Mark your calendars, because thehas arrived. From a to an entire slate of special holiday matchups, every month of the 18-week regular-season rundown promises must-see TV. It’s safe to say, however, that some teams are celebrating Thursday’s long-awaited announcements more than others. Let’s dive into some of the clearest winners and losers from the schedule release, projecting which clubs were helped and hurt most by the order of games:
Looking to re-emerge in the NFC North as Aaron Rodgers and the Packers adjust to life without Davante Adams, Minnesota faces none other than A-Rod and Green Bay out of the gate, but at least they get the home crowd behind them for Week 1. Weeks 3-6 leading up to their bye are more than tolerable: vs. Lions, at Saints on a neutral London field, vs. Bears, at Dolphins. And then, after a tough midseason stretch, they host the Patriots on Thanksgiving to kick off a friendly home stretch: vs. Jets after a long week, at Lions, vs. Giants, at Bears. That smells like a wild-card recipe.
And you thought their roster was gonna doom them? Buckle your seat belts. They have a brutal opening stretch: vs. Saints, at Rams, at Seahawks, vs. Browns, at Buccaneers, vs. 49ers, at Bengals. It’s not unthinkable that they could be 1-6 or even 0-7 halfway through Arthur Smith’s second season. On top of that, they don’t get a bye until Week 14. Whether it’s Marcus Mariota or Desmond Ridder under center, it doesn’t get easier at the end, either. Their last four: at Saints, at Ravens, vs. Cardinals, vs. Buccaneers. The saving grace might be if Baltimore and Tampa Bay are resting starters. Even then … yikes.
They were already set up nicely with an NFC East schedule, but they have a pretty sweet start: after visiting the Lions, they host the Vikings for their home debut on “Monday Night Football” (translation: the Linc will be juiced), then go at Washington, vs. Jaguars, at Cardinals, vs. Cowboys in prime time before the bye. It’s not hard to envision a potential 4-2 opening. They’ve got some tough opponents in there, but the final five-game slate adds promise: vs. Titans, at Giants, at Bears, at Cowboys, vs. Saints, vs. Giants. In a close NFC East, a solid performance down the stretch could lift them right back to the playoffs, a la 2021.
Sorry to rain on the Las Vegas hype parade, but just because Derek Carr and Davante Adams should be fun to watch this year doesn’t mean they’ve got an easy path back to the postseason. Check out this five-game start: at Chargers, vs. Cardinals, at Titans, vs. Broncos, at Chiefs. It’s a good thing they have a Week 6 bye to recover; while L.A. and K.C. are electric, the Broncos and Titans may well wear them down physically. Down the stretch, when the NFL cranks up the prime-time spotlight, things get even tougher. From Week 11 on: at Broncos, at Seahawks, vs. Chargers, at Rams on a short week, vs. Patriots, at Steelers, vs. 49ers, vs. Chiefs. They better be getting MVP Derek Carr and not Late-Season Derek Carr here!
Who knows if Brian Daboll can win consistently with Daniel Jones, but the calendar is at least inviting a rebound for this franchise. Four of their first six fall at home, and one of the two road games in that span comes on a neutral field in London. They play consecutive home games three different times. And after their nicely positioned Week 9 bye, they get the Texans and Lions before a seven-game stretch that includes five divisional games. They could be the Eagles of 2022: a holdover young QB with a new offensive coach capitalizing on a weak schedule to surprise out of the East.
You know how Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury tend to start hot before falling off late? They could struggle to reach a mountain from which to tumble this year. After opening vs. Chiefs, at Raiders, vs. Rams, they still have three games without DeAndre Hopkins, two of which are on the road. Then, from Weeks 8-12, they’ve got this: at Vikings, vs. Seahawks, at Rams, vs. 49ers in Mexico, vs. Chargers on a short week. After a late Week 13 bye, three of their final four are road games, and four of their final five opponents are the Broncos, Buccaneers, 49ers and Patriots. That’s not even mentioning their likely tight division race.
Sure, Russell Wilson could put an immediate damper on their year by trotting back into Seattle in Week 1, but they may benefit from the early reunion more than the Broncos, who are still acclimating to the new QB. Their elite opponents are relatively spread out. They get a bye after their trip to Germany, where they at least get the Buccaneers on a neutral field. And then five of their final seven fall at home. Who knows who will be quarterbacking the Seahawks, but Pete Carroll could help them play spoiler.Loser: