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Predicting what sports fans will be saying at the end of 2022

(AP Photo / Gregory Bull)

It always seems impossible to predict what’s going to happen in the wide world of sports.

No one could’ve guessed that Antonio Brown would be running off the field at MetLife Stadium in the middle of a game after taking his uniform off on January 2.

No one could’ve guessed that the Los Angeles Lakers, with the likes of LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and an injured Anthony Davis, would be the sixth-best team in the Western Conference standings on January 8.

No one could’ve guessed that the NHL would be forced to back out of the 2022 Winter Olympics because of a league-wide COVID-19 outbreak to end 2021.

>>RELATED: Reflecting on our five predictions for the sports world in 2021

But, no matter how many curveballs players, teams, and leagues throw throughout a calendar year, sports fans like to do their best meteorologist impressions in an attempt to guess what’s coming next.

Unfortunately for us, even we’re not smart enough to avoid that urge.

So, after a hit-or-miss try last year in anticipation of 2021, we’re going to try our best to predict what sports fans will be saying by the end of 2022.

  • “How could we have forgotten about the Warriors?”

As of January 8, 2022, the Golden State Warriors found themselves just half a game back of the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Standings, sitting in second place with an impressive 29-9 record.

They were two games up on the third-place Utah Jazz, three-and-a-half up on the fourth-place Memphis Grizzlies, and eight-and-a-half(!) up on the fifth-place Dallas Mavericks.

Somehow, those 29 wins through the team’s first 38 games came without Klay Thompson in the lineup.

A whopping 941 days after tearing his ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, Thompson’s return to the Warriors lineup must feel like a breath of fresh air for fans in the Bay Area, and must instill fear in the hearts of the league’s 29 other franchises.

>>FROM 2020: ‘We can compete with anyone’: Don’t count out the Klay Thompson-less Warriors

Fans around the country thought they had escaped the clutches of the Warriors dynasty when the Raptors took them out in 2019. Man, how wrong were they?

Don’t be surprised if it’s Thompson, fellow Splash Brother Steph Curry, and Steve Kerr standing on a stage having a hearty laugh when the confetti starts to fall in June.

  • “Justin Herbert and the Chargers are legit.”

The 2021 NFL season showed us a lot about teams that are currently led by young quarterbacks.

The New England Patriots are inching their way back towards the top of the AFC with rookie Mac Jones at the helm, which undoubtedly gives Buffalo Bills fans headaches after dealing with Tom Brady for all of those years.

The Cincinnati Bengals’ offense looks unstoppable when Joe Burrow is healthy, and it’s just about putting the right pieces in place to keep their franchise quarterback in one piece.

But, perhaps the quarterback and franchise with the most potential are Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers.

Even with a winning season in a tough AFC West, the Chargers’ 2021 season is likely viewed as a disappointment for those within the organization.

Depending on their Week 18 game against the Las Vegas Raiders, they will either be a 10-7 Wild Card team that finished second in their division, or a 9-8 team that missed out on the playoffs and finished in third.

>>RELATED: ‘I know we can win with him’: Why Chargers rookie Justin Herbert is the 2020 NFL Draft’s best QB

Flip the script on a heartbreaking 20-17 loss against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2, a tough 27-20 defeat against the Minnesota Vikings in November, and an embarrassing 41-29 loss to the Houston Texans in Week 16, and the Chargers could’ve legitimately won the AFC West.

They beat the Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3, beat the Bengals by 19 in Week 13, and lost in overtime against the same Chiefs in Week 15.

They put up 30 or more points in a game on six different occasions throughout the season, and even dropped 40 or more three different times.

Similar to what I said about Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals (who almost made me look like a genius by the end of 2021), you’ll need to watch out for Justin Herbert and the Chargers in 2022.

  • “Thank God that MLB lockout didn’t cancel the 2022 season.”

This one is really the only 50/50 on the list this year, but sometimes you need to throw in an easy one to make sure you don’t go 0-for-5 when you look back a year later.

The current MLB lockout could truly go one of three different ways as we get started in 2022:

  1. The lockout gets resolved before the start of the 2022 MLB season, and there are either minimal effects on the schedule or no impacts at all.
  2. The lockout takes some time to get resolved, but a shortened season starts in the summer of 2022.
  3. The lockout cancels the 2022 MLB season.

>>RELATED: Should MLB be concerned about drops in World Series viewership?

We’ll count the first two options as a win in our book as far as our prediction is concerned, but here’s hoping everything goes off without a hitch by the time the originally-scheduled Opening Day comes around at the end of March.

  • “How cool is it that Sue Bird got to go out on top as a five-time WNBA champ?”

Let’s be honest: Sue Bird made us a look a bit silly recently.

When she decided to return for an amazing 19th season in the WNBA, we had to tuck our tails between our legs after saying she would be a great fit for the New York Liberty’s head coaching gig.

>>RELATED: Could the New York Liberty hire Sue Bird as the team’s next head coach?

We’ll let it slide just this once, and continue to side with the G.O.A.T. as she looks to make some more history in 2022.

The Seattle Storm superstar is in a great situation as she gets set for her “comeback,” with loads of talent around her to make a run in what will likely be her final season in the WNBA.

She averaged 10 points per game last year, which is right around her mark for her last four seasons in the league, and she even averaged more rebounds and assists per game year-over-year.

Like we saw in 2021, it’ll be anyone’s ballgame as the league’s 12 franchises duke it out for spots in the WNBA Finals.

But, we’ll take a shot in the dark and say that Bird will be hoisting a trophy as she soaks in her final moments on the court before she rides off into the sunset.

  • “I can’t believe all of these sports leagues made it through another year of COVID-19 issues.”

This one may be tempting fate a bit, but we’ll take a glass-half-full approach to kick off 2022.

COVID-19 reared its ugly head to end 2021, which definitely didn’t instill confidence in any of the “Big Four” sports leagues.

The NHL was forced into a league-wide shutdown due to COVID-19 outbreaks across the United States, the NBA had to postpone games throughout December, and even the NFL had to do some shuffling to their schedule late in the regular season.

>>FROM DECEMBER 2020: COVID-19 issues running rampant across the NBA, NFL, and NHL to end 2021

But, even with all of those issues, leagues are pushing through to start 2022.

The NFL playoffs are set to begin, the NBA is rolling with the punches, and the NHL is back in action after its brief hiatus.

League-specific protocols continue to change as circumstances evolve, and we’ll see how cases potentially impact the NFL playoffs in January and February.

But, for now, it seems that the sports world will be able to adapt to whatever comes its way throughout what will surely be a chaotic 2022.

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