Biggest surprises and disappointments so far in the 2022 NFL season 

By: Abby Altman

Whether it’s Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady struggling for the first time in their lengthy careers, or the New York teams stepping up in ways nobody expected, the 2022 season has been shocking in many ways. 

Here are some of the biggest surprises, and the biggest disappointments, so far in the 2022 NFL season. 

Image taken from: sandiegouniontribune.com

Surprises:

Geno Smith

After trading away Russell Wilson, the Seahawks new QB has been one of the most shocking performances of the season. So far this season, Smith has a 72.7% completion rate, throwing for 22 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. His overall quarterback rating (QBR) is 64.1. Many fans expected the Seahawks to be one of the worst in the league this season, but Smith has led Seatle to a 7-5 season, looking to try and take a wildcard spot into the playoffs. 

Philadelphia Eagles

After starting the season 8-0, the Eagles are by far one of the best teams in the league. Philadelphia dropped 1 game to the Washington Commanders in week 9, but havent lost since, and lead the NFL with a 11-1 record. The Eagles finished the 2021 season 9-8, taking the last wildcard spot in the NFC. 

Jalen Hurts has been a huge surprise for Philadelphia fans this season. Hurts finished 2021 with a QBR of 54.6. This season, he currently has a QBR of 68.2. Hurts has thrown for more touchdowns this season already than any other, and he still has 6 games left to play. 

New York Jets

In 2021, the Jets finished dead last in the AFC East, with a 4-13 record. Only 4 other teams had an equal or lower record that season. In 2022, the Jets are now 7-5. They are currently sitting in 3rd place in the AFC East, but are competing behind the Dolphins and the Bills. If the playoffs were to start today, the Jets would hold the 7th seed. 

The sudden change in the Jets success comes from an incredible 2022 draft class. With their 1st pick, the Jets drafted Cornerback Ahmed “Sauce” Gardner. Gardner currently leads the league in passes defended with 15 so far this season. Another excellent draft pick was used to select RB Breece Hall from Iowa State. Hall unfortunately tore his ACL in week 7 against the Broncos, but was a key piece to the Jets 5-2 record before he went out for the season. He finished week 7 with 463 rushing yards and 218 receiving yards. 

The Jets currently find themselves in a quarterback controversy, as previous 1st round draft pick Zach Wilson is heavily underperforming, and was benched for Mike White in week 12. White threw for 315 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Bears, and 369 yards, with 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions against the Vikings week 13. As of now, it seems unlikely that Zach Wilson will start in the upcoming weeks. 

New York Giants

The Giants and the Jets are having almost identical seasons so far. Similarly to the Jets, the Giants finished last in the NFC East in 2021, with a record of 4-13. In the offseason, the Giants fired head coach Joe Judge and hired former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll as their new head coach. Daboll has been a huge change for the Giants, as the Giants are now 7-4-1, and 3rd in the NFC East, behind the very successful Eagles and Cowboys. 

The surprising performance from Daniel Jones, combined with RB Saquan Barkely’s excellent season is a large piece of the Giants mild success. Barkley is currently 4th in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,055 yards. 

Minnesota Vikings 

With a brand new front office and coaching staff, the Vikings 2022 season was completely up in the air. Many thought the Vikings would go for a complete rebuild and be non-contenders for the foreseeable future. However, the Vikings did a competitive rebuild. They changed some things around and built a new scheme, all while remaining contenders. 

The Vikings finished the 2021 season with an 8-9 record, 2nd in the NFC North. The Vikings missed the playoffs for the 3rd year in a row. In the offseason, the Vikings fired head coach Mike Zimmer as well as general manager Rick Spielman. The new general manager hire, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, hired the Rams former offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell as the new head coach. O’Connell joined the Vikings after winning a Super Bowl with Los Angeles last season. 

The new front office rebuilt Minnesota around an older team, led by several NFL veterans, including Adam Theilen, Patrick Peterson, and Harrison Smith. 

The Vikings are now 10-2 going into week 14, with a massive lead on the NFC North. Minnesota  currently holds the #2 seed in the NFC, behind the Eagles. 

Justin Fields

Since drafting Mitchell Trubisky in 2017, the Chicago Bears have been in a QB drought. In Trubisky’s time in Chicago, the Bears went 33-31, making the playoffs just once, in 2018. 

In 2021, the Bears drafted QB Justin Fields out of Ohio State. Fields has had a slow start, leading the Bears to 6-11 in his first season. While his record is not improving in the slightest, 2022 Justin Fields is a statistical beast, and it proving himself as a solid NFL QB. 

Fields played 12 games in 2021, and finished with 1,870 passing yards. Through 12 games in 2022, Fields has almost identical passing stats, with 1,896 passing yards. The rushing game, however,  is what puts Fields in the surprise category. In 2021, Fields had 420 rushing yards, which was 5th in the NFL for a QB. In 2022, Fields has 905 rushing yards. He has broken multiple records, including his 67 yard touchdown, which is the longest rushing touchdown in franchise history. The previous record was 61 yards, set by Fields 1 week prior.  

Fields is currently 1st in QB rushing yards, and 7th in the NFL in total rushing yards. 

Dissapointments:

Image taken from: http://www.si.com/nfl/

Los Angeles Rams

The Los Angeles Rams are easily the biggest disappointment this season, and high on the list for all time. In 2021, the Rams had one of the best offenses in the league, and that led them to a Super Bowl title. Less than a year ago, Matthew Stafford and the Rams hoisted the Lombardi trophy, and now they are 3-9 and last in the NFC West. 

Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp are both on the IR, and the Rams are in absolutely no position to win. In most cases, teams in this position would likely tank for a higher draft pick, but the Rams traded away most of their draft picks in order to build their Super Bowl winning team, and do not have a 1st round pick. 

This is the first losing season for head coach Sean McVay since he was hired in 2017. 

Aaron Rodgers and The Packers

The Packers rarely find themselves on the disappointing list, and when they do it’s typically because Aaron Rodgers didn’t play. This season, that’s simply not the case. Green Bay is currently 5-8 and 3rd in the NFC North. 

Without Davante Adams, it was expected that Rodgers would have trouble finding receivers to connect with, but many fans still expected to see the Packers atop the division. Quite the opposite has happened, however. rookie WR Christian Watson is stepping up in his 1st season, with 8 touchdowns over the last 4 games. 

The Packers however, can’t seem to get things done, and the playoffs seem to be out of reach, even for Aaron Rodgers. Packers fans at Highland Park decline to comment on the team’s situation. 

Russell Wilson

The Seahwaks trading Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos was a huge move, and Denver gave up a lot in order to obtain Wilson. Before playing a single snap for Denver, Wilson was paid a pretty penny. Much to the entire Broncos organization’s disappointment, he has not lived up to the hype. At all. The Broncos finished 2021 with a 7-10 record, and as of now, their 3-9 record does not seem to be an improvement. 

A quarterback, even one as accomplished as Wilson is expected to struggle in a brand new offense. But, nobody expected Wilson to struggle as much as he has. 

Wilson has made 9 Pro Bowls in his career and made 2 Super Bowl appearances, winning one of them. And yet, regardless of his career achievements, Wilson is one of the worst quarterbacks in the league right now. Wilson is ranked 17th in passing yards, and 28th in touchdowns and QBR. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This past offseason, Tom Brady kept fans on their toes by retiring and then promptly un-retiring, staying in Tampa for at least 1 more season. This has not turned out to be the relief that many Buccaneers fans originally felt. Brady has a QBR of 53.8, which is 18th in the league. He is 4th in passing yards, and 2nd in fewest interceptions thrown, but he has been unsuccessful in leading the Bucs to a winning season. 

The Buccaneers currently lead the NFC South and hold a playoff spot, with a 5-6 record. No team has ever made the playoffs with a losing record, and most NFL fans would be thoroughly disappointed if Tampa Bay makes the playoffs performing like they have been. 

On top of the struggles on the field, Tom Brady’s personal life has overshadowed anything football related. Also, likely impacting his play, Brady has taken more time off than anyone to attend weddings, go on trips, and deal with many family issues. If the Buccaneers want to be contenders again, something big needs to change, and a QB focused on football might be necessary. 

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