Lessons Learned From a 2021 Draft
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All the Colts needed to do last season was pull out a win in Week 18 against the Jaguars and they would've punched their ticket into the postseason. While that should have been a layup against the league's worst team, Carson Wentz melted down with two turnovers as Indy fell in Jacksonville and was on the outside looking in on the playoffs. That performance was a driving force for the Colts entering this offseason when they moved off of Wentz and eventually traded for Matt Ryan. That swap at QB now has them as the betting favorite to win the AFC South heading into 2022.
As they try to get back into the playoffs, they'll need to go through the 18-week gauntlet of the regular season. Below, you'll find a breakdown of each of those opponents as well as a rundown of the regular-season schedule.
Texans: Houston rid itself of Deshaun Watson this offseason and is heading into a new chapter of the franchise's history. Lovie Smith is slotted in as the head coach and the club is set to roll out second-year quarterback Davis Mills after an eye-opening rookie campaign. The Texans also added LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. with the No. 3 overall pick and offensive lineman Kenyon Green at No. 15 to further build upon their young core. Houston likely isn't in a position to contend in 2022, but there are some interesting pieces on the roster.
Jaguars: The Urban Meyer experiment blew up in Jacksonville's face and completely derailed the season. Now, Doug Pederson has been hired to coach the Jaguars and that should bring with it some stability from the top. The club also spent big in free agency and added Georgia defensive tackle Travon Walker with the No. 1 overall pick. Of course, the biggest story in this rebuild is the development of former top pick Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence living up to his transcendent potential is what will bring Jacksonville out of the doldrums in the coming years.
Titans: The Titans are coming off a season where they were the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but did receive some subpar play from Ryan Tannehill down the stretch. That play makes the selection of Malik Willis in the third round that much more fascinating. Not only is a looming quarterback change hanging over Tennessee in the seasons to come, but the team also traded away star receiver A.J. Brown to the Eagles. They did draft Treylon Burks in the first round to replace him, but this passing attack may look a bit different in 2022.
Chiefs: Two of the more recognizable faces from this latest era in Chiefs history are now gone. Kansas City decided against re-signing safety Tyrann Mathieu this offseason and traded away star receiver Tyreek Hill. Nevertheless, they have retooled the roster with the likes of safety Justin Reid and wideouts JuJu Smith-Schuster and Skyy Moore, so there are replacements in-house for Andy Reid. With Patrick Mahomes under center, they are still considered to be among the legit Super Bowl contenders.
Chargers: The Chargers have swung for the fences this offseason as they look to contend in a loaded AFC West. They acquired pass-rusher Khalil Mack in a trade with the Bears and signed All-Pro cornerback J.C. Jackson in free agency to bolster their defense. Offensively, they have Justin Herbert under center and he'll look to keep his position as one of the elite quarterbacks in the league as L.A. tries to leap into the playoffs this season.
Eagles: Philadelphia may be one of the sleeper teams in the NFL this coming season. They've made some strong additions to their defense by drafting defensive tackle Jordan Davis in the first round and making a blockbuster trade for receiver A.J. Brown. That acquisition of Brown now gives quarterback Jalen Hurts a big-time weapon as they look to rival the Cowboys in the NFC East.
Commanders: The team formerly known as the Washington Football Team has a new name and a new quarterback. They traded for Carson Wentz in the early stages of the offseason and are hoping for more stability at that position. While they boast weapons like Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, and first-round receiver Jahan Dotson, Wentz's inability to lift the Colts last year does seem to give Washington a relatively low ceiling.
Steelers: The Steelers said goodbye to Ben Roethlisberger this offseason as the franchise icon retired. Now, they're in a new era under center with Mitchell Trubisky and first-round rookie Kenny Pickett set to compete for the starting job in Week 1. Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season during his tenure in Pittsburgh and if he can figure out the QB position, the rest of the roster is ready to be a tough out in 2022.
Broncos: For the first time since Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos have an elite quarterback. The team traded for Russell Wilson this offseason and is now pegged as a legit threat in the AFC West. Wilson should make the entire offense that much more lethal as they already have several weapons in place. Meanwhile, the defense features some solid pieces, including second-year corner Patrick Surtain II.
Raiders: Las Vegas has new leadership with GM Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels coming over from New England. Not only is the masthead different, but they also injected a ton of talent on both sides of the ball with the mega-trade for receiver Davante Adams and the free-agent signing of pass-rusher Chandler Jones.
Cowboys: Dallas traded away Amari Cooper to the Browns this offseason, but still has plenty of weapons offensively to be looked at as the favorite in the NFC East. Defensively, they have arguably the top unit in the NFL, especially with linebacker Micah Parsons heading into Year 2 after a dominant rookie season.
Giants: New York hired former Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to be its newest head coach. That addition alone should boost the offensive ceiling for the Giants, along with getting healthier on that side of the ball. The Giants are also coming off a stellar NFL Draft where they landed both pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and offensive tackle Evan Neal in the first round.
Patriots: New England is entering Year 2 for Mac Jones and is looking for the young quarterback to take a leap. They added DeVante Parker into the offense along with second-round receiver Tyquan Thornton but did lose offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. That loss cannot be overstated for the Patriots in a critical year for Jones' development. Meanwhile, they also have a hole to fill in the secondary after All-Pro corner J.C. Jackson left in free agency, so Bill Belichick has his work cut out for him in 2022.
Vikings: Minnesota has a new GM and head coach heading into 2022, but largely has the same core. Kirk Cousins is still slotted in under and the offense still features receiver Justin Jefferson and running back Dalvin Cook.
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