NFL schedule 2022 winners and losers: Packers, Cowboys get breaks; Chiefs, Rams, 49ers face tough tests

The 2022 NFL schedule is out now and there’s no question, as usual, some teams have it much easier or harder than others. Some teams play in harder divisions, while others get an unlucky break based on when they play certain opponents.

Some breakouts are immediately determined by strength or weakness or particular splits. Other benefits come from drawing the right interdivisional matchups at the right time and where a team finished in last year’s standings.

Taking all of those factors into account, here’s a breakdown of the best and worst schedules among Super Bowl hopefuls, top playoff contenders and teams looking for a quick turnaround with their final records:

Winners and losers of the 2022 NFL schedule

Aaron Rodgers Matt LaFleur-0124-gettyimages-ftr

Winners: Green Bay Packers

The Packers have been a 13-win machine in three seasons under coach Matt LaFleur. Their playoff disappointments with reigning two-time MVP QB Aaron Rodgers aside, they’re set to be favorites for the NFC’s No. 1 seed again.

All four games against NFC North foes ensure a good start and a solid finish. Playing the Buccaneers in Week 3 and the Bills in Week 8 are his toughest games, and both come in the first half with plenty of favorable action. The second half is sweeter, with the Rams and Cowboys arriving at Lambeau Field.

Outside of NFC East teams, no team that faces a fair amount of good opponents has it better than Green Bay.

MORE: Packers 2022 schedule: dates and times for all 17 games, schedule strength, final record prediction

Losers: Kansas City Chiefs

The crossover game between the charged AFC and NFC Wests presents an immediate additional challenge for all eight teams involved. Teams from the AFC West get a breather by facing the entire AFC South as well. But the negative separation for Kansas City is attracting Tampa Bay, Buffalo and Cincinnati on top of that.

Three of the Chiefs’ first four games and four of seven overall are on the road before the Week 8 break. The Cardinals, Colts, Buccaneers and 49ers are going to play in that first half. At home, they draw early matchups in the main window with the Chargers, Raiders and Bills in that mix.

Coming off the break, the Chiefs face the Titans at home in Week 9. In Weeks 12 and 13, the Chiefs have a 1-2 home blow on the road against both Super Bowl 56 teams, the Rams. and the Bengals. They also have all three of the division’s away games in the second half. Kansas City remains the favorite to win a much-improved West, but the schedule will likely keep it away from the No. 1 seed.

MORE: Chiefs 2022 schedule: Dates and times for all 17 games, schedule strength, final record prediction


Winners: Dallas Cowboys

The NFC East teams are doing pretty well overall as their rotation has two breaks (except for the Packers) with the NFC North and AFC South. The Cowboys, as the division’s still clear best team, are tied with the Commanders for weakest schedule strength based on opponents’ combined record from 2021 (133-155-1, .462).

At first glance, starting back-to-back home games against the Buccaneers and Bengals seems brutal. The Cowboys also go to the Rams in Week 5. But the weak conference teams in the East and North counter it well. The second half also looks like an opportunity to dominate after the Week 10 game at Green Bay, which also comes after an ideal break. Dallas is poised to match or better at 12-5 to finish ahead of Philadelphia again.

MORE: Cowboys 2022 schedule: Dates and times for all 17 games, schedule strength, final record prediction

Losers: Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers

The Cardinals also have it pretty bad and the Seahawks don’t have it much better due to the NFC West vs. AFC West. NFC West teams also need to play the Buccaneers and the rest of the NFC South.

Forget the three teams in the division making it back to the playoffs. So here we focus on the top two teams in the division that played in last season’s dramatic NFC Championship Game.

The Super Bowl champion Rams need to host the mighty Bills in Game 1. Their first two road games are at Arizona and San Francisco, before facing the Cowboys in Week 5. After facing the 49ers again in Week 8, the Rams see November starting with the Buccaneers and finishing with the Chiefs.

The NFC runner-up 49ers start off a little easier with the Bears, but in October, between the Rams’ two games, they also host the Chiefs. The second half has a few pitfalls, including a trip to Mexico City against the Cardinals, the Buccaneers at home and the Raiders in Las Vegas. Double-digit wins won’t come easy for either the Rams or the 49ers.

MORE: 49ers 2022 schedule: dates and times for all 17 games, schedule strength, final record prediction

Winners: Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens finished with a much more favorable schedule than their AFC North opponents in what is arguably the toughest division in the NFL. Why? That’s the benefit of a rare losing season in last place going 8-9.

The AFC North draws a welcome mix of the AFC East and NFC South, where after the Bills and Buccaneers, there’s a sizable drop. The Ravens’ only three games from the rest of the division are against the Giants, Jaguars and Broncos.

Facing the entire AFC East in the first four games with the Bills in last place (and at home) is good. Thursday night’s Week 8 game at the Buccaneers is the Ravens’ other tough test out of the division in the first half. The second half offers breaks with Carolina, Jacksonville and Atlanta. The Ravens should be in good shape to at least return to the playoffs with a wild card.

MORE: Ravens 2022 schedule: Dates and times for all 17 games, schedule strength, final record prediction

Losers: Cincinnati Bengals

The NFL parity gods gave the Rams the most overwhelming strength of the schedule. After the Cardinals, the Bengals rank third in the quality of their opponents. For the first time, Cincinnati hosts Pittsburgh in Game 1 and has to turn around to travel to Dallas in Week 2. October is reserved for road division matchups with the Ravens and Browns.

After a Week 10 bye, the reigning AFC champions go to Pittsburgh and Tennessee back-to-back, leading to a Week 13 AFC championship rematch with Kansas City at home. Weeks 15 and 16 keep the second half in a daze as Cincinnati goes to Tampa Bay and New England in back-to-back games. Joe Burrow and the Bengals have their hands full to repeat in the division and be well positioned to return to the Super Bowl.

MORE: Bengals 2022 schedule: dates and times for all 17 games, schedule strength, final record prediction

Winners: Indianapolis Colts

The Colts stumbled out of playoff contention late last season. They have a good chance to bounce back with at least a wild card as they challenge the Titans for the division crown.

The AFC South strikes a balance between the AFC West and the NFC East. The Colts also play the Patriots, Steelers and Vikings as part of the second-place schedule. Consider that the Titans get the Bills, Bengals and Packers in those games.

The Colts would like to open Texans-Jaguars and close Giants-Texans. They also have the Chiefs (Week 3), Eagles (Week 11), Steelers (Week 12) and Chargers (Week 16) at home sprinkled all over the board. The toughest two-game streak is back-to-back in New England and Las Vegas (weeks 9 and 10), but the rest is manageable enough for Indianapolis to do better than 2021’s 9 wins.

MORE: Colts 2022 schedule: dates and times for all 17 games, schedule strength, final record prediction


Losers: Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are hopeful of advancement as at least a wild card team after two winning seasons. They have high hopes for rookie coach Mike McDaniel after an aggressive offseason of major offensive improvements, led by the successful trade of Tyreek Hill to pair with Tua Tagovailoa.

Unfortunately, their schedule does not favor them to survive the challenge of the AFC. September itself could crush Miami’s dreams with New England, Baltimore, Buffalo and Cincinnati stacked against them. Pittsburgh also looms in Week 7 around some first-half breaks.

After a bye in Week 11, the second half starts well with the Texans and ends well with the Jets. But consider what’s between weeks 13 and 17: at the 49ers, at the Chargers, at the Bills, against the Packers, at the Patriots. The Dolphins aren’t prepared to make a big splash in 2022 because they’ll mostly be swimming with sharks.

MORE: Dolphins 2022 schedule: Dates and times for all 17 games, schedule strength, final record prediction

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