Why they won’t win SBLVII: Defense
Without looking, would you be able to name a defender on the Houston Texans — other than No. 3 overall pick Derek Stingley Jr.? Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has his work cut out for him coaching up a group filled with castoffs and draft picks that didn’t work out. The most accomplished player on Houston’s defense is 34-year-old Jerry Hughes who managed just 2.0 sacks in 17 games with the Buffalo Bills last year. Though the offense may not be especially potent under second-year QB Davis Mills, Houston will undoubtedly boast one of the league’s worst defensive outfits in 2022.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: Road games
You’re going to have to eventually win on the road to have sustained success in the NFL. No team has been worse at doing so recently than the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags have not won a road game in over two seasons. They’ve gone 0-16 during that stretch. Their last true road win came against the Raiders in December of 2019 — when the team was still in Oakland. The Jags start with three road games in the first four weeks. They’ll be traveling to take on some of the toughest teams in the league — Chargers, Eagles, and Chiefs — making it difficult to envision they have much better luck on the road this year.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: Secondary
There is reason for hope in Detroit! Head coach Dan Campbell had the Lions playing inspired football down the stretch last year, and the team only added to its fortunes in the offseason. No. 2 pick Aidan Hutchinson projects to be an elite edge defender, and the impending return of speedster Jameson Williams should help open up the field offensively. Where the team could unravel is in the defensive backfield. Going up against high-flying attacks in Green Bay and Minnesota, the Lions simply don’t have the DB talent to contend with the projected top two teams in the NFC North. Former No. 3 overall pick Jeff Okudah has not been able to stay healthy, and the rest of the group is nothing to write home about.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: They don’t want to win SBLVII
The Seahawks traded Russell Wilson for Drew Lock (and some draft picks). There cannot be a more clear indication of a team with zero intention of competing for a Super Bowl (this year). Seattle knew it was time to hit the reset button. Wilson had made it clear he wanted to play elsewhere. Replacing a player of Wilson’s talent doesn’t come easy, and Lock certainly does not come close. Pete Carroll is a highly accomplished coach and leader. He’ll have his team playing hard, but they simply do not have the firepower to compete. Especially playing in a division with the reigning Super Bowl champion and two other playoff teams from last year.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: Lack of direction
It’s difficult to decipher what exactly the Panthers are doing. After 2019, the team cut former league MVP Cam Newton after an injury-plagued season. In the offseason, Carolina inked noodle-armed Teddy Bridgewater to a $60 million deal. Following another disappointing year, the team traded Bridgewater for a sixth-round pick and acquired Sam Darnold for three picks. The team started off 3-0 under Darnold, but ended the year 5-12. Carolina then traded up in the draft to select Ole Miss QB Matt Corral. Two months later, they traded for Baker Mayfield.
There’s just no telling what this franchise is capable of at this point, and it doesn’t seem like there is a path to success with their recent track record of moves. Maybe Mayfield works out, but history indicates the Panthers will be back on the market for another QB soon enough.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: Pass rush
Atlanta’s defense ranked dead last in sacks last year, and failed to generate much pressure at all against opposing quarterbacks. The lack of pass rush will likely plague this team yet again in ’22. Looking at the front seven, Pro Bowler Grady Jarrett is really the only player teams will have to be worried about. Other than Jarrett, the other six projected starters have a combined career sack total of 18.0 — 14.5 of which belong to former Giant Lorenzo Carter. Jarrett’s costars on the defensive line — Anthony Rush and Ta’Quon Graham — have combined for 0.5 career sacks in career 36 games. You have to be able to pressure the QB to win in this league, and no team creates pressure less frequently than the Falcons.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: Carson Wentz
Washington’s defense can’t be worse than it was last year. The group took a massive step back after a strong 2020 campaign. Chase Young’s health will be paramount, though Washington also plugged a few holes which should shore up some cracks which were exposed last season. The skill group will be strong as long as Curtis Samuel stays healthy and Terry McLaurin continues to produce — adding rookie Jahan Dotson makes this one of the more intriguing WR corps in the league. That being said, Washington will only go as far as its new quarterback will take them.
If Wentz’s history is any indication, that won’t be very far. Despite a solid statistical year with the Colts, Wentz faltered down the stretch as Indianapolis fell out of playoff contention. The team seemed to have no qualms moving on from Wentz after just one year. We wouldn’t be surprised if Washington follows suit at the conclusion of this season.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: Defense
Defense, defense, defense. The Vikings will have no trouble scoring points. We know that for sure. Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen comprise one of the most explosive groups of offensive players in the league. Especially now that Kevin O’Connell is in town, Minnesota’s offense may reach new heights. What concerns us about this team is their ability to prevent anybody else from scoring points. Minnesota’s star defenders are getting older, and the secondary is particularly concerning. They hope the addition of Za’Darius Smith will help, but the Vikings have finished as a bottom-10 scoring defense each of the last two years (and that was under a defensive-minded coach in Mike Zimmer).
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: No help for Fields
The Bears are in contention with the Giants for the league’s worst roster. Though, Chicago’s might be even worse after trading away Khalil Mack and releasing (now retired) Eddie Goldman. In the house cleaning efforts of new GM Ryan Poles and HC Matt Eberflus, it didn’t seem like providing young QB Justin Fields any additional help was in the cards. Of course, Fields was a draft pick from the previous regime — so there’s no telling how Poles or Eberflus view the former Ohio State passer. Outside a passable run game and WR Darnell Mooney, the Bears don’t have a whole lot of talent surrounding Fields. Looking around at the top teams in the league, surrounding your young QB with premier talent is typically the recipe for success.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: Tua Tagovailoa
All eyes will be on third-year QB Tua Tagovailoa entering 2022. The former Alabama QB is running out of excuses in Miami. The Dolphins spent a top-10 pick on Jaylen Waddle a year ago, and went big-game hunting for dynamic WR Tyreek Hill this offseason. With two of the fastest players in the league on the perimeter and a offensive wunderkind in Mike McDaniel on the sideline, Tagovailoa is being put in a position to succeed. Can he do it? Early returns indicate that Tagovailoa has struggled adjusting to the NFL. If he continues to underwhelm, the Dolphins will be outside of the playoff picture for the sixth year in a row.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: Lack of trust
Any time a team feels the need to add a “no videogame” clause into a franchise QB’s contract, it’s probably not a great sign. The peculiar stipulation has since been removed from Kyler Murray’s contract, but the PR damage had already been done. This is a team that has faltered down the stretch of each of the past two seasons. Kliff Kingsbury is firmly on the hot seat, and they’ll also be without WR DeAndre Hopkins for the first six weeks after a failed drug test. The vibes are at an all-time low in Arizona. A tough time for that considering their stadium will play host to the Super Bowl this season.
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New York Jets
Why they won’t win SBLVII: Zach Wilson
Robert Saleh’s defense will have to answer some questions this year. The former 49ers defensive coordinator commanded the league’s worst defense in 2021 which allowed 504 points. However, injuries to key players had a huge role. New York figures to have an improved group with the return of Carl Lawson and the additions of two first-round picks in CB Sauce Gardner and DE Jermaine Johnson. That being said, the noise around Zach Wilson cannot inspire much hope for Jets fans.
The young QB suffered an injury in preseason which will keep him out until at least Week 4. He missed four games last year with a knee injury, as well. Wilson will need to prove he can stay healthy — and be accurate with the football — for the Jets to put their faith in the former No. 2 overall pick.
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New York Giants
Why they won’t win SBLVII: Weak roster
Brian Daboll is going to have his work cut out for him in Year 1 as Giants coach. The former Bills coordinator is going from perhaps the most complete roster in football to one of the weakest. Daboll can thank former GM Dave Gettleman for the roster he’s inherited. Though the Giants do have a handful of young, promising talents in Kayvon Thibodeaux, Andrew Thomas, and Evan Neal, it’s plainly clear they don’t have the roster to stack with the other top teams in the league.
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New Orleans Saints
Why they won’t win SBLVII: Dennis Allen
The Saints have a growing bandwagon entering 2022. Jameis Winston — the QB who led New Orleans to a 5-2 record last year before getting hurt — is back and he’ll be joined by All-Pro wideout Michael Thomas and first-round pick Chris Olave. The defense remains one of the league’s best despite the loss of Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. However, we cannot overlook the loss of Sean Payton. The team promoted defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to the head coaching spot, which certainly was an interesting decision.
Allen’s previous stint as a head coach did not go so well. As coach of the Raiders, Allen went 8-28 and coached a bottom-10 offense and defense each year. Of course, the talent is a bit better with this current New Orleans team, but Allen will need to prove he can call all the shots before we put any trust in the ’22 Saints.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: Wide Receiver
Derrick Henry returning from a broken foot is a bit concerning. He did return for the playoffs last year, but we’re talking about a 28-year-old running with nearly 1,000 touches over the last three seasons. Henry is an exceptional athlete, but running backs approaching 30 are never a sure thing. However, the biggest weakness in this offense lies in the receiver room. With A.J. Brown gone, the Titans will rely on Robert Woods (coming off an ACL tear) and a bunch of unproven talents. QB Ryan Tannehill is coming off his worst passing season as a Titan, and it could get even worse with the lack of help on the perimeter.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: The curse of Matt Ryan
A bit tongue-and-cheek, but the Colts and their new QB will have to shake off some demons if they want to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at season’s end. Matt Ryan has been plagued by Atlanta’s 28-3 collapse since that faithful February evening back in 2017. The Falcons made just one playoff appearance after that, and Ryan’s 14-year tenure with the team was ended this past offseason. Ryan remains a solid option at QB — more solid than Indy’s previous signal caller — but he isn’t nearly as prolific at 37 years old. He won’t have to be with Jonathan Taylor toting the rock, but Ryan needs to pass a massive mental block to capture that elusive Super Bowl ring.
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New England Patriots
Why they won’t win SBLVII: Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick The Coach remains one of the brightest minds we’ve ever seen. He helped lead an undermanned Patriots team with a rookie QB to the playoffs last year. Bill Belichick The Executive remains a mystery. On offense, Belichick has yet to name a coordinator. Instead relying on the brain-trust of two failed head coaches — Joe Judge and Matt Patricia — to dictate Year 2 of Mac Jones’ development. Defensively, the Patriots have more Belichick’s than they do Pro Bowlers (Steve Belichick coaches the linebackers, Brian Belichick is the safeties coach). The combination of overconfidence mixed with a little bit of nepotism points to a disappointing year for the Patriots.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: Linebacker…?
The Broncos appear to be on track offensively with the addition of Russell Wilson. While there is some worries on the offensive line, it overall appears to be a solid group which will benefit from Wilson’s playmaking ability. The secondary is already among the league’s best. Bradley Chubb, Dre’Mont Jones, and newcomer Randy Gregory should provide more than ample pressure as pass rushers.
Linebacker is a bit thin behind Josey Jewell — who is coming off playing just two games last season. Though, if linebacker is your weakest spot, you’re likely in good shape. This roster is strong, they’ll just have to prove they can get it done on the field.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: Offensive Line
Whether it’s Mitch Trubisky, Kenny Pickett, or even Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ offensive line cannot protect any QB. Though Roethlisberger showed clear signs of regression over the last two seasons, part of that had to do with the lack of help up front. Roethlisberger was forced to make quick reads in an effort to not get hit. Trubisky is a strong athlete, but isn’t exactly a quick processor which could lead to high sack totals if he’s under center. Pickett, a rookie, likely won’t be ready to make the adjustments necessary to slow down opposing pass rushes.
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Las Vegas Raiders
Why they won’t win SBLVII: Offensive Line
The pieces are all there for Vegas to make a run. Though the division will be tough to navigate through, the Raiders boast a prolific offensive attack headed by Derek Carr and former Packer Davante Adams. The only way this offense disappoints is due to the presence of a bottom-5 offensive line. Kolton Miller is a foundational left tackle, but starting alongside him is a potentially disastrous group. LG John Simpson and C Andre James have just one year of starts under their belts, and the right-side features two career backups in Lester Cotton and Jermaine Eluemunor. Carr will need to make quick decisions and the wideouts will have to get open immediately to mitigate a flimsy offensive line.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: Deshaun Watson
If you believe in karma, the Browns have no shot of winning the Super Bowl this year. Though, they still might not have any chance with the suspension handed down to disgraced QB Deshaun Watson. Watson will be out for the first 11 games of the season. Jacoby Brissett will be called upon in his absence. Though Brissett is capable, the Browns will likely struggle during this stretch. Six games is not nearly enough time for Watson to get acclimated and make a playoff push. The Browns will have to wait until 2023 to see their full potential as a football team.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: Lamar Jackson’s ongoing contract dispute
We’ve seen this story before. A team and its QB fail to come to a contractual agreement, and it seeps into the regular season which causes a rift. Former league MVP Lamar Jackson will become one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league, it’s just a matter of when. Baltimore hasn’t found a comfortable price, though it really doesn’t hold the cards in this situation.
The Ravens have already committed to Jackson despite not inking him to an extension. It’s clear in how the team has been built that no other QB could step in and fill Jackson’s role. The playbook and roster were forged with Jackson in mind, and that’s why Baltimore went from first-place in the AFC when Jackson was healthy to out of the playoffs following his injury. Still, this dispute doesn’t seem like it will be solved anytime soon — to the detriment of all parties involved.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: Jalen Hurts
Can Jalen Hurts lead a Super Bowl-winning offense? Maybe, but it will have to be in an unconventional manner. Hurts is a tremendous athlete with innate leadership skills. Though, he he has clear limitations as a passer. The Eagles hope the addition of A.J. Brown can help mask some of those limits. Brown will provide a big target who can go across the middle of the field. It’s just not clear if Hurts will be able to hit said target consistently. Accuracy has been an issue for Hurts dating all the way back to his time at Alabama. If this talented group fails to live up to expectations, it’ll likely be because of Hurts’ play.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: Team building
How the Cowboys have approached building the roster around Dak Prescott has completely flipped since the QB entered the league. When Prescott was a rookie, he was arguably surrounded by the best offensive roster in football. Since then, the team has slowly ripped apart its foundation as Prescott has ascended into being one of the top passers in the league. The offensive line is a shell of its former self, and the team literally gave away Amari Cooper this offseason. Essentially, the Cowboys are signaling their success relies almost completely on Prescott’s shoulders. A bold strategy, and one that does not leave a ton of room for error.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: Super Bowl hangover
The Bengals made it to the Super Bowl last season and could be even better this year. Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins are all a year older and wiser. The team addressed its two biggest weaknesses — offensive line and secondary — through free agency and the draft. While Cincinnati looks poised for another run, there is a chance for a slight regression to the mean. The Bengals narrowly escaped all three of their playoff wins, and the AFC isn’t getting any easier having to navigate through teams like the Bills, Chiefs, and Chargers (among other contenders). In reality, the Bengals could be better than they were last year but end up having worse results.
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Los Angeles Chargers
Why they won’t win SBLVII: Depth
There isn’t a more star-studded team in football than the Los Angeles Chargers. The offense is completely stacked featuring Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, and Rashawn Slater. Defensively, LA added Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson next to All-Pros in Joey Bosa and Derwin James. That’s nine players who are among the best at their position. But, what about the rest of the team? Sure, there are names like Josh Palmer, Asante Samuel Jr., and Sebastian Joseph-Day who are solid starters. Though, the Chargers have historically been a team plagued with injuries. If the injury bug strikes, will LA be able to weather the storm in the most competitive division in football?
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San Francisco 49ers
Why they won’t win SBLVII: QB Controversy
Trey Lance is the Week 1 starter for the 49ers — but are we sure he’ll still be the starter a month later? San Francisco brought back Jimmy Garoppolo to serve as Lance’s backup. Garoppolo led the 49ers to a Super Bowl and another NFC Championship appearance. He’s a proven winner who has performed in Kyle Shanahan’s system. His teammates seem to love him, as well.
Of course, Lance was marked as the franchise QB when the team traded up to select him No. 3 overall two seasons ago. He hasn’t been given much of an opportunity to show what he’s capable of. Lance hasn’t played much football at all over the last four seasons — two starts for 49ers in ’21, played one game for NDSU in ’20, attempted one pass in ’18. If he struggles early, this could become a messy situation.
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Kansas City Chiefs
Why they won’t win SBLVII: Missing Tyreek
We’ve seen what Patrick Mahomes is capable of without Tyreek Hill for a game or two, but how will the offense react in the first year without its dynamic pass catcher. The Chiefs did well in rebuilding the receiver corps with the additions of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and rookie Skyy Moore. However, none of those players can replace the production or impact of Hill. Defenses needed to respect Hill’s game-breaking speed at all times, and it opened up the rest of the field. Without that ultimate chess piece, we could see the Chiefs struggle offensively like we’ve never seen before.
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Why they won’t win SBLVII: Offensive Line
Arguably the most glaring hole for any of the top Super Bowl contenders is the Tampa Bay offensive line. After boasting one of the league’s best groups over the last two years, Tom Brady’s protection projects to be far worse in ’22. In addition to the retirement of Ali Marpet, the Bucs saw guard Alex Cappa walk to the Bengals in the offseason. Then, Ryan Jensen suffered a knee injury which could keep him sidelined for the year.
In total, the Bucs will have three new faces on the offensive line — though one is Shaq Mason who is among the league’s best — tasked with protecting the oldest quarterback in the league. If Brady has struggled anywhere in his career, it has been with interior pressure. That could be a major issue despite Tampa Bay’s immense talent on the offensive side of the ball.
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Green Bay Packers
Why they won’t win SBLVII: Wide receivers
Losing Davante Adams is going to hurt. That much is obvious. Green Bay also lost deep threat Marquez Valdes-Scantling to the Chiefs. In their place, the Packers will roll out Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, Randall Cobb, and a pair of rookie wideouts in Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. Certainly not the type of talent Aaron Rodgers has grown accustomed to in Green Bay. While the back-to-back MVP is capable of producing with lesser talents, winning a third MVP and leading the Packers to a Super Bowl with this group would be his greatest feat to date.
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Why they won’t win SBLVII: They’re the Bills
The Buffalo Bills enter the year as proverbial favorites to win the Super Bowl title. Looking back at Buffalo’s history, that isn’t exactly a fortuitous spot to be in. Dating back to their four consecutive Super Bowl losses in the ’90s, the Bills have been a franchise plagued by coming up short. The ghosts of their past came back in last year’s postseason run when the Chiefs needed just 13 seconds to drive down field and end Buffalo’s Super Bowl hopes. Now, with a flame-throwing QB, elite weapons, stacked defense, and confident coach, the Bills appear primed to run roughshod through the AFC East and contend for a title. But, it’s the Bills — they’ll find a way to screw it up.
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Los Angeles Rams
Why they won’t win SBLVII: Can’t have a back-to-back winner
Winning back-to-back Super Bowls is difficult. A myriad of issues arise when you win a Super Bowl. For one, the schedule gets more difficult having to face off against the other first-place teams. Additionally, players who produce during the Super Bowl run enter free agency and ink big deals with other teams. The Rams did do a particularly good job of keeping their core in tact while adding Allen Robinson and Bobby Wagner. Though, the losses of Von Miller (Bills), Odell Beckham Jr. (injured) and Andrew Whitworth (retired) will be felt. LA faces an uphill battle to become the first team since the ’04-’05 Patriots to repeat as champions.
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