FILE - Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) talks to wide receiver Allen Robinson II (1) at the NFL football team's practice facility May 26, 2022, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Robinson is stepping into a major role alongside Kupp for the defending Super Bowl champions. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Week One NFL Storylines

Week One of the 2022 NFL Season kicks off Thursday in Los Angeles. After a busy offseason filled with contract disputes and on-field competitions, here are the biggest storylines heading into the opening weekend.

AFC West

The AFC West could be the most intimidating division in all of sports. The Chiefs have been at the top of the league each of the past few years, with potentially the face of the NFL in Patrick Mahomes at the helm. The Broncos added Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson over the offseason and the Raiders added Davante Adams aside Darren Waller to help out Derek Carr. The Chargers return an excellent offense, with an expectation that their defense should be much improved this time around.

It is obvious why the Chiefs remain at the forefront of all Super Bowl conversations. Despite the loss of Tyreek Hill, the combination of Mahomes and Kelce plus the additions of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling could make this offense just as lethal, if not more, than last year.

Los Angeles heads into their second year under Brandon Stale, with hopes that Justin Herbert will repeat and improve upon his Pro Bowl season. The biggest question facing the Chargers is how the defense will back up Herbert and the offense. Staley’s defense gave up an NFL-worst 49.5% third down conversion rate. The defense should be improved, however, with the addition of Khalil Mack. Mack, alongside Joey Bosa, could be one of the best defensive fronts in the league.

The Broncos and Raiders have been waiting for the pieces they need in order to compete with the Chiefs and Chargers, and they did their best this offseason. The additions of Wilson and Adams were the highlights of this busy offseason and potentially the biggest moves of the year. Reuniting Adams with his former college QB in Carr will bring a brand new energy to Las Vegas.

New Coaches, New Expectations

As per usual, the coaching carousel was moving at full speed this offseason.

Todd Bowles certainly takes over the best situation in Tampa Bay after Bruce Arians stepped down from coaching. Unless the franchise undergoes a massive culture change with Bowles’ promotion, the Buccaneers should be in contention in the NFC.

Josh McDaniels heads to Las Vegas and could make a lot of noise in his first year with the Raiders. The additions of Davante Adams and Chandler Jones add to an already talented roster. Not to mention some head coach experience under the McDaniels’ belt.

In terms of tough situations, multiple coaches have stepped into extremely difficult spots. Lovie Smith and Doug Peterson both take over a franchise in shambles looking to finally take a step in the right direction. The Texans lack offensive threats and once again need to rely on an inexperienced Davis Mills who only has 11 NFL starts.

Doug Peterson was the man selected to succeed Urban Meyer and the disaster that his short term in Jacksonville brought. Trevor Lawrence does not have a huge amount of talent around him. However, he will be reunited with college teammate Travis Etienne and will be able to work side-by-side a successful coach in Peterson.

Big Step for QBs

Several quarterbacks have to perform well this year in order to secure a spot moving forward.

Trey Lance will take over the 49er’s starting job this season. The highly touted first-round pick from 2021 played in six games last year, throwing for five touchdowns, and running for one as well. He will hope to maintain the spot over Jimmy Garoppolo, who he still supports as a teammate.

Mitch Trubisky just recently was awarded the Steelers job, and he is one of many that could be on the bench come to the midway point of the season. However, Trubisky has gained a lot of praise from teammates and coaches for his leadership. He was also recently named captain.

Baker Mayfield, who beat out PJ Walker and Sam Darnold, will need to perform at a top-level to ensure that his job doesn’t change hands. Mayfield struggled throughout his time in Cleveland and had a very public fallout with the franchise. He will start his run in Carolina against his former team.

Daniel Jones enters his fourth year under center for the New York Giants. This could be his last. With the head coaching change, Jones has been given one final chance to prove he could be the answer for the Giants. Kenny Golladay, Saquon Barkley, and Kadarius Toney lead what could be an explosive offense if Jones can make good decisions and hang onto the football.

The NFL regular season kicks off Thursday night with the Buffalo Bills taking on the Rams from SoFi Stadium.

About Matt Quartararo

Matt is a fourth-year journalism major specializing in sports media and is also completing a sports management certificate. Starting in the Fall 2023 semester, Matt has served as a sports coordinator with WRUF. He also participates in sports broadcasting, providing play-by-play for a variety of Gators sports.

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