2022 NFL schedule release: What We Learned from each team's 17-game slate

Now that the complete 2022 NFL regular-season schedule has been released, NFL Media reporters break down what matters most for each team, including must-watch matchups and biggest takeaways.

For more information on game tickets for the 2022 NFL season, click here.

Navigate to your team by clicking the divisions below:

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills
Buffalo Bills
2021 record: 11-6 · AFC East: 1st


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Announce your presence with authority: Three of Buffalo's first four games are on the road, starting in L.A. with the 2022 NFL Kickoff Game against the reigning champs. If the Bills are who we think they are, they will come out of the gate quickly and impressively, and they'll do it against a pair of playoff teams (at Rams in Week 1 and vs. Titans in Week 2) and two others that are expecting to be in contention this year (at Dolphins in Week 3 and at Ravens in Week 4). 
  2. MVPs litter the schedule: The Bills play the three most recent NFL MVPs this season: at Lamar Jackson (2018) and the Ravens in Week 4, at Patrick Mahomes (2019) and the Chiefs in Week 6 and finally at home vs. Aaron Rodgers (2020 and 2021) and the Packers in Week 8. Yes, the defense will be tested by those quarterbacks -- but oh, by the way, Buffalo ranked first in the NFL in total defense a year ago, surrendering the fewest points per game among any team. And what did general manager Brandon Beane do? He signed Von Miller in free agency and selected cornerback Kaiir Elam in the first round of this year's draft. 
  3. The Ready for Prime Time Players? The Bills have five games in prime time this year, on four different networks. Everyone wants a piece of quarterback Josh Allen, who was throwing for 329 yards and four TDs (two of which came in the final 2 minutes of regulation) when we last saw him, in Buffalo's electrifying Divisional Round showdown with the Chiefs. Allen had a hand in 42 of Buffalo's 57 total touchdowns last season.


-- Mike Giardi

Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins
2021 record: 9-8 · AFC East: 3rd


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. The arrival of Tyreek Hill changed things: The schedulers thought the Dolphins were going to be good this year anyway. And then they traded for Hill. Any hesitation about putting them in national windows lessened when the Dolphins acquired one of the league's most exciting players. That's why they are the Bengals' opponent in Week 4's Thursday Night Football Prime Video game. 
  2. The first month is a murderer's row, and a really good test: The Dolphins will find out right away how much ground they made up during the offseason in the insanely loaded AFC. Their first four opponents are the Patriots, Ravens, Bills and Bengals. 
  3. Week 14 might produce some angst for Dolphins fans: They haven't been able to let go of the fact that the Dolphins picked Tua Tagovailoa one spot before the Chargers took Justin Herbert in the 2020 NFL Draft. And now they will meet, in Los Angeles. Herbert has outplayed Tagovailoa in their first two pro seasons, but the Dolphins have put plenty of talent around their quarterback this year. 
  4. In fact, the entire season is an evaluation of Tagovailoa: The Dolphins' schedule is loaded with young quarterbacks against whom Tagovailoa is inevitably going to be compared (Mac Jones in Weeks 1 and 17, Lamar Jackson in Week 2, Josh Allen in Weeks 3 and 15, Joe Burrow in Week 4, possibly Deshaun Watson in Week 10, the aforementioned Herbert, and Zach Wilson in Weeks 5 and 18). 
  5. It's the 50th anniversary of the Perfect Season, and the Dolphins will pop more Champagne: In Week 7, a gift from the scheduling gods, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in Miami, and they are going to hear a lot about the AFC Championship Game they lost 50 years ago. The Dolphins completed the NFL's only perfect season in 1972, and that extraordinary milestone will be honored when the Steelers are in town. 


-- Judy Battista

New England Patriots
New England Patriots
2021 record: 10-7 · AFC East: 2nd


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Sun and fun (?) in Miami: The Patriots get a look at that revamped Dolphins offense under new head coach Mike McDaniel in the regular-season opener -- and they'll do it without their former No. 1 cornerback, J.C. Jackson, who signed with the Chargers in the offseason. How will New England's secondary handle Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki? The Pats have had a hard time in Miami, losing four of their last five visits there.  
  2. Prepare for a brutal stretch around the holidays: Beginning on Thanksgiving night in Minnesota (Week 12), the Pats play three of four games on the road, including games six days apart in Arizona (on Monday Night Football in Week 14, on Dec. 12) and Las Vegas (in Week 15, on Dec. 18), making me wonder if they'll stay out west in between those two. While they get to return home for a Christmas Eve game in Week 16, it will come against the defending AFC champion Bengals, and it will be played on Saturday, on short rest. 
  3. Can the Pats make the Bills punt, finally? If the Pats plan on being relevant in the AFC, they'll have to figure out a way to stop Josh Allen and the Bills. Just like last year, they're playing their two games against their AFC East rivals within a relatively short period of time, facing Buffalo in Week 13 (in Foxborough) and Week 18 (in Orchard Park). Buffalo put it on New England late in 2021, rebounding from a wind-blown loss in early December with offensive clinics in late December and then the playoffs. How bad was it for the Pats' defense? The Bills haven't punted against the Pats since early in the second half of their first matchup last season. 


-- Mike Giardi

New York Jets
New York Jets
2021 record: 4-13 · AFC East: 4th


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Zach Wilson has to take a big step this season, and it would help if it happens early: The Jets open with four straight games against one of the league's most competitive divisions, the AFC North. Then, starting in Week 5, the Jets play the Dolphins, at the Packers, at the Broncos, and vs. the Patriots and Bills, then have a Week 10 bye before playing at the Patriots. 
  2. The Jets hope to be playing meaningful games in December: If they are -- a big if, considering the earlier stretch -- some of the late-season games are pretty manageable: at the Vikings in Week 13, vs. the Lions in Week 15, vs. the Jaguars in Week 16 and at the Seahawks in Week 17. 
  3. Sauce Gardner will be busy: The Jets play a slew of dynamic quarterbacks, which will put the spotlight on the star of their draft class and his ability to lock down one side of the field. They start with Lamar Jackson in Week 1, possibly Deshaun Watson in Week 2, then Joe Burrow in Week 3, and a few weeks later get Aaron Rodgers (Week 6) and Russell Wilson (Week 7) back to back -- plus, of course, a pair of matchups with Josh Allen (Weeks 9 and 14).


-- Judy Battista

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore Ravens
2021 record: 8-9 · AFC North: 4th


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Secondary education: The Ravens are excited to have All-Pro cornerbacks returning from injuries (Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters), a free-agent acquisition at one safety spot (Marcus Williams) and a first-round pick at the other (Kyle Hamilton). They'll be tested early in October with back-to-back games against the Bills and Bengals. Buffalo's Josh Allen will be a trendy MVP favorite, while Cincinnati's Joe Burrow torched the depleted Ravens defense twice in 2021.
  2. A new day dawns: The Ravens and Steelers have played some epic games over the past 15 years, most of which decided the winner of the AFC North. That won't be the case this season. The games will still be intense, but the stakes won't be so high, with the Steelers in transition and Cincinnati and Cleveland on the rise.
  3. New rivalries on the horizon: Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has had one main rival in the AFC over the past three years -- Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Now Jackson will have two in his own division, with Deshaun Watson joining the Browns and Burrow already taking the Bengals to a Super Bowl. These four games should be electric.


-- Jeffri Chadiha

Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals
2021 record: 10-7 · AFC North: 1st


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Who Dey, indeed: After initially receiving only one prime-time game last year when the schedule was announced, the Bengals have a franchise-high five night games this season, with appearances on Thursday (vs. Miami), Sunday (at Baltimore) and Monday (at Cleveland) in the first eight weeks. The increased attention is not surprising, considering they advanced to the Super Bowl last season and have one of the league's top young rosters, including at quarterback and wide receiver.
  2. In need of a strong finish: Cincinnati will have to be at its best when it returns from its Week 10 bye, because six of its final eight games are against 2021 playoff teams. The two others are against Baltimore, which still will be seeking payback after being outscored 82-37 while being swept by the Bengals for the first time since 2015, and Cleveland, a formidable division opponent regardless of Deshaun Watson's availability.
  3. Seeking hardware, not sales: Quarterbacks Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen may have beaten out Joe Burrow in merchandise sales on the league's most recent list, ranking 1-3, respectively, but the young Bengals star will get a chance for more important victories between Dec. 4 and Jan. 2, when he'll face off against each of them in alternating weeks. This will be Burrow's first and possibly only matchup against Brady (barring both teams reaching the Super Bowl or Brady returning for a 24th season), his first of potentially many games against Allen, and his third against Mahomes, whom he and the Bengals beat twice last season, including in the AFC Championship Game.


-- Jim Trotter

Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns
2021 record: 8-9 · AFC East: 3rd


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. The schedulers don't seem to know when Deshaun Watson is going to be available: Interest in Watson's return after a year off the field figures to be intense, but with the NFL still investigating allegations of sexual misconduct (he faces 22 civil lawsuits), and with no determination yet on discipline for Cleveland's new quarterback, the schedulers clearly had to hedge. The Browns are currently scheduled for two prime-time games in the first half of the season -- Week 3 against Pittsburgh on Thursday Night Football and Week 8 against the Bengals on Monday Night Football. These games will be big draws even if Watson is not playing. But two premier matchups that would seem to be natural fits for a national audiences -- if Watson is playing -- are set to start at 1 p.m. ET: vs. the Chargers in Week 5 and at the Bills in Week 11. 
  2. The NFL probably didn't want to highlight Watson early in the season: The Browns visit Watson's former team, the Houston Texans, in Week 13. Safe to conclude the NFL did not want that to be the dominant storyline in Week 1, whether Watson is playing or not. 
  3. There is a brutal mid-season stretch: Get a load of these seven games, in order, starting in Week 5: vs. Chargers, vs. Patriots, at Ravens, vs. Bengals, BYE, at Dolphins, at Bills, vs. Buccaneers. No matter who is playing QB, that is the stretch that will make or break the season. 


-- Judy Battista

Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers
2021 record: 9-7-1 · AFC North: 2nd


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. The drafting of Kenny Pickett didn't matter, nor did the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger: The schedulers don't know when or if Pickett, the 20th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, will start at quarterback. What they do know: The Steelers have an enormous fan base, Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season, and the league considers them a marquee team. That's why, even though nobody knows who the starting quarterback will be when the games are played, the Steelers are in prime time five times. 
  2. There are two very difficult stretches: The first starts in Week 5 at the Bills, followed by a home game against the Bucs, then road contests against the Dolphins and Eagles. The second is at the end of the season, when the Steelers play the Raiders on Christmas Eve (Week 16), then have the Ravens (Week 17) and Browns (Week 18). 
  3. If Pickett wins the starting job in training camp, he'll be thrown into the deep end right away: After opening against the defending AFC Champion Bengals, the Steelers play the Patriots, whose coach, Bill Belichick, is renowned for flummoxing quarterbacks who have never faced his defense before. Then there is a game against the Browns, with or without Deshaun Watson, but definitely with Myles Garrett
  4. The Raiders are probably not excited about their Dec. 24 trip to Pittsburgh: That is the 50th anniversary, nearly to the day, of the Immaculate Reception, perhaps the greatest play in NFL history, which happened on Dec. 23, 1972. The famous ricochet and scoop by Franco Harris eliminated the Raiders from the playoffs, breathed life into the start of the Steelers' dynasty of the 1970s and 1980s, and was cursed by the late John Madden until his death. It was a scheduling miracle that delivered the perfect game for the NFL to honor the play. It came down to the very last game of the 2021 regular season, in which the Raiders beat the Chargers in overtime to go to the playoffs. If the Chargers had won that game, they would have been in the playoffs, and they would be playing the Steelers this year instead.


-- Judy Battista

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans
Houston Texans
2021 record: 4-13 · AFC South: 3rd


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Derek Stingley Jr., I'd like to introduce you to Davante Adams: The Texans chose Stingley with the third overall selection in the draft, the earliest a defensive back has ever been picked out of LSU in the modern draft era. That's saying something. The ball skills are off the charts, and the buzz when I was covering his pro day in Baton Rouge was that if he stays healthy, he's a future All-Pro. What better way to test the rookie's skills than against the best receiver in the game? Here's to hoping we see plenty of Stingley on Adams in Week 7 in Las Vegas. 
  2. Deshaun Watson's (potential) return: There still hasn't been an announcement from the NFL about its investigation into allegations against Watson of sexual assault, or about any discipline that might be coming for Watson. But if the quarterback -- who demanded a trade out of Houston, refused to play for the team, became the subject of 22 civil lawsuits, sat out all of 2021, then was dealt to Cleveland this offseason -- is eligible to play, his return to Houston in Week 13 will be must-see TV. What will Watson's reception be from the fans at NRG Stadium? What will his pregame interactions consist of with his former teammates? This has to be the game scheduled on Watson's calendar as well as the one hanging in the Texans' locker room. 
  3. Texans fans still have nightmares about Patrick Mahomes: It was the Divisional Round of the 2019 playoffs. The Texans were beating the Chiefs, 24-0, at the end of the first quarter. It was all downhill from there. Houston has won eight total games in the last two seasons since that postseason implosion. As the Texans rebuild their roster, Week 15's game against the Chiefs could be a good barometer of where they stand, especially with their draft picks on the defensive side of the ball. There is no better test for Stingley, defensive back Jalen Pitre (37th overall) and linebacker Christian Harris (75th overall) than Mahomes and the best overall offense we've seen over the last few seasons


-- James Palmer

Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Colts
2021 record: 9-8 · AFC South: 2nd


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Revenge can come early: The Colts travel to Jacksonville on Sept. 18, where they'll meet the team that knocked them out of the playoff race in last year's season finale. Indy has lost six straight games in that town. Time to change that.
  2. October will dictate plenty: Indy will see the defending AFC South champion Tennessee Titans twice in this month, a home matchup on Oct. 2 and a road trip on Oct. 23. We'll find out quickly if the squad is ready to claim that division crown.
  3. No rest for the weary: The Colts had better pray for good health as they go deeper into the season. They won't reach their bye until Week 14. That's a long way off for a team that prides itself on being physical.


-- Jeffri Chadiha

Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville Jaguars
2021 record: 3-14 · AFC South: 4th


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Out of sight, out of mind? The Jaguars play three of their first four on the road and will need positive results to generate interest among a fan base that is both weary and wary after witnessing just 15 wins over the past four seasons, including only four the past two years. Possible good news: The first two weeks are against quarterbacks (Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan) who are breaking in with new teams. Possible bad news: They get Justin Herbert and a lethal Chargers offense the next week, then Jalen Hurts and what appears to be a loaded Eagles offense the following game. 
  2. It's a reunion, sort of: First-year Jaguars coach Doug Pederson will return to Philadelphia for the first time since being fired after the 2020 season. Pederson led the Eagles to three winning seasons and a Super Bowl victory in five years. Will he be fondly remembered by Philadelphia fans, who have reason to be excited about the upgrades the team has made this offseason? Stay tuned.
  3. Did they make the right pick? Whenever the team with the top pick in the draft chooses one player at a particular position over another, those players are often tied to each other. Such will be the case with Travon Walker, who was taken No. 1 overall by the Jags, and Aidan Hutchinson, who was selected second overall by the Lions. The debate about who should have gone No. 1 is sure to dominate discussions when their teams face off in Week 13.


-- Jim Trotter

Tennessee Titans
Tennessee Titans
2021 record: 12-5 · AFC South: 1st


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Who are the big dogs of the AFC South? We should get our answer early, as the Titans and Colts play twice in a four-week span before October is through (at Indianapolis in Week 4 and in Tennessee in Week 7). Mike Vrabel's team beat Indy both times last year, taking advantage of mistake-prone QB Carson Wentz, who failed to clear 200 yards passing in the first matchup and coughed up two picks and a fumble in the second. Now? Wentz is gone, and former MVP Matt Ryan fills that void. The Colts see that as a big step up. We'll soon learn how the Titans' defense feels about the change. 
  2. QB gauntlet ahead: Between Weeks 9 and 12, the Titans face Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers (on short rest, on Thursday Night Football) and Joe Burrow. What, the league couldn't figure out a way to squeeze Tom Brady in there, too? (The Titans don't play the Bucs this year.) Tennessee has a lot of money invested in its front seven. Earn your money, fellas. 
  3. Has the scar made Tannehill stronger? The Week 12 matchup in Tennessee versus Cincinnati and the Bengals will bring back bad memories for QB Ryan Tannehill, who admitted last week that the Titans' loss to Cincy in January still sticks with him (he threw three interceptions). He will enter the year without his favorite target, A.J. Brown, who was traded to Philadelphia and instead will have to lean on veteran acquisition Robert Woods (coming off torn ACL) and rookie Treylon Burks


-- Mike Giardi

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos
2021 record: 7-10 · AFC West: 4th


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Broncos return to Monday Night Football in a big way: Last season, the Broncos' 29-year streak of playing on Monday Night Football was snapped. It was the longest run on MNF in NFL history. They return to the time slot in spectacular fashion in 2022, as the Russell Wilson era in Denver begins, fittingly, in Seattle, Wilson's former NFL home. The schedule-makers had some fun with this one, an AFC-NFC matchup that should be one of the most talked about games all offseason.
  2. An early national spotlight: Four of the Broncos' first six games of the season are on national television in prime time: at Seattle in Week 1 (MNF), vs. the 49ers in Week 3 (Sunday Night Football), vs. the Colts in Week 5 (Thursday Night Football), at the Chargers in Week 6 (MNF again). Last year, when the 2021 schedule was released, the Broncos were given just one prime-time game, the league-mandated Thursday night showing. In 2022, the Broncos have the maximum five prime-time games, and that number could go up as the season goes on. What a difference a year (or a quarterback) makes.
  3. London calling: In Week 8, Denver will head overseas to take on the Jaguars for the team's first international game in 12 years. It's a massive opportunity for the world to see one of the NFL's marquee franchises under what is expected to be new ownership, led by a new, energetic and charismatic head coach and a star quarterback. 2022 might be the perfect season for the Broncos to return to London and an international stage.
  4.  A December to remember ... or forget: When the 2022 season is all said and done, how will the Broncos remember their final six regular-season games (at Ravens, vs. Chiefs, vs. Cardinals, at Rams, at Chiefs, vs. Chargers)? It doesn't get much tougher than that to finish a season. But as Russell Wilson told me in our interview after he joined the Broncos when I asked about thriving on challenges: "The tougher the better. It gets you ready for the whole thing, the big one, for the Super Bowl." Maybe a silver lining is that Nathaniel Hackett has 12 weeks to work out any growing pains with his new team before facing this lineup of opponents in December and January.


-- James Palmer

Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
2021 record: 12-5 · AFC West: 1st


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Chiefs can't afford a slow start: Kansas City went 3-4 through their its first seven games in 2021. Six of its first eight games this season are against teams that made the playoffs last year. Do the math.
  2. Revamped defense will be challenged early: The Chiefs will face plenty of star quarterbacks, with the first half of the season being especially daunting. That's when they'll see Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Derek Carr and Josh Allen in consecutive weeks.
  3. Intense holiday season: There are four games around Thanksgiving that will influence the Chiefs' postseason chances. They'll get the Chargers (Nov. 20), Rams (Nov. 27), Bengals (Dec. 4) and Broncos (Dec. 11) during that stretch.


-- Jeffri Chadiha

Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders
2021 record: 10-7 · AFC West: 2nd


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. All gas, no breaks: The Raiders had better come ready to play, because their first five weeks are treacherous -- Chargers, Cardinals, Titans, Broncos and Chiefs (with three of those contests on the road). Las Vegas then has a bye in Week 6. The Raiders will be happy to get it.
  2. Battle for L.A.: The Rams won the Super Bowl, but there are still plenty of locals in Los Angeles who root for the Raiders. They will make their voices heard in that Week 14 Thursday night matchup.
  3. Patriot games, Round 2: The last time Josh McDaniels was a head coach, his Denver Broncos beat his former team, the New England Patriots, in 2009. The Patriots aren't what they used to be, but any meeting between their former offensive coordinator and New England head coach Bill Belichick makes for good theater. This will be one of the biggest tests for McDaniels in his first season with the Raiders.


-- Jeffri Chadiha

Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers
2021 record: 9-8 · AFC West: 3rd


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. No time wasted: This year's AFC West is widely regarded as the toughest division, top to bottom, in the last decade or more, and the Chargers will get right to it with divisional games against the Raiders and at the Chiefs in the first two weeks. The former offers an opportunity for payback against the club that kept them out of the playoffs with an overtime win in the regular-season finale last season, and the latter has won six consecutive division titles, gone to four consecutive conference finals and appeared in two of the past three Super Bowls, winning one.  
  2. Draft redo? With the fifth pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Miami selected Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa. One selection later, the Chargers chose Justin Herbert. Today, Herbert is considered a star, one of the young faces of the league and a potential MVP. Tagovailoa is considered a work in progress, though he unquestionably has the most talented surrounding cast of his tenure with the Dolphins, particularly with the offseason trade for wideout Tyreek Hill.
  3. Best vs. best? On March 14, the Chargers agreed to terms with J.C. Jackson, the top available cornerback in free agency. Four days later, the Raiders traded for Davante Adams, widely regarded as the top wide receiver in football. Now the two get to face off twice a year. It should be must-see TV, beginning with Week 1.
  4. Fight for L.A.: This one will be personal for all involved, if not for the players and owners, who share the same city and stadium, then between coaching staffs -- Brandon Staley led the Rams' top-ranked defense in 2020 before becoming the Chargers head coach in 2021. This will be the first time the teams have faced off since moving to Los Angeles, and the Chargers are looking to make their mark after the Rams won last season's Super Bowl.


-- Jim Trotter

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys
2021 record: 12-5 · NFC East: 1st


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. The first half of the season will tell us everything about how the Cowboys stack up: They have the Bucs (Week 1), Bengals (Week 2), Rams (Week 5) and Eagles (Week 6), all in the first six weeks. That's a lot of early measuring sticks for a team that enters every season with Super Bowl aspirations. 
  2. And things get much easier: The Cowboys are tied for the easiest strength of schedule based on last year's records, and here is why -- they have the Lions and Bears, both at home in Weeks 7 and 8, the Giants on Thanksgiving and late-season games against the Texans (Week 14) and Jaguars (Week 15). 
  3. Even early exits from the playoffs do not dim the TV interest in the Cowboys: The Cowboys are slated for a whopping 11 appearances in national games -- whether it's the late Sunday afternoon game, prime time or Thanksgiving. 


-- Judy Battista

New York Giants
New York Giants
2021 record: 4-13 · NFC East: 4th


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. The schedulers were not caught up in the excitement from the Giants' draft: The dawn of the new Giants era is apparently not of national interest. Ten of the Giants' games are scheduled for 1 p.m. ET starts. But they will be in one of the most-watched games of every season: the Giants are the Cowboys' foes on Thanksgiving Day. "We don't subscribe to the idea you can draft your way into prime time or the doubleheader window," Katz said. "We go off of last year's record with the hope they are in the process of getting better." 
  2. The schedule is very manageable, especially for a rebuilding team: The Giants have games against the following fellow rebuilders: the Bears (Week 4), Jaguars (Week 7), Texans (Week 10) and Lions (Week 11). Plus games against the Panthers (Week 2) and Seahawks (Week 8), who, at the very least, are likely to enter the season with significant quarterback questions. 
  3. If quarterback Daniel Jones is playing for his job, the final month is not doing him any favors: The Giants play three of their final four on the road (at Commanders in Week 15, at Vikings in Week 16 and at Eagles in Week 18) and have the Colts at home mixed in on Week 17. 


-- Judy Battista

Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles
2021 record: 9-8 · NFC East: 2nd


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. The architect of the "Philly Special" returns to Philly: We all know the "reputation" Eagles fans have, for being harder on players and coaches than any other fan base in the league, and for being extremely vocal about exactly how they feel. (This hometown kid disagrees.) But I'm expecting Doug Pederson's return as head coach of the Jaguars in Week 4 to serve as an example of why a number of Eagles over the years have had a special connection with this fan base. I'm predicting a huge ovation for the former Eagles coach, who brought the city its first Super Bowl win and has a statue outside Lincoln Financial Field. It'll be a special moment in Philly.
  2. Sunday night measuring stick: The Eagles start the season with four games (at Lions, vs. Vikings, at Commanders, vs. Jaguars) against teams that combined for 21 total wins between them in 2021. Then they travel to Arizona, where they'll play a DeAndre Hopkins-less Cardinals team before the biggest test of their young season, a Sunday night showdown on national television against their bitter rivals from Dallas. The Cowboys will provide a prime opportunity for quarterback Jalen Hurts to display the progress he's made a third of the way through his second season as a starter. Not only will this be new receiver A.J. Brown's first experience participating in one of the best rivalries in football, but it'll be his first career game against the Cowboys.
  3. In the mood for revenge? The Eagles will have two chances to secure some in 2022. A.J. Brown, who said it wasn't his fault the Titans traded him to Philadelphia, will face his former team in Week 13. Expect Titans head coach Mike Vrabel to say absolutely nothing all week leading into the game -- but also expect Brown to be motivated to prove a point that Sunday afternoon. Of course, that revenge game will follow The Big One: In Week 10, Carson Wentz will return to Philadelphia for the first time since being traded away to the Colts in 2021, serving this time as quarterback of the Commanders, with the Monday Night Football slot giving the fans a full day of tailgating before Wentz takes the field. If you think back to the ovation I expect Pederson to get ... expect the reaction to Wentz to be the opposite.
  4. Starting a new year against New Orleans: On New Year's Day, the Eagles will host the Saints, and it'll be interesting to see where these two teams find themselves heading into that Week 17 matchup. Whether the Eagles are on the verge of making the playoffs, have already secured a spot or are out of the mix entirely, this could prove to be a game that the Eagles brass holds heavy in the evaluation of Hurts' young career. New Orleans allowed less than 20 points a game last season and has added safety Tyrann Mathieu in the offseason. GM Howie Roseman, meanwhile, has surrounded Hurts with everything he needs to be successful, including the top rushing attack last season, one of the better offensive lines in football and weapons in the passing game.



-- James Palmer

Washington Commanders
2021 record: 7-10 · NFC East: 3rd


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Redemption time: We know which games Commandeers quarterback Carson Wentz can't wait to play. He'll see the team that traded him to Washington (Indianapolis) right before Halloween, and there will be two meetings with the team that drafted him (Philadelphia). Should be fun.
  2. Nice runway: Washington has a great opportunity for a fast start, with three of its first six games coming against teams that combined for 12 wins in 2021 (Jaguars, Lions and Bears). If the Commanders can find a couple wins against the tougher opponents in that stretch -- Philadelphia, Dallas and Tennessee -- they could be 5-1 heading into Week 7.
  3. Winter worries: The Commanders' season might very well come down to their final three games, none of which are easy -- a Saturday night road game at San Francisco, followed by home contests against Cleveland and Dallas. Good thing Washington has a Week 14 bye. They'll need all the rest they can get for that stretch.


-- Jeffri Chadiha

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears
2021 record: 6-11 · NFC North: 3rd


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. New era begins against NFC titans: The Matt Eberflus era kicks off with a bang against a 49ers team that has been to the NFC Championship Game in two of the past three seasons, including a trip to the Super Bowl with Jimmy Garoppolo in the 2019 campaign. While second-year QB Trey Lance figures to be the starter for Kyle Shanahan moving forward, it's an opportunity for "Flus" (pronounced "floose," as people call him) to showcase his new-look 4-3 base defense with defensive coordinator Alan Williams and the foundation of discipline he's been preaching all offseason at Halas Hall. Oh, and second-year QB Justin Fields takes the field for the first time after preparing for an entire offseason as the starter under new innovative offensive play-caller Luke Getsy -- by way of the Packers. Speaking of ...
  2. Getsy returns to Titletown: Getsy has been described by many as brilliant. Many of those players and coaches, of course, stem from his time in Green Bay, where he spent a total of seven seasons as an assistant, with his most recent roles being quarterbacks coach to Aaron Rodgers and pass game coordinator of Green Bay's high-octane offense. In Week 2, he goes back. After some likely pregame pleasantries with his former team, which has won six consecutive home games against the Bears, he'll be tasked for the first time on the road with showcasing Fields' growth in an offense curtailed to his mobility, athleticism, big arm and an overall skill set that justified him being the 11th overall draft pick in 2021. It's a rivalry Getsy knows well, and one he now wants to be on the other side of. 
  3. Welcome back, Lovie! Week 3 could be a somewhat emotional game -- not only for new Texans head coach Lovie Smith, who served as Bears head coach for nine seasons from 2004-2012, but for the fans who adored Lovie given his mark of success on the franchise. Smith is now tasked with resurrecting Houston's football culture -- something he did in Chicago. After a dismal 5-11 record in his first year at the Bears' helm back in 2004, he led the franchise to back-to-back division titles -- ultimately leading them to three total, the last of which included an NFC Championship Game appearance and subsequent loss to the Packers in their 2010 Super Bowl run. Known historically for his outstanding defensive units, and understanding the work ahead of him in repairing the Texans' 31st-ranked unit from a season ago, Smith is tasked with stopping Fields, who'll be eager to show his growth from Year 1 to Year 2.


-- Stacey Dales


Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions
2021 record: 3-13-1 · NFC North: 4th


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. NFC East foes kick off Year 2 of Dan Campbell regime: The Detroit Lions went 3-13 in Dan Campbell's first year as head coach. Week 1 is as marquee as it gets for the Honolulu Blue faithful, regardless of their opponent, who happen in this case to be the Philadelphia Eagles. It's the first time they'll see their second overall pick and hometown hero in edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson (who grew up in Plymouth, Michigan, approximately 25 miles west of Detroit), and, potentially, 12th overall pick and speedster receiver Jameson Williams (who suffered a torn ACL on Jan. 10). It's an opportunity to kick things off on the right foot, unlike last season, when the Lions lost eight straight before their bye week. Given the Eagles' trip to the playoffs in 2021, a Lions win to begin Campbell's second season will undoubtedly restore belief right away at Ford Field. 
  2. A midseason measuring stick: While the Lions went 3-3 to close out the 2021 season, their final win came against the Packers. Yes, Green Bay had already clinched the top seed in the NFC playoffs, and yes, we saw multiple starters either listed as inactive or play sparingly (i.e., Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams did not play in the second half), but it was a necessary moral victory of sorts -- a sign of momentum and growth heading into a pivotal offseason. Had the Lions lost that game, they'd have secured the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Instead, they won and selected second overall, choosing Hutchinson. Understanding the Packers have won the NFC North eight of the last 11 seasons, a win on Nov. 6 would demonstrate tangible growth. Clearly, the first step to making the playoffs a possibility in the North is beating the team in the North -- Green Bay. 
  3. Thanksgiving tilt: It's a holiday every NFL player wants to participate in -- Thanksgiving. Ask most of them, they'll tell you they grew up watching Thanksgiving Day football with their families, eating the family spread and recreating the game in their backyards. The Lions' tradition of playing on the holiday started all the way back in 1934 -- and it's time they start owning it. While the franchise has officially played in 82 turkey day games, they've lost five straight. A win over Bills' Pro Bowl quarterback Josh Allen would be a signature achievement, giving fans just a little more to be thankful for on such a special day of gratitude. 


-- Stacey Dales

Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
2021 record: 13-4 · NFC North: 1st


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Aaron Rodgers vs. the Chicago Bears: Will Aaron Rodgers still dominate Chicago's franchise under its new coaching regime led by defensive-minded first-year head coach Matt Eberflus? Eberflus last faced the two-time reigning MVP in 2020 as the Colts' defensive coordinator; his group held Rodgers without a touchdown in the game's final two quarters and overtime for the win. The oldest rivalry in football comes to a head early in Week 2 in Green Bay. Playoffs included, Rodgers is now 23-5 all time as starter versus Chicago, winning each of his last six starts with 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions in those games. While Rodgers is currently tied with Brett Favre for most wins by any QB against the franchise, the 38-year-old could surpass the Packers' Hall of Fame signal-caller in 2022. Perhaps those Bears fans who flipped Rodgers the bird (that's the middle finger, kids) during last season's Week 6 loss at Soldier Field -- a gesture that ultimately prompted Rodgers' metaphorical declaration of ownership -- will reconsider such body language this time around. The teams face each other on Sept. 18 in Titletown and Dec. 4 in the Windy City. 
  2. AFC East swing brings a familiar face to town: Circle it on your calendar: Nov. 13. That's when the Mike McCarthy-led Dallas Cowboys will pay a visit to the frozen tundra. This will officially be McCarthy's first game against his former squad since being fired in 2018. From 2006 to 2018, he guided the team to nine playoff trips, six NFC North titles and the ultimate prize, a Super Bowl championship in the 2010 season. Despite Packers current head coach Matt LaFleur being the winningest head coach after his first three seasons in NFL history, McCarthy still leads the historic franchise with 10 playoff victories. Rodgers won two MVP seasons under McCarthy, and he has now won two under LaFleur. With storylines galore, the Packers have won eight of their last nine matchups with Dallas; McCarthy is linked to seven of those victories (including playoffs), with his record vs. Dallas as Green Bay's coach being 7-3. 
  3. Rodgers vs. Brady: Rodgers has four MVP titles. Tom Brady has three. Rodgers has one Super Bowl victory. Brady has seven. Rodgers will be 38 years old and Brady 45 when the Packers face the Buccaneers in Week 3. This is what you call a matchup of quarterback royalty. Brady has the winningest record between the two, given his body of work as he enters his 23nd NFL season, and while he has won three of four head-to-head contests against Rodgers, one has to -- no, MUST -- consider the level of redemption Rodgers is seeking after Brady and his Bucs dethroned the Pack on their own field just two seasons ago in the NFC Championship Game. This will be yet another matchup for the ages. (Side note: In games played in the state of Florida, Aaron Rodgers is 3-5 all time. Green Bay plays at Tampa in Week 3 and at Miami in Week 16.) 


-- Stacey Dales

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings
2021 record: 8-9 · NFC North: 2nd


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Double trouble: The odds don't favor 0-2 teams making the playoffs, which is why the Vikings had better be ready for the opening two games. They'll host Green Bay before traveling to Philadelphia for a Monday night matchup. Momentum means plenty early.
  2. Light on heavyweights: This is the kind of schedule a team wants to see when it's transitioning to a new coaching staff. The Vikings will play 10 games against teams that missed the playoffs in 2021. Three of those opponents (Lions, Giants and Jets) were picking in the top 10 of this year's draft.
  3. Can you Diggs it? The Vikings haven't played against wide receiver Stefon Diggs since trading him to Buffalo in 2020. The deal worked out for both franchises -- Diggs has become a star, while Minnesota found a stud wideout in Justin Jefferson -- but this still will be a revealing matchup. The Vikings are trying to improve a horrid pass defense, and they'll be tested early and often by Diggs and Bills quarterback Josh Allen.


-- Jeffri Chadiha

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Falcons
2021 record: 7-10 · NFC South: 3rd


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Early road blues, with home opportunities: Four of the Falcons' first seven games are away, and three of those are against 2021 playoff teams -- including the participants in Super Bowl LVI (the Rams in Week 2 and the Bengals in Week 7). The three home games during that stretch, on the other hand, are against opponents whose projected No. 1 QBs did not finish last season as the starters for their current teams (Jameis Winston's Saints in Week 1, Deshaun Watson's Browns in Week 4 and Trey Lance's 49ers in Week 6).
  2. What ATL could have had? The Falcons failed in their attempt to land Watson this offseason. Presuming he plays, can they succeed in keeping him under wraps on the field when Cleveland comes to the Benz?
  3. Under the lights: Atlanta's only currently scheduled prime-time appearance this season will come on Thursday Night Football in Week 10 -- and it will mark their second game against the Panthers in a span of 11 days.
  4. Late bye, hello: The Falcons' bye comes in Week 14. Could Weeks 15-18 be the stretch in which rookie QB Desmond Ridder takes the field?


-- Steve Wyche

Carolina Panthers
Carolina Panthers
2021 record: 5-12 · NFC South: 4th


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. A chance to set things right at home: The Panthers haven't won at Bank of America Stadium since Sept. 19, 2021. Their first shot to snap that drought will come against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1. If new Browns QB Deshaun Watson (whom the Panthers tried to land this offseason) is playing, it may take him some time to get into a rhythm with his new offense. If he's suspended as a result of the NFL's investigation into sexual assault allegations, Carolina should take advantage of backup Jacoby Brissett. Either way, defensive coordinator Phil Snow's skills will be on display.
  2. Prime-time pressure: The Panthers are scheduled to appear in just one prime-time matchup for the second year in a row, facing the Falcons on Thursday Night Football in Week 10. In last season's TNF showing, Carolina beat the Houston Texans -- then proceeded to lose 12 of its next 14 games. 
  3. Christmas Eve showdown: Offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu, selected sixth overall by the Panthers in the draft, and edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, chosen second overall by the Lions, were both projected to go No. 1 at various points -- and in Week 16, when the Lions come to town, Ekwonu and Hutchinson will finally get a chance to battle it out on an NFL stage.


-- Bridget Condon

New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints
2021 record: 9-8 · NFC South: 2nd


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Gotta get right to it: After seven seasons as Saints defensive coordinator, Dennis Allen takes over as head coach. He has big footsteps to follow in; Sean Payton is not only the winningest coach in franchise history, but someone who took the Saints to their only Super Bowl and helped heal the city's soul post-Katrina. The first two weeks, against Atlanta and Tampa Bay, are significant for him, because there are few things Saints fans take more pleasure in than beating the Falcons, although beating Tom Brady and the Bucs is right up there.
  2. A favorite (adopted) son returns: Joe Burrow has not played a football game in Louisiana since his final season with the LSU Tigers, whom he led to the national championship. He will make his first return to a Bayou field in Week 6, when he and the Bengals come to town. New Orleanians love their Saints, but they also have a special place in their hearts for Joey B. Should be a fun matchup.
  3. Over it, but not over it: Saints fans will never forget the blown non-call in the 2018 NFC Championship Game that allowed the visiting Rams to advance to the Super Bowl. Los Angeles went on to lose that game to the Patriots, scoring just three points and further extending the blade of the knife into New Orleanians' hearts. It is the type of non-call you move on from but never really forget, as fans are sure to remind the Rams in Week 11.


-- Jim Trotter

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2021 record: 13-4 · NFC South: 1st


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. At least Tom Brady changed his mind early: Yes, the scheduling department went back to the beginning with the Bucs' schedule when Brady decided to play on and reverse his decision to retire this offseason, according to Howard Katz, the NFL's senior vice president of broadcasting. The Bucs have a lot of attractive games against premier teams, but Brady's presence made them blockbusters that are sprinkled throughout the season. Tampa Bay is in the national broadcast spotlight 10 times, including the debut Germany game against the Seahawks. 
  2. So nice, they did it twice: Last year, when the Bucs were defending champions, they opened the season by hosting the Dallas Cowboys, to the tune of massive interest and ratings. So the two will open the season against each other again, this time in Dallas on the first Sunday night of the season. 
  3. A fast start for new coach Todd Bowles will be important: The first month of the season is the toughest part for Tampa. The Bucs open at the Cowboys and then go to the Saints, who have beaten the Bucs in all four regular-season meetings that Brady has played in. That is followed by home games against the Packers, an NFC Super Bowl contender, and the Chiefs, an AFC Super Bowl contender. 
  4. If this is Brady's last season, at least we will get one game for posterity against Joe Burrow: Brady against the quarterback who is most often compared to him in Week 15, with both the Bucs and the Bengals likely pushing for playoff spots. We'll take it. 


-- Judy Battista

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals
Arizona Cardinals
2021 record: 11-6 · NFC West: 2nd


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. The division race could take shape early: Arizona will play five of its six NFC West games by Thanksgiving, including a three-week November stretch versus Seattle, at the Rams, and against the 49ers in Mexico City. It's critical the Cardinals do well early because: 1) They have not finished strong in recent years, going 1-4, 2-5, 2-7 and 1-7 down the stretch the last four seasons; 2) Three of their final five games are against 2021 playoff teams (New England, Tampa Bay and San Francisco) and another is against Denver, which has powerhouse potential; and 3) All but one of their final four games are on the road.
  2. Finding comfort in disappointment: The schedule could have been significantly worse for Arizona, which will be without star wideout DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games while he serves a league suspension. By facing the Raiders and Chiefs the first two weeks, the Cardinals can ease into the adjustment, to some degree. The Kansas City defense is going through a transition and will have at least two new starters in the secondary, including a rookie, and the Raiders' secondary not only was far from imposing against the pass last season, ranking last in interceptions, but also will be adjusting to a new system after a change in coaching staff.
  3. Reacquaintance tour starts early: After failing to secure the lucrative extension he was seeking from the Cardinals, Chandler Jones, the franchise's all-time sacks leader, will get an opportunity in Week 2 in Las Vegas to remind them of the impactful performer they allowed to get away. Six weeks after that, cornerback Patrick Peterson, who has openly expressed his displeasure about how his departure from Arizona was handled in 2021, will face off against get his former team for the second time when Arizona plays at Minnesota.


-- Jim Trotter

Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Rams
2021 record: 12-5 · NFC West: 1st


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Defending Super Bowl champs get tested from the jump: The Rams enter 2022 with the hardest strength of schedule in the NFL. Los Angeles' defense will be pushed in the 2022 NFL Kickoff Game, when Josh Allen and the Bills come to town. Von Miller, who racked up four sacks for the Rams in last season's playoffs, including two in Super Bowl LVI, will enter SoFi Stadium on the opposite sideline, having signed with Buffalo over the offseason -- and the Rams should start working on a solution to stop him now. 
  2. Bye week offers an early benchmark: The Rams have a chance to accumulate some wins before the Week 7 bye, with a golden opportunity to notch a divisional victory against a Cardinals team that will be without suspended receiver DeAndre Hopkins in Week 3. The Rams could create breathing room for themselves heading into a tough post-bye slate, which includes games at the Buccaneers (Week 9), at the Chiefs (Week 12), vs. the Raiders (Week 14), at the Packers (Week 15), vs. the Broncos (Week 16) and at the Chargers (Week 17). Early success will be necessary.
  3. Playoff revenge? The Rams will face three of their four 2021 playoff opponents this season (the Cardinals in Weeks 3 and 10, the Buccaneers in Week 9 and the 49ers in Weeks 4 and 8) -- and they can expect those teams to be out for payback. Everyone in the league, in fact, will be coming for the defending champs, especially, presumably, former NFC West star Russell Wilson, who will visit the Rams with his new team, the Broncos, on Christmas Day. 


-- Bridget Condon

San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers
2021 record: 10-7 · NFC West: 3rd


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Draft redo? The 49ers traded away three No. 1s for the right to move up and draft QB Trey Lance third overall last year, passing on Justin Fields in the process. Lance is expected to be the full-time starter this season after backing up Jimmy Garoppolo in 2021, and it just so happens that his first start as The Guy (he had a couple of starts last year) will be against Fields and the Bears. 
  2. Why? The schedule-makers get so many things right, but they botched matching the 49ers and Rams against each other twice in October. This is one of the better rivalries in football. It transcends generations. And the fact that Los Angeles beat San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game last season only heightens the anticipation for their meetings this year. One of these games should have been saved for Week 18, just as it was last season.
  3. Homeward bound: Tom Brady grew up attending 49ers games in Candlestick Park but has played against his former hometown team just three times in 22 seasons, the last being Nov. 20, 2016. This could be his final game against his boyhood team, barring a playoff meeting or Brady returning for a 24th season. This needs to be said, as well: Brady's competitiveness is legendary. He holds onto slights, real and imagined, the way a miser holds on to his last dollar. So no matter what he says, do believe he has never forgotten that the 49ers drafted QB Giovanni Carmazzi in the third round in 2000, three rounds before the Patriots selected him. Brady is the type who would love nothing more than to leave the 49ers with one more That'll show ya!


-- Jim Trotter

Seattle Seahawks
Seattle Seahawks
2021 record: 7-10 · NFC West: 4th


Three marquee matchups:


Biggest takeaways:

  1. Russ' return: Russell Wilson's Week 1 homecoming with the Broncos on Monday Night Football to the place where he launched his great career will be emotional -- but you also would think that, by game's end, he'll be wanting to shout "Let's Ride" where he used to exclaim "Go 'Hawks."
  2. Half a dozen early chances: In the first six weeks of the season, while the Seahawks are trying to figure themselves out, they'll face three teams breaking in new QBs (Wilson and the Broncos in Week 1, Trey Lance and the 49ers in Week 2 and Marcus Mariota and the Falcons in Week 3), along with the developing Lions (Week 4), the Saints, who will be led by new head coach Dennis Allen (Week 5) and a Cardinals team that will be without suspended receiver DeAndre Hopkins. There will be opportunities to steal Ws.
  3. Cross fit: First-round pick Charles Cross gets quite the baptism by fire in the first eight weeks of his career as an NFL offensive lineman. Pass rushers he'll face out the gate: Denver's Randy Gregory (Week 1), San Francisco's Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead (Week 2), Detroit's Aidan Hutchinson (Week 4), Arizona's J.J. Watt (Week 6), the Los Angeles Chargers' Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa (Week 7) and the New York Giants' Kayvon Thibodeaux (Week 8). 
  4. Going long distance: Seattle will travel 5,283 miles to face Tampa Bay in the NFL's first game in Germany in Week 10. And the Bucs, who play at home in the Eastern time zone in Week 9, will have fewer time zones to adjust for, body-clock-wise, than the Seahawks, who play against Arizona in the Mountain time zone that week.
  5. The HOME stretch: Seattle finishes the season with five of its final seven games at home. We'll know by this point if the Seahawks will be playing competitive ball -- if they are, the home crowd will be an advantage few teams have.


-- Steve Wyche

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