The schedule has been revealed. Are you not entertained? Can you not feel the power? Will you feel a little hollow these next 11 months until schedule-release month arrives again?
Sure, this is all a little silly, but it does give us a bit more fodder to consider as we size up a 2022 season that is still nearly a third of a year away (here's the full NFL schedule). Undoubtedly, there are coaches and general managers out there who believe they got screwed, and any number of their rivals receiving an easier journey than what they will have to undertake. That's baked into the cake at this point.
There are a few things that caught my attention upon beginning to really size up the schedule. I'm focused on teams that I believe have a chance to compete at least for a wild card spot, because otherwise they have much bigger issues to address than their schedule, and this would just be a waste of space. Perhaps the Jaguars got totally hosed and had ridiculous road trips thrust upon them and play successive teams coming off a bye four weeks in a row.
If so, it's probably all justified for having the nerve and temerity and nativity to foist Urban Meyer upon the NFL last year. But I've not got time for that now. We are looking for critical areas of certain schedules or quirks that could end up impacting the games that really matter most in January and February.
Here are a few thoughts:
- Definitely a trend of teams facing every team in a particular division four straight weeks. Baltimore battles the entire AFC East in the first four weeks of the season. Dallas goes through the entire NFC North between Weeks 7-11, with a bye tucked in the middle. Seems to me this doesn't happen all that often, but is a feature in 2022.
- Of the 12 teams that will appear a maximum of five times in prime time, I anticipate America getting sick of watching a couple of them – Cowboys and Patriots – soon enough. Not high on their offseasons. The Pats play Thanksgiving at the Vikings then again the following Thursday (Bills) and the following Monday night (Cardinals) and then on a Sunday night (Raiders). Good grief. Overkill.
- Speaking of the Cowboys -- someone check on Mike McCarthy around Halloween. It could get rough early. They host the Bucs and Bengals, go to the Giants, host Washington and then travel to the Rams and Eagles. Smells like 2-4. Not great.
- On the other hand, the NFL gave the 49ers a Trey Lance cushion. He gets to ease into his first year as a starter against the Bears, Seahawks, and also gets the Panthers and Falcons within the first six weeks.
- The Titans better stack a bunch of wins before their Week 6 bye, because it gets rough after that. They host the Colts, go to Houston, then at K.C., host Denver, at Green Bay, host Cincy, at Philly. The takes them into mid-December and I wonder if Malik Willis' workload starts increasing.
- After a tough stretch early on against the Dolphins, Patriots, Bills and Bengals (Week 5), the Ravens face just three teams that reached the playoffs a year ago, FWIW, which includes the Steelers (now sans Ben Roethlisberger) twice. Things set up pretty nicely for them, and after a Week 10 bye they don't have another road game more than a two-hour flight away.
- Remains to be seen when Deshaun Watson will make his regular-season debut, and how long he will be suspended, but I can't help but wonder if a Week 9 bye is any sort of indication. They face the Bengals on a Monday night in Week 8.
- The Bucs face a challenge between Weeks 10-14. They face Seattle in Munich, fly back for their bye, then are at Cleveland, home to the Saints who always play them tough and then head all the way to San Francisco. That's a lot of plane rides to a bunch of different time zones in a short period of time, and then, two weeks later, it's out to Arizona. Could take a toll on an older team right ahead of the playoffs.
- Interesting December/January for the Chiefs. Three straight road games – Bengals, Broncos, Texans – and then they host the Seahawks and Broncos and go to Vegas.