The NFL just loves the attention, doesn’t it?
We are in the quietest part of the year for the league. The draft has passed and practices are still quite a ways out. This is the time of the year when the NBA, MLB, and NHL get to shine. Except the NFL decided to release its schedule (and make a huge deal about it) right now instead of giving the other leagues a chance to dominate the headlines for once. How selfish of you, NFL.
But just because I believe what the league is doing is a bit petty doesn’t mean I’m not going to partake in the discussion surrounding the new schedule. With all 272 games now announced, here are my picks for the ten most interesting games of the 2022 NFL season (while trying to get some variety in there so it isn’t all the Chiefs, Bills, and Rams).
Broncos at Seahawks on MNF, Week 1
The Drew Lock revenge game. That’s what we’re calling it, right? While it isn’t clear yet if Lock will even be the starter for Seattle, it is set in stone who will be taking snaps for the other team. Russell Wilson will get to take on his former team in his first game with his new team. The NFL just loves the drama, doesn’t it? Watching the best quarterback in franchise history face that team is always a big deal. Watching that quarterback take on his former team in the first week of the season is a massive deal. Watching that game happen while the two actual biggest acquisitions of the offseason (Joe Buck and Troy Aikman) call the game on Monday Night Football makes it even more spectacular.
Patriots at Steelers, Week 2
I promise that some of these games will be on the list for actual on-field reasons and this is one of them. It is always an intriguing time when a rookie quarterback goes up against Bill Belichick. He is the greatest defensive mind in NFL history and has done exceptionally well going up against rookie signal-callers in his career. Pittsburgh rookie Kenny Pickett, assuming he is the starter, will have a tough task ahead of him in the Patriots’ defense in this matchup. The game happening so early in the season will also give it more impactful ramifications. If Pickett goes out there and plays well it could be the first step in a very good rookie season and beyond. If he struggles then it could forecast a bumpy ride for the Steelers in 2022.
Packers at Bucs, Week 3
On June 1st, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers will team up to play golf in Capital One’s The Match but in week three of the NFL season, they will be back to rivals. Anytime these two legends play against each other it is fun, especially considering it has happened far less than Brady’s matchup with other icons at the position. Those two were arguably the two best passers in the league last year despite their advanced age. This game will be a great reminder to everybody to not let age get in the way of achieving your goals. It will also be a matchup of two potential championship contenders that could have tiebreaker ramifications later in the season.
Chiefs at Bucs on SNF, Week 4
A rematch of the worst game of his life should have Patrick Mahomes playing at his best when he takes on the Buccaneers this season. We saw these two teams square off in the Super Bowl two seasons ago and it wasn’t what people would call a good football game. Hopefully, it will be more competitive this time around. If Kansas City has done a lot to improve its offensive line since that game so this will be the true test to see if they have upgraded enough.
Bills at Chiefs, Week 7
I would watch the Bills and Chiefs play every week for 18 straight weeks and I know I am not alone. Buffalo’s plea to get the league to change this to a 59-minute and 47-second long game instead of the usual 60 minutes may not be granted so the Bills will have to make sure they don’t have a massive collapse again. The biggest selling point of this game is the battle between the two brightest stars in the league in Mahomes and Josh Allen. They are poised to be the Brady and Peyton Manning of their generation so expect the exhilarating games, both regular season and playoff, to come.
Rams at Bucs, Week 9
These two teams had a memorable game in the playoffs last season when we almost saw an all-time comeback orchestrated by Brady and the Bucs. Instead, Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp led the Rams to victory and eventually a Super Bowl. The NFC is considered much weaker this year than in previous seasons so this could end up serving as a conference championship prologue. If both of these teams do end up being at the top of the conference this season then it is quite unlikely that this game will disappoint.
Chargers at 49ers on SNF, Week 10
This matchup has the feeling of two younger brothers fighting to finally be taken seriously. Even though the 49ers have had playoff success in recent years and the Chargers have future superstar Justin Herbert at quarterback, neither of these teams are amongst the elite teams in the league. Now, either team could be in that conversation by the time they take the field for this game which would make it an even bigger deal. The winner of this game will make a statement that they deserve to be taken seriously this season and could pose a threat as the best team in the state of California.
Chiefs at Bengals, Week 13
The Chiefs are involved in a lot of the top games of the season but none may be more important to them than this one. The Bengals toppled the Chiefs last year to advance to the Super Bowl so Mahomes and company will be out for revenge against Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and the rest of the Bengals. Burrow has started to throw his name into the best young quarterback in football conversation and s second straight victory over Mahomes will do a lot to bolster his case. This will also be a major moment for the Bengals as they attempt to avoid a Super Bowl hangover and prove that last season wasn’t a fluke. This is obviously a massive game for both teams and one that we could see again in the postseason.
Broncos at Rams on Christmas Day, Week 16
For most of us, we will be spending this day opening up presents. Russell Wilson may end up receiving the gift of Aaron Donald in his face for 60 minutes. Wilson is very familiar with the Rams from his time in the NFC West and this will be his first time facing them while not on the Seahawks. This will be the biggest indicator of whether he is better off in Denver than he was in Seattle. The Rams consistently ravaged Seattle’s offensive line, leading to a lot of meetings between Wilson and Donald. Obviously, Wilson is hoping that his new team will do a better job of protecting him than the Seahawks in recent years. This will also be a chance for the Broncos to prove themselves as a team worthy of being a Super Bowl contender while the Rams will have the opportunity to improve their resume by adding another quality win.
Rams at Chargers on SNF, Week 17
The battle of LA should be a fun matchup of two teams that will be looking toward the playoffs at this point in the season. The shared city and arena aren’t the only throughlines between these two teams, though. Chargers head coach Brandon Staley was the Rams; defensive coordinator up until last offseason. The Rams were already the alpha team in Los Angeles before winning the Super Bowl, so now the Chargers find themselves with an even steeper hill to climb if they want to become the premier team in the city. Defeating the reigning Super Bowl champs in this matchup will be a good step toward doing that and will also give them some momentum heading into the playoffs. Also, if both teams get their entire fanbases to show up they might actually be able to fill up that giant stadium they play in.
Bonus Game: Jaguars at Jets on TNF, Week 16
You may have noticed a theme with these games that they are all actually good football games. You may have also noticed that this game is not a good football game. Well, that is why it is a bonus game and not on the list. But I wanted to mention the Jags and Jets because it feels like these two teams will be forever linked by their sucking. This will also be a meeting between Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson. Those two will always be compared because of their draft positions. Wilson took the first matchup last year so Lawrence will be out for revenge this time around. This game could also have implications for the draft order but not in a good way. Hopefully, neither team will be jockeying for the first overall pick again, though.