2022 NFL predictions: Experts debate MVP and next year's Super Bowl, plus most interesting teams

ByESPN NFL Experts ESPN logo
Friday, February 18, 2022

Welcome to the NFL offseason.The Los Angeles Rams are Super Bowl LVI champs, and we're already looking ahead to the favorites for next year's title game.Caesars Sportsbook says it's the Kansas City Chiefs (13-2 odds), followed by the Buffalo Bills (7-1) and Rams (10-1). Which teams do our experts think will play in Super Bowl LVII? You'll have to scroll down to see their picks.

We also asked our panel of 12 ESPN NFL insiders to make their picks for 2022 MVP (hint: It's an all-quarterback race), along with the most interesting team of the offseason. We're only a few weeks away from the start of 2022 free agency, and the spring couldbe filled with multiple starting quarterbacks changing teams, much like we saw in 2021, when Matthew Stafford was traded to the City of Angels and immediately earned his wings (and a ring).

Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson and Jimmy Garoppoloare among the high-profile signal-callers who could change teams, but there could be more movement before April's draft.

Let's get into the three questions for our panel, starting with their early Super Bowl picks:

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Early Super Bowl picks | Early MVP picks

Most interesting teams of the offseason

What's your early Super Bowl LVII pick?

Stephania Bell, fantasy football analyst: 49ers over Bills. Twice the bridesmaids in the postseason during the Kyle Shanahan era, the 49ers have the talent to win it all if their heir to the quarterback throne, Trey Lance, continues to develop. Josh Allen and the Bills were a possession away from the Super Bowl, and they will be back -- but in the end the Niners' defense (with some incoming improvements in the secondary) helps tip the scale in their favor.

Matt Bowen, NFL analyst: Bills over 49ers. The Bills will go through some changes with Ken Dorsey as the new offensive coordinator, but I still anticipate a quarterback-centric system designed around Josh Allen's high-end physical abilities. And with a defense that can limit explosive plays, this team has the makeup of a championship squad.

Mike Clay, fantasy football writer: Packers over Bills. Aaron Rodgerswill return for one more run and, after winning 13 regular-season games but failing to reach the Super Bowl in three straight seasons, the Packers finally get over the top. Naturally, Rodgers will retire after winning Super Bowl MVP.

Tristan H. Cockcroft, fantasy football writer: Bills over Cowboys. What?! The Cowboys in the Super Bowl?! Consider it more the product of a wide-open NFC in my estimation -- though an Aaron Rodgers-led Packers team would remain tough to bet against -- but it's the Bills who stand out as one of the game's most balanced overall teams, with a quarterback in Josh Allen who is an absolute superstar.

Dan Graziano, national NFL writer: Chiefs over Rams. The AFC is tough to pick because there are so many good teams. The NFC is tough to pick because there appear to be so few. Without knowing who's going to be the quarterback in places such as Green Bay, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, etc., it's way too early to assess who the true contenders will be. But as of now I'll bet on Patrick Mahomes & Co. bouncing back, because that feels like as safe a February bet as any.

Eric Moody, fantasy football writer: Bills over 49ers. Josh Allen is one of the league's top dual-threat quarterbacks, Stefon Diggs is an elite wide receiver, Gabriel Davis is an up-and-comer on the precipice of a breakout season and cornerbackTre'Davious White will be back following an ACL tear. After losing consecutive playoff games to the Chiefs, the Bills will be highly motivated to atone for their mistakes.

Jason Reid, senior NFL writer, The Undefeated: Chiefs over Cowboys. After stewing all offseason about the Chiefs' stunning second-half collapse in the AFC Championship Game, Patrick Mahomes will return better than ever. Just like they rebuilt their offensive line last offseason, the Chiefs will move to add pass-rushers this spring. Wide receiver Mecole Hardman will finally take a big step forward to help future Hall of Famers Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. For Dallas,Dak Prescott will lead a dominating offense. On defense, linebackerMicah Parsons will be second to none in the game while taking charge of a top-five unit.

Jordan Reid, NFL draft analyst: Chiefs over Rams. With a bad taste in their mouths following a second-half collapse in the AFC Championship Game loss to the Bengals, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will return on a rampage. And the Rams will make a return to the Super Bowl by running it back for another season with most of the same players.

Kevin Seifert, national NFL writer: Bills over Packers. The Bills have been so close the past two years, and ESPN's Football Power Index ranked them as the best team of 2021 (regardless of the outcome of the playoffs). And at this moment, there are lots of reasons to think Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and the rest of the Packers' elite players are headed back to Green Bay for one more run at a championship.

Mike Tannenbaum, NFL front-office insider: Chiefs over Cowboys. Patrick Mahomes remains the best player on the planet. The Cowboys will finally get over the hump by correcting their biggest problem -- discipline -- and dramatically cut down on penalties (they led the league in 2-21). Continuity will serve Dak Prescott well, and the Cowboys will be in the top five in the league in offense and defense.

Seth Walder, sports analytics writer: Chargers over Packers. That the Chargers missed the postseason hid the fact that Justin Herbert produced a magnificent season. A little positive regression on defense, and they could quickly become dangerous.

Field Yates, NFL analyst: Bills over Packers. If Aaron Rodgers is not with the Packers next season, the game changes, but with Rodgers under contract in Green Bay, I think the Packers find a way to do enough to keep the roster intact to a point that another successful season is on tap -- this time with a trip to the Super Bowl, where they come up just short against the high-powered, Josh Allen-led Bills.

Who's your pick to be next season's MVP?

Bell: Joe Burrow, QB, Bengals. Call it recency bias if you want, but there is no denying the success of the Bengals' 2021 season hinged on Burrow's leadership and will to win as much as his play. Get the man some protection and after an offseason that won't be focused on recovering from ACL reconstruction, we could see an even better year from him.

Bowen: Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers. He had 38 touchdown throws last season with more than 5,000 yards. An ascending pocket thrower with easy movement ability and upper-tier arm talent, Herbert will have the numbers -- and the big-game moments -- to win the MVP next season.

Clay: Josh Allen, QB, Bills. Allen has been top six in Total QBR each of the past two seasons while often carrying the entire Buffalo offense with both his arm and legs. The Bills are built for another title run, and that will position him for strong MVP consideration.

Cockcroft: Josh Allen, QB, Bills. I hate that the MVP award is boiling down to near certainty of going to a quarterback these days, not to mention typically those on high-seeded contenders, but this will be one of the most deserving awards among those who fit those criteria. The Bills should be tremendous as a team, and Allen is already right there in the conversation for best player in the league. A 13-4 season (or a season in that range) will give him outstanding odds of an MVP win.

Graziano: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Broncos. That's right -- I went there. I don't know. Winning three MVPs in a row is tough, but mainly because of voter fatigue. My prediction is that Rodgers will be in a new place, playing as well as ever with Nathaniel Hackett as his coach ... and that feels like a story voters could get behind, no?

Moody: Joe Burrow, QB, Bengals. Following a torn ACL and MCL during his rookie season in 2020, Burrow had a stunning 2021 season. In 2022, he should reach career highs with a young group of offensive playmakers, another offseason to hone his craft as a professional quarterback and fresh motivation after a heartbreaking Super Bowl loss.

Jason Reid: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs. Yes, Mahomes struggled early last season. Yes, he played poorly in the second half of the AFC title game. But he is also capable of overcoming seemingly insurmountable situations with little time remaining on the game clock. Just ask the Bills.

Jordan Reid: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs. With minimal moving parts exiting the building, Mahomes won't be satisfied with how last season ended. That will remain on his mind the entire 2022 season as he goes on to win his second MVP award.

Seifert: Josh Allen, QB, Bills. There's reason to worry about Allen's long-term trajectory, given the punishment that comes along with his physical playing style. But he finished the 2021 playoffs playing at the highest level of his career. That should carry into the near future, especially the 2022 season.

Tannenbaum: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs. He's the best player in the game and is still young and ascending. The runner-up very well could be Justin Herbert.

Walder: Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers. I'm not sure Herbert received the credit he really deserved last season, when he ranked third in QBR and second in total EPA -- ahead of Aaron Rodgers. With Tom Brady retiring, age a factor for Rodgers and likely regression from Buffalo's defense, Herbert and Patrick Mahomes ought to be the favorites entering the season.

Yates: Josh Allen, QB, Bills. Allen finished 2021 on a tear and is firmly entrenched in the conversation for best player in all of football. Buffalo had a stretch of inconsistent play during this past regular season that kept him out of the MVP conversation, but I suspect he will be an annual contender going forward.

Which is the most interesting team of the offseason?

Bell: Packers. The status of Aaron Rodgers is unknown at this point, which already makes them the most interesting. If he goes, it not only impacts how the Packers look next season (what does free agent Davante Adams do?), but there is also a ripple effect. Obviously wherever Rodgers lands makes that team one to watch, but how other teams subsequently pursue talent acquisition and trades makes them more intriguing, too.

Bowen: Packers. Aaron Rodgers could be moving on. And Davante Adams, the league's best wide receiver, is a free agent. Matt LaFleur's club might have a much different look next season if Rodgers and Adams are playing elsewhere.

Clay: Buccaneers. The Bucs have been a powerhouse since Tom Brady's arrival, but the GOAT's retirement coupled with a CVS-receipt-length list of free agents has severely clouded this team's outlook. Finding a way to retain at least a few free agents (Chris Godwin, Ryan Jensen, Carlton Davis, Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Whitehead, Ndamukong Suh, etc.) could keep them in wild-card contention, but that might not matter much if they don't find their way to a standout quarterback -- a tough task considering the current available options.

Cockcroft: Broncos. They have both the cap space and draft capital (five picks in the first three rounds) to mount a serious trade pursuit of Aaron Rodgers, as well as a new coach in Nathaniel Hackett who was Rodgers' offensive coordinator the past two seasons. How this team crafts itself entering 2022 is a key story to watch unfold.

Graziano: Eagles. They have three first-round draft picks, and despite what was said in a postseason news conference, do we really know how confident they are in Jalen Hurts as their long-term QB answer? Those three first-rounders mean the Eagles have to at least explore the possibility of trading for a veteran. And if not, and they decide to build around Hurts, it'll be fascinating to watch what that means in terms of how they allocate their offseason resources.

Moody: Broncos. Considering the team is in the market for a franchise quarterback, and after what the Rams were able to accomplish with Matthew Stafford this season and the Buccaneers with Tom Brady the year prior, the idea of Aaron Rodgers moving to Denver is intriguing. The addition of Rodgers would make the Broncos immediate Super Bowl contenders because they already have offensive playmakers, such as Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Javonte Williams.

Jason Reid: Packers. It'll be fun watching all of the twists and turns as the Packers attempt to please Aaron Rodgers and retain superstar wide receiver Davante Adams, who's a free agent. Well, fun for everyone except the Packers.

Jordan Reid: Packers. With trade rumors of Aaron Rodgers swirling and Davante Adams set to become an unrestricted free agent, they are set for an eventful offseason. Does Adams get a new deal or the franchise tag, or is he elsewhere?

Seifert: 49ers. In the past three seasons, the 49ers have played in two NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo helped them get there in both cases. He also played a big role in them falling short of a championship. If reports about their intent to move on from Garoppolo are accurate, it will be fascinating to see how they build around presumed replacement Trey Lance-- and if they are any better with him in 2022.

Tannenbaum: Broncos. I believe they will trade forAaron Rodgers. They could become the Packers West very quickly -- and they just hired Nathaniel Hackett from Green Bay as head coach.

Walder: Vikings. The new regime has to make a crucial decision on Kirk Cousins that is going to set the track for the franchise for years to come. Do they move on from Cousins, hoping to grab value for him in the trade market, and start over at quarterback? Or recommit to him, extend his contract to lower his immediate cap hit and hope to win in the short term? It's a tricky spot with huge consequences.

Yates: Steelers. For the first time in nearly two decades, the Steelers will need a new starting quarterback. In what seems like an offseason that could include some notable veteran trades, does Pittsburgh approach the position that way or work to draft its successor to Ben Roethlisberger?

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