We already knew the whos and wheres of the 2022 NFL regular season. The league’s scheduling format, even with a 17th game in the mix, is a fairly straightforward machine.
What we didn’t know is how those games would be laid out. While this year’s schedule dripped out in controlled leaks to drop roughly a dozen matchups on us in the run-up to Thursday’s full reveal, that left 260 games hidden behind a curtain, waiting for commissioner Roger Goodell’s clearance. Now, after a primetime event, we’ve got a mostly-complete accounting for 2022, barring a few games flexed into Sunday Night Football toward the end of the season.
And it’s good news for the state of Pennsylvania.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles were both shined upon by the schedule mechanics with favorable matchups capable of boosting rolling rebuilds. Who else got a little extra fuel on their road to the postseason? There were a few standouts.
Opponent strength of schedule (win percentage from 2021): .464
The Eagles don’t have the softest schedule in the NFC East — that belongs to the Cowboys and Commanders. However, Philadelphia not only got a schedule devoid of heavy hitters but also a nice soft lineup of away games. Here’s a sampling of who Jalen Hurts and AJ Brown will have to face on the road this fall:
- Washington Commanders
- New York Giants
- Chicago Bears
- Detroit Lions
- Houston Texans
- Arizona Cardinals, who’ll be without DeAndre Hopkins as he serves a six-game PED suspension
Arizona, Dallas, and Indianapolis represent the toughest away games for a team capable of putting together a better record on the road than at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles took an undermanned roster to the playoffs last winter by beating up on bad teams. They’ll have the chance to do so again this season thanks to nine games against franchises who had losing records in 2021 and eight against squads who lost 10 games or more.
Oh, and they get a showcase game on Christmas Eve against the Cowboys in a game that could determine the NFC East champion.
Opponent strength of schedule: .512
Pennsylvania’s other team will hope for a smooth transition from the Ben Roethlisberger era but likely hit some rough patches thanks to a current quarterback platoon of Mitchell Trubisky and rookie Kenny Pickett. A competitive AFC North and games against the Bills and Buccaneers gives the Steelers, on paper, one of the more competitive lineups in the NFL.
But Pittsburgh may rely heavily on its run game and will only face five teams with top-10 rushing defenses. Mike Tomlin’s team will also have eight games against opponents who couldn’t crack the top 20 in passing defense DVOA. That leaves room for a revamped offensive line to run the ball with Najee Harris and for a beleaguered passing offense to start building something with Pickett (or, sigh, 2021 NVP Trubisky).
This may not be a great season for the Steelers, but the NFL has paved the way for the team’s next era to begin on an encouraging note. Plus, Pittsburgh won’t have to worry about jet lag this season; no team in the league will travel less for road games in 2022. The Steelers don’t have a single upcoming game that will take place outside the Eastern Time Zone.
Opponent strength of schedule: .469
The Colts’ path back to the postseason relies on a Matt Ryan revival, but despite some challenging opponents — they’ll face the Patriots, Raiders, Eagles, Steelers, and Cowboys in the five weeks before their Week 13 bye — they’ll get another soft landing. In 2021 they lost games to the Raiders and Jaguars to miss the postseason. This year they’ll only have to dispatch the Giants and Texans to finish the regular season on a high note.
Ryan should have room to operate. Like the Steelers Trubisky/Pickett combination, eight of his 17 games this fall will come against teams that failed to crack the top 20 in passing defense DVOA. He’ll also have a couple warm-up weeks to get up to speed; Indianapolis starts off the season with Jacksonville and Houston, two teams that combined for seven wins last season.
Opponent strength of schedule: .474
The Ravens have rebuilt strong after missing the postseason in an injury-riddled 2021. Now they’ll get a 2022 schedule that features a handful of challenging games, but few challenging stretches. After a Patriots-Bills-Bengals lineup in Weeks 3-5, Baltimore won’t face ’21 playoff teams in back-to-back weeks until Weeks 17 and 18 — and one of those games is against the Steelers, who are due for a backslide even with their favorable schedule.
The good news about that early run of tough opponents? Both the Bills and Bengals will be headed to Maryland. On top of that, the Ravens’ non-division road games include trips to the:
- and Saints
sandwiched around the aforementioned Pats game and a trip to see Tom Brady’s new team in Tampa Bay. The stage is set for a revival as long as Baltimore is healthy enough to see it through.
New York Giants
Opponent strength of schedule: .465
New York is very much stuck trying to figure out how to rebuild under new head coach Brian Daboll. 2022 could be the final year of the Daniel Jones era. The upcoming season may simply boil down to setting up the pieces to cleanly break from the disastrous five years that preceded it.
But dang, the Giants have a lot of room to make a run at a decent record this fall. New York has games against the Panthers, Bears, Seahawks, Jaguars, Texans, and Lions in 2022 before even getting to its home-and-home series with an iffy Washington Commanders team. There’s a chance this team could record its most wins sine 2016 without trying all that hard.
Which could be a major problem! If Daniel Jones isn’t a revelation behind center, New York will be in the market for a quarterback — and an 8-9 record would keep it from a shot at the best rookies available in a solid class of 2023. Fortunately, the Giants have a solid pair of pass blocking bookends in Andrew Thomas and Evan Neal, who could make Daboll’s crew an interesting destination for any disgruntled veteran passers next spring.
New York is set up for modest success in a season where that may not be in its best interest. That is a wildly Giants catch-22 to be stuck with. We’ll see if new management can spin that hay into gold, or if this team will remain the canker sore atop the roofs of its fans mouths.