It’s officially official—no more piecemeal schedule leaks and releases. The entire 272-game 2022 NFL schedule is out.
The regular season kicks off on Sep. 8 and concludes exactly four months later on Jan. 8. This will be the second season with the expanded 18-week, 17-game schedule in the league and the first one—the “longest season ever” “—was a hit, keeping fans and fantasy players alike engaged all the way until overtime on Sunday Night Football in Week 18, the near-tie between the Chargers and Raiders.
You can go over the full schedule here, but I compiled the five best primetime matchups for the fantasy football lovers out there. Sure, there are some great storylines and revenge games on the docket, but for this article, I’m looking at matchups that project to be high-powered fantasy football shootouts, like the infamous 2018 Rams-Chiefs game.
Here are the games to circle on your fantasy calendar for the coming season.
Week 1: Bills vs. rams
Thursday, Sep. 8, 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
The defending Super Bowl champs host the Super Bowl favorite to begin the season. On the Bills’ side, the fantasy allure is clear. Josh Allen was the QB1 a season ago, and he’s the first quarterback off the board early on in the draft season. Buffalo revamped its already strong pass-catching group in the offseason. Jamison Crowder and OJ Howard were added to complement Stefon Diggs, the overall WR7 a season ago; Gabriel Davis, who exploded for 200 yards and four scores in the playoffs; and Dawson Knox, a surprise TE1 in 2021. In recent years, the Bills’ running back room hasn’t been anything to write home about, but second-rounder James Cook profiles as a dynamic pass-catcher out of the backfield.
As for LA, the selling point of this offense is triple-crown winner Cooper Kupp. The WR1 by a longshot a season ago, Kupp developed quite the connection with Matthew Stafford in their first year together. To offset the loss of Robert Woods, who was traded to the Titans in the offseason, and the potential departure of Odell Beckham Jr., who remains a free agent, the Rams signed Allen Robinson. He’s coming off the worst season of his career, but Stafford is an upgrade from what quarterbacks Robinson is used to at quarterback. Van Jefferson and Tyler Higbee rounded out the pass-catchers. And at running back, Cam Akers is back for his first full season after tearing his Achilles in 2020.
All in all, this game has great quarterbacks, elite receivers, reliable tight ends and wildcards at running back. Both teams also have great defenses at their disposal, but the offenses should prevail in the season opener. Could this be a Super Bowl preview? Maybe. Will there be fantasy points galore? Certainly.
Week 2: Chargers vs. chiefs
Thursday, Sep. 15, 8:20 pm ET (Prime Video)
These teams have no shortage of offense, with two of the best young quarterbacks in the game leading them. Patrick Mahomes vs. Justin Herbert has been a must-watch since Herbert’s impromptu start as a rookie in 2020. That won’t change this season with the Chargers challenging for the division title in earnest.
Los Angeles re-signed Mike Williams, who had a career year in 2021, to keep together one of the best receiver duos in the NFL. Williams is the deep threat, and Keenan Allen is the target monster, fresh off his fourth consecutive 100-catch season. Just behind them is Herbert’s third-favorite target: running back Austin Ekeler. A fantasy football fanatic himself, Ekeler finished as the overall RB2 a year ago. The Chargers also got younger and more athletic at tight end by replacing Jared Cook with Gerald Everett.
And for the Chiefs, things are, well, different. Mahomes and Andy Reid have demonstrated they deserve our trust until proven otherwise, but losing Tyreek Hill hurts no matter how you slice it. To replace their one-of-a-kind speedster, Kansas City brought in a slew of pass-catchers: Marquez-Valdes Scantling, JuJu Smith-Schuster, second-rounder Skyy Moore and undrafted free agent Justyn Ross. Old reliable Travis Kelce is back at tight end, likely for another 1,000-yard campaign, but beyond Kelce, Mecole Hardman and Mahomes are the only offensive starters left from the 2018 Super Bowl team. The Chiefs have not gotten what they hoped for from former first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire. They brought in Ronald Jones III to challenge him for the RB1 spot in what should be a fruitful offense.
You’re going to want to hope someone on your fantasy team is playing in this game. Each team is loaded with stars, from quarterback to tight end. (Disclaimer: You could say this about any AFC West game this season.)
Week 5: Bengals vs. ravens
Sunday, Oct. 9, 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
This heated divisional rivalry was rather one-sided last year. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t good for fantasy purposes, though. Joe Burrow combined to throw for more than 900 yards in two lopsided wins against the Ravens—Ja’Marr Chase broke 200 yards in one of those games, and Tee Higgins came close to doing so in the second meeting.
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Cincinnati has a stable of young, talented fantasy studs across their skill positions. It all starts with Burrow, a QB1 in his first full season, who has the luxury of throwing at one of the best groups of pass-catchers in the NFL. Chase, the Offensive Rookie of the Year, Higgins, who had 1,000 yards in his sophomore season, and Boyd, a reliable third option. With Cincinnati’s investments on the offensive line, Burrow will have better protection as he slings the ball around the field. Those upgrades will also benefit Joe Mixon, who had a career year in 2021, setting career highs in rushing and receiving yards and touchdowns. The Bengals also brought in Hayden Hurst at tight end, a fine replacement for CJ Uzomah.
Baltimore’s offense will look different this season. Lamar Jackson, one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL, is back under center, and Mark Andrews returns at tight end. Beyond that, No. 1 receiver Marquise Brown was dealt to the Cardinals, and running backs JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards will return from injuries that forced them to miss 2021. The Ravens have yet to find a replacement for Brown, making 2021 first-rounder Rashod Bateman the de facto leader, though Andrews led the team in receiving a year ago. The Ravens figure to return to a run-focused offense with a healthy stable of running backs lining up alongside Jackson in the backfield.
These are two very good teams with wildly different offensive approaches. The Bengals will air the ball out, and the Ravens will run it into the ground, especially if they begin the season without any upgrades to their receivers.
Week 12: Packers vs. eagles
Sunday, Nov. 27, 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
One team lost a No. 1 receiver, and the other added one in the offseason. In Green Bay’s case, it trusts back-to-back MVP Aaron Rodgers to continue to thrive despite trading away Davante Adams. And for Philadelphia, getting AJ Brown for Jalen Hurts will help answer its quarterback question.
The Packers shocked some when they elected to double up on defense with their pair of first-round picks instead of getting their aging quarterback a new weapon. In the second round, Green Bay drafted Christian Watson to line up with Allen Lazard, the team’s leading returning receiver, and Sammy Watkins, an offseason addition. Adams’ departure vacates 169 targets, so plenty of work will be up for grabs. In the backfield lies a true two-headed beast: Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Dillon outrushed Jones in his second season, though Jones remains the primary pass-catching option. Tight end is a question mark after Robert Tonyan, who was often injured in 2021, did not match his 2020 output.
Hurts was one of the best quarterbacks in fantasy football in his second season as a starter. Despite the Eagles’ offense doing a 180° midseason that brought his passing attempts down and increased his rushing attempts—he led all quarterbacks with 784 yards on the ground and 10 scores. His receivers from him were bolstered by the addition of Brown to complement Devonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. Running back is a bit of a mystery for a team whose leading rusher was its quarterback but still got good production from Miles Sanders, Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell.
The known quantities in this matchup are the quarterbacks and Brown. Rodgers will make do with what he has at receiver, and Hurts always has the option to take off and run. This should be an entertaining game that could have some bearing on the NFC playoff race.
Week 15: Buccaneers vs. Cardinals
Sunday, Dec. 25, 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
Did someone say Christmas Day football? The nightcap is Tampa Bay-Arizona, which could be a shootout in the fantasy playoffs.
Tom Brady returns with a crop of receivers, including Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Russell Gage, whom the Bucs added in free agency. Godwin and Evans were both 1,000-yard receivers in Year 2, and with Brady and Gage plucked from Atlanta’s threadbare receiver room, they could benefit from the attention those two attract. Leonard Fournette has full control of the backfield heading into 2022 after his career year and the timely departure of Ronald Jones III. He profiles as a late-first or early-second round pick and will be one of many Tampa Bay skill players picked in the early rounds of most drafts. So long as Rob Gronkowski doesn’t come back, long time Buc Cameron Brate will slot in at tight end.
Arizona’s game of Madden continues. The Cardinals added Kyler Murray’s college teammate Marquise Brown on draft night before it broke that Deandre Hopkins would be suspended for the season’s first six games. Brown will be the No. 1 until Hopkins returns. He joins a talented pass-catching group including AJ Green, Rondale Moore, Zach Ertz and second-round pick Trey McBride. James Conner is the RB1 after taking the starting job from Chase Edmonds a season ago and racking up 18 total touchdowns in 15 games.
This matchup is overflowing with fantasy potential. Murray and Brady are top-end quarterbacks, Hopkins, Godwin and Evans all have WR1 seasons under their belts and Conner, and Fournette are two surprise resurgent running backs on the upswing.
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