In 2019, the LA Rams’ defense was destroyed by Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 2020, it was the 0-13 New York Jets who pulled off a late-season upset. In 2021, the Detroit Lions actually took the lead against the Rams going into the fourth quarter.
Could the Los Angeles Rams be the victim of a dramatic surprise after a Super Bowl win last season in 2022?
The Rams all but avoided such embarrassment last season. But reigning champions can often fall victim to the “Any Given Sunday” mantra, as the Bucs brought back the entire roster and still got carried away by the New Orleans Saints, dropping a midseason contest against the Washington Football Team, 29-19.
If LA has to be wary of perceived “bad” teams in their 2022 schedule, who is the most likely franchise to play the role of the Jets in 2020?
Let me know what your answer is in the comments. Read the Rams’ full 2022 schedule here.
Teams on the schedule that I think are too good to be “bad”: Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers*, Arizona Cardinals**, Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders, Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos, LA Chargers.
You know, I have to say… tough schedule.
*If Trey Lance is good
**When Kyler Murray plays and is good
Which bad team on schedule is most likely to cause a stir?
The Seahawks are expected to host a contest between Drew Lock and Geno Smith, and even if they do introduce a third wheel, it’s likely not a more attractive option than those two. I don’t think Seattle is interested in Baker Mayfield, nor do I think he’s a huge improvement over the other two. At best, the Seahawks would add Nick Foles.
Lock is in talks for being the “worst non-rookie starter in the last two seasons,” and Geno Smith moved like Frankenstein in his brief appearance in place of Russell Wilson in 2021. Lacking talent and experience in most of football’s key positions, the Seahawks could be in the running for the worst team in the NFC, having switched from Wilson to what may be the lowest starting quarterback this year.
Additionally, the Seahawks were wholly owned by Sean McVay and Aaron Donald. There’s little reason to expect a big change in that regard this season, but Seattle gets twice as many shots to upset than these other teams.
Atlanta Falcons (Week 2)
The Falcons went 7-10 last season but played a lot worse than that. They beat the Giants, Dolphins, Jets, Saints, Jaguars, Panthers and Lions. These teams finished 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 15th*, and 18th* in the draft this year.
The answer to their problems was to trade Matt Ryan away and replace him with Marcus Mariota, a twice-claimed reclamation project that has never reclaimed anything. Mariota threw 30 regular-season passes for the Raiders over the past two years, and he’s thrown 31 touchdowns and 25 interceptions in his last 36 appearances with the Titans.
Aside from dumping as many passes as he can against sophomore Kyle Pitts and hoping for the best of Drake London, a rookie recovering from a broken ankle, Mariota is assisted by a cast of characters, mostly anonymous until better stay NFL success.
All of that just shields the Falcons from the fact that Atlanta could also have the worst defense in the league. The Falcons were ranked 30th in defense by DVOA, and the only player with more than two sacks was former Rams pass rusher Dante Fowler, who had 4.5.
Barring an immense turnaround or an ironclad agreement with owner Arthur Blank, head coach Arthur Smith could be the first to be fired as the team could struggle to avoid a top-3 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Carolina Panthers (Week 6)
The only saving grace for Arthur Smith and Panthers head coach Matt Rhule, one of the other most likely hot-seat contenders, is that they go head-to-head twice and the Saints and Bucs are left with Sean Payton and Bruce Arians.
Yes, Matt Rhule is the longest-serving head coach in the NFC South. How long now that the Sean Payton rumors have already started?
No NFL franchise has done a worse job of rebuilding the quarterback position over the past three years than the Carolina Panthers. They parted ways with Cam Newton too late, too eager to sign Teddy Bridgewater as a replacement for a guaranteed $33 million and too desperate when they traded for Sam Darnold and then exercised his fifth-year option. After all, they found a decent quarterback too late to agree to play for Rhule, so it seems like Carolina is going for a high draft pick and a marriage to CJ Stroud or Bryce Young or some rookie option in 2023 put .
The Panthers could choose to start Matt Corral in the third round simply out of a desire to see someone more interesting than Darnold or because he’s legitimately already better, but the bottom line looks like 5-12 or worse unless the defense is elite. There are a lot of good players this side of the ball in Carolina, but the quarterback situation implies that 5-12 could be one Best case scenario.
New Orleans Saints (Week 11)
No, the Saints aren’t that bad. But they’re not that good either.
Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton are the top two quarterbacks. Michael Thomas has caught 40 passes and zero touchdowns in the last two years. Trevor Penning is the new starting left player, replacing Terron Armstead. Taysom Hill could be TE1. Alvin Kamara has not played a full season since 2017. Sean Payton has (temporarily) retired.
Although New Orleans won 9-8 a year ago, including two wins over the Bucs and wins over the Packers and Patriots, they also picked up wins over Washington, Seattle, Carolina, Atlanta and the Jets. They also lost to the Panthers, Giants, Falcons, Eagles and Dolphins.
It seems to me that the Saints (Bully Mathieu, Jarvis Landry, Marcus Maye, Chris Olave, Penning) are plugging just enough holes this offseason to make the postseason, and in the NFC South they likely will. That’s why I’m not including them in the survey.
But the saints are not “good.”