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1 fatal flaw for every NFL team that explains why they won't win Super Bowl 57

Every year, one team is crowned NFL champion. They are the lucky 3.125 percent.

The road to the Super Bowl leaves 31 losers in by the wayside. Some of these teams will have their dreams dashed. Others will merely have gone through the motions in rebuilding years, deferring imagined future success at the cost of realized awfulness. Either way, a simple fact remains; no matter who you’re rooting for, they’re probably not going to win Super Bowl 57.

We won’t know the exact reason why your fandom led to disappointment in the upcoming season. Perhaps your roster was too reliant on unproven prospects. It could be the football gods simply decided you didn’t want it badly enough. Maybe you’re a fan of the Cleveland Browns.

Either way, your team is mostly destined for disappointment rather than a parade with the Lombardi Trophy. Let’s talk about why, running down each franchise in alphabetical order.

(Also: Check out our preseason power rankings and our head coach rankings as training camps continue!)

1
Arizona Cardinals: Kliff Kingsbury, possibly Call of Duty

Michael Chow-Arizona Republic

Kingsbury’s legacy as an NFL head coach has been one that loses when the weather gets cold (3-13 after November 7 the past two seasons). Now he’ll start 2022 without DeAndre Hopkins and with a tough early schedule. His quarterback, Kyler Murray, may or may not be distracted late in the season depending on how good the latest Call of Duty is.

2
Atlanta Falcons: (gestures broadly)

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

There are a few stars here (Grady Jarrett, Kyle Pitts, maybe Drake London!), but the connective tissue between them has long since rotted. All we can hope for is that Marcus Mariota is still competent enough to throw the ball to Kyle Pitts/Drake London 20 times per Sunday.

3
Baltimore Ravens: Lack of wideouts and a disappearing playoff offense

Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens have averaged 13 points per playoff game since 2014. Since 2018, 12 NFL quarterbacks have played at least 150 snaps in the postseason. Jackson ranks 12th in expected points added among that group, behind trade bait like Jimmy Garoppolo and Jared Goff. Now his top wide receivers Rashod Bateman (not bad!) and some combination of Devin Duvernay, James Proche and Tylan Wallace (at least slightly troubling!).

4
Buffalo Bills: Horrible playoff luck, shaky passing defense

Credit: Buffalo Bills

Buffalo took a 9-0 lead early in the 2020 AFC title game only for the Chiefs to erase that deficit in fewer than five minutes of game time. One year later, the Bills took a 36-33 lead with 13 seconds to play at Arrowhead Stadium, only to give up a game-tying field goal and get thoroughly ruined by the ensuing coin toss.

In both cases Josh Allen got hamstrung by awful luck and a passing defense that allowed Patrick Mahomes to throw for more than 700 yards and six touchdowns without an interception. That secondary could be even worse in 2022 with Tre’Davious White coming off a torn ACL, rookie Kaiir Elam struggling and 2021 starting corner Levi Wallace now a Steeler.

5
Carolina Panthers: Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield are locked in an actual, very real quarterback battle

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After a hot start, Darnold was one of the league’s worst quarterbacks.

via RBSDM.com

Mayfield has occasionally been proficient, briefly been very good, and mostly been a replacement level quarterback or worse in the NFL. These are your two choices, Matt Rhule. Good luck!

6
Chicago Bears: Justin Fields' shocking lack of support

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

The Bears’ receiving corps are so shallow that losing N’Keal Harry — 57 catches in three NFL seasons — was a significant blow. Fields’ offensive line got worse, even after being sacked on 12 percent of his dropbacks last year. And now Roquan Smith wants a trade, which is merely the latest chafing dish to be brought to this potluck of sadness.

7
Cincinnati Bengals: The rest of the AFC bulked up to prevent them from winning the conference again

Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati made common sense moves to bolster its title defense, rebuilding the offensive line and making upgrades in an often lacking secondary (24th in pass defense DVOA). But so did most of the other contenders in the AFC.

The Bills, Raiders, Broncos, Dolphins and Browns, to name a few, all got demonstrably better from a pure talent standpoint. The Bengals have a target on their backs they didn’t have in 2021; the rest of the conference spent the offseason buying hunting gear.

8
Cleveland Browns: Jacoby Brissett will be the starting quarterback for a reasonable amount of time

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland has the defensive chops to win games no matter who is quarterback, even if the team’s efficacy against the run is a little suspect. The question is how long Jacoby Brissett will be the team’s starting quarterback, and what can he get done with a lineup of pass catchers that starts off solid (Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones) before getting very shaky. Of course, the Browns can always opt to spam Nick Chubb carries instead and probably still win eight games.

9
Dallas Cowboys: Head coach is merely Northwoods Jason Garrett

AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

Mike McCarthy fit perfectly into the Jason Garrett-shaped hole at the top of the Cowboys’ organization chart. He’s good enough to win games in the regular season and then ultimately fails to find the second gear needed to repeat that success in the playoffs. He’s only 5-7 in the postseason since his 2010 Super Bowl run.

10
Denver Broncos: The defensive front isn't as good as the raw numbers say

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

The Broncos have invested heavily in their secondary (and the guy you see above). They’ll need those defensive backs to step up in order to coverage for an average front seven ahead of them. Denver ranked 17th in sack rate, 20th in pass defense DVOA and 21st in run defense DVOA despite a top three scoring defense.

11
Detroit Lions: They are the Detroit Lions

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Lions have never won a Super Bowl. This is not the year that will change. Detroit’s 2022 offering is better than last year’s, but that group only won three games.

12
Green Bay Packers: The team that spent the last decade crumbling in the postseason lost its best wideout

Syndication Packersnews

McCarthy’s burden has become Matt Lafleur’s, as the current Packer head coach is 2-3 in the playoffs. Two of those losses have come at Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers is about to turn 39 years old and has few proven options in his passing arsenal (besides future Hall of Famer Romeo Doubs) now that Davante Adams is a Raider.

13
Houston Texans: Hoooo buddy, how much time have you got?

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Texans may not yet be done bottoming out, even after last year’s 4-13 season. On the plus side, should Davis Mills stink he’ll clear the path for a draft pick replacement as the team’s franchise quarterback.

14
Indianapolis Colts: The passing offense remains a concern and the defense isn't elite enough to cover for it (yet)

Jenna Watson Poy 2021 025

Indianapolis threw another bandage on the wound created by Andrew Luck’s retirement, but Matt Ryan isn’t the MVP candidate he once was. He’s still strong enough to push this team into the postseason, but asking him to lead a comeback drive late in a playoff game with an untested receiving corps may ultimately be the team’s undoing.

15
Jacksonville Jaguars: The ashes of the Urban Meyer era continue to smolder

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Jags brought in a Super Bowl-winning head coach (Doug Pederson) and spent the offseason adding veteran and rookie talent. That’ll help, but the craters left behind by Meyer’s brief tenure will need time to cool before they can be fully filled in. 

16
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes may not be able to paper over a shaky defense

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs’ defense ranked 24th in overall DVOA but still won 12 games and made it to the AFC title game because the offense ranked third. That’s the benefit of having Mahomes, but now he’ll have to operate without Tyreek Hill and is coming off the least efficient season of his career. Can he return to MVP form with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Mecole Hardman as his top wideouts?

17
Las Vegas Raiders: May have spent all that offseason money to be merely "good"

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas traded for Davante Adams and signed Chandler Jones and Anthony Averett to bring some veteran stability to a defensive core in need of upgrades. Was that enough for a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game in 20 years? Is Josh McDaniels worthy of his spot as head coach or just the latest rotten branch of the Bill Belichick coaching tree?

18
Los Angeles Chargers: There's a lot riding on defensive upgrades who might not click as hoped

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles boasted an explosive offense behind a rising Justin Herbert but was ultimately undone by a defense that gave up 27 points or more nine times. The Chargers brought in JC Jackson, Khalil Mack, and an extremely vital Austin Johnson/Sebastian Joseph-Day combination to address an awful run D.

Will that be enough? Or will Herbert wind up on the losing end of firefights for the third straight year?

19
Los Angeles Rams: Matthew Stafford's sore elbow could mean fatigue in December/January

AP Photo/Ashley Landis

Stafford is still throwing well despite discomfort, but it’s worth noting he was awful to finish the 2021 regular season. In his final three games, he had eight turnovers against six touchdowns.

He was, in terms of EPA, worse than Tim Boyle over that stretch. And now it’s August and he’s already sore.

20
Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa's deep ball remains a concern

AP Photo/Marta Lavandier

In two seasons — 23 games — Tagovailoa has only thrown 51 passes 20+ yards downfield. 19 quarterbacks had more than that in 2021 alone. The Dolphins added Tyreek Hill to help unlock his downfield passing, but if he remains trigger shy Miami may only make a brief appearance in the postseason.

21
Minnesota Vikings: This defense doesn't have the horses to stop high octane QBs

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a lot to like about the Vikings’ 2022 prospects. Adding Za’Darius Smith as well as draft picks Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth should spark improvement for a mid defense — but will they be enough to derail Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, or Matthew Stafford?

22
New England Patriots: The rest of the AFC got so much better than they did

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots more or less sat the 2022 offseason out thanks to limited cap space. That means few additions to a roster that got absolutely starched by the Bills in the Wild Card round last year.

Mac Jones also has to contend with defenses who figured out they could leave his wideouts in single coverage in order to bring chaos to his pocket. After ranking sixth in completion percentage over expected (CPOE) through the first 12 weeks of the season, the rookie slid to 25th as opponents dialed up the pressure.

23
New Orleans Saints: They're trying to keep the Sean Payton era intact with duct tape and rubber cement

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

The engineers behind the most successful era of Saints football, Sean Payton and Drew Brees, have both retired. In their place is longtime assistant Dennis Allen (8-28 as an NFL head coach) and Jameis Winston (is Jameis Winston). There will be three or four fun Taysom Hill gadget plays en route to eight or nine wins.

24
New York Giants: Daniel Jones, who runs and occasionally plays like a newborn giraffe

AP Photo/Adam Hunger

Brian Daboll may be the right choice at head coach. Daniel Jones is almost certainly the wrong choice at quarterback. The embattled passer will have to prove his flashes of athleticism can be strung together into something approaching consistency if he wants another shot at starting somewhere — anywhere — in 2023.

25
New York Jets: Zach Wilson, 2021's worst statistical quarterback

AP Photo/John Minchillo

Wilson was the Jets’ fourth-most efficient quarterback in 2021. He completed just 55 percent of his passes, threw 11 interceptions against nine touchdowns as a rookie, and led the league in yards lost via sack — impressive considering he missed four games. New York upgraded its offensive line, receiving corps and run game in hopes of unlocking his potential. Any growth may be incremental rather than exponential in 2022.

via RBSDM.com

26
Philadelphia Eagles: Jalen Hurts might not make that leap

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Hurts was better than he’s given credit for late in games, even if the end result is just average passing. His 3.4 percent completion rate over expected in the fourth quarter or overtime of close games suggests he made plays several quarterbacks weren’t.

It also ranked only 13th among 29 qualified QBs, including non-stars like Tua Tagovailoa and Ryan Tannehill. That won’t be enough to win consistently in the playoffs. Philly is hoping the addition of AJ Brown will fix that.

27
Pittsburgh Steelers: Same as 2020 and 2021; no downfield passing

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Roethlisberger’s old man arm was a detriment to the Pittsburgh passing game; he only completed 18 passes 20+ yards downfield last fall. Now that duty falls to Kenny Pickett and Mitchell Trubisky, neither of whom look particularly ready to step into a starting role despite a potent receiving corps and star-studded defense.

28
San Francisco 49ers: Trey Lance is (basically) a rookie quarterback

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Lance was electric in spurts last season but only played 145 snaps as a rookie. Now he’ll deal with defenses that have spent all season grinding his tape and plotting against him. Still, if any team is insulated from the occasional bad throw it’s the Niners, who rode Jimmy Garoppolo to one Super Bowl and two NFC title game appearances the last three seasons.

29
Seattle Seahawks: Pete Carroll is gonna run the heck out of the ball in a pass-first league

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Russell Wilson is gone. So are Chris Carson and Bobby Wagner.

Seattle, home of the league’s oldest coach, isn’t committed to a rebuild. Instead the plan appears to be to grind out possessions with Rashaad Penny and Kenneth Walker and hope Geno Smith (or maybe Drew Lock) can surprise them at quarterback. That’s quite the gamble in a league that’s minimized the run game over the past decade.

30
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady's gotta fall off at some point, right?

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucs are a soundly constructed team. Betting against Touchdown Tom is a fool’s errand.

But since we’re 30 teams deep, let’s push forward with reason to believe a rebuilt interior offensive line — Alex Cappa is a Bengal, Ryan Jensen is injured and Ali Marpet retired — could diminish the stellar sack rate that kept him churning the past two seasons in Tampa. Hit a 45-year-old Brady enough and you could knock the wheels of Tampa’s latest hype train.

31
Tennessee Titans: A waning passing game might not rise to the level of a soaring defense

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

The Titans secured the AFC’s top seed despite Derrick Henry missing half the season because the defense leveled up to where head coach Mike Vrabel needed it to be. But they flamed out with an 0-1 playoff record after a rehabbed Henry struggled to make a difference and Ryan Tannehill slumped. Now Tannehill is going into 2022 with new faces atop the depth chart at both wideout and tight end and coming off his worst season in Tennessee.

32
Washington Commanders: The guy who couldn't beat the Jaguars to make the playoffs last year is QB1

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Carson Wentz struggled through the 2021 season and is now struggling through the 2022 preseason. There’s no Jonathan Taylor or stacked offensive line to bail him out in Washington. This defense backslid in 2021 and just fired its D-line coach a month before the season begins.

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