It’s been one other wildly unpredictable NFL season, and there’s time for much more chaos the remainder of the best way.

But because the 2022 calendar slams to an in depth, let’s revisit the ten finest issues that occurred on the sector this season. It wasn’t straightforward to crack this record, as there have been sufficient highlights, developments and show-stopping moments to refill a nook of the web, however we whittled them down one of the best we might.

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It’s been an incredible yr for younger quarterbacks, however let’s not overthink this one. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes leads the league with 4,720 passing yards — 460 yards greater than second-place Joe Burrow — and 37 touchdowns, and he’s second with a 105.1 passer score.

The Chiefs even have an opportunity to move the Bills for the No. 1 seed within the AFC, which might mark the third time they’ve achieved the feat since 2018.

Mahomes put up gaudy numbers regardless of largely changing MVP candidate Tyreek Hill with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling — two stable gamers, little question, however a pair receivers who wanted time to stand up to hurry with a fancy offense. The Hill commerce, in a bizarre approach, might need helped Mahomes, as a result of he’s been pressured to play with extra persistence quite than stepping into bother by unnecessarily forcing it downfield. As a outcome, the Chiefs are scoring 29.2 factors per recreation — a degree greater than a season in the past.

Couple the general efficiency with a few of Mahomes’ distinctive highlights — the 56-yard landing flip to Jerick McKinnon in Week 14 in opposition to the Broncos, the spin-and-chuck to Clyde Edwards-Helaire for a 2-yard landing in Week 4 in opposition to the Bucs — and it’s been one other good season for Mahomes, who has an opportunity to win his second MVP.

Best breakout QB

Year 2 version: Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields

It hasn’t been an incredible total season for the heralded 2021 quarterback class, however Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields have flourished and proven indicators of franchise means.

The Jaguars have been in almost each recreation this season, however that they had points closing within the opening couple of months. That modified with Lawrence’s efficiency in Week 9 in opposition to the Raiders and an unbelievable game-winning drive and coming-of-age second in Week 12 against the Ravens. Lawrence adopted these up with big-time showings in wins in opposition to the Titans and Cowboys and now has the Jaguars answerable for the AFC South and on the point of their first playoff look since 2017.

For the season, Lawrence has accomplished 65.9 % of his passes (up virtually 6 % from final yr) for 3,749 yards with 24 touchdowns and simply seven interceptions. He ranks sixth within the NFL in EPA per dropback, in response to TruMedia.

Meanwhile, Fields has been a human spotlight reel, and he’s injected a welcomed dose of vitality within the Bears’ early levels of a rebuild. Pick a favourite — the evasive red-zone rating in opposition to the Lions, the 67-yarder in the identical recreation or the 61-yard voyage in opposition to the Dolphins — he’s doing one thing particular virtually each week.

For the season, Fields has accomplished 62.3 % of his passes for two,167 yards with 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. On the bottom, he’s added 1,011 speeding yards and eight scores. He’s simply the third quarterback in league historical past to hurry for 1,000 yards in a season and will threaten Lamar Jackson’s league file (1,206).

Imagine how good he might look subsequent season after the Bears put their abundance of cap space to use.

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Year 3 version: Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa

Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert deservedly dominated the QB dialog from the 2020 draft class, however they’ve since been joined by Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, each of whom have been within the MVP dialog at completely different factors this season.

Hurts led the Eagles to an NFL-best 13-1 file earlier than struggling a shoulder sprain in Week 15, and his restoration in time for the playoffs will likely be one of many largest tales of the league. He has accomplished 67.3 % of his passes for 3,472 yards, 22 touchdowns and 5 interceptions whereas working for 747 yards and 13 scores.

Tagovailoa sputtered for 2 years earlier than head coach Mike McDaniel took over and reeled in Tyreek Hill. Although Tagovailoa has struggled extra of late, he has nonetheless accomplished 64.8 % of his passes for 3,548 yards, 25 touchdowns and eight picks. Despite a poor displaying on Christmas Day, Tagovailoa nonetheless ranks third within the NFL in EPA per dropback.

Best recreation: Vikings beat Bills in OT

The Vikings beat the Bills, 33-30, on the highway in Week 10 in a gathering between groups with two of one of the best information within the league.

It was an intriguing matchup between unfamiliar opponents, particularly for the reason that Bills have morphed into an influence, whereas the Vikings have been nonetheless extra of an unknown commodity. And for some time, because the Bills constructed a 27-10 lead with 1:34 to play within the third quarter, the matchup appeared like a dud.

Then Dalvin Cook offered a spark with an 81-yard landing run, and the Vikings protection held up contained in the 10-yard line on the next possession to maintain it 27-17. The Vikings plodded downfield on their subsequent drive however made it 27-23 with 4:34 to go when C.J. Ham rushed for a 3-yard landing.

And that’s when Justin Jefferson took over. The Vikings had a do-or-die fourth-and-18 with 2:00 to play when Jefferson leaped for a panoramic one-handed, 32-yard catch and outright stole the ball from Cameron Lewis as they each dropped to the turf.

However, the Vikings received stuffed on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line with 49 seconds left, so the Bills have been a pair snaps shy of securing the win. Josh Allen fumbled the subsequent snap, although, and Eric Kendricks recovered in the long run zone to offer the Vikings a miraculous 30-27 lead.

But these groups weren’t accomplished. Allen accomplished 4 consecutive passes for 55 yards to arrange Tyler Bass’ 29-yard game-tying discipline aim to pressure time beyond regulation. The Vikings received their very own discipline aim on the opening possession of OT, and the Bills couldn’t reply.

Jefferson was the star of the 2022 season’s recreation of the yr with 10 catches, 193 yards and a landing.

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The Panthers didn’t intend to commerce working again Christian McCaffrey after firing coach Matt Rhule, however they couldn’t forestall the telephone from ringing. The 49ers made the strongest play and got McCaffrey for second-, third- and fourth-round picks in 2023 and a fifth-rounder in 2024.

McCaffrey had a quiet debut on a brief week in opposition to the Chiefs however validated the Niners’ resolution in his first start, in Week 8 against the Rams. The 26-year-old had 18 carries for 94 yards and a landing, eight catches for 55 yards and a landing and accomplished a 34-yard landing move.

The Niners went all in with the star again however didn’t notice simply how a lot they’d really want him. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is probably going out for the season with a damaged foot, and Deebo Samuel is recovering from knee and ankle accidents.

McCaffrey will likely be an integral piece because the Niners jockey for playoff seeding with rookie quarterback Brock Purdy. So far, CMC’s amassed 580 speeding yards, 358 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 9 video games with the 49ers.

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Best commerce: Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins

After contract negotiations between Tyreek Hill and the Chiefs went awry in March, the Dolphins swooped in with first-, second- and fourth-round picks in 2022 and fourth- and sixth-rounders in 2023. The Dolphins additionally gave Hill a four-year, $120 million extension.

Hill repaid the Dolphins’ gambit by taking part in himself onto the brief record for NFL Offensive Player of the Year candidates with 113 receptions for 1,632 receiving yards up to now — each second within the NFL to Jefferson.

Hill made a nifty one-handed catch to help beat the Patriots in his Dolphins debut, racked up 190 yards and two scores within the Week 2 comeback in opposition to the Ravens and has confirmed to be unstoppable for a lot of the season.

The offseason was dominated by quarterback commerce chatter, however Hill has made the largest distinction among the many veterans on the transfer.

Best bang to your buck: Josh Jacobs, Raiders

A 2019 first-round decide, Raiders working again Josh Jacobs didn’t precisely come out of nowhere, however he certain is flourishing in a contract yr. Jacobs leads the NFL in speeding yards with 1,539 (110 greater than second-place Derrick Henry) and scrimmage yards (1,908), whereas he’s additionally tied for fifth in speeding scores (11).

Jacobs’ signature second got here in Week 12 in opposition to the Seahawks when he ran for an 86-yard landing in time beyond regulation to safe a 40-34 Raiders victory. Jacobs totaled 303 yards from scrimmage and a few scores whereas taking part in by way of a calf harm.

Jacobs, Saquon Barkley and Tony Pollard will headline a loaded group of free-agent working backs in free company.

Best milestone: Bill Belichick passes George Halas

Bill Belichick at all times enjoys beating the Jets.

But there was a bit of further which means behind the Patriots’ Week 8 victory, as Belichick passed legend George Halas for the second most wins in NFL history. Halas gained 324 video games with the Bears.

Belichick, who has 328 victories with the Patriots and Browns, together with the playoffs, is simply chasing Don Shula’s 347 tallies for the all-time mark.

The 70-year-old’s trek towards the file has been more deliberate without Tom Brady in New England, however there’s an opportunity Belichick might make a run at Shula in 2024, which might be his fiftieth season within the NFL.

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Best quote: Geno Smith, Seahawks

“They wrote me off. I ain’t write back, though.” — Seahawks QB Geno Smith

Smith delivered the memorable line to ESPN after the Seahawks beat Russell Wilson’s Broncos, 17-16, in Week 1.

He wasn’t exaggerating, both. Smith, the Jets’ second-round decide in 2013, was 11-18 as a starter in his first two seasons earlier than he was discarded. Smith began 5 whole video games and appeared in 15 from 2015-21 with the Jets, Giants, Chargers and Seahawks.

After the Wilson commerce, the Seahawks believed Drew Lock would win the job, however Smith took management and blew away expectations to maintain a rebuilding workforce within the playoff hunt. Smith has accomplished a league-high 70.7 % of his passes for 3,886 yards and 27 touchdowns in opposition to simply 9 interceptions. Those 27 passing scores are only one shy of the 28 he compiled in his 4 years with the Jets.

Though Smith and the Seahawks have scuffled down the stretch and will miss the postseason, that doesn’t make Smith’s turnaround any much less outstanding.

Best defensive participant: Micah Parsons, Cowboys

While one of the best defensive play was the Titans’ alley-oop interception in Week 15, let’s not overlook a whole season’s value of performs.

Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons is a unicorn on this period. He can play off the ball or on the sting, out in protection or speeding downhill. There are others who play comparable roles, however nobody does it like him, and the copycat ingredient will likely be in play within the coming years. It’s going to change into paramount to have one of these positionless defender within the passing period.

The 49ers’ Nick Bosa (17.5 sacks) has been one of the best pure move rusher, however Parsons has impacted the sport in numerous methods with 13.5 sacks, 62 tackles — together with 14 for a loss — three passes defended, three pressure fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a landing.

Best underdogs: Jaguars, Lions and Panthers

There have been some nice and sudden turnarounds this season, from the Vikings exploding past expectations to the Giants on the brink of the playoffs to the Jets and Seahawks rebuilding sooner than anticipated.

But the Jaguars, Lions and Panthers are the three most fascinating underdog tales.

Neither has been a very profitable franchise, because the Jags and Lions comprise half of the 4 groups which have by no means reached the Super Bowl. The Jaguars haven’t gained a playoff recreation since 2017 — a season that ended their 10-year playoff drought. The Lions, bless their hearts, have one playoff victory within the Super Bowl period, and that got here again in 1991. The Panthers have had extra playoff success than the others, however they’ve not often sustained any momentum.

All have an opportunity to make the playoffs.

The Jaguars (7-8) have gained 4 of 5 to take over the AFC South lead, due to the Titans’ five-game skid. They’re heading towards a winner-take-all recreation in Week 18.

The Lions (7-8) had been rolling with six wins in seven video games, however their probabilities took a hit Saturday with a loss to the Panthers. Detroit can nonetheless sneak in by sweeping the Bears and Packers, however they’ll additionally want some assist.

The Panthers (6-9) are nonetheless alive regardless of firing Rhule and buying and selling McCaffrey, however they’ll credit score an terrible division for these hopes. They have but to win back-to-back video games this season, however they’re taking part in a lot, a lot better for interim coach Steve Wilks and would earn an NFC South title by sweeping the Bucs and Saints in a pair of road games.

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(Illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; pictures: Megan Briggs and Steph Chambers / Getty Images)



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