Six things I know or think I know so far in 2022 NFL season: Jets in trouble; Vikings will rebound

We have now passed the two-month mark of the 2022 NFL season, which is enough time to both reevaluate our preseason predictions and still look silly with our updated predictions.

To that end, here are three things I think I know and three things I know I know so far this season.

THREE THINGS I THINK I KNOW

1) The Tennessee Titans won’t be the AFC’s No. 1 seed for a second consecutive year, but they will be the team no one in the conference wants to face in the playoffs.

Titans looked out of sorts in opening the season with back-to-back losses, but they have since won seven of eight. What I love about them most: Arguably no team embraces its identity more firmly than the Titans do theirs. They believe in physicality and execution more than deception, attending the school of thought that says it doesn’t matter if opponents know what’s coming, they still have to stop it.

With Derrick Henry in the backfield, it’s a given that they’re going to be effective running the football. And with talent on every level of the defense, notably up front with Jeffery Simmons and Denico Autry, it will be a challenge for opponents to score many points; Tennessee has allowed more than 17 points once in the last seven games. The only question is whether quarterback Ryan Tannehill can take care of the ball and make a few pass plays when necessary. He didn’t do it in the playoffs last year, when his three interceptions contributed to a 19-16 Divisional Round loss to the Bengals. But I believe he won’t make those same mistakes this season.

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2) Doubters of the Miami Dolphins will regret it in January — and maybe in February.

These Dolphins are legit Super Bowl contenders and should not be confused with the Miami squads that missed the playoffs 12 of the past 13 seasons. Continuing to view them through the prism of recent history will make you look foolish when they beat your team in the playoffs or cost you money at the sportsbook.

An offense that used to be plodding and boring now ranks as one of the league’s most exciting, due in equal parts to the creative mind of first-year coach Mike McDaniel, the speed and playmaking abilities of wideouts Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, and the emergence of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The third-year signal-caller has been everything the organization envisioned when it selected him fifth overall in the 2020 draft — four spots after Joe Burrow and one spot ahead of Justin Herbert.

Tagovailoa, who has thrown for 18 touchdowns with only three interceptions in eight games this season, has silenced critics who labeled him a game manager who couldn’t push the ball downfield. He entered the week leading the league with 9.1 yards per pass attempt. He has thrown for three touchdowns in each of his past three games, during which Miami has put up 31, 35 and 39 points.

Sleep on them if you like, but you’re likely to wake up wondering: What just happened?

3) The Minnesota Vikings will be just fine.

Yes, they were dominated in a 40-3 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday, but you could almost see it coming after an emotional win at Buffalo the previous week. They had won seven in a row, each by one score, and were feeling good about themselves; meanwhile, the Cowboys were looking to regain credibility after blowing a 14-point second-half lead in last week’s loss to the Packers, who had dropped five in a row.

Coaches often talk about reset games — Philadelphia got one with its loss to Washington; Dallas got one with its collapse at Green Bay; and now Minnesota has its own with the debacle against Dallas. The Vikings are talented and well-coached. The thing you hear often within their building is that the locker room is strong, that the players police themselves and hold each other accountable. They get the Patriots and Jets at home the next two weeks, games that are tough but winnable.

Until they show me otherwise, and unless I’ve misjudged the parity within the NFC, I believe the Vikings’ character and talent will carry them forward.

THREE THINGS I KNOW I KNOW

1) The Jets might make the playoffs for the first time since 2010, but their stay will be a short one.

The fact that the Jets were even in the game Sunday at New England in the final minute was a testament to the talent of their defense, which deserved far better than it got. But in what could be the understatement of the year — or any year — it’s virtually impossible to win when your offense gains just two net yards on 26 plays in the second half, finishes with 103 net yards overall, posts five consecutive three-and-outs to start the second half and manages just six first downs overall, as New York did.

The primary culprit is quarterback Zach Wilson, who has yet to live up to his billing as the No. 2 overall pick of the 2021 draft. Wilson passed for just 77 yards on Sunday, marking the fourth time in the last five games that he has failed to throw for more than 154 yards. Wilson has completed less than 56 percent of his attempts in four of his seven starts. He has thrown for multiple touchdowns in only one game and has had four games without an aerial score.

Backup Joe Flacco started the first three weeks while Wilson was recovering from a knee injury, and Flacco’s five touchdown passes are one more than Wilson has in more than twice as many starts. Flacco also threw for at least 285 yards in each start, while Wilson has done it only once.

There is no chance of the Jets making a playoff run (or even making the playoffs, period?) if they can’t play complementary football. The margin for error is too slim. Look at Sunday’s game. New York allowed only a field goal through the first 59-plus minutes and still lost because it allowed an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown with five seconds to play. It is the league’s only punt return for a score this season, as of this writing.

2) The Eagles are who I thought they were coming into the season, when I predicted they would advance to the Super Bowl.

Any thoughts to the contrary were erased by Sunday’s gritty 17-16 win at Indianapolis, where, coming off their only loss of the season, they rallied from 10 down in the fourth quarter for their ninth victory.

It says a lot about a team when it can win despite not having its best stuff, when playing in a hostile environment, when facing a team that has a bit of a buzz, as the Colts did after winning their first game under interim coach Jeff Saturday the previous week, and when the offense appeared out of sorts for much of the day.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts seemed to tell his teammates to get on his back and come along for the ride in the fourth quarter, as his designed runs, scrambles and pinpoint passes breathed life into the unit, as well as the team.

3) There is not a better story this year than the Commanders’ recent turnaround, especially when you consider how much adversity the players and coaches have faced this season.

They opened the season 1-4, found themselves caught in the despicable web of controversy created by owner Daniel Snyder, received a scare when rookie running back Brian Robinson was shot twice on Aug. 28 during an attempted robbery, and were forced to answer questions about whether they partnered with the wrong quarterback after trading for Carson Wentz.

All they’ve done since is win five of six, including handing the Eagles their only loss of the season. Their defensive line, which is loaded with high draft picks, is playing like a dominant force — and it should only get stronger with Chase Young expected to return from injury soon. The team appears to have found a kindred spirit in quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who has been overlooked and counted out for much of his career. Heinicke has provided spirited play and timely passes since replacing Wentz.

I don’t know where the Commanders will wind up at the end of the year — at 6-5, they’re still in fourth place in the NFC East, with two more losses than the third-place Giants. But I do know they’re the best story in the league to this point.

Follow Jim Trotter on Twitter.

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