The NFL released its 2022 schedule Thursday night, giving up a view of the prime time matchups amid a swirl of major broadcast changes prior to this coming season.
Traditionally, “Sunday Night Football” has featured the heavyweight slate for the prime time matchups, with “Thursday Night Football” typically drawing the least-attractive menu of the three nights.
But ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” schedule opens with two barnburners — Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos heading to Seattle in Week 1 and two AFC heavyweights from a year ago, the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills, squaring off as part of Week 2’s doubleheader.
Amazon is pretty new the NFL broadcasting arena, but they won’t be getting short srift out of the gate. Chargers at Chiefs is their first official broadcast in Week 2, and Steelers-Browns is as good a rivalry game as you can hope for in Week 3, even if Deshaun Watson might not be suiting up yet due to a possible suspension.
NBC’s Sunday night slate is typically strong, starting with Buccaneers at Cowboys in Week 1 and ending with Rams-Chargers in Week 17 at SoFi Stadium, which is technically a road game for the defending champions with their stadium mates as the home team.
There will also be a new holiday theme for this year’s schedule – a Christmas Day tripleheader, for the first time ever, with one game each on Fox, CBS and NBC. That’s typically a big NBA TV day, though it’s also a Sunday this year, and the NFL isn’t holding back from taking on another sport head-to-head.
Here’s a look at all the prime time matchups this season, split up by network or special holiday:
‘Thursday Night Football’ (Amazon Prime)
The NFL announced last May that Amazon Prime Video would be the exclusive broadcast partner for the league’s Thursday night package, which previously had run on NFL Network and Fox. The partnership with the streaming service materialized earlier than expected, but fans now have had more than a year to process that information and decide whether they’ll subscribe or not.
The game of announcer musical chairs begins here, with former NBC play-by-play man Al Michaels and ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit joining forces to handle the Thursday night calls for Amazon after NBC takes its traditional spot in the opener.
Herbstreit will enjoy some fun “college” QB matchups, including Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow meeting in Week 4 and Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, the top two picks in the 2021 NFL draft, facing off in Week 16.
The full TNF slate:
Week 1: Bills at Rams (NBC)
Week 2: Chargers at Chiefs
Week 3: Steelers at Browns
Week 4: Dolphins at Bengals
Week 5: Colts at Broncos
Week 6: Commanders at Bears
Week 7: Saints at Cardinals
Week 8: Ravens at Buccaneers
Week 9: Eagles at Texans
Week 10: Falcons at Panthers
Week 11: Titans at Packers
Week 12: Thanksgiving (see below)
Week 13: Bills at Patriots
Week 14: Raiders at Rams
Week 15: 49ers at Seahawks
Week 16: Jaguars at Jets
Week 17: Cowboys at Titans
The best TNF game: Chargers at Chiefs
This time Amazon is receiving the gifts, not delivering them. Justin Herbert vs. Patrick Mahomes. Two teams that are division rivals and potential Super Bowl contenders. Plus, their recent matchups have been mostly terrific, including a few overtime contests and five of the past seven meetings being decided by one score or less. Oh, and the Chargers have won three of the past four at Arrowhead. Can’t get much better than that.
The worst TNF game: Jaguars at Jets
Look, we’re fans of the NFL draft, and things should be looking up for both Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson. There’s also a real danger in forecasting games this far out – a lot can and will change between now and then. But it’s hard to imagine that both of these teams will be in contention this late in the season, so it has some potential to be a play-for-next-year type of matchup for the two young clubs.
The NFL has its traditional Thanksgiving teams, the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, hosting the early and afternoon games on Nov. 24. But we also have some atypical Turkey Day opponents, with the Patriots headed to Minnesota for the night game. The Patriots haven’t played on Thanksgiving since 2012, and the Vikings haven’t been in that slot since 2017.
Game 1: Bills at Lions
Game 2: Giants at Cowboys
Game 3: Patriots at Vikings
‘Sunday Night Football’ (NBC)
There’s not as much change with the broadcast setup here as with the competing networks, but there is one notable switch: Mike Tirico now slides into the vacant play-by-play spot for NBC full-time after occasionally subbing previously for Al Michaels (who left for Amazon).
Tirico and longtime analyst Cris Collinsworth have worked together previously, and they’ll have a fairly robust slate in 2022, starting with the Week 1 game in Dallas and running through the final call of their season in Week 17 with Rams at Chargers — a battle of the Los Angeles franchises in the stadium both call home.
The full SNF schedule:
Week 1: Buccaneers at Cowboys
Week 2: Bears at Packers
Week 349ers at the Broncos
Week 4: Chiefs at Buccaneers
Week 5: Bengals at Ravens
Week 6: Cowboys at Eagles
Week 7: Steelers at Dolphins
Week 8: Packers at Bills
Week 9: Titans at Chiefs
Week 10: Chargers at 49ers
Week 11: Bengals at Steelers
Week 12: Patriots at Vikings
Week 13: Colts at Cowboys
Week 14: Chiefs at Broncos
Week 15: Patriots at Raiders
Week 16: Buccaneers at Cardinals
Week 17: Rams at Chargers
The best SNF game: Packers at Bills
Chiefs-Bucs, Bengals-Ravens, Rams-Chargers and Packers-Bills all could lay claim to being the pick here. But we’ll pick the latter as a slightly outside-the-box choice here, as it pits two Super Bowl hopefuls — and two football-steeped “small towns” — in a rare showcase game that theoretically could be a preview of the big game in February.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Josh Allen is clearly the entrée here. The last time these teams faced off, the lights were too big for the Bills and Allen, and the Packers won 22-0 in 2018. Now Allen might be poised to take the mantle from Rodgers as one of the best quarterbacks of his era.
The worst SNF game: Steelers at Dolphins
It might not be a bad game. But boy, there’s a gamble here that both teams will make improvements this season after adding important pieces in the draft and free agency. Will Mitch Trubisky or Kenny Pickett be starting for Pittsburgh? Will Tua be persona non grata by this point if the Fish struggle early?
This game also has as much potential to be an angst-ridden one for both teams’ fans.
‘Monday Night Football’ (ESPN)
ESPN’s Monday night broadcast talent will take on a new configuration for the sixth time since the 2015 season, but they’re no strangers to big-time football games.
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will make their ESPN regular season debuts in the booth for Week 1, and they’ll have a whopper of a first call: Russell Wilson visiting his former Seattle Seahawks teammates with his new team, the Denver Broncos.
One new wrinkle is the Week 2 “doubleheader” on dueling networks — Titans-Bills on ESPN at 7:15 pm ET, followed by Vikings-Eagles kicking off at 8:30 pm ET on NBC.
It will be interesting to see the next-day ratings of that experiment, but it appears the East Coast earlier-to-bed folks have been heard after previous MNF doubleheaders extended way past the witching hour.
Here’s the full MNF slate:
Week 1: Broncos at Seahawks
Week 2: Titans at Bills (ESPN); Vikings at Eagles (NBC)
Week 3: Cowboys at Giants
Week 4: Rams at 49ers
Week 5: Raiders at Chiefs
Week 6: Broncos at Chargers
Week 7: Bears at Patriots
Week 8: Bengals at Browns
Week 9: Ravens at Saints
Week 10: Commanders at Eagles
Week 11: 49ers at Cardinals
Week 12: Steelers at Colts
Week 13: Saints at Buccaneers
Week 14: Patriots at Cardinals
Week 15: Rams at Packers
Week 16: Chargers at Colts
Week 17: Bills at Bengals
The best MNF game: Rams at Packers
The Packers have gotten the best of the Rams the past few years, and this game pits two of the best offensive minds in the game: Sean McVay vs. Matt LaFleur, who always bring the fireworks. And so do Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, one-time division rivals. Stafford had his moment in the sun in the Super Bowl, and Rodgers is trying to get back. A lot on the line in this one.
The worst MNF game: Cowboys at Giants
We thought long and hard about Commanders-Eagles here, but Philly fans’ razzing of Carson Wentz — assuming he’s still starting then — might be worth staying up for. The Giants are building some excitement with a new regime and two first-round picks, but they still feel a ways off. The Cowboys draw eyeballs, but there’s a chance they could take a step back, too.
Other major games
Week 4: Vikings at Saints (Tottenham Hotspur Stadium)
Week 5: Giants at Packers (Tottenham Hotspur Stadium)
Week 8: Broncos at Jaguars (Wembley Stadium)
Week 10: Seahawks at Buccaneers (Allianz Arena)
Week 11: 49ers at Cardinals (Estadio Azteca)
Christmas (CBS, Nickelodeon)
Packers at Dolphins (Fox)
Broncos at Rams (CBS, Nickelodeon)
Buccaneers at Cardinals (NBC)