Commentary: Predictions for the 2022-23 NFL season

Jonathan Taylor was named a first-team All-Pro last year and finished as the runner-up in Offensive Player of the Year voting. 

The National Football (NFL) league is back and there is a whole load of teams, players and fans are excited for the season, which commences this Thursday.

Here are some of my predictions for this season to come:

Super Bowl champion

The Los Angeles Rams capped the 2021 NFL season with a Lombardi Trophy, as their trade for former Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford paid immediate dividends. The Rams won the Super Bowl against the Cincinnati Bengals, a team who put together a magical run sparked by second-year quarterback Joe Burrow and Offensive Rookie of the Year Ja'Marr Chase. 

But it’s a new season and many new teams are hungry for a championship ring this year. There are many contenders but only one squad can walk away with a championship and I agree with the many experts who have the Buffalo Bills as the Super Bowl favorites. 

The addition of Von Miller, a two-time Super Bowl champion and future Hall of Famer, is the kind of move a team only makes if it believes it is on the cusp of winning it all.

"Von Miller, there's only one in the league," said Bills Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith to The Associated Press in June. "...If he stays healthy, he will be the missing piece that we needed to complete this quest for a Super Bowl title."

While Miller is being paid to terrorize opposing quarterbacks, the Bills hope his presence makes life easier for the rest of their defensive line. That includes young edge rushers Boogie Basham, Greg Rousseau and A.J. Epenesa, who all need to make significant steps forward in their respective careers for the Bills' defense to have success.

MVP

Speaking of the Bills, not only do I have them winning the whole thing, I have their quarterback winning the MVP. Yes, the NFL MVP award goes to Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

He has become one of the best young QBs in football after just three seasons which is why he's sitting atop the NFL MVP odds for the 2022-23 season.

He will have new weapons in the receiving group including solid wide receiver Jamison Crowder and tight end James Cook. He will also still have the talented receiving star Stefon Diggs and up-and-coming tight end Dawson Knox. So, look for Allen to become the third Bills player to win the MVP award.  

Offensive player of the year

My nomination for this award goes to Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts running back went nuclear in 2021, rushing for 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns, and adding another 360 yards through the air to break the 2,000 scrimmage yard mark. 

Helping revive a Colts team that made a strong postseason push before crumbling in Week 18, Taylor established himself as the league's premier explosive-play threat. 

Jonathan Taylor was named a first-team All-Pro last year and finished as the runner-up in OPOY voting. With what should be vastly improved quarterback play, Indy's offense — and thus Taylor — could hit another level in 2022.

Defensive player of the year

Coming off an absurd 22.5-sack season with the Steelers, T.J. Watt tied Michael Strahan for the NFL record for sacks in a season. There is no doubt that he can eclipse 20 again and take home the award for a consecutive year, as Watt is the league's best edge rusher at the height of his prime. 

The last player to win back-to-back DPOYs? His older brother, J.J., in 2014 and 2015.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

I have former Ohio State and now New Orleans Saints’ wide receiver Chris Olave winning this award. Though quarterbacks often win this award, no quarterbacks from this draft class have been declared a starter. 

Also, with the addition of star wide receiver Michael Thomas and quarterback Jamies Winston returning from injury, there is a chance that Olave will be the main centerpiece of this New Orleans offense. 

Olave also profiles as one of the best route runners coming out of the draft this year. His route running was the highest-ranked of any receiver coming into the draft (PFF), and he rarely drops the ball (4.9% career drop rate). He isn’t the playmaker with the ball in his hands that Wilson is, but Olave has a great opportunity to produce.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

I have Giants outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux winning this award. Thibodeaux did not open as the favorite, but a stellar training camp has elevated the former Oregon standout to the top spot ahead of the top two picks in this year’s draft – both of whom have similar upside as elite pass-rushers with tremendous burst and athleticism.

The 6-foot-5, 258-pound edge rusher was the consensus top prospect in the 2022 class before an injury-plagued final season with the Ducks knocked him down the draft board. Still, he finished his collegiate career with 126 tackles, including 35.5 tackles for loss and 19 sacks across 30 games.

He’ll need even better production at the next level to vie for this award but the former Oregon star has the skill and mindset to achieve this.

Comeback Player of the Year 

I have Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry winning this award. 

After leading the league in rushing in 2019 and 2020, Henry compiled 937 yards and 10 touchdowns through just eight games to start 2021 before suffering a broken bone in his foot in Week 8. He returned for Tennessee's divisional game against Cincinnati but rushed for just 62 yards on 20 carries in the 19-16 loss. 

Henry will be fully game-ready for the regular season and should dominate the league again with his strength and speed. 

Coach of the Year 

Offseason expectations are high for the Los Angeles Chargers this season, as they tend to be. This is Chargers’ Head Coach Brandon Staley’s second season at the helm and the playoffs are the absolute floor for the team tied for the sixth-best Super Bowl odds that hasn’t cracked the postseason since 2018. The path there will be difficult in a division that is home to four contenders.

But Staley has the tools and skill to break this small playoff drought. The Chargers will have third-year quarterback Justin Herbert after an impressive sophomore year. Staley will also have the star receiving duo of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams back. As well as star linebacker Khalil Mack heading the defense. 

This is the year where Staley’s game planning and leadership qualities will be put to the test and I believe he will succeed. 

Overall, there is no forgone conclusion especially in football as injuries and circumstances can't be accounted for. But this year looks wide open for any player or team to get all the glory of a championship and/ or award.  

Daniel Fortin is a copy editor. Follow him on Twitter: @Daniel_Fortin_.