The 2022 NFL season will begin on Thursday which means the time is ripe to launch big-picture predictions with reckless abandon. Peter King did so today in his FMIA column for NBC, predicting how the playoff picture will shake out once it's all said and done in January. King started doing these four years ago and has gone 4-for-4 picking the Super Bowl winners, so he's got a good track record of prior success to build his case around.
The longtime writer picked the Buffalo Bills to beat the Green Bay Packers in this year's big game, which would be awesome for a thousand reasons. But King's boldest claim for the 2022 season? That both the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers would enter the playoffs as Wild Card teams. AKA they are both going to lose their division to other teams. King picks the Los Angeles Chargers to go 12-5 and win the AFC West, while the New Orleans Saints will post the same record to take the NFC South. The Chiefs and Bucs will both still go 11-6, so it's not like it'll be a terrible year for those two teams.
Still! Picking both Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady to lose their divisions is quite bold indeed. Mahomes has won his division every year since he got drafted, even the year he sat on the bench while Alex Smith started. Brady, meanwhile, lost out on a division title in 2020 for the first time as a starter since the early 2000s. He earned his first NFC South victory in 2021.
It isn't entirely out of the question for King to be right. Brady-led teams tend to coast a bit in the regular season after the grind of deep playoff runs and the Bucs don't really have the kind of overwhelming home-field advantage that suggests they should pull out every stop possible to win the divisional crown. Mahomes, obviously, has never faced the kind of in-division competition he'll have this year and has never played a season without Tyreek Hill lining up out wide.
Is all that enough for two of the best QBs in the game to lose their divisions to lesser QBs? We will certainly find out.