Hats off to the NFL. It sure does know how to sell your product. Not only has the league turned the combine and draft into massive spectacles, it’s also managed to make its full schedule release into a major event, too.
Opponents and locations have been known for months. Leaks confirming dates trickled in throughout the morning. Yet the NFL was still able to turn its prime into a buzzy-time-scheduled event. The whole production has been a big win for content (like this very blog post you’re reading), the NFL, team social media managers taking their most ambitious (and impressive) swings, and the networks who will air games:
Everybody wins—except the sports fan whose appetite isn’t fulfilled by basketball, hockey, soccer, or baseball. Those starved aficionados will have to wait until September 8, when the defending champ Rams host the betting favorite Bills to open the new season in a potential Super Bowl preview. In the meantime, here are five takeaways from the 2022 schedule release:
Prepare for awkward encounters in Week 1.
One of quintessential pieces of NFL offseason content is Danny Heifetz’s QB Commitment Index. This year, Heifetz described the pairing of the Broncos and Russell Wilson as “Hot and Heavy.” For the opening Monday Night Football game of the season, Wilson and the Broncos will debut their partnership in front of the jilted lover, the Seattle Seahawks … in Seattle! As Steven Ruiz recently detailed, the Seahawks are entering a post-Wilson rebound phase with Drew Lock and Geno Smith set to battle for the starting gig. It will be strange seeing Wilson on the opposite sideline from Seattle. In prime time, we’ll learn whether Wilson or the Seahawks hold any hard feelings.
This is forecasting a bit, but the Browns will travel to face the Panthers in Week 1. Cleveland still rosters Baker Mayfield, whom Carolina reportedly hasn’t “100 [percent] shut” the door on trading for. There’s still a chance that Mayfield is granted a trade prior to the season and he ends up with Carolina, which would make for another revenge game right out of the gate.
There are also a couple of other smaller grudge matches to open the season. The Rams will host Von Miller, who signed with Buffalo after winning the Super Bowl with LA last season. Commanders QB Carson Wentz also faces the Jaguars, who knocked Wentz and the Colts out of playoff contention last season.
Christmas football? Christmas football!
The NFL is once again crashing your Christmas traditions with a triple-header of warm-climate matchups: The Bucs will visit the Cardinals; the Packers will visit the Dolphins; and the Broncos will visit the Rams in a game that will be aired on Nickelodeon.
The NFL is effectively doing its best to overtake or join the yearly rotations of NBA and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Last year, the Shield comfortably dominated its sports contemporaries; Browns-Packers (28.59 million viewers) and Colts-Cardinals (12.62 million) were head-and-shoulders ahead of the NBA’s quadruple set of matchups.
The Chiefs and Rams face steep climbs back to the Super Bowl.
Based on projected win totals, the Chiefs and Rams have the hardest 2022 schedules:
updated strength of schedule
as the betting market changes, so does SOS
this is updated as of today
teams with the easiest shift from 2021 ➡️ 2022?
teams with the hardest shift from 2021 ➡️ 2022?
more: https://t.co/vsnYUpH4tr pic.twitter.com/nGyufbfPr3
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) May 12, 2022
Let’s start with the Chiefs. Kansas City is a perennial contender with Patrick Mahomes and Co. having reached the AFC championship in each of the past four seasons, including two Super Bowl appearances and one championship. But with the AFC West turning into the most exciting—and most difficult—division in football, the Chiefs’ path is clouded. Add in contests against playoff-caliber teams such as the Colts, Bucs, Bills, Titans, Rams, and Bengals, and it’s easy to see why Kansas City’s schedule is rated very difficult.
A late-season, two-game measuring stick with back-to-back weeks against champs, I’m told.
– Chiefs get the Super Bowl champion Rams Week 12
– Chiefs get the AFC champion Bengals Week 13
— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) May 12, 2022
On paper, the defending champion Rams have it only a little easier. The NFC West might not be as tough as it was a few years ago, but Los Angeles will also face the Bills (season opener), Packers, Broncos, and Chargers (weeks 15 through 17, respectively). If the Rams are going to repeat, they will need to overcome a tough regular-season slate.
Germany gets the GOAT.
One of the first teams that comes to mind when thinking about the NFL in London is the Jaguars, who have two (2) winning seasons since the league started playing games there in 2007. Jags fans stateside took issue with the franchise’s scheduling in 2020, when the team played two man games in London. And while the fans across the pond didn’t protest, it’s easy to make the case that London-based NFL fans shouldn’t have been subjected to a double dose of a one-win team.
When the NFL first pondered expanding its overseas footprint into Germany, perhaps you figured a lowly franchise from the East Coast, such as the Jets or Giants (sorry, y’all), would have been the pick. Instead, the NFL is sending its greatest player ever in Tom Brady, who will lead a good Bucs squad against a decent opponent in the Seahawks.
And, of course, with Brady visiting Munich, history will be on the line. The 44-year-old could become the first QB to win a game in four different countries, having already won in the United States, Mexico, and England. As if he doesn’t have enough records—on the field and off of it—already.
New broadcasting crews will get plenty of chances to warm up.
This offseason, there’s been almost as much turnover among broadcast teams as there was among NFL teams. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have moved from Fox to ESPN to become the new faces of Monday Night Football. Kevin Burkhardt will replace Buck as the no. 1 play-by-play voice on Fox, though it’s unclear who will join him in the booth. NBC has elevated Mike Tirico to be the play-by-play voice of Sunday Night Football. Tirico replaces broadcasting legend Al Michaels, who will now do Amazon Prime Video’s play-by-play alongside longtime college football voice Kirk Herbstreit.
That’s a lot of change, and it might take some time to get used to. Amazon is breaking into this space as holders of the weekly TNF games and will broadcast all 15 of the league’s regular-season midweek contests. Fans of the Giants, Vikings, and Lions are the only ones who won’t need to find access to Amazon Prime at some point this season; the other 29 teams will play at least one game aired on the streaming service.