Bit by bit, the National Football League has been teasing its 2022 schedule. But what had been a trickle of information turned into a flood Thursday night.
In the latest line of non-events that the NFL has manufactured into a made-for-television production, the league released its complete 18-week regular-season schedule.
We have known the opponents each team will face since the end of last season. The league also previously announced its five International Series games, which should all be yawners.
The league even gave us a peak into its Christmas Day lineup by announcing earlier this week that the Denver Broncos will face the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.
Now that every date is set, let’s take a look at the 10 most intriguing games on the 2022 schedule:
10. Broncos at Rams, Dec. 25 (CBS/Nickelodeon)
This game is getting a lot of hype because the Rams are the champions and quarterback Russell Wilson joined the Broncos in the biggest move of the offseason. But let’s see how important this game is by December. A lot of people are assuming Wilson will come in and win a Super Bowl like Peyton Manning did. Guess what? Wilson is not Manning.
9. Patriots at Raiders, Dec. 18 (NBC)
This game takes on special meaning not due to “Sunday Night Football” but because it matches Las Vegas coach Josh McDaniels against his mentor, Bill Belichick. McDaniels was a shooting star on Belichick’s staff before getting a chance to be a head coach in Denver. After another stint under Belichick, McDaniels might approach things differently.
8. Broncos at Seahawks, Sept. 12 (ESPN)
Just like the Christmas Day game, this contest will receive too much hype. That’s all because of Wilson, and it happens Week 1. He spent 10 seasons in Seattle before forcing the Seahawks to trade him in the offseason. That has made him an unpopular figure in Seattle, but it’s hard to imagine fans falling in love with Drew Lock or Geno Smith.
7. Bengals at Browns, Oct. 31 (ESPN)
Admit it, you thought you never would see this matchup on a top 10 list. But it is. That’s because Joe Burrow is the “in” thing in Cincinnati, Baker Mayfield is on the verge of being out in Cleveland and Deshaun Watson will be trying to resurrect his career and make the Browns into a playoff contender.
6. Bengals at Ravens, Oct. 9 (NBC)
Burrow is the big story in the AFC North, and he should be after leading the Bengals to the Super Bowl. But let’s not forget about Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson. He still is one of the most dangerous players in the league.
5. Rams at Buccaneers, Nov. 6 (CBS)
To say the schedule makers had to scramble when Tom Brady announced he was unretiring would be an understatement. This game initially had Sunday at 1 p.m. ET written all over it. But any game in which Brady is on the field is a big game and this is a matchup of the last two Super Bowl champions.
4. Packers at Bills, Oct. 30 (NBC)
This is football the way it was meant to be played — outdoors in late fall, between two teams quite familiar with cold temperatures. Plus, it could mark a passing of the torch. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has won two straight Most Valuable Player awards, but Buffalo’s Josh Allen is in the next generation of great quarterbacks.
3. Chiefs at Buccaneers, Oct. 2 (NBC)
This is a rematch of Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium. In that game, Brady and the Bucs dominated the Chiefs on the way to a 31-9 win. But Brady has to give up his throne at some point (doesn’t he?) and Patrick Mahomes looks like he’s next in line.
2. Bills at Chiefs, Oct. 16 (CBS)
A flip of the coin is really all that separated these two teams in last year’s postseason. That was so controversial that it prompted the NFL to change its postseason overtime rules. There’s a very good chance that whoever wins this game will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
1. Bills at Rams, Sept. 8 (NBC)
At least on paper and at the moment, these are the two best teams in the NFL. If that’s true, the first game of the NFL season could serve as a Super Bowl preview. Back-to-back championships with the Rams would make people forget Matthew Stafford was ever with Detroit. Getting the Bills to the Super Bowl, where they haven’t been since the 1993 season, firmly would establish Allen as one of the league’s best quarterbacks.
–By Pat Yasinskas, Field Level Media