The preseason is over which means the NFL season is right around the corner, and you know what that means. It’s time for the fun part- predictions! I’ve poured over the AFC South this offseason and will now bring you my thoughts on the team’s records, best fantasy players, a potential breakout, and an overall view on how the season will go. This is a tough division that unfortunately has to play the AFC West this season. While this is good for fantasy, it is not good for winning games. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some predictions for the 2022 season!
Vegas Projection: 9.5 Wins
My Prediction: 12-5, 1st in Division
Tough Matchups: Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders, Broncos, Titans (2), Eagles, Steelers, Cowboys, Vikings
Top 3 Scorers:
Surprise Player: Alec Pierce, WR
SLEEPER: Alec Pierce has the profile to be a terrific vertical complement for the #Colts. 6-3, 210 lbs ran a 4.41 with a 40.5 inch vert 😤 @RecepPerception shows excellent marks vs man coverage, 9 and post routes #fantasyfootball https://t.co/R6ye7s0OAD pic.twitter.com/kP9MPqoVyw
— James D Koh (@JamesDKoh) August 25, 2022
This second round rookie has all the makings for a breakout rookie campaign. He’s got a great profile, a top-tier QB throwing him the ball, Reggie Wayne as his WR coach, an alpha WR taking the hard coverage away, and one of the league’s best running backs opening up play action. Pierce is currently WR3 on the depth chart behind Parris Campbell who has never played more than seven games in a season during his three year career. If Campbell gets hurt again, Pierce will immediately be a high-end option. He’s impressed all offseason. He’s even gained praise from Matt Ryan and the coaches.
This team barely missed the playoffs last season, finishing 9-8 with Carson Wentz at the helm. Matt Ryan is a significant upgrade, so even with a tough schedule 9-8 is the floor for this team. The Colts have upgraded at every positional group except offensive line. And while the line has gotten weaker, Ryan has played behind a bad o-line most of his career. Michael Pittman and Jonathan Taylor are true alphas that make this team elite, and Ryan makes them even better. The Colts also used the draft to bring in athletic targets in Jelani Woods and the aforementioned Alec Pierce. The offense will improve upon last season.
On defense, the Colts signed Stephon Gilmore and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency. Both of these guys will bring veteran presence to the locker room as well as upgrading the defense too. Gilmore has impressed all offseason, and that should carry into the season. Ngakoue is still a good edge rusher even after six seasons. He produced 10 sacks last season. This defensive unit is solid. Last season, the Colts finished No. 9 in points allowed and No. 16 in yards allowed. Look for something similar this year. The Colts will have an above average, but not elite, defense that slows down opposing offenses and allows the Colts own offense to thrive.
Vegas Projection: 9.5 Wins
My Prediction: 8-9, 2nd in Division
Tough Matchups: Bills, Raiders, Colts (2), Chiefs, Broncos, Packers, Bengals, Eagles, Chargers, Cowboys
Top 3 Scorers:
Surprise Player: Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, WR
Nick Westbrook-Ikhine has remained the Titans’ No. 2 receiver through camp. He’s been impressive, drawing praise from Tannehill and Vrabel for his versatility and reliability.
I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s a worthy flex play throughout at least the first half of the season.
— Christian Williams (@CWilliamsNFL) August 20, 2022
Westbrook-Ikhine is starting the year at WR2 behind Robert Woods and ahead of Treylon Burks. Woods is 30 years old and coming off an ACL tear. It’s hard to imagine he holds onto that WR1 role long or even stays healthy the entire season. Burks should overtake him at some point. However, he has also shown some concerns during camp and preseason. Westbrook-Ikhine is an undrafted wide receiver from 2020 that has somehow managed to stick on the roster. He is trusted by the team and will benefit from simply being “available.” He will likely be a consistent option all year with a limited ceiling.
This schedule is TOUGH for the Titans. Last year their defense only allowed 20.8 points per game which is something that won’t be possible against most of these opponents. Playing the AFC West and the 2021 divisional winners will end up being a death sentence for the 2021 No. 1 seed in the AFC. This team will no doubt be going through growing pains to begin the season, and the whole offense revolves around Derrick Henry who’s recovering from a broken foot. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a very well-coached team, but I fear they won’t be able to close out games. These should be close contests, but I don’t trust Ryan Tannehill enough to be the guy to beat the perennial contenders they have to play this season.
They lost Rashaan Evans, Rodger Saffold, Jayon Brown, A.J. Brown, D’Onta Foreman, and Julio Jones. All of these guys played an important role when on the field for the team. Treylon Burks has great potential, but he is a rookie. Robert Woods is a good wide receiver, but he’s 30 years old. Derrick Henry has looked good this offseason, but there’s still question marks around what kind of workload he will have and how long he can carry it through the season. Unfortunately for the Titans, this year will end up being a building year for the future of the franchise.
Vegas Projection: 4.5 wins
My Prediction: 5-12, 3rd in Division
Good Matchups: Bears, Jaguars (2), Giants, Commanders, Browns
Top 3 Scorers:
Surprise Player: Nico Collins, WR
Year 2 Wide Receiver to target in the late rounds of your Fantasy Football draft!
🔹Nico Collins, WR – Houston (WR72)
Rookie Season Output –
first 9 games: 18-228-0 (4.5 ppg)
first 9 games target share: 11%
final 5 games: 15-218-1 (8.5ppg)
final 5 games target share: 18% pic.twitter.com/b9Ch87MNNd
— ᴄᴏᴅʏ ᴄᴀʀᴘᴇɴᴛɪᴇʀ (@CarpentierNFL) August 10, 2022
Look out for a classic second-year breakout campaign from this Michigan product. He has a solid profile and is on a team that will be passing plenty in 2022. He is a perfect complement to Brandin Cooks as he’s not as quick but makes up for it in physicality. It’s not like he’s slow either, he’s just not Cooks fast. He ran a 4.5 40 yard dash and has a 90th percentile speed score. With Davis Mills taking a step forward and a year under his belt, Collins should be a reliable fantasy option this year.
Do you like the switch from tough matchups to good matchups? This team unfortunately is still lacking in many areas and has to play the AFC West . They will already struggle against every team in their own division. Luckily for them, this was already deemed a rebuild year with a weak running back corps and defense. However, they have solid foundational pieces. If Davis Mills proves himself, next year could be when they take that step to be a playoff contending team.
On the bright side, the Texans are better than they were last year. Davis Mills should improve during his second year. Dameon Pierce has been impressive this offseason. Brandin Cooks is still good, and Nico Collins is also impressing this offseason. Lovie Smith has his work cut out for him. However, they got quite a haul of picks out of Deshaun Watson and do truly have a good foundation. The future looks bright, but it’s just not as bright this year.
Vegas Projection: 6.5 wins
My Prediction: 4-13, 4th in Division
Good Matchups: Commanders, Texans (2), Giants, Lions, Jets
Top 3 Scorers:
Surprise Player: Evan Engram, TE
My biggest takeaway from this is that it's even more likely that Evan Engram might be fantasy relevant. https://t.co/y5bMteXRDT
— Kevin Genson 🍺 (@BeerSheets) August 29, 2022
Why not? At some point, Engram is due for positive regression. He has been mostly healthy the last two seasons but has been on the Giants with Daniel Jones throwing the ball. Now, he has Trevor Lawrence throwing him the ball on a potentially solid offensive scheme run by Doug Pederson. The Jacksonville WR corps is lacking, and Engram is easily the most gifted receiver on the team. If he stays healthy, he will no doubt be a fantasy relevant tight end.
Like the Texans, the Jaguars will improve upon last season, but it just won’t be enough. The 2021 last place teams they have to play are the Lions and Jets who both improved much more than the Jaguars did. Also, due to tough divisional opponents and having to play the AFC West, the Jaguars will struggle to find wins. The receiver corps still leaves much to be desired. Doug Pederson is a good coach, but this is still only his first year. Travis Etienne returning will also help. This defense is also improved as the Texans spent much of their draft capital on that side of the ball. It’s enough to be a good team, but it’s not enough to win games against the teams they have to play.
As noted in my predictions for the top three scorers from this team, I believe James Robinson is being faded too far. His ceiling is definitely limited, he carries injury concerns, but he is ranked as RB48 right now. Robinson averaged 12.4 fantasy points per game last year and 17.9 the year before. In 2021 in particular, he only had a 58-percent snap share and still produced. Achilles injuries are always hard to recover from, but Cam Akers recovered from the same injury and is RB16 without anywhere near the same production James Robinson has had. This is about as close to the Alvin Kamara/Mark Ingram duo from years back that we have this year.