Analysis and a bold prediction for all 32 teams
May 12, 2022
The 2022 NFL schedule was released on Thursday.
Stafford and the Rams will kick off the NFL season Thursday, Sept. 8, by hosting the Buffalo Bills. ESPN’s Monday Night Football opener is Sept. 12 and will feature Russell Wilson‘s debut with the Denver Broncos hosting his former team, the Seattle Seahawks.
Based on strength of schedule — which is determined by opponents’ records in 2021 — the Rams have the toughest schedule of the 2022 season and the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Commanders tie for the easiest.
The NFL expanded to 17 regular-season games last season. The final regular-season games for the 2022 season will be played Jan. 8, 2023. The playoffs begin Jan. 14 and continue through Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona. Here’s a bold prediction from each team after the schedule release. Click the links to view the complete schedule and for more analysis.
The Bills winning the AFC East for a third straight year is not a bold prediction. This is a trend. Instead, focus on the difficult start to the season. Five playoff teams will be playing in the first seven games, with the Ravens and Dolphins traveling on the road. It’s not an easy task, but Buffalo will manage to get at least 5-2 through this stretch. This sets up well for the rest. Read more from Alaina Getzenberg
The Dolphins will start the season 8-2 through their first 10 games. The stretch that will start the season is difficult, but it’s also filled with winnable games. If Mike McDaniel’s system is successful and Miami starts well, the season can begin on a high note. Read more from Marcel Louis-Jacques
The Patriots will need to beat the Bills in the regular-season finale to secure a playoff berth, and it will be intriguing to see how it unfolds if Buffalo has already solidified its own playoff seeding. The Patriots’ 2021 season ended in embarrassing fashion at Buffalo in a 47-17 playoff loss, and in this scenario, they would have a chance to write a different story a year later. Read more from Mike Reiss
The Jets will finish 7-10, not good enough to be a serious contender, but significant improvement from last season. Quarterback Zach Wilson will struggle out of the gate against the different defensive styles of the AFC North, but he will find his footing over the second half of the season when the schedule softens. Read more from Rich Cimini
The Ravens win the AFC North to become the NFL’s latest team to go from last place to first. This has happened in 17 of the past 19 seasons, and the Ravens are in a great position to continue this trend. Baltimore gets back six starters who suffered season-ending injuries last year, along with a healthy and motivated Lamar Jackson, who is playing on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal. This is a huge boost for a Ravens team that lost five games last season by three points or less, including a defeat to the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams. Read more from Jamison Hensley
The Bengals repeat as AFC North champions. The rest of AFC is stronger, but Cincinnati remains the team to beat in the division. The Week 8 loss to Cleveland aside, the Bengals played some of their best football against divisional rivals in 2021. As the Bengals aim to make another deep postseason run, this should continue. Read more from Ben Baby
It’s difficult to forecast Cleveland’s season without knowing whether quarterback Deshaun Watson will be suspended. But if he isn’t, the Browns win their first division title since 1989. Read more from Jake Trotter
The Steelers will have three wins at the bye week. The first five games are tough for new quarterbacks. But, every game after that will be challenging. While the Steelers are known for their strong defense, they will be facing formidable offenses like Tampa Bay, Buffalo and Miami. The Eagles, Browns, Patriots, and Eagles are not easy to beat. Read more from Brooke Pryor
The Colts will get their first victory over New England coach Bill Belichick at Gillette Stadium for the first time since 2006 in Week 9. The Colts have lost six straight to the Patriots at their home stadium by an average of 19.6 points a game in that span. Read more from Mike Wells
The Jaguars, who have won four games the past two seasons combined, will end two long losing streaks by beating Washington on the road in the season opener. They’ve lost 17 consecutive road games dating back to a victory in Oakland on Dec. 15, 2019, and 16 consecutive games against NFC teams dating back to beating the Giants in the 2018 season opener. Read more from Michael DiRocco
Tough matchups with the Eagles on the road and at Nissan Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys could hurt their chances. The Titans will win the NFC East, despite slight improvements made by the Washington Commanders Read more from Turron Davenport
If quarterback Russell Wilson stays healthy, and he has missed only three games in his previous 10 years in the league (all three last season after finger surgery), the Broncos will — finally — finish with a winning record in the AFC West. This is a tall order considering the difficulty of the division, which has a number of high-end quarterbacks and pass-rushers. The Broncos finished in the top five twice, 2-4 three times, and 3-3 once in the division over the past six seasons. Read more from Jeff Legwold
The Chiefs will go 5-1 in AFC West games. They’ll split with the Chargers (each team winning on its home field) — but will sweep the Broncos (making it 15 straight wins in the series) and the Raiders. Read more from Adam Teicher
Quarterback Derek Carr silences his haters — real and imagined. Buoyed by the presence of receiver Davante Adams, Carr plays like the elder statesman he is among AFC West quarterbacks and excels in coach Josh McDaniels’ system to carry the Raiders to a second straight playoff appearance. Carr beats Kansas City in the flexed-to-prime-time finale and, for the first time since 2015, a team other than the Chiefs wins the AFC West. You wanted bold. Read more from Paul Gutierrez
The Chargers open 2-0, get a big jump on the rest of the AFC West and finally live up to preseason expectations by ending the Chiefs’ six-year reign as division champs. Read more from Paul Gutierrez
The Cowboys break the NFC East jinx and win the division in back-to-back years. The last time the same team won the NFC East in consecutive years was when Philadelphia did it in 2003-04. The Cowboys have not gone to the playoffs in back-to-back years since 2006-07. Read more from Todd Archer
The Giants will win twice as many games after the bye as before their break in Week 9. The Giants will win twice as many games after the bye than they did before their break in Week 9. It’s a byproduct of the tough early schedule, the easier post-bye matchups (beginning with home contests against the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions) and the time it takes to get acclimated to a new coaching staff. Read more from Jordan Raanan
The Saints (whose 2023 first-round pick belongs to Philly) will miss the playoffs, and the Eagles will have a 2023 first-round pick inside the top 16, allowing GM Howie Roseman the chance to make a major play for a quarterback should Jalen Hurts not get the job done this season. Read more from Todd Archer
Washington wins 10 games and makes the playoffs. The Commanders bolstered their offense with Wentz and first-round receiver Jahan Dotson. Defensively, this will matter: In 2021, they faced six quarterbacks who finished in the top 10 in total QBR and nine of the top 14. This season they face two who were in the top 10 and only five in the top 14. Read more from John Keim
Chicago will avenge its 2021 loss to San Francisco by beating the 49ers in their season opener. Read more from Courtney Cronin
Detroit will win at least seven games. Although the Lions were 3-13-1 last season, anyone who watched them closely knows they were competitive. If the Lions play as hard as they did for coach Dan Campbell during his first season — and can stay healthy — they could get at least seven wins for the first time since 2017, when they went 9-7. This would be a win for Detroit as it continues to build a foundation. Read more from Eric Woodyard
The Packers won’t match coach Matt LaFleur’s win totals in each of his first three seasons; they will exceed them. The NFC North is in rebuilding mode, so the games against Philly and Washington should not be too difficult. That’s already 10 wins. They just need to win 4-3 in their remaining games. Read more from Rob Demovsky
The Vikings are making the playoffs in coach Kevin O’Connell’s first season. They will not beat the Packers for NFC North title but O’Connell inherits a talented offense that will help him bring with him a scheme that won Super Bowl LVI. Read more from Kevin Seifert
Falcons coach Arthur Smith will once again show he can get the most out of a roster, but the Falcons will struggle against this schedule. Rookie Desmond Ridder will start multiple games this season with Atlanta finishing with a top-five pick in the 2023 NFL draft. Read more from Michael Rothstein
Sam Darnold will be replaced as the starting quarterback after a 1-4 start, giving way to rookie Matt Corral before an Oct. 16 trip to Los Angeles to face the defending Super Bowl champion Rams. You can look at it this way: there is no pressure because Corral and Carolina will not win. Read more from David Newton
The Saints will start 3-1. The Saints will start at 3-1. Read more from Mike Triplett
Quarterback Tom Brady‘s never started the first four games of the regular season below . 500 (he’s started 2-2 seven times in his career). Could that change in 2022 in what might be his farewell tour? If there is a silver lining to be had in that brutal opening stretch, it’s that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has historically struggled in the state of Florida and won’t have star wideout Davante Adams after he was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders in the offseason. Read more from Jenna Laine
A year after the Cardinals won 11 games and went to the playoffs, they won’t win more than seven and will miss the postseason. Read more from Josh Weinfuss
The Rams win at least five of their first six games. Four of those six games are at home and two against the Falcons or Panthers. Read more from Sarah Barshop
That 49ers post the best record in NFC West division games, going 5-1 and sweeping Arizona and Seattle. You think that’s too bold? Considering the Niners are 5-15 combined against the Seahawks and Cardinals since coach Kyle Shanahan took over in 2017, it would be a big step forward against their divisional counterparts. This type of performance would be a big step towards a return to the playoffs. However, you will have to pay more for it. Read more from Nick Wagoner
The Seahawks will shock Tom Brady and the Bucs in Munich. The Bucs are expected to be the favorite in this game as Tampa Bay has the GOAT quarterback and a Super Bowl-caliber team around him. But when the Seahawks hammered the Raiders in London in 2018, they showed they can handle the logistical hurdles of an international game. Coach Pete Carroll will prepare Bucs coach Todd Bowles in the same manner as he prepared Jon Gruden for international play. Read more from Brady Henderson
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.