Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford scrambles for a first down against the Arizona Cardinals at SoFi Stadium in October 2021. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Opinion

NFL 2022-2023 Predictions: Playoffs, Super Bowl and potential breakout players

The NFL season is right around the corner starting Sept. 8. Here are my predictions for playoffs, the Super Bowl and breakout players.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/joshwooden05/" target="_self">Josh Wooden</a>

Josh Wooden

August 18, 2022
The 2021-2022 season was filled with an enormous amount of surprises. You have the triple crown winner, Cooper Kupp, who was breaking records left and right, eventually winning Super Bowl MVP and Offensive player of the year. You have the Bengals, who went on an incredible run, lead by breakout sophomore quarterback, Joe Burrow and rookie sensation, Jamar Chase.

Aaron Rodgers, the 2020-2021 MVP, followed the season with an even better season in 2021-2022, earning himself back to back MVPs. Of course, in Aaron Rodgers fashion, he lost in the divisional round of the playoffs and managed to not reach the super bowl one again.

Trevon Diggs, cousin of Pro Bowl Wide Receiver Stefon Diggs, led the league in interceptions and became a top 10 corner after being considered the worst cornerback in football the prior season.  We had the sack record in TJ Watt, recording 22.5 sacks, which tied Micheal Strahan’s 2001 record. This past season lead up to so many surprise and many breakout candidates, disappointments, and surprises that many fans could not see coming. With next season around the corner, here are my predictions for the upcoming 2022-2023 season.

The AFC has been filled with talent that we have never seen before, especially the AFC West, and only 7 teams can make the playoffs.

In the AFC East, the Bills will come out of the division and be the overall, best team in the AFC next season. I can’t see how this team is going to get worse, only see them getting better. They had the best defense in football last year, along with seeing an all time breakout game performance from Gabriel Davis in the Divisional Round against the Chiefs. The Bills also continue to see Josh Allen prosper and grow each season and he has shown no signs of regressing since entering the league. They were 13 seconds from making the conference championship and I believe that this is the year that they have the best record in all of football.

My second place team is the Chiefs. The AFC West is loads this year, with the addition of Devante Adams and Chandler Jones to the Raiders, J.C Jackson and Khalil Mack to the Chargers, and finally the blockbuster trade of the offseason, Russell Wilson to the Broncos. The Chiefs though, have something that no other team in the division, and no other team in the league has, Patrick Mahomes. Even though they lost Tyreek Hill, they still added Juju Smith Schuster and Sky Moore to replace him, while still having one of the best tight ends in football, Travis Kelce.

For third, the Ravens will have that spot. Even with their entire team injured last year, the Ravens were one win away from making the playoffs. With a new season around the corner, the only thing holding this team back is injuries. They drafted the best center in the draft, Tyler Lindabum, while also having one of the best coaches in the league and Lamar Jackson under center. Their two best corner backs, Marlon Humpherey and Marcus Peters are also back from injuries. Don’t count this team out, and they are definitely a super bowl sleeper.

Finally, taking the 4th spot will be the Titans. Yes, they lost AJ Brown and yes, Tanehill was very disappointing the their divisional round game last year, but their team will be just fine. King Henry will be returning for next season, along with adding an AJ Brown prototype, Treylon Burks. They also had one of the best defenses last year and I see it staying that was for next season.

So there’s my four division winners, and for the three remaining playoff teams, it could go anyway, but I see it as the Chargers taking the 5th spot. Herbert continues to impress and has made his way into the conversation of being a top 5 quarterback in the NFL. They are now loaded on defense, and with having one of the worst run defenses last year, they went ahead and picked up one of the best run stoppers in the league, Khalil Mack. They also added a top 10 cornerback in J.C Jackson and they will finally reach the playoffs with Herbert under center.

In the 6th spot, it’s got to be the Bengals. I think that they have so much talent on the offensive side of the ball and have some good pieces on defense, but with the brutal schedule that they were given, I don’t see it going in any other was possible that they miss the playoffs with the amount of talent they have on that team. Jamar Chase is set to have another spectacular year, with Burrow only improving, and Tee Higgins continuing to become a star in the making.

And finally in the 7th and final spot of the playoffs, coming in as a surprise, I think the Dolphins get in. This is the make or break year for third year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. He’s got the weapons around him, adding  Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, two of the fastest guys in the league, and a new, bright minded offensive coach in Mike McDaniel. The defense has been solid the past couple of years, and I think this is finally the year the Dolphins sneak into the playoffs. Theres many ways this could go but I think these seven teams sneak in.

Now onto the NFC. This year, the NFC isn’t as loaded with talent as the AFC is and earning a playoff spot will be a lot easier in the NFC than in the AFC. With that being said, the NFC still has a lot of good teams, and has produced the super bowl winners that last two years.

There’s many different ways that this can go but for first place, I think that Tampa Bay will be the first place team. Don’t get it twisted, they have the best front seven in football, a top 5 defense, a top three wide receiver room, and finally, the GOAT under center. They lost Bruce Arians which is fine, and they still have Byron Leftwich as their offensive coordinator. Tom Brady is seeking a revenge tour, he wants to finish his career off with a ring.

They also had a sneaky pickup in Russell Gage Jr. this offseason, and I think that is a huge addition to the offense. Overall, they don’t have the strongest division and I think they will find a way to win their division and be the number 1 overall seed and finish with a 13-4 record. 

The Rams are the number 2 team in the NFC next year at 12-5. Yes, they are the super bowl champs and will look to repeat, but that means every team will be giving it their best to beat them. They have the hardest schedule this year, but will be just fine. Aaron Donald is back, Cooper Kupp was extended, they kept their star players.

They also signed Bobby Wagner, filling in a weakness of their defense and signed Allen Robinson, who in my opinion, could have his best season of his career under Sean McVay’s offense. They did lose some important role players, such as Darious Willams, Austin Corbett, and Sebastian Joseph Day, but other than that, they will be just fine on both sides of the ball. 

This may come to a shock to many people, but the Eagles are my third best team in the NFC finishing with a 11-6 record. Look, this team did almost everything right this offseason. They got A.J. Brown, they got Jordan Davis from the draft, they got secondary pieces, this team is going to take a big leap. The one thing that could hold them back is the quarterback, Jalen Hurts.

He showed signs of potential last year, but also showed some signs that left you questioning if he’s a starting caliber QB. I think with the addition of AJ Brown, he won’t have to force as much and will have a lot easier of a time finding open receivers. Both sides of the ball got drastically better for both teams, and they will take the NFC East. 

Many people will disagree with this, and think of this as something that is incorrect. Yes Devante Adams left, they will be just fine. They have one of the best quarterbacks to ever play, not to mention the back-to-back MVP, Aaron Rodgers. Their defense is still solid, they have Christian Watson, wide receiver from NDSU, and the best RB duo in the league. This team may have lost the best wide receiver in the league, they will be just fine, winning the NFC North won’t be a problem, and they will be just fine. 

The Vikings are coming off of a season where they were expected to make the playoffs, but missed them once again. Last year, closing out games was the biggest issue, and a lot of that has to do with the head coach. Zimmer since then has been fired and Kevin O’Connell is now the new head coach, and that is a massive win for the Vikings. The Vikings offense was explosive last year, and with O’Connell calling the plays, who called the rams plays last year, the vikings offense will be unstoppable.

They also added Za’darius Smith, Lewis Cline out of Georgia, and a steal with Andrew Booth Jr., the CB out of Clemson. Justin Jefferson had a huge leap from year one to year two, and I expect him to become the best receiver in the league after this year. As long as Kirk Cousins plays like a top 12 quarterback that he is capable of doing, then the Vikings will be just fine and make the playoffs as a 5th seed finishing with a 10-7 record. 

After reaching the NFC championship and losing in another heartbreaking way, the Niners will be back again to the playoffs. Listen, the whole team’s success depends on Trey Lance. They have the wide receivers, they have the running backs, they have the defense, they have everything, but quarterback play is holding them back from reaching their maximum potential as a team. Whether Deebo gets traded or not, I still think that the Niners will make the playoffs and I think that Trey Lance will have a good year, proving to the Niners and the league that he really can play. I think that Nick Bosa will also be a top 3 candidate for defensive player of the year. I think they also finish 10-7. 

This was a team last year that got off to an incredible start, and was leading the NFC West for most of the year. Kyler Murray I think is only going to get better, Deandre Hopkins will be fully healthy, and they picked up Marquise Brown, a deep ball threat for Murrary. Their defense still had Buddha Baker and JJ Watt, but losing Chandler Jones will be huge for this team. Their offensive line has pretty much stayed the same, and they still have Kilff Kingsberry as their head coach, so I think that 7 is a good spot for this team. If Kyler plays at an MVP level for the whole season, then they could be higher, but for now, they will be a 9-8 team and sneak into the playoffs. 

I could go with something more sneaky and unpredictable, but I don’t think there is any way that these two teams don’t meet in the super bowl. The Rams with their playoff experience from last year will continue to surge and make their way through the playoffs. The Bills will only continue to get better, and the playoffs will be played through Buffalo, and there is no way possible that they will lose in front of their home fans.

These two teams have stars on both sides of the ball, they have talent all over the field, but it will come down to the rams defense and the bills offense. How will Aaron Donald impact the game, how will Jalen Ramsey impact it, those are the main questions. The main thing is X-Factors and I think that in the end, the Rams have been here, they have more experience, and they will be back-to-back Super Bowl Champions. It hasn’t been done since the Patriots, and I think that this is the year it will happen again. This season is right around the corner and I can’t wait for it to start.

High schoolers’ perceptions of Stanford

High schoolers’ perceptions of Stanford

High school is romanticized as the party-filled epitome of a person’s life, but every high schooler has the inescapable thought of college hovering over their heads.  Google searching Stanford results in images of sunny Silicon Valley and articles about prodigious...