A Christmas Day matchup between the Los Angeles Rams, the reigning Super Bowl champions, and the new-look Denver Broncos is a highlight of the early portion of the N.F.L.’s schedule release, which incorporates contests that the league hopes will construct off the 2021 season’s success and an off-season defined by explosive trades and free-agent signings.
The league will announce the total 2022 regular season schedule Thursday at 8 p.m. (all times Eastern) on NFL Network, but select game matchups have been disclosed in recent weeks. Teams have known all of their opponents for months based on their divisions and records last season, but they’re still awaiting times and dates.
The Rams, whose star-studded roster includes defensive tackle Aaron Donald, receiver Cooper Kupp and quarterback Matthew Stafford, currently hold the hardest strength of schedule. The teams they’ll play won nearly 57 percent of their games in 2021. The Christmas Day matchup, which can air at 4:30 p.m. on CBS and Nickelodeon, features Russell Wilson, whom the Rams played often during his decade with the Seattle Seahawks before the team dealt him in March to the Broncos in a blockbuster trade. It would be considered one of three Christmas Day games, which can directly compete against the N.B.A. for attention on the vacation.
The drama of the schedule release continues the N.F.L.’s trend of turning off-season events, including the draft and the scouting mix, into prime-time spectacles because the league tightens its grip as the highest sport in the US. Backed by lucrative media-rights deals and a rankings spike in 2021 after expanding the regular season to 17 games, the N.F.L. built suspense in recent weeks by revealing select games on morning shows with broadcast partners and previewing marquee matchups on social media.
The streaming service Amazon Prime Video will begin broadcasting the league’s Thursday night games on Sept. 15 with a notable Week 2 matchup between Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers. The divisional rivals, who split close games last season with one-possession deficits, will look different. The Chargers, with their blossoming young quarterback, Justin Herbert, added defensive support in the sting rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson, while Kansas City dealt Tyreek Hill, its speedy receiver, to the Miami Dolphins in March after he requested a trade.
Kansas City may also play in prime time against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a rematch of the 2020 season’s Super Bowl, on Oct. 2 at 8:20 p.m. on NBC. Tampa Bay stays a national draw after Tom Brady, 44, the winner of a record seven Super Bowls, announced he would return for a twenty third season after briefly retiring in February. This week, Fox announced that Brady would grow to be a commentator for the network every time his playing profession ended.
The Buccaneers may also play within the N.F.L.’s first game in Germany, where they’ll face the Seahawks in Munich on Nov. 13 at 9:30 a.m. on NFL Network. It is a component of the N.F.L.’s return overseas after it canceled games abroad in 2020 due to pandemic. In 2022, London will host three games: the Minnesota Vikings against the Latest Orleans Saints on Oct. 2 at 9:30 a.m. on NFL Network, the Giants against the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 9 at 9:30 a.m. on NFL Network and the Denver Broncos against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 30 at 9:30 a.m. on ESPN+. The Arizona Cardinals will play the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City on Nov. 21 at 8:15 p.m. on ESPN.
Game dates which have not yet been released also feature exciting matchups. Buffalo and Kansas City will look to recreate the frantic energy of last season’s A.F.C. divisional playoff round, a game that resulted within the league rewriting its postseason extra time rules to permit an offensive possession for every team. Wilson will return to cheers or boos, or each, in Seattle when he faces his former team.
Deshaun Watson and the Cleveland Browns may also play on the Texans, the team that drafted him in the primary round in 2017, unless the league disciplines him for the 22 civil cases filed by women who’ve accused him of sexual misconduct. Divisional games within the A.F.C. West, including the Chargers against the Las Vegas Raiders and their latest receiver, Davante Adams, and within the A.F.C. North with the Cincinnati Bengals, the reigning conference champions, against the Baltimore Ravens, must also receive prime-time showings.