NFL End-of-Season Report

Mateo Lanzillotta

AFC (American Football Conference)

AFC East

This division turned out to be the AFC’s version of the NFC West. A wide-open division that really should have been the Bills’ for the taking, the AFC East gave us some of the best stories of the year.

From best to worst, the Bills will start us off. Though he suffered through a rough start, Josh Allen actually pulled together a decent year. Throwing the 8th most yards this year, he brought his team to a 11-6 record. Wideout Stefon Diggs posted over 1,200 receiving yards, and the surprise emergence of Tight-End Dawson Knox gave this team the playoff berth the Bills needed. Despite the loss of star cornerback Tre’Davious White, the Bills still allowed the least amount of passing yards in the league.

Moving on to the second-place team in the division: the New England Patriots. Mac Jones led this team to a very improbable appearance in this year’s playoffs. Running-back Damien Harris had a career year, supplying over 1,000 all-purpose yards. The passing defense held up amid the farewell of 4-time pro-bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

The Dolphins, on a sourer note, had a much harder season. They posted a mid 9-8 record, and the main story around the Dolphins around the end of the season ended up not being playoff based, but around the firing of Head Coach Brian Flores. Despite a massive 7-game winning streak near the end of the season, the Dolphins fell way short of their expectations this year.

Of course, for the fifth time in the last six years, the New York Jets have finished the worst in the division. With only 4 wins and 13 losses, they will surely be looking at the future with begging eyes. Rookie QB Zach Wilson threw less touchdowns than picks this year, a 9-11 ratio. A mediocre defensive unit paired up with almost 0 depth on offense was a recipe for disaster. Head Coach Robert Salah will need many more options for the former BYU captain next year.

Playoff Teams: Bills, Patriots

Bills: First round exit (BUF vs. NE)

Patriots: Loss in Divisional round


AFC West

The AFC West was the most controversial of any division in the league this year. The first-place finisher, the Kansas City Chiefs, started the season horribly, going 4-4 through the first 8 weeks of the season. They proceeded to go 8-1 following that rough start and have snagged the second seed in the AFC.

The undisputed story of the year had to be the Las Vegas Raiders. From car accidents to racist emails to threatening regular people at gunpoint, its miraculous the Raiders were able to make the playoffs in my opinion. The loss of a franchise receiver, starting Defensive-Back, and Head Coach should have been enough to cripple any team. Derek Carr had other plans. Throwing for the 5th most yards, (around 4,800), he has proved once again that he can still be a good QB in this league. Do I see this success continued in the playoffs? No.

One of the most surprising teams to not make the playoffs this year was the third-place finishing Los Angeles Chargers. The season came crashing down in overtime against the Raiders in Week 18, as Daniel Carlson booted the ball through the sticks. The future is bright in Los Angeles, though they will certainly have to invest in some younger offensive weapons, (see Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler).

The Denver Broncos finished this season placed last in the division, but their record wasn’t awful. 7-10 including a 3-0 start to the season shows that good things are on the way in the Mile High City.

Playoff Teams: Chiefs, Raiders

Chiefs: Loss in the Superbowl

Raiders: First round exit (LV vs. CIN)


AFC North

The AFC North swapped teams around this year, with the end-of-season standings showing the Bengals on top for the first time since 2009. One of the most exciting offenses to watch this year, the Bengals are going into this year’s playoffs with a lot of confidence. Almost guaranteed Rookie of the Year winner Ja’Marr Chase has finished 4th in receiving yards, breaking former LSU teammate Justin Jefferson’s record for most ever receiving yards by a rookie, and 3rd in receiving touchdowns. Cincinnati’s #1 will be looking for an equally successful playoff experience in the coming weeks. Despite the obvious O-line issues, the Bengals have put together a 10-7 record, and as long as Jessie Bates, Chidobe Awuzie, and the rest of the defense are able to hold up, I foresee a very successful playoff experience for the Bengals.

A surprising playoff team for me is the Steelers. How they managed to go 9-7-1, I do not know. No receivers, bad QB play, and a mediocre O-line have been saved by both Najee Harris and the defense, who enjoyed the ride of TJ Watt’s historic season. Hopefully the Steelers move on to another man under center and enjoy the few years they have left of having a force of nature on both sides of the ball.

Moving on to a mid-tier team, the Cleveland Browns. Between fights among players and other players’ family members, (we’re looking at you Baker), and chaos with COVID-19, the Browns have had a really lackluster year. Nick Chubb is clearly a bright spot on what is still kind of a dismal team, but he can’t do it all. The defense is probably just one year or maybe two from true stardom.

Surprisingly finishing last in the division, the Baltimore Ravens may have had the most disappointing season in all of football. Though only playing in 12 games, starting Quarter-Back Lamar Jackson had a huge slump of a season.  25th in passing yards, 23rd in passing touchdowns, and an 8-9 record were way below expectations for the reigning MVP. Backup Quarter-Back Tyler Huntley did decently but is clearly not a franchise back. The worst passing defense but the best rushing defense, the stars on the other side of the ball had a very up and down year as well. All is not lost for Jackson and the Ravens, but they have to be in the market for a franchise receiver and some defensive help over the next few months.

Playoff Teams: Bengals, Steelers

Bengals: Lose in Conference Finals

Steelers: Lose first round (PIT vs. KC)


AFC South

The AFC South was a division with some of the best stories of the year, and some of the worst. The Titans enjoyed a fruitful season, while the Colts had a couple weeks of stardom via now-franchise back Jonathan Taylor, but fell just short of a playoff berth. Both Houston and Jacksonville had seasons to forget.

Going from the top down, we’ll start with the Titans. Tennessee snatched the one-seed in the AFC this year, and possibly have a genuine shot at a Super Bowl for the first time in recent memory. Carried on the back of the best Running-Back in the league, Derrick Henry, the Titans have one of the most versatile offenses in the playoffs. Had he not been stopped by injury, King Henry would have finished the season top in rushing yards, (though this might not have been the case given Jonathan Taylors insane stretch). A lackluster defense lead by veteran safety Kevin Byard and outside linebacker Harold Landry III will have to pick up the intensity over the next few weeks if any championship is to be expected of Tennessee.

Moving on to a fan favorite, the Indianapolis Colts. Jonathan Taylor finished the year with 1,811 rushing yards, including a stat line of 204 all-purpose yards and 5 total touchdowns in a 41-15 blowout over the Buffalo Bills, the now-three-seed in the AFC. One of the best rushing defenses in the league and picking off opposing teams Quarterbacks 19 times, the defense was adequate. Carson Wentz bounced back from his infamous season with the Eagles last year, throwing 8 less picks and throwing for over 3,000 yards. The future is bright in Indianapolis, who once again have arguably the best o-line in the league, a top defense, an up-and-coming receiver in Michael Pittman Jr., and a top-3 running back for years to come.

Surprisingly not the worst team in the league, the Houston Texans scraped 4 wins into their record this year, coming out on top against the Titans, the Chargers, and the Jaguars twice. Obviously in shambles, the Texans weren’t expecting anything this year. Still holding onto Deshaun Watson, the future is somewhat unclear in Houston, but moving on from that the Texans lack a certain star factor that NFL teams need. Aside from defensive backs Justin Reid, who had a miserable season, and Desmond King II, no big names live in Houston. Not much more to be said about this franchise except for the fact that changes need to be made immediately.

Receiving the number one pick in the upcoming draft for the second year in a row, the Jacksonville Jaguars had their fair share of chaos and controversy. Trevor Lawrence had a disappointing rookie year, and finished nowhere near the ROY, (rookie of the year), race unlike the pre-season projections had shown. A decent amount of potential on both sides of the ball, the Jaguars will certainly have a much better season in 2022-23.

Playoff Teams: Titans

Titans: Lose in Divisional


NFC (National Football Conference)

NFC East

The NFC East went fairly as expected this year. The Cowboys won, the Eagles scraped into the playoffs, and the Giants finished horribly. The only surprise was the Washington Football Team. What was supposed to be the best defensive line in the league came through with only 43 sacks, the 10th most in the league. A change of personnel under center is clearly necessary, and wideout Terry McLaurin needs to become more consistent. The brightest point in Washington this season was second-year safety Kamren Curl. The former University of Arkansas man did not record an interception this year but showed vast improvements everywhere else. Expect to see his name in the league for years to come.

The Cowboys finished the season with a 12-5 record, and made history with rookie linebacker Micah Parsons and standout cornerback Trevon Diggs, who had 11 interceptions. Though they had an easy schedule, the Cowboys are going into the playoffs with very high hopes.

Moving on to Philly, the Eagles had a good season. Second year passer Jalen Hurts threw for over 2,000 more yards, 10 more touchdowns, and over 500 more rushing yards. Wide receiver Devonta Smith almost cracked 1,000 receiving yards in his rookie season, the former Heisman winner proving everyone wrong once again. The defense was average, with linebacker Alex Singleton breaking the 100-tackle mark for the second year in a row. Showing lackluster numbers in forced turnovers, the Eagles will want to pick up some more star power in order to keep up consistency. Though they can win games, as we saw in that 8-game run in which they went 6-2, they also have massive losing streaks.

At the bottom of the table was the New York Giants. Is it time for a new era under center? Head Coach Joe Judge is finally out after going 10-23 over his career for the G-Men. A surprisingly competent defense lead by former seventh-round pick linebacker Tae Crowder shows that the Giants will probably look for offensive help. Behind the scenes of Daniel Jones’ misfortune is a lackluster offensive line. With the 5th pick in the draft, the Giants will have to choose between a questionable QB class or an offensive lineman. Despite a hopeful season by the Eagles and a somewhat promising future for the Washington Football Team and Giants, this division will be the Cowboys to lose for the foreseeable future.

Playoff Teams: Cowboys, Eagles

Cowboys: Lose in the divisional

Eagles: Lose first round (PHI vs. TB)


NFC West

The NFL’s “group of death” had a super inconsistent season, with possible Super Bowl winning teams losing questionable games left and right. Starting at the top, we’ll start with the Los Angeles Rams. We all remember the Rams devastating Super Bowl loss with Jared Goff throwing the ball against Tom Brady’s New England Patriots. Looking on the bright side for the Rams, it shows that Head Coach Sean McVay knows how to get to that stage. Combining that with Odell Beckham Jr’s electric performances late in the season, Cooper Kupp with the most receiving yards, catches, and receiving touchdowns in the league, Matthew Stafford showing he’s still the best depth in the league, and three future Hall of Famers on defense, this team is looking strong going into the playoffs. There seems to be no team that could stop them, (besides maybe the Packers), in the playoffs. The Rams have almost no weaknesses.

Coming in at number 2, was a super disappointing Cardinals team. Wracked by injuries, this team only went 11-6, way under their pre-season expectations. Star quarterback Kyler Murray only played in 14 games this year, going 9-5. Top-5 receiver DeAndre Hopkins played in only ten, managing to get over 500 receiving yards and going 8-2. The defense was ok, but besides Chandler Jones, there was very little D-Line presence. The 10-year vet had 10.5 sacks including a 5-sack game to open the season against the Titans. 2021/22 was a season to forget in Arizona but look for them as a Super Bowl favorite come next year.

Following the Cardinals, came the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners are an interesting team this year. With one of the hardest schedules in the league, a 10-7 record was impressive. Sweeping the Rams and sporting an overtime win against the Bengals, we don’t really know what this team is capable of. This team is deeper than it looks on the outside. Deebo Samuel is clearly one of the most versatile guys in the league, and standout rookie running-back Elijah Mitchell is a playmaker. Though he’s regressed from his 2018 and 2019 skill level, you can never count out George Kittle who almost had 1,000 receiving yards. On the other side of the ball, you have Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, and Arik Armstead. Facing the Cowboys round one at AT&T, San Francisco will have a tough first round that will come down to the double headed monster of Mitchell and Samuel working out or not.

The miserable Seattle Seahawks came in last in the NFC West. Russell Wilson did as he does every year, start hot finish cold, (though he did have the excuse of injury this time around). The Seahawks did almost manage to have two over 1,000-yard receivers, but clearly some changes must be made for this franchise to return to its previous glory days.

Playoff Teams: Rams, Cardinals, 49ers

Rams: Lose in Divisional

Cardinals: Lose first round (ARI vs. LAR)

49ers: Lose first round (SF vs. DAL)


NFC North

With the second-most losses in the NFL, this division was never really up for grabs. Since the beginning of the season, it has been common knowledge what team will come out on top here: The Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers, the reigning MVP, has been playing another MVP-level season. Over 4,000 passing yards and a 9.25:1 touchdown-to-pick ratio, (37 touchdowns, 4 picks), is what we have come to expect from Rodgers these days, and he has delivered. Davante Adams finished top-5 in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, and the team amassed a total of 1,900 rushing yards. In short, this offense is firing on all cylinders. The Pack does not have an obvious weakness this year on defense or offense but will have to make sure Adams stays healthy throughout the playoffs.

The Vikings finished second in the division, going 8-9. Head Coach Mike Zimmer will surely be fired in 2022, but that isn’t the only change needed. As I’ve said before, Kirk Cousins is not the answer. He can do fine in the regular season, but nothing more. A change in is needed in Minnesota. Neither the defense nor the offense lacks any sort of star power, the answer lies in defensive depth, offensive line growth, and a new quarterback.

Moving onto a more interesting team, the Chicago Bears. The Bears finally moved on from Mitchell Trubisky onto first-round-pick Justin Fields. Much like Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville, Justin Fields’ rookie year was hugely disappointing. 31st in passing yards and passing touchdowns, he was not what Chicago fans thought he would turn out to be in year one. To be fair, Fields had little help in his receivers, but at the end of the day he came up way short of expectations. Not much more to say about Chicago, as all they need is a franchise receiver to become a truly decent team.

In last, surprising no one, the Detroit Lions. Misery followed the Lions almost every week this year. Only 3 total wins made even new Head Coach Dan Cambell tear up. Changes are needed everywhere in Detroit, but all is not lost. Two bright spots exist: rookie wide-receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and rookie offensive lineman Penei Sewell. St. Brown fell just short of the 1,000 receiving yard mark, averaging 10.1 yards per catch. Sewell didn’t have an insane year, but his potential is amazing in itself. Despite these two, the Lions still have several years before they can seriously compete for a spot in the playoffs.

Playoff Teams: Packers

Packers: Win Super Bowl


NFC South

Another division that wasn’t really ever in question here, the standings reading: Bucs, Saints, Falcons, and Panthers. The Panthers were possibly the hottest team through the first 3 games of the season going 3-0, but really fell off and ended up going 2-12 since then. A couple key things went wrong. Sam Darnold for starters, is clearly not that guy. He started in the beginning, but since then got replaced first by ex-X-Treme Football League, star P.J Walker, then by Cam Newton. Until Carolina figures out their quarterback situation, they will never be good. Secondly, running back Christian McCaffrey got injured and only played in 7 games. This is, of course, nothing new as McCaffrey only played in 3 last season. Thirdly, Robby Anderson never kept up with D.J Moore, racking in less than half the amount of receiving yards as his partnering wide receiver. This team was a massive miss all around, and a complete waste of one of the most explosive defensive units in the NFL.

Above the Panthers, the Falcons had their fair share of issues in 2021/22. Starting with the good: Kyle Pitts. The rookie tight end played exactly as expected, with 26 yards over 1,000 receiving yards Pitts is a top-5 tight end in the league. The sky is the limit for this young man. The Falcons aren’t a lost cause. Matt Ryan’s days of domination are definitely gone, but the Falcons wouldn’t have lost as many games if franchise-receiver Calvin Ridley hadn’t quit football indefinitely due to mental health. The defense is desperately in need of help, but the offense just needs to invest in a younger quarterback. The Falcons aren’t far from being a serious playoff contender.

Much like the Falcons, the Saints aren’t far from stardom. Jameis Winston going down with an injury in week 8 was a huge loss for the Saints. With him, they were 5-2. Without, they were 4-6. The defense is somewhat old but containing star power up and down the field. The biggest thing that must happen in New Orleans is receiver help. I’m sorry, but WR1 Lil’Jordan Humphrey is not acceptable. I am excited to see what the Saints will do pick 18 in the upcoming draft and in the 2022/23 season.

A Super Bowl favorite, the Tamba Bay Buccaneers have had one of the highest scoring offenses in the league. Tom Brady is proving everyone wrong for the hundredth year in a row, Chris Godwin/Mike Evans have been a brilliant one-two punch, (though Godwin is out for the playoffs), and Vita Vea and the defense have been locked in. There’s not much to say about the Bucs, look to see them make a push for the Super Bowl despite the loaded NFC.

Playoff Teams: Buccaneers

Buccaneers: Lose in Divisional