The NFL schedule won’t be fully released until this evening, but we already know the matchups and they say the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams are going to face significant challenges in their attempt to repeat.
The Rams have the NFL’s hardest schedule for 2022 — as it should be, I guess. And barring injuries or other circumstances, the Los Angeles defense will face …
Josh Allen, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Russell Wilson, Derek Carr and, of course, Kyler Murray twice during the season.
Rams opponents combined for an NFL high .567 winning percentage last season.
The easiest schedule, based on last year’s record by this year’s opponents, will be shared by the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Commanders. The opponents’ winning percentage for these two teams is .462.
So what games to look for from the 8 p.m. schedule release:
The Buffalo Bills have dominated the AFC East the past two seasons and have won 11 of 12 games against Miami, New England and the Jets. So it’s about going beyond that for the Bills.
It’s about winning the Super Bowl.
And to that end, it will be interesting to see how and when they matchup up in games at Cincinnati, the defending conference champions, at Baltimore, at Kansas City, at the Los Angeles Rams, and in home games against Green Bay and Cleveland.
Other games of note:
Cincinnati at Tampa Bay: The comparisons between Joe Burrow and a young Tom Brady were thick last year as Burrow took the Bengals to the Super Bowl in his second season, much the way Brady did New England in his second season. This year we’ll see their two teams play.
Chiefs at Bengals: It’s a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game.
Browns at Texans: Deshaun Watson returns to Houston, a club that basically benched him all of last year after he requested a trade and then sent him to the Browns for multiple first-round picks this offseason.
Watson is also scheduled for matchups against Allen (Bills), Brady (Bucs), and Herbert (Chargers), not to mention two divisional games against Burrow (Bengals) and Lamar Jackson (Ravens), so he better not be rusty.
Jaguars at Eagles: Coach Doug Pederson took the Eagles to a Super Bowl championship. A few years later, the Eagles fired Pederson. Pederson, now rebuilding the Jaguars, goes back to Philly with his new team.
Dolphins at 49ers: The Dolphins believe they’ve upgraded their roster and that idea will be tested against a team that went to the NFC Championship Game last season, as rookie head coach Mike McDaniel matches wits against former boss Kyle Shanahan.
Bengals at Titans: This is a rematch of the division round playoff game in which the Bengals intercepted Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill three times and, by his own admission, caused him to lose a lot of sleep after the season. This is a chance for Tannehill to put that memory to bed.
Every divisional game in the AFC West: Easily the NFL’s most intriguing and competitive division, the quarterback matchups are going to be fire emojis. And, oh yes, Denver’s Russell Wilson will return to Seattle this season after asking to be traded in the offseason.
Raiders at Patriots: Josh McDaniels learned under Bill Belichick as his offensive coordinator for 13 years. This will be a classic pupil versus teacher match.
Rams at Buccaneers: A blown coverage late in the game was the difference between these two teams late in the NFC Championship Game, and now Todd Bowles, the defensive coordinator that day in January, gets a chance at redemption as the Bucs head coach.
Also … Packers at Buccaneers: Rodgers vs. Brady. Speaks for itself.
There should be schedule leaks throughout the day Thursday because, well, there usually are. The Jets and Giants schedules often get out very quickly.
This year, the NFL itself started the leaking by releasing the dates and times of 10 of its games and added an 11th Thursday morning by announcing the Bucs and Chiefs will play in Week 4 on Sunday night so Brady vs. Mahomes on a Sunday night.
The others are:
The Chargers at the Chiefs on Sept. 15 (Thursday) at 8:20 p.m..
The Vikings will visit the Eagles on Sept. 19 as part of a Monday night doubleheader that also will have the Titans visiting the Bills, with one game on ABC and the other on ESPN.
The international games will have the Vikings versus the Saints on Oct. 2 in London. The Giants will play the Packers on Oct. 9 in London. The Broncos will play the Jaguars on Oct. 30 in London. The Seahawks will play the Buccaneers on Nov. 13 in Munich.
The 49ers will play the Cardinals on Nov. 21 in Mexico City.
The NFL also said Wednesday that the Cowboys will visit Packers on Nov. 13, marking the first time former Packers coach Mike McCarthy visits Lambeau Field after coaching the Packers for the better part of 13 years.
Finally, we know the Broncos will visit the Rams on Christmas Day at 4:30 eastern time — a game in which the NFL is very much moving into the sports viewing territory formerly dominated by the NBA.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero