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Cover 4: Lessons learned from 2022 NFL season


What did we learn from the 2022 NFL season? The crew puts a bow on it and discusses league-wide trends that could impact 2023:

John Schmeelk: You need to score points to win games. You score points by making explosive plays. You make explosive plays by throwing the ball downfield. You throw the ball downfield when you have a good quarterback with electric weapons outside and good protection up front. All of this might sound simple, but these basic principles are the prism through which I'm viewing the offseason.

This year, every team that scored 400 points made the playoffs except for one, the Detroit Lions. The teams that made the playoffs without scoring 400 points were the Giants (365), Ravens (350 despite the Lamar Jackson injury), Dolphins (397 despite the Tua Tagovailoa injury), Chargers (391) and Buccaneers (313).

Of the 11 teams that finished with the fewest passes that went for at least 25 yards, only three teams made the playoffs: the Giants, Ravens, and Buccaneers. The Giants were tied with the Rams with the fewest such passes (16) in the NFL this season. Of the eight teams that allowed the highest sack rate this season, only the Giants made the playoffs.

If the Giants can improve in these areas, they should be able to sustain their success next season. If they don't, it may be difficult to walk away from 2023 with another playoff berth.

Dan Salomone: The story throughout the year was the frequency of close games and comebacks. The average final score margin of 9.70 points this season was the lowest since 1932 (9.13). The 2022 NFL regular season set records for the most…

Games decided by six-or-fewer points: 122

Games decided by seven-or-fewer points: 141

Games decided by eight-or-fewer points: 156

Games within one score (eight points) in fourth quarter: 203

Games in which team overcame deficit of 10-or-more points to win or tie: 52

Games in which team came back to win after trailing in fourth quarter: 85

Games with game-winning score in final two minutes of regulation or in overtime: 66

It wasn't quite the NBA where you don't need to pay attention until the fourth quarter, but it was close. That means teams need to catch up to the hottest, freshest, trendiest trend right now: You can go far with good coaching, shrewd talent acquisition, dynamic quarterbacks, sound line play, and situational football on defense and special teams. That's how you navigate the razor-thin margins.

View photos of head coach Brian Daboll's time with the New York Giants.

Lance Medow: If there's one major trend to take away from the 2022 season, it's the one that's been recycling for over two decades. The turnover rate in the NFL is unlike anything we see in the other three major U.S. professional sports. Seven teams that missed the playoffs in 2021 punched their tickets in 2022. That's half the postseason field. To take it a step further, since 2002, there's been at least five new playoff teams in 19 of the last 21 campaigns including at least seven in 11 of them. The Giants fell under this year's umbrella and became one of the latest teams to prove struggles from one season aren't guaranteed to carry over to the next nor is success. More of a reason why how you end one year is difficult to duplicate the following season.

The other trend that 2022 highlighted was the value of a high-scoring offense. It's no coincidence that nine of the top 10 scoring offenses in the NFL made the playoffs and the lone exception, the Lions, just missed out on a tiebreaker. In comparison, just six of the top ten scoring defenses accomplished that feat. The Giants improved their scoring average (21.5) by six points in 2022, which isn't the norm and shouldn't be taken for granted, though, keep in mind, the starting point was 15.2. While that's a noticeable jump, the two Super Bowl participants averaged nearly 30.

Matt Citak: The biggest takeaway I had from watching the two teams that made it to Super Bowl LVII is hardly a new trend across the league. However, the matchup between the Eagles and Chiefs put a spotlight on the importance of having talented fronts on both sides of the ball.

Let's start with the offensive lines. The Eagles entered the season with one of the most highly-touted O-lines in the league, and the unit did not disappoint. Philadelphia had a top-five rushing offense with an average of 147.6 yards per game, as both center Jason Kelce and right tackle Lane Johnson were named First-Team All-Pros. In addition, left guard Landon Dickerson made it to the Pro Bowl. Moving over to the other sideline, the Chiefs finished the regular season with the third-fewest sacks allowed at 26. Kansas City's offensive line also saw two of its members make the All-Pro team as center Creed Humphrey and left guard Joe Thuney were both named Second-Team All-Pros. Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown was also selected to the Pro Bowl for the fourth consecutive season. The similarities between the two O-lines are uncanny, and the performance of both units played roles in each of the quarterbacks also being named All-Pros (Mahomes to the First Team, Hurts to the Second Team).

When it comes to the two defenses, the commonalities continue. The Eagles had one of the most dominant pass rushing performances in NFL history this season, registering a whopping 70 sacks across 17 regular-season games. Who finished with the second-most? Of course, that would be the Chiefs with 55 sacks. Chiefs DL Chris Jones was named First-Team All-Pro, while Eagles EDGE Haason Reddick was a Second-Team All-Pro. More importantly, both defensive lines proved to have much-needed depth. Philadelphia saw four different players finish with 10+ sacks, while the Chiefs had four players record 5+ sacks.

It's no secret that building a strong offense and defense begins with solidifying things up front. Since the 2019 draft, the Giants have used four first-round picks on linemen, two on offense and two on defense. Two of those players, Dexter Lawrence and Andrew Thomas, were just named All-Pros this season. The Giants have improved significantly in these two areas over the last few seasons, but there is still more work to be done.

NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah released his updated rankings of the top 50 prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.