We’re on to 2022.
Most would agree 2020 stunk, with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on the world and throwing the sports calendar out of whack. And while 2021 brought back some normalcy, the final few weeks of the year reminded everyone we’re not out of the woods just yet.
Still, we must press on and maintain optimism. To jumpstart that effort, now that we’re officially into the first full week of 2022, we decided to mark the occasion by making random sports predictions.
Some are bolder than others. But all, we think, are rooted in reality. And we settled on 22 predictions for obvious reasons. Let’s dive in.
1. Philadelphia 76ers will trade Ben Simmons to Minnesota Timberwolves…
It sure sounds like the Sixers could move Simmons before the trade deadline, and the T-Wolves have long been linked to the All-Star point guard. Sachin Gupta, who runs Minnesota’s basketball operations, previously worked under Daryl Morey, now Philadelphia’s president of basketball operations, so there’s an existing relationship off which to work.
2. …and Portland Trail Blazers will trade Damian Lillard to 76ers
Maybe it’s a three-team trade. Maybe it’s a separate deal down the road. Who knows? But we’ll say Morey’s aggressiveness pays off for the 76ers, who essentially flip their disgruntled point guard (and presumably other pieces) for another legitimate star to pair with Joel Embiid.
3. Boston Celtics finally will land third “star” alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown
The C’s need to do something. Anything. Because the current mix just doesn’t work. It might require waiting until the offseason, but Brad Stevens will acquire the All-Star-caliber piece necessary to thrust Boston back into Eastern Conference contention. Maybe it’s Bradley Beal. Or maybe it’s someone a little more off the grid, like De’Aaron Fox or Domantas Sabonis. Either way, expect a splash.
4. Utah Jazz will win NBA Finals
The Jazz just can’t get over the hump, losing in the first or second round in five straight seasons, including last season, when they owned the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. But Utah entered the week ranked first in offensive efficiency (by a wide margin) and sixth in defensive efficiency. The Jazz are really good and really deep.
5. Carolina Hurricanes will win Stanley Cup
The Canes are excellent at 5-on-5. And they also thrive on both the power play and the penalty kill. There are flashier contenders — like the Colorado Avalanche, for instance –but the talent and the underlying numbers suggest Carolina is capable of hoisting Lord Stanley.
6. New York Yankees will sign Carlos Correa to massive contract…
The Yankees need a shortstop. And Correa is the best shortstop available in free agency. Time for the Bronx Bombers to start flexing their financial muscles again.
7. …and trade for Luis Castillo
The Cincinnati Reds could become sellers this offseason, in which case Castillo presumably will be highly sought after. And the Yankees need to upgrade their rotation. Maybe New York trades one of its coveted shortstop prospects, Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza, in wake of signing Correa?
8. San Diego Padres will win World Series
The Padres collapsed in 2021, thanks to both injuries and underperformance. They’re still fairly loaded, though, and the rotation could be a major strength if Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet are healthy and productive. Not to mention, the Dodgers and Giants are due for regression in the National League West.
9. Green Bay Packers will win Super Bowl LVI…
The Packers own the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They’ve been the best team in the NFL for most of 2021, led by the MVP frontrunner in Aaron Rodgers. And there’s a chance they’ll return several top-tier players — cornerback Jaire Alexander, linebacker Za’Darius Smith and left tackle David Bakhtiari — for the playoffs.
10. …and Aaron Rodgers will return in 2022
Winning solves everything, right? The Packers probably should acquiesce to their franchise QB’s demands to keep him around for the foreseeable future.
11. Seattle Seahawks will trade Russell Wilson to Denver Broncos
It’s time for change in Seattle, and that means starting fresh at the quarterback position. Wilson will have plenty of suitors if the Seahawks make him available, but the Broncos are an intriguing option given their offensive weapons and their good, young defense. Denver also has the assets to swing a deal.
12. Houston Texans will trade Deshaun Watson to Miami Dolphins
Tempted to go in a different direction — the Carolina Panthers, maybe? — because this fit has been mentioned so frequently. But the Dolphins make a lot of sense — if Watson gets his legal issues squared away — especially if they’re not sold on Tua Tagovailoa.
13. Tom Brady will announce 2022 season will be his last
All good things must come to an end. And it’s starting to feel like this Tampa Bay Buccaneers season — between the injuries, the Antonio Brown situation and Bruce Arians’ frequent buffoonery — might take years off Brady’s life.
14. Sean Payton will leave New Orleans Saints and become Chicago Bears head coach
Real shot in the dark here. Someone like Josh McDaniels (Patriots offensive coordinator) or Byron Leftwich (Bucs offensive coordinator) might be a worthwhile candidate. But Payton grew up in Illinois, played for Chicago and spent years working under current Bears general manager Ryan Pace in New Orleans. Maybe the Saints trade their head coach?
15. Tiger Woods will return for The Masters…
Probably a long shot, with The Masters taking place in April, less than 14 months removed from Woods’ serious car crash. But it’s stupid to doubt him at this point.
16. …and Rory McIlroy will win the tournament
It has to happen at some point, right? Made this prediction last year, too. Might as well run it back.
17. Denny Hamlin will win first NASCAR Cup Series championship
Hamlin has made the Championship 4 in three consecutive seasons, yet he’s still searching for his first Cup Series title. After a 2021 in which he was very consistent, it’s time for Hamlin to take the next step.
18. Conor McGregor will have two trilogy fights
Hard to imagine it’s been five and a half years since McGregor’s second fight against Nate Diaz. Anyway, here’s to seeing him face both Diaz and Dustin Poirier in 2022, assuming The Notorious is able to return during the summer and sneak in two fights before the year is out.
19. Jon Jones will return and lose to Ciryl Gane
It’s been nearly two full years since Jones last fought, defeating Dominick Reyes at UFC 247. He’s also 34. We’ll say he returns to face the winner of this month’s Francis Ngannou vs. Ciryl Gane heavyweight title fight at UFC 270, only to suffer the first non-disqualification loss of his career.
20. Jake Paul will fight Anderson Silva
Just seems like a natural next opponent after Paul’s knockout of Tyron Woodley. The YouTube star so far has set his sights on aging UFC fighters, and Silva, who turns 47 in April, recently transitioned to boxing.
21. The Rock will return to WWE to set up WrestleMania 39 match
Dwayne Johnson is a busy man, which seems to keep getting in the way of a possible return to the squared circle. But it sure feels like WWE wants to build toward a match between The Rock and Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 39 at SoFi Stadium.
22. Germany will win World Cup
The Germans, under a new head coach, were extremely impressive in qualifying, winning all seven matches while outscoring their opponents 31-2. They’re a well-rounded club, certainly capable of emerging victorious in Qatar.