The NFL has done it again.
With four months left before the regular season begins, why should anyone be thinking about football right now? Well, the league released its full 2022 schedule on Thursday. So, of course, we have to dissect it from all angles.
When you’re skimming through the slate looking for the best games, there are certain contests you stop and stare at. Instead of making you go through it all game by game, I’ll make it easy for you by going through the best matchups.
Here are the 10 most anticipated games on the 2022 NFL schedule (listed in order of date):
Bills at Rams, Week 1 (Sept. 8)
The 2022 season starts with a banger. The Bills were 13 seconds away from a trip to the AFC Championship Game in January, which could’ve set up a Super Bowl battle with the Rams. Now, these two powerhouse teams get a chance to face off.
Los Angeles will receive its Super Bowl rings and former Ram Von Miller, who signed with the Bills in March, will be there to get his. The Rams reloaded after losing Miller, signing Allen Robinson and Bobby Wagner. The Bills brought back most of their roster, plus they added Miller, O.J. Howard and others. On paper, this is the best opening night matchup in recent memory.
Broncos at Seahawks, Week 1 (Sept. 12)
The final game of Week 1 on Monday Night Football will see Russell Wilson make his Broncos debut. Adding fuel to the fire, he’ll play that game against his former team of 10 years in the city he called home. Just imagine the hype videos that Mr. Unlimited will post in the lead-up to this game. It will also be the regular season debut for Joe Buck and Troy Aikman at ESPN.
While the Seahawks aren’t expected to compete this season, there are elements of the team that could make this a great game. They obviously know Wilson better than anyone, and Seattle head coach Pete Carroll will want to prove that he won the divorce.
Chiefs at Buccaneers, Week 4 (Oct. 4)
Could this be the final battle between Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady? Even if it feels like Brady will play forever, these out-of-conference teams don’t play often outside of the Super Bowl. Brady is currently 3-2 against Mahomes, including wins in Super Bowl LIV and the 2018 AFC Championship Game.
To make this game even bigger, it’ll be on NBC for Sunday Night Football. Last year, Brady visited the Patriots on SNF in Week 4. The schedule-makers just love putting the GOAT in the spotlight for Week 4, apparently.
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Bengals at Ravens, Week 5 (Oct. 11)
The AFC North is sure to be a dogfight this season, with all four teams having a realistic expectation to claim the crown. Cincinnati is arguably the favorite, considering they won it last year before advancing to the Super Bowl. Baltimore was just 8-9 last season, but it battled injuries at many key positions.
With this game on Sunday Night Football, it’s sure to be a thriller. Lamar Jackson – still in search of a contract extension – has surely heard the noise all offseason about how good Joe Burrow is. He’ll want to show why he’s a former MVP, and why this could be the next great AFC North rivalry after years of Ravens-Steelers battles.
Bills at Chiefs, Week 6 (Oct. 16)
The team that ripped Buffalo’s heart out last season? That was the Chiefs, who now get another crack at the Bills on their home turf. Josh Allen and the Bills will have revenge on their mind, while Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will want to prove they still own this rivalry.
These teams could be on a collision course for another postseason matchup, making this game all the more crucial for playoff tiebreakers. It’s not in prime time, with a 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday kickoff set, but all eyes will be on Buffalo-Kansas City.
Cowboys at Packers, Week 10 (Nov. 13)
This mid-season matchup should be a good one. Two historic franchises, two teams with Super Bowl aspirations and a picture-perfect uniform matchup at Lambeau Field. Not to mention Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy will make his first visit to Green Bay since he was fired by the franchise in 2018.
At this point in the season, both teams should be fighting for postseason positioning. While the game isn’t in prime time (kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m. ET), there’s no doubt that this will be the highest-rated game of Week 10.
Chargers at 49ers, Week 10 (Nov. 13)
A rematch of Super Bowl XXIX, these two California teams both expect to get back to the big stage this season. They’ll be in the spotlight in Week 10 on Sunday Night Football in an exciting AFC-NFC matchup.
The Chargers missed the playoffs last year, but Justin Herbert is a top tier quarterback and the team around him continues to improve. The 49ers, meanwhile, still have questions about their quarterbacks, though it might not matter. Whether it’s Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance, this roster is ready to compete now.
Patriots at Raiders, Week 15 (Dec. 18)
We couldn’t leave Bill Belichick and the Patriots completely off this list. New England’s most intriguing battle of 2022 comes on Sunday Night Football the week before Christmas, when they visit old friend Josh McDaniels and the Raiders.
The Patriots and Raiders are both solid teams. No one expects them to challenge the AFC’s elite like the Chiefs and Bills, but they both are aiming for wild card berths – which they both earned last season. Now, Patriots’ signal caller Mac Jones has another year of experience and the Raiders added star WR Davante Adams and LB Chandler Jones. Sign me up for this game.
Eagles at Cowboys, Week 16 (Dec. 24)
Philadelphia and Dallas are the two best teams in the NFC East, making this late-season matchup potentially critical. These two franchises (and fanbases) don’t like each other, and with the playoffs on the line this could be a chippy game.
The Eagles are one of the offseason’s big winners, adding WR A.J. Brown and a number of other key pieces. The Cowboys have lost more than they’ve gained, but they still hold the division crown until someone takes it from them.
Rams at Broncos, Week 16 (Dec. 25)
Russell Wilson is familiar with the Rams after facing them twice per season for the last 10 years. Now, he’ll do it with a completely different squad – and he’ll do it on Christmas Day. The game will kick off at 4:30 p.m. ET, so you’ll have plenty of time to open your presents.
If you hadn’t already noticed, I’m a huge fan of out-of-conference games just because we aren’t used to seeing these teams play. Both the Rams and Broncos should be in the postseason mix, and there’s an outside shot at this being a Super Bowl preview.