The 2022 NFL schedule is upon us, and now we march towards fall. With the draft in the rear view mirror, and training camp ahead of us, we wait to see how rosters around the league will settle before the start of the league year.
This year gives us some truly fascinating matchups, and these are the games I’m circling on the calendar as can’t-miss. Regardless of who your favorite team is, anyone who likes football should be waiting for these.
Bills vs. Chiefs — Week 6
Hell yeah I’ll take a rematch of the AFC Divisional Playoff game between these two, which was without a doubt the best game of the year.
While that game only took place in January, the complexion of this matchup looks entirely different. The Chiefs had some major retooling to do after trading away Tyreek Hill, while the Bills are more or less the same team that pushed Kansas City to the limit earlier this year.
This could be a serious litmus test in the AFC to see if the Bills are ready to win it all and head to the Super Bowl, or whether they’re still struggling to get over that hump.
Dolphins vs. 49ers — Week 13
I’m a sucker for matchups between coaches, and no game this year will be as fascinating from a coach vs. coach perspective than this one. You have Kyle Shanahan leading the 49ers, now with Trey Lance at the helm — taking on his protege in Mike McDaniel, entering his first year as Dolphins head coach.
These two have spent years together. They know each other intently. McDaniel orchestrated San Francisco’s offense, and knows every player on that team, while Shanahan understands McDaniel’s tendencies. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Dolphins look, how the Niners play with Lance leading them, and watch the jousting match between the two coaches.
Browns vs. Texans — Week 13
This one needs no explanation, but naturally it’s all about Deshaun Watson. The Browns are convinced that Watson will get them over the hump and into the Super Bowl, while the Texans are rebuilding.
That said, Houston might have been bad in 2021, but they were more competitive that people expected. There’s every chance they could take a big step forward in 2022, especially if Davis Mills ends up being what the team hopes he can be.
Meanwhile, assuming Watson isn’t suspended by the NFL, this game is a litmus test for Cleveland’s chances to make a run. They’ll want to win, and win big.
Bengals vs. Buccaneers — Week 15
I like the age matchup here, not dissimilar to the Super Bowl between the Bengals and Rams. I know Cincinnati’s appearance in the big game was seen as an outlier, but I think it can become a staple of this franchise as it moves forward.
This game will take strides to deciding that. If the young Bengals can hang with Tom Brady and the Bucs it will go a long way to make people believe they’re here to stay.
Chiefs vs. Broncos — Week 14
The pressure is on Russell Wilson to prove he can get Denver to the point it can hang with the AFC West’s best. It’s unfair to have the expectation that the Broncos can win the division immediately and make a deep playoff run, after all Peyton Manning lost early in the playoffs during his first season in Denver.
However, there is the belief, at least from fans, that this team was a top-tier quarterback away, not just from a playoff run, but challenging for the AFC Championship. None of that happens without getting through the Chiefs, and it will be on Wilson to prove he is the difference maker the team believed him to be when they made their big trade.
Rams vs. Chiefs — Week 12
These two teams are the measuring stick by which their respective divisions are measured — even now. Both are considered Super Bowl contenders, and we’ll get a great sense of where the power lies in the NFL when these teams meet.
Furthermore, the relative strength of this matchup holds significance for other teams in the NFC and AFC. How each of these teams looks could help us work out whether the power still lies in these teams, or if its shifted to the Bills, Buccaneers, or another team we’re not expecting.