-yard rushers in 2022.

The real issue here is the balance of the highs and lows with Jackson. Finding more consistency in the passing game will be key to him, and the rest of this offense having a successful season. Jackson has unique gifts both with his arm and his legs, but at times, as with most elite runners at the position, it's easy to lean on the quick run away from trouble. If he can find that balance, the rest of the league is in trouble.

The talent and coaching are there in Baltimore, and as long as they can stay healthy, hitting the over on their win total is more than likely, perhaps with another division title as well. We could be looking at 12 wins at least for a team that has so many things working in its favor in 2022.