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Are Buffalo Bills the team to beat? Was Cincinnati Bengals’ Super Bowl run a fluke? Neil Reynolds’ five key questions for the 2022 season


Can Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow get the team back to the Super Bowl this season?

Strap yourselves in, because the wild ride is about to get even wilder. After the weirdest, most shocking and most headline-filled offseason in NFL history; the sporting drama is about to go up several notches as the 2022 campaign kicks off in Los Angeles on Thursday night.

The defending-champion Los Angeles Rams host the Buffalo Bills in the season curtain-raiser as the first steps are taken along the road to Super Bowl LVII, which will take place in Glendale, Arizona, on Sunday, February 12, 2023.

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September 9, 2022, 1:10am

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We’ll be in the Sky Sports studios on Thursday night for a three-hour preview show – 9pm, Sky Sports NFL – and then with you every step of the way from the season’s first kick-off until the confetti falls on the eventual champions a little over five months from now.

It’s going to be a rollercoaster of an adventure. Unexpected results and headlines lurk around every corner. So, if anyone tells you they have a clear idea of how this season is going to play out… they’re lying!

The greatest on-field soap opera in the world is about to get started and I cannot wait. Here are a few questions I’ve been mulling over ahead of the season kick-off…

1) Will a clear favourite emerge from the pack?

The Buffalo Bills are my pick to win the Super Bowl this season, defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And the bookies tend to agree – they have made Sean McDermott’s men the favourites.

Watch the top 10 plays by Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen from the 2021 NFL season

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Watch the top 10 plays by Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen from the 2021 NFL season

Watch the top 10 plays by Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen from the 2021 NFL season

There is a lot to like about the Bills – they return most of their key performers on a potent offense, led by superstar quarterback Josh Allen. But there will be many Super Bowl contenders this season. The AFC is loaded with talented players and teams, so the Bills will face a real battle just to represent their conference in the big game.

Over in the NFC, the Rams return the same talent that won them last year’s Super Bowl, while the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are led by perennial winners in Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, respectively. And, let’s keep an eye on previous strugglers lurking in the pack. The Cincinnati Bengals won just four games in 2020 but then put together a Cinderella run in 2021, falling just one scoring drive short of winning it all.

It is going to be a wide-open race to Arizona.

Highlights of Super Bowl LVI between the LA Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals

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Highlights of Super Bowl LVI between the LA Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals

Highlights of Super Bowl LVI between the LA Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals

2) Who will win the wild (AFC) West?

Some of the biggest names in the game migrated to the AFC this offseason and a great many landed in the AFC West, which now pits four true playoff contenders against each other in what should be a fierce battle for the division.

Long-time Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has jumped ship to the Denver Broncos for 2022 and beyond

Long-time Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has jumped ship to the Denver Broncos for 2022 and beyond

Nine-time Pro Bowler, and Super Bowl champion in 2014 with the Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson gives the Denver Broncos their first stud at quarterback since Peyton Manning retired at the end of the 2015 season. How will he fare in the Mile High city?

The Los Angeles Chargers added some defensive muscle in the form of pass rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson, while the Las Vegas Raiders tempted superstar wide receiver Davante Adams away from the Green Bay Packers and reunited him with his old college quarterback, Derek Carr.

Watch some of the top plays from Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver duo of newly-acquired Davante Adams and veteran Hunter Renfrow

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Watch some of the top plays from Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver duo of newly-acquired Davante Adams and veteran Hunter Renfrow

Watch some of the top plays from Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver duo of newly-acquired Davante Adams and veteran Hunter Renfrow

And then there is the Kansas City Chiefs, who have hosted the last four AFC title games. Will they cope with the offseason loss of blazing wide receiver Tyreek Hill? Given they still have Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, the answer is very likely to be ‘yes’.

The Raiders and Broncos added the biggest stars, but I think this division comes down to the Chiefs or the Chargers.

3) Will the NFC come down to a battle between veteran legends?

Tom Brady retired for a total of just 40 days this offseason, returned to Tampa Bay, only to then take a strange 11-day hiatus during preseason training camp. But he is now back and laser-focused on chasing an eighth Super Bowl win to extend his remarkable record. His Buccaneers – now coached by Todd Bowles – remain one of the most talented teams in the NFC and should be in the race come January.

Watch the top 10 plays by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady from the 2021 NFL season

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Watch the top 10 plays by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady from the 2021 NFL season

Watch the top 10 plays by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady from the 2021 NFL season

Aaron Rodgers looked odds-on to leave the Packers this offseason, possibly for the aforementioned Broncos, but he did an about-turn and inked a three-year extension that will pay him $50m per season. Rodgers is looking to join former Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre as the only players to win three NFL Most Valuable Player awards in a row. He will play without his favourite receiver in Adams in 2022, but the Packers now boast one of the league’s best defenses to help carry the load.

Watch the top 10 plays by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers from the 2021 NFL season

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Watch the top 10 plays by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers from the 2021 NFL season

Watch the top 10 plays by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers from the 2021 NFL season

Green Bay are going to be right there with Tampa Bay in the playoffs at the end of the regular season.

4) Were the 2021 Bengals a fluke?

As I mentioned earlier, the Bengals were the surprise feel-good story of the 2021 season. Will they fall back to the pack in 2022? I don’t think they will.

While other teams in the AFC were making splashy quarterback and wide receiver additions, Cincinnati bolstered an offensive line that was a mess last year with the additions of center Ted Karras, guard Alex Cappa and tackle La’El Collins. That should help star quarterback Joe Burrow, who was sacked an NFL-high 51 times in the 2021 regular season and dropped another 19 times in the playoffs; including a record seven in the Super Bowl.

Watch some of the best plays by Cincinnati Bengals wide receivers Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins

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Watch some of the best plays by Cincinnati Bengals wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins

Watch some of the best plays by Cincinnati Bengals wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins

Burrow is the real deal as a passer and his supporting cast of receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, and running back Joe Mixon, is as good as it gets. The Bengals should remain at the NFL’s top table when it comes to Super Bowl contenders.

5) Which familiar face in a new place will have the biggest impact?

Many of the big-name movers have been mentioned already. This was a seismic offseason. Adams could help Carr get his first playoff win with the Raiders and Wilson could make the Broncos contenders once more, but there were so many other moves as one big name after another swapped teams.

Watch some of the best plays from former Kansas City Chief Tyreek Hill and his new Miami Dolphins team-mate Jaylen Waddle

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Watch some of the best plays from former Kansas City Chief Tyreek Hill and his new Miami Dolphins team-mate Jaylen Waddle

Watch some of the best plays from former Kansas City Chief Tyreek Hill and his new Miami Dolphins team-mate Jaylen Waddle

The Miami Dolphins gave up five draft picks to acquire Hill – quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is out of excuses in Florida. He has the talent around him and must now produce under first-year head coach Mike McDaniel. But that pairing must chase success, knowing the Dolphins went after Tom Brady at quarterback and Sean Payton at head coach during this offseason.

And don’t forget about Matt Ryan, who will become the Indianapolis Colts’ latest quarterback. This weekend will mark the sixth consecutive season the Colts have rolled out a different opening day quarterback, with Ryan following Carson Wentz (2021), Philip Rivers (2020), Jacoby Brissett (2019), Brian Hoyer (2018), Andrew Luck (2017) and Scott Tolzien (2016). Ryan has arguably the NFL’s best running back behind him in Jonathan Taylor and a high-end defense. His arrival should get the Colts back into the playoffs.

Don’t miss a second of the 2022 NFL season with Sky Sports NFL – join us for all the live action, starting with Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams from 1.20am on Friday, September 9.



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