5 bold NFL predictions for 2022: Brady, Belichick will meet in Super Bowl

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady looks to throw during the first half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Indianapolis (Michael Conroy/AP).

It’s been quite a year, to say the least.

And throughout 2021, the NFL brought it all – drama, trades, triumph and disappointment. And that was all before the season even started.

The NFL also brought us a sense of normalcy at times – Tom Brady did win the Super Bowl, after all, and what’s more normal than that?

But enough reflecting – the future of football awaits, and 2022’s NFL holds plenty of intrigue. Here are five bold predictions for next year in football.

Brady and Belichick go head-to-head in Super Bowl LVI

For nearly two decades, it was Brady and Bill Belichick. Since Brady’s departure for Tampa Bay in the summer of 2020, it’s been Brady or Belichick. This February? We’re calling for the ultimate showdown between football’s brightest minds:

Brady. Versus. Belichick.

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It’s a championship matchup that will incite groans – “Seriously? These guys? Again?” – and that’s understandable. The legendary player-coach duo teamed up for a whopping nine Super Bowl appearances, winning six of them, and Brady added another for himself just last February in Florida. Put another way: Half of the Super Bowls contested in the past two decades have featured one or both of these guys.

Together, they were formidable. Apart, they’re both legends all their own. We may have thought this epic story of Brady and Belichick was over, but perhaps we’ve got another chapter ahead of us.

Wilson is crowned king of New York – and we’re not talking about Zach

The Jets are counting on rookie quarterback Zach Wilson to take a big step forward in his development in his sophomore NFL season, but the 2021 second overall pick won’t be the Wilson everyone’s watching in New York next year. In 2022, the spotlight in The Big Apple belongs to … New York Giants quarterback Russell Wilson … ?!

The story of Wilson’s discontent in Seattle has been simmering for about a year, and though it was overshadowed at times by the situation boiling over in Green Bay last summer, it moves to the front burner in 2022.

The Giants, in many ways, make a lot of sense for the star Seahawks quarterback. This club has the makings of a team that could do some damage if only it could plug a star signal-caller into its lineup, and it’s becoming clear that Daniel Jones isn’t the answer – he’s had too many drops and not enough promise for New Yorkers to embrace him.

The front office is rich in picks, meaning they could probably afford Seattle’s potential asking price, and have enough cap flexibility to accommodate Wilson’s salary (likely with some restructuring). Sure, New York’s weakness on the offensive line – sound familiar, Seattle? – is a setback when it comes to luring Wilson cross-country, but compared to the Seahawks, the Giants are much better-equipped to build around Wilson via the draft.

And, perhaps most importantly, New York offers a big stage fit for a star and a departure from Seattle’s run-first ways. Let Russ Cook, indeed.

No QBs are selected in top 10 of 2022 draft

Speaking of QBs on the move … last year’s deep crop of promising young gunslingers had a huge effect on free-agent market movement – as in, there wasn’t much. This year, however, we could see a lot more teams with pressing questions at quarterback turn to the open market rather than the draft board. Early indications from draft experts have been suggesting for a while that this year’s class doesn’t have a no-brainer, can’t-miss prospect at QB.

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While that hasn’t stopped teams from snatching up QBs in the top 10 before, this year could see teams opting to wait before taking a chance on guys such as Kenny Pickett, Matt Corral, or Sam Howell – all no doubt talented, but none grabbing hold of the coveted can’t-miss label just yet.

A top-10 void of quarterbacks would most certainly stray from standard protocol, especially considering some of the teams currently in position to pick in the single-digits. The past four consecutive drafts have featured a QB selected first overall – last year, QBs went first, second, and third overall.

The last time we emerged from the top 10 of an NFL draft without hearing a quarterback’s name called was 2013 – a notoriously poor QB class that saw only EJ Manuel (16th overall) selected in the first round. (Other QBs in that class: Geno Smith, Mike Glennon, Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson, Landry Jones, Brad Sorenson, Zac Dysert, B.J. Daniels, Sean Renfree.)

Prior to that class, 2000 was the last class without a top-10 QB. Too bad there were no quality QBs in that class, either … just some guy named Brady you might have heard of. Since that 2000 class, 16 first-overall picks were quarterbacks, and a total of 40 quarterbacks were selected in the top 10.

Jonathan Taylor wins MVP (and Derrick Henry makes his comeback)

Predicting Jonathan Taylor to claim the 2021 season’s MVP honours shouldn’t be a “bold” take at all, really. After all, the breakout star has scored at least one touchdown in every game since Week 4, and is the biggest reason the Indianapolis Colts are not only in the post-season conversation but one of the most feared clubs to run into should they make it.

And yet, it remains a relatively unlikely scenario considering how rarely the award is given to anyone who doesn’t play the quarterback position.

The last non-QB named MVP was Adrian Peterson, who in 2012 rushed for 2,097 yards – just nine shy of Eric Dickerson’s single-season record, which still stands today – and carried the Vikings to 10 straight victories and a playoff berth.

While Taylor’s league-leading 1,518 rushing yards aren’t exactly on pace for history a la A.P., his value to his team’s playoff fate is about as Peterson-ian as it gets.

We’ve seen some incredible performances by quarterbacks over the past few years, all of them more than worthy of the MVP recognition bestowed upon them. But in this season of parity, none have reached out grabbed our attention like Taylor has in the second half of this year.

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Bonus prediction: That 2012 campaign put together by Peterson came just one season after the RB suffered a serious knee injury, making his on-field feat that much more impressive. He didn’t win Comeback Player of the Year that season, but in the 2022 campaign, Derrick Henry will. Bring on the rise of the star RBs.

Twenty years later, we have a new single-season sack leader

Unofficially, the NFL’s single-season sack record belongs to former Lion Al Baker, who as a rookie in 1978 tallied 23 sacks. Because sacks weren’t tracked as official stats until 1982, the “official” record is held by Michael Strahan – his 22.5 sacks in 2001 still stands as the best in the game, according to the league’s history books.

In 2022, it’s time we put this debate to rest, though – because we’ve got a new leader in our midst. Watch out, quarterbacks! 2022 could be a very rough year.

Unfortunately for offences everywhere, we’re witness to a pretty incredible time when it comes to pass-rushers. The 2021 season has two players within reach of Strahan’s record – T.J. Watt’s 17.5 made Steelers history earlier this month, while Robert Quinn has quietly racked up 16 sacks on an otherwise disappointing Bears squad. Not far behind them are Myles Garrett and Nick Bosa, while we cannot ever count out Aaron Donald, who will no doubt be a wrecking ball in the playoffs – just ask Kyler Murray.

Baker’s record – and Strahan’s, too – may survive the 2021 campaign (albeit, barely), but it won’t last beyond the 2022 edition.

QBs, you’ve been warned.

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