This year the NFC gave us the most competitive division in the whole league, a division where every team had a losing record and the worst title defense in sports history. Let’s look back at every NFC team’s 2022 season.
The Chicago Bears are one of the oldest teams in the NFL, and in the last couple of years have struggled to be successful. The Bears started their season with some success, defeating the pre Brock Purdy San Francisco 49ers on opening day. This would be followed by a defeat to the Bears hated rival, the Green Bay Packers. Fun fact, Bears are Lactose Intolerant, maybe this may explain why they are not fans of America’s Dairyland. All jokes aside, the Chicago Bears seasons were truly awful. While they did defeat the Houston Texans in week 3, they would lose their next 3 games, before beating the New England Patriots. That win was on October 24, and the Chicago Bears have not won a game since. The Bears would go on a 10 game losing streak, ending their season with a 3-14 record, which is Chicago’s worst season since 1969. However, the Bears were still not in possession of the number one pick of the draft. All season, this pick had belonged to the Houston Texans (but, as I argued in the AFC season review, should have belonged to the Indianapolis Colts). On the final day of the season, Houston defeated the Colts, handing the Bears the number one pick in the draft. The only bright spot for Chicago this year was quarterback Justin Fields, who rushed for an impressive 1,143 yards this year. Let’s hope he will get some talent to work with him from the draft, or it is going to be another long year for Da Bears.
Last year, the Detroit Lions were the joke of the NFC North. They finished their first season without Mathew Stafford and with Jared Goff 3-13-1. An improvement would be needed. In the early part of the season, this improvement did not come. In their opening 5 games, the Lions lost to the Philadelphia Eagles and the Seattle Seahawks by 3 points, lost by 4 points to the Minnesota Vikings, and were blown out by the New England Patriots. Their only win came in Week 2 against the Washington Commanders. After their early bye week, this bad form continued, losing to both the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins. The Lions were a high-scoring team but had a 1-6 record. Their Week 9 match against the struggling Green Bay Packers signaled a turning point for Detroit. They defeated the Packers, then a week later defeated the Chicago Bears. This win streak would continue as they dominated the New York Giants. The streak would be paused on Thanksgiving as the Buffalo Bills defeated the Lions, again by 3 points, Detroit would win their next 3 games to give them a 7-7 record and put them into playoff contention. By the final week of the season, they were one game away from the playoffs. Their matchup against the Packers was moved to Sunday Night, as both teams still had an opportunity to make the playoffs. Unfortunately for Detroit, they were eliminated before this game started due to the Seattle Seahawks winning. Detroit would defeat their divisional rivals, ending their playoff hopes as well. The Lions would end the season with a winning 9-8 record, their first winning season since 2017. Next season, Detroit should hope to build on this late-season form and make another run for the playoffs.
Green Bay Packers
In the last couple of years, the Green Bay Packers have been so close to returning to the Super Bowl. They always seem to collapse under pressure, ruining what could have been a good season. Could the Packers finally make the Super Bowl this year, and bring the Lombardi trophy back to a stadium that is located on a street named after him? The Packers would travel to Minnesota on their opening day to race the Minnesota Vikings. They struggled in this game and were beaten. Green Bay would bounce back from this by going on a 3 game win streak, which included defeating rivals the Chicago Bears. In week 5 of the season, the Packers traveled to London to play in their first ever international game. Their opponents were the resurging New York Giants, and this was the first international game where both teams came into the game with a winning record. In a stadium which seemed like the whole state of Wisconsin was in, the Packers dominated the Giants in the first half. Then, the second half happened. The Packers collapsed, and the Giants would record a 27-22 victory. This game would start a 5 game losing streak for Green Bay. The streak would end with an overtime victory against the Dallas Cowboys, before losing their next two games. The Packers Week 13 victory over the Chicago Bears would be another significant game in their season and team history. The game would start a 4 game winning streak for the Packers, and the victory over the Bears would make the Green Bay Packers the winningest team in NFL history. Coming into the final week of the season, the Packers had a 8-8 record, and had to defeat the Detroit Lions to guarantee their place in the playoffs. But, as we have seen with the Packers, they collapse in high pressure moments. The Packers would lose the game, and end their season, as the Seattle Seahawks would make the playoffs. Green Bay would end the season with a 8-9 record, and with many questions about the future of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Let’s hope his darkness retreat gives us the answers.Embed from Getty Images
Throughout the season, I described the Minnesota Vikings form as “surprising”. Looking back, the best way to describe the form of the Minnesota Vikings this season is “Inconsistent”. I do not believe that they were “Frauds” as some people call them. In their opening game of the season, the Vikings comfortably defeated the Green Bay Packers. A week later, they would be trashed by the Philadelphia Eagles. The Vikings would then go on a 7 game-winning streak. In the majority of these games, the Vikings would win close games. The closest of which would be their 28-25 victory against the New Orleans Saints in London. This was described as one of the best games that London had ever seen. Then, the following week’s game happened and that was, while less close, better that the Vikings game. Their 7-game win streak gave them an 8-1 record going into the middle of November, and put them in a prime position to win the NFC North. They would then get battered by the Dallas Cowboys 40-3, before winning two more close games against the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. After another loss against the Detroit Lions, it was looking like they would suffer another blowout defeat in their game against the Indianapolis Colts. Then the second half of this game happen, and the Vikings came back and record the largest comeback win in NFL history with their 39-36 overtime win. The following week, the Vikings would defeat the New York Giants with a long field goal, before being trashed again by the Green Bay Packers. Their final-week victory over the Chicago Bears was one of their largest margins of victory. With their 13-4 record, they won the NFC North and made the playoffs, where they would face the New York Giants in a rematch. The Vikings could not keep up with the Giants and would end their season at the Wildcard round. While the paring of Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson was on fire all season, the Vikings’ defense was one of the worst in the whole league. For next season, the Vikings need to learn how to play defense.Embed from Getty Images
Every season, fans of the Dallas Cowboys say that “this year will be the year” that they finally win the Super Bowl. This season was no different. The Cowboys did not start the season well, scoring only 3 points in their Week 1 defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. To make things even worse for Dallas, they lost quarterback Dak Prescott to injury in this game. This meant that Cooper Rush would start as quarterback for the next few games. Rush would do well in this position, winning his next 5 games, including defeating divisional rivals the New York Giants. Rush win streak (and streak as starting quarterback) ended during the Cowboys’ defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 6. Prescott and winning would return soon after, and at the bye week, the Cowboys would have a 6-2 record, remaining competitive in the NFC East. They would come out of the bye week with an overtime loss to the struggling Green Bay Packers, followed by destroying the Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts. Another overtime loss, this time to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 15 ended their 4-game winning streak. However, they would clinch a playoff spot from this loss. A subsequent victory over division leaders Philadelphia meant that coming into Week 18, it was all to play for. The Cowboys did not show up and were comfortably defeated by the Washington Commanders. In the playoffs, the Cowboys got revenge on the Buccaneers in what was the last game for Tom Brady, but fell to Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round, to make it another season where the Dallas Cowboys failed to win the Super Bowl.Embed from Getty Images
New York Giants
The New York Giants have struggled in the past couple of years. Ever since their last playoff visit in 2016 and the infamous “Boat Picture”, the Giants have been one of the worst (if not the worst) teams in the NFL. In the off-season, the Giants had a complete change in leadership, with former Buffalo Bills Assistant GM Joe Schoen coming in as General Manager, and former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll becoming the new head coach. To add further issues, this would be the make-or-break year for quarterback Daniel Jones. So, how would this season go for the G-Men?. They would open the season against the previous season’s number-one seed in the AFC, the Tennessee Titans. New York would struggle in the first hand, but then, they “went for two”. The Giants would win this game, and their next game to give them a 2-0 start to the season. Their first loss would come against the Dallas Cowboys, but the Giants would bounce back from this with a 4 game winning streak, which included comeback victories against the Green Bay Packers in London and the Baltimore Ravens. They would also defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars by one yard. The streak would come to an end with a defeat against the Seattle Seahawks, but at the bye week, the Giants had a very impressive record of 6-2. They would return to the win column after the bye week with a victory against the Houston Texans. The season would then become harder for the Giants, as they struggled to perform in 4 consecutive games, losing 3 of them and tying their first game since 1997 against the Washington Commanders. The Giants would get revenge on the Commanders in Week 15, in what was the first-ever primetime victory for Daniel Jones, which kept them in the hunt for the playoffs. New York would narrowly lose to the Minnesota Vikings on a very long Greg Joseph field goal but would destroy the Indianapolis Colts to give them their first playoff spot since 2016. A final loss to the Philadelphia Eagles gave them a 9-7-1 record for the regular season and the 6 seed in the NFC. The Giants would return to Minnesota to face the Vikings in the wildcard round. In a back-and-forth game, the Giants would get their revenge on the Vikings, giving them their first playoff win since their victory in Super Bowl XLVI. Their prize for winning would be another encounter with the Philadelphia Eagles, in a game that felt like years in the making. They were destroyed by the Eagles, ending a season that stunned the NFL. Nobody gave this team a chance, so to make the divisional round of the playoffs from nothing is truly amazing. At the end of the season, Brian Daboll won Coach of the Year, and at the eleventh hour, the Giants signed Daniel Jones to a 4 Year, $160 million contract. Things are coming into place for the New York Giants to become a competitive team and challenge for the Super Bowl in the coming years.
If there is one team that I do not want to see being successful it is the Philadelphia Eagles. However, successful is what they were this season. The Eagles had an amazing start to the season. After just beating the Detroit Lions by 3 points in the opening week of the season, Philadelphia went on an 8-game winning streak to open their season. After defeating the Houston Texans in Week 9, the Eagles were 8-0 on the season, and making were thinking when or even if this team could lose. A week later, the Taylor Heineke lead Washington Commanders came to Philadelphia and defeated the Eagles. Philadelphia would win their next game against the Indianapolis Colts, by only one point. Would this be the undoing of the Eagles? No. They would return to impressive form soon after, going on a 5 game-winning streak which included destroying divisional rivals the New York Giants 48-22. This streak would end at Christmas when the Eagles lost to the Dallas Cowboys. It is worth mentioning that at this point, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was injured, so Gardner Minshew was the quarterback for this game and the following weeks meeting with the New Orleans Saints. He was awful, and the Eagles lost against the Saints as well. Their final week encounter with the New York Giants, who rested all of their starters, ended in a victory for the Eagles, but it was much closer than anyone expected, especially with the Eagles at full strength. Their number-one seed gave them a bye in the first round of the playoffs. They would demolish the New York Giants again in the divisional round (many would say that the Giants did not even turn up for this game, as they were still in Minnesota living off the previous week’s success), and then defeated the San Francisco 49ers 4th string quarterback in the Conference Championship to make the Super Bowl. In the big game, the Eagles would have a 10-point lead at halftime. But then, Patrick Mahomes would come back in the second half to give the Kansas City Chiefs the title in a very entertaining game. Did the Eagles have a good season? Yes, they did. But, playing devil’s advocate here, did they really face any strong opposition until the Super Bowl?Embed from Getty Images
After nearly 90 years of being the Washington Redskins, and two years of the creatively named Washington Football Team, this was the first year of being the Washington Commanders. As well as gaining a new name, the Commanders gained a new quarterback, as former Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz returned to the NFC East. Their season opened well, with a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, in a game in which Wentz threw for 4 touchdowns and two consecutive interceptions. The luck would run out soon after as the Commanders lost their next four games, including being nearly blown out against the Philadelphia Eagles. This streak would end with a Thursday Night victory over the Chicago Bears. It would then be all change in Washington, as Wentz had an injury. He would be replaced by Taylor Heinicke, who would win their team’s next game against the poorly performing Green Bay Packers. After their week 9 defeat to the Minnesota Vikings, Heinicke and company shocked the NFL, by defeating the Philadelphia Eagles and giving them their first loss of the season. They would win their next two games before playing a 20-20 tie against the New York Giants. This gave them a 7-5-1 record on their bye week. They would meet the Giants in their next game and would lose in a somewhat controversial fashion. Two more losses put the Commanders out of playoff contention. Washington defeated the Dallas Cowboys in their final game of the season, which gave them a 8-8-1 record on the year. In any other division, they would have been in playoff contention with this record. But, in this year’s hyper competitive NFC East, the Commanders finished in last position, and were the only team to non make the playoffs from this division. The Commanders released Wentz recently, meaning he needs to find another team to be injured with.
Another team who had a spin on the quarterback carousel in the off-season. Long-time Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan was shipped off the Indianapolis to blow leads there. In his place, former Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota came to Atlanta. The season did not start well, losing their opening two games, before winning their next two against the Seattle Seahawks and the Cleveland Browns. The Falcons’ form in the middle of the season could best be described as patchy. The team could not build on any victories. Their week 6 victory against the San Francisco 49ers during their early season struggles was followed by a crushing defeat at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals. A highlight of this period would be their overtime victory over divisional rivals, the Carolina Panthers. This poor run of form meant that at the teams’ late bye week, they had a 5-8 record. This being said, they were technically still in contention for a playoff spot, mostly due to the poor performances of the other NFC teams. In Week 15, Mariota was benched in favor of former Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder. Under Ridder, the Bearcats made the College Football Playoffs, something that can be quite hard to do for a team that does not play in the SEC, Big 12, Big 10, or is not called Clemson. Mariota would then be ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Ridder would lose his first two games, putting the Falcons out of playoff contention. They would then defeat the Arizona Cardinals and then in the last week of the season would finally get revenge on Tom Brady as they would beat the Tampa Bay Buccanneers in a meaningless game. They would end the season with a 7-10 record, putting them in a three-way tie for second/last in the division.
The Carolina Panthers did not have the best start to the season. They lost their first two games to the Cleveland Browns (in what was former Browns’ quarterback Baker Mayfield’s first game for the Panthers) and to the New York Giants, before defeating divisional rivals the New Orleans Saints for their first win of the season. Their Week 5 loss to the San Francisco 49ers was a key moment in the Panthers’ season. After this game, head coach Matt Rhule and the teams’ defensive coordinator were fired from the team, and Baker Mayfield was benched. Rhule would be replaced by Steve Wilks, and Mayfield by P.J Walker. A week later, the team would lose another star player as Christian McCaffrey would be traded to the 49ers, in a move that San Francisco definitely benefitted from. After all this, the Panthers win their next game shutting down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before losing to the Atlanta Falcons in overtime. The Panthers would get their revenge on Atlanta a few weeks later and would have a 4-8 record on their bye week. The second half of their season was somewhat better for Carolina. After trading Baker Mayfield to the Los Angeles Rams and benching P.J Walker, former New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold was their starter. After defeating the Seattle Seahawks and the Detroit Lions, the team was still in contention for a playoff spot near the end of the season, partly due to the poor football being played by the rest of the division. The Panthers Week 17 loss to Tampa Bay officially eliminated them from playoff contention. A final-week victory against the Saints meant that the Panthers finished with a 7-10 record on the season.
New Orleans Saints
Even since Drew Brees announced his retirement, the New Orleans Saints have not felt right. This off-season, the Saints lost another long-term part of their team. Head Coach Sean Payton announced his retirement. This would be a brief retirement, as he is now coaching the Denver Broncos. In his place, the Saints signed Dennis Allen to the position. The season started well for New Orleans as they defeated the Atlanta Falcons by one point on the opening day of the season. This would be followed by a three-game losing streak for the Saints, which included a trip to London, where they would lose to the Minnesota Vikings on the last kick of the game in what was the second-best London game this season. New Orleans would return to winning way a week later, defeating the Seattle Seahawks in a high-scoring game. Then, two more losses, both in high-scoring games against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Arizona Cardinal. The Saints would then blow out the Las Vegas Raiders before being blown out by the San Francisco 49ers, and then losing by one point to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This meant that at the Saints’ very late bye week, they had a 4-9 record for the season. Coming out of the bye week, New Orleans would go on a 3-game winning streak, including defeating the Philadelphia Eagles, albeit with Gardner Minshew as the quarterback. A final-week loss to the Carolina Panthers meant that the Saints were another NFC South team that ended with a 7-10 record. I have no idea how this division will fare next year. I hope that it’ll be better.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In the offseason, veteran quarterback and 7 time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady announced his retirement, meaning that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had to find a new quarterback going into this season. 40 days after this announcement, Brady reversed his retirement decision and decided to play. So, with Brady back and a new head coach in Todd Bowles, could the Buccaneers make the Super Bowl? Tampa Bay started its season well, defeating the Dallas Cowboys and then the New Orleans Saints. This was followed by a close defeat to the pre-London game Green Bay Packers and a 10 point loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. After their week 5 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, the Buccaneers would go on a three-game losing streak. It was at this point many people were saying that Brady should have stayed retired. Coming into the month of November, Tampa Bay had a 3-5 record. This would be improved to 500 at their bye week after victories over the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks, the latter being the first NFL game played in Germany. Coming out of their bye week, the Buccs would lose in overtime to the Cleveland Browns. Most losses would follow, including a humiliating defeat for Brady against the San Francisco 49ers, where the team only scored 7 points. Fortunately for Tampa Bay, the rest of their division was not great, meaning their victory against the Carolina Panthers in Week 17 gave them the playoff spot. A final-week loss to the Atlanta Falcons gave Atlanta revenge over Brady for Super Bowl LI, and put the Buccaneers into the playoffs with a losing 8-9 record. They made the playoffs as the number 4 seed, but were the 10th-best team in terms of record in the NFC. The team’s divisional-round matchup against the Dallas Cowboys will go down in history. Not for the on-field action, or the scoreline (Dallas comfortably won), but the fact that this game was the last game in the historic career of Tom Brady. A year after he announced his first retirement, he announced his proper retirement from the NFL. This does mark the end of a generation of quarterbacks.Embed from Getty Images
The Arizona Cardinals came into this season with two goals. Goal number 1 was to improve on their impressive 11-6 record from the previous season. Goal number 2 was to become the third consecutive team in a row (and in history) to play in a Super Bowl that was hosted in their own stadium. The Cardinal began the season losing to the Kansas City Chief, but would bounce back from that defeat with an overtime victory against the Las Vegas Raiders. Another defeat to the Rams was followed by a victory over the Carolina Panthers gave them a 2-2 record going into October. Then, the wheels collapsed. In the next 5 weeks, the Cardinals only won one of those games, this game being a 42-34 victory over the New Orleans Saints, in what was one of the few entertaining games on Thursday night. The Cardinals Week 10 victory over the then-broken Los Angeles Rams was their last win of the season. The following week, they would play and lose in Mexico City to the San Francisco 49ers. This game started a 7 game losing streak. This streak was not helped by the injury to quarterback Kyler Murray, meaning that for the final weeks of the season, the Cardinals played a rotation of backup quarterbacks, including Colt McCoy and Trace McSorley. Both of these players could not make a difference to the Cardinals, who ended the season with a 4-13 record. This season was also the last season that legendary defensive back J.J Watt would play in the NFL, who spent the last two seasons of his career with the Cardinals.
Los Angeles Rams
Last season, the Los Angeles Rams won the Super Bowl in their own stadium, after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in a match remembered more for its impressive halftime show. This year, the Rams were hoping to return to the Super Bowl and to defend their title. One of the perks of being the defending champion is that you play the opening game of the season in your stadium in primetime. The Buffalo Bills came into Los Angeles and slaughtered the Rams. If only this was not a foreshadowing of things to come for L.A. The Rams would come off this defeat by winning their next two games against the Atlanta Falcons and the Arizona Cardinals. This would be followed by two more defeats where the Rams struggled to score, before defeating the Carolina Panthers before their bye week. They came out of their bye week with a 3-3 record. Not great, but it could have been worse. It became worse soon after, as the Rams went on a 6 game-losing streak, putting them out of contention to defend their title. It is worth mentioning that in this period, the Rams lost both star quarterback Matthew Stafford and star wide receiver Cooper Kupp. The streak would end with a one-point victory over the Las Vegas Raiders, where Baker Mayfield would play as a quarterback for the Rams. Guess they were very desperate. A dominant victory over the Denver Broncos on Christmas Day was the highlight for the Rams this season, as they finished the season with a 5-12 record. For a defending champion to win just over a quarter of their games in the following season is embarrassing. To add to their embarrassment, the 2022 Los Angeles Rams title defense is the worst title defense not just in the history of the NFL, but in all of the professional sports in the United States. Many people called the Minnesota Vikings frauds this year, I think that the Los Angeles Rams team last year may be a massive fraud.
San Francisco 49ers
The season for the 49ers did not start well. They lost their opening game to the Chicago Bears, before defeating the Seattle Seahawks a week later. However, in this game, 49ers Quarterback Trey Lance suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Lance was replaced by Jimmy Garoppollo. After losing by one point to the Denver Broncos, San Francisco would comfortably defeat the Los Angeles Rams and Carolina Panthers. They would then lose their next two games. However, between these two games, the 49ers would acquire star running back Christian McCaffrey from the Carolina Panthers. His impact on the team would help them, as before their bye week, the 49ers would defeat the Rams again to give them a 4-4 record. San Francisco would then not stop winning. They would go South of the Border to defeat the Arizona Cardinal in an uninspiring Mexico City game. But then, in their Week 13 match with the Miami Dolphins, Garoppolo would suffer a foot injury that would rule him out for the rest of the season. It was at that moment, the world was introduced to the 262 pick of the 2022 NFL, Mr. Irrevelant himself, Brock Purdy. Purdy immediately settled into his role as starting quarterback, winning the 5 regular season games he played to lead the 49ers into the playoffs with an impressive 13-4 record, riding a 10-game winning streak. The 49ers dominated divisional rival the Seattle Seahawks in the wildcard round to set up an encounter with the Dallas Cowboys. This was a close game, but Purdy and the 49ers came out on top to move on to the 49ers’ third consecutive NFC championship game. Their opponents were the Philadelphia Eagles. Early on in the match, Purdy suffered an injury that kept him out of the game. This meant that the 49ers’ fourth-string quarterback Josh Johnson came in, and struggled. The 49ers would lose this match, ending their 12-game winning streak, and giving Brock Purdy his first defeat (but he was injured for most of the game, so should it count?). The Brock Purdy story tells us that any player, no matter their position in the draft can become a legend, and I believe Purdy has a bright future ahead of him in the NFL.Embed from Getty Images
In the off-season, the Seahawks lost someone who had been a key part of their offense for many years. Quarterback Russell Wilson was traded to the Denver Broncos, in a trade that definitely gave Denver a chance to win the Super Bowl. That did not happen. Wilson’s replacement was long-term backup quarterback Geno Smith, who Giants fans remember as the man who ruined Eli Manning’s record. Seattle’s first game of the season was against the Wilson lead Denver Broncos, a game the Seahawks would win by one point. They would lose their next two games, but would quickly return to a 500 record after defeating the Detroit Lions in a high-scoring classic 48-45. A 4 game-winning streak would occur in October, as Seattle defeated the Cardinals twice and Geno Smith got “revenge” on the New York Giants. The Seahawks would then travel to Germany to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first game played in the country. This is a game they would lose, and at the bye week, would have a 6-4 record. Their second half of the season was patchy. They would win 3 of their final 7 games. However, their season record was strong enough to keep them in contention for the 7 seed in the NFC playoffs come Week 18. In the final week of the season, the Seahawks defeated the Los Angeles Rams in overtime, as the Detroit Lions defeated the Green Bay Packers, it meant that Seattle would make the playoffs. They had to face divisional rivals the San Francisco 49ers, who were the in-form team once Brock Purdy became quarterback. Unspringingly, the 49ers defeated the Seahawks 41-23, ending a season as overachievers. To add to their success, Geno Smith won the Comeback Player of the Year Award. I don’t know what he came back from but well done him.