It’s not like NFL fans need a tremendous matchup to tune in. You can put the two worst teams in the league on Thursday night and it’ll draw ratings.
Still, not all of the 272 regular season games are equal.
The NFL released its full regular season schedule Thursday, an event that draws a lot of attention because fans are pining for football. And in that 18-week schedule, there are certain games that stand out above the others.
Here are the top 10 games we’re looking forward to seeing during the 2022 season:
NFL historians will love this one. The Raiders will be facing the Steelers on Dec. 24, 50 years and one day after the “Immaculate Reception.” Three Rivers Stadium, where Franco Harris made perhaps the most famous play in NFL history to beat the Raiders in the 1972 playoffs, isn’t around anymore. But there will be plenty of nostalgia with an old-school rivalry. And hopefully it’s a meaningful late-season matchup between two playoff teams from last season.
Not much explanation needed for this one. Even if the Seahawks aren’t expected to be very good, this will be an emotional event. Russell Wilson never hid his love for Seattle or the Seahawks, and the franchise had an unprecedented run of glory with him at quarterback. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Wilson has his No. 3 retired in Seattle someday. In this one he’ll be wearing No. 3 for his new team. And besides, it’s the first “Monday Night Football” game, with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the new ESPN booth. You’ll be tuning in.
Let’s call our shot now: This will be the flexed Sunday night game in the final week of the season. No offense to the Browns or Steelers, but the Ravens and Bengals could end up playing this one for the AFC North title. Lamar Jackson will be back from an injury that derailed the Ravens last season, and we all know how the Bengals’ season turned out. And if this isn’t the Sunday night game, maybe it will be the Browns vs. Steelers.
The first game announced for the schedule, to hype up Amazon Prime Video’s entry into the NFL broadcasting space, is a great one. Though, any AFC West divisional game will be a great matchup. This was an outstanding prime-time game late last season, with the Chiefs winning in overtime. It’ll be a fun early-season game this year. The Chiefs are still the favorite in the AFC West (+150, per BetMGM oddsmakers), but we should find out in this game how serious the Chargers and Justin Herbert are about making a run at them.
6. Cincinnati Bengals at Dallas Cowboys, Week 2
This would have been way better as a Thanksgiving game. The NFL instead gave us Giants-Cowboys for Thanksgiving. You will be complaining about that matchup in a little more than six months. We’ll still enjoy the reigning AFC champion Bengals getting a great early test at Dallas, who won the NFC East a season ago. Joe Burrow and Dak Prescott will put up plenty of fantasy points in this one.
5. Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Rams, Week 16 (Christmas Day)
One of the three games that will take place on Christmas (a day the NFL has historically avoided) is a great matchup. Russell Wilson should make the Broncos one of the NFL’s more entertaining teams, and we know what the Rams are capable of. This one kicks off at 4:30 p.m. ET on CBS and Nickelodeon (the day kicks off with the Packers at Dolphins and finishes with Buccaneers at Cardinals), long after the presents are opened and “some assembly required” is satisfied.
4. Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers, Week 10
A lot will be made of Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy’s return to Lambeau Field. McCarthy won a Super Bowl with the Packers. His relationship with Aaron Rodgers was a constant topic of conversation near the end of his time there. Apart from that sideshow, this is an interesting game. The Packers and Cowboys were division champions last season and are favored to repeat. This game could have big playoff implications, and it should be a fun setting in late November in the late-afternoon Fox network window.
3. Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Week 4 (Sunday night)
It’s always fun to have a recent Super Bowl matchup, especially when it’s Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes. The teams have changed since they met in Super Bowl LV, which Tampa Bay easily won, but there are plenty of recognizable stars on both sides. This is the kind of contest, under the lights on NBC, that Brady came back for.
2. Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams, Week 1 (Thursday night)
There’s no easing into the season. On opening night we get the defending champions against the team plenty will be picking to win it all this season. The Bills had a great season, just without the desired ending. The Rams got the storybook ending, in their home stadium. They’re back at SoFi Stadium for the opener and get a tough test. This is one of the better opening-night matchups we’ve seen.
1. Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs, Week 6
This was an easy pick for the top spot. In the AFC divisional round last postseason, the Chiefs and Bills played arguably the greatest game in NFL history. Both teams will contend again in the AFC. (Maybe another playoff meeting? We can wish.) This game could have a big impact on the playoff picture by season’s end. CBS made sure this game wasn’t going to prime time; it’ll happen in the late-afternoon window. Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes will put on a show. Again.