USATSI_17556694
USATSI_17556694

The NFL released its 2022 schedule on Thursday, and as the headline states, the ensuing list comprises the must-see matchups in the regular season. The following games made this list due to star power (i.e. elite QBs facing off), reunions/homecomings and potential playoff showdowns.

Of the 272 regular-season games, here are the best matchups.

20. Browns at Texans (Sunday, Dec. 4, 4 p.m. ET, CBS): This very well could be Deshaun Watson’s return to Houston, and with the game scheduled in Week 13, the new Browns quarterback should be eligible to play even if the NFL suspends him for the first part of the season due to his off-field issues. If Watson is available to play, he’ll be motivated to put on an aerial show against his former team that’s still in the midst of a painstaking (and painful) rebuild.

19. Dolphins at Chargers (Sunday, Dec. 11, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS): Tua Tagovailoa will have no more excuses with all of the pieces placed around him to succeed, namely Pro Bowl wideout Tyreek Hill, who was acquired from Kansas City. If Tua fails to take the giant step forward as the Dolphins hope, then this game will be just another sad reminder of what could’ve been with Justin Herbert, who was selected right after Miami took Tagovailoa with the fifth pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

18. 49ers at Raiders (Sunday, Jan. 1, 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX): These old Bay Area rivals meet in Week 17 in Vegas. Now, we don’t know if the Raiders will be as good as their offseason upgrades indicate or if the Niners will be as troubled as their offseason drama suggests (Deebo Samuel, Jimmy Garoppolo). But we do know there’s deep-seated hatred between the two franchises, and that can only be a good thing for neutral observers who like to watch intense, hard-fought football.

17. Chiefs at Cardinals (Sunday, Sept. 11, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS): This game takes place on the first Sunday of the season, so, as recent history suggests, Kyler Murray will be at the peak of his powers before he and the Cardinals endure their usual late-season fade. Early Season Kyler against Patrick Mahomes should produce several viral moments of the Houdini-escape scramble and no-look touchdown pass variety, so you’ll definitely want to watch this game or at least follow it on Twitter to track the latest crazy play in real-time.

16. Raiders at Chargers (Sunday, Sept. 11, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS): An unprecedented offseason of divisional one-upmanship immediately deemed the AFC West as must-see viewing. We’ll get one of those matchups right away in Week 1 when the Raiders make the first of their two trips to SoFi Stadium this season. (The Silver and Black also play the Rams at SoFi in Week 14.) Derek Carr will get to see his old friend from Oakland, ex-Raiders star Khalil Mack, but he’ll do so with his head on a swivel to avoid Mack and Joey Bosa rushing from opposite sides in an improved (on paper) Chargers defense.

15. Broncos at Seahawks (Monday, Sept. 12, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC): Of all the reunion games, Russell Wilson’s return to Seattle is the most intriguing. Wilson — who’ll have talented receivers and running backs to share the offensive burden in Denver — surely will want to prove a point against his old team and head coach Pete Carroll, who traded the nine-time Pro Bowler to Denver two months ago in a major Seattle shakeup. To those who think former Broncos QB Drew Lock will have something to say as well, we respectfully ask, “Have you seen Drew Lock play?”

14. Rams at Chargers (Sunday, Jan. 1, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC): There’s no denying the Rams have the upper hand in the football battle for L.A. There’s also no denying that the Chargers are set up for the next decade-plus with QB Justin Herbert, who threw for 5,014 yards and 38 touchdowns to make the Pro Bowl in his second season. Of course, this Week 17 meeting will be about immediate supremacy among SoFi Stadium tenants. It also reunites Rams head coach Sean McVay with his former defensive coordinator, Chargers head coach Brandon Staley.

13. Bengals at Buccaneers (Sunday, Dec. 18, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS): Joe Burrow enters the season with even more swagger after leading the Bengals to the Super Bowl. He’ll be strutting into this game to take on Tom Brady, who has never lacked confidence himself, in what should be a wild, high-scoring affair between teams that ranked in the top seven in points scored last season.

12. Cowboys at Rams (Sunday, Oct. 9, 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX): WHOSE HOUSE? For this game, don’t be surprised if SoFi Stadium belongs to the Cowboys and becomes Jerry World West. When Dallas visited the L.A. Coliseum for a divisional playoff game in 2019, the majority of the 77,187 was supporting the visitors, a development that’s not surprising considering “America’s team” holds its training camp in nearby Oxnard. Maybe a Super Bowl title tilts the crowd in the Rams’ favor. Anyway, we’re not recommending this game just to monitor how loud Cowboys fans get in Inglewood. Both teams are currently among futures bettors’ Super Bowl favorites, so the football should be entertaining with Dak Prescott trying to outduel Matthew Stafford.

11. Ravens at Bengals (Week 18, TBD): As much fun as it is to see Joe Burrow throw long to Ja’Marr Chase, let’s not forget about the dynamic playmaking of Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, the former MVP who’ll be motivated to return Baltimore to the top of an AFC North undergoing a lot of change in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. This season finale in Cincinnati very well could decide the division title.

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Dec 16, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) moves the ball under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Nick Bolton (54) during the second half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

10. Chiefs at Chargers (Sunday, Nov. 20, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS): This Week 11 meeting of the two AFC West teams with the best Super Bowl odds could help decide whether Kansas City wins its seventh straight division crown. Chargers QB Justin Herbert enters the season with a 2-2 record against the Chiefs, but he’s only 1-2 against Patrick Mahomes, who sat out a Week 16 loss to the Chargers in 2020. Adding to the intrigue is a Bolts defense bolstered with big-name reinforcements to stop the K.C. offense.

9. Rams at Buccaneers (Sunday, Nov. 6, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS): Public service announcement — there’s no “payback” for a playoff loss by beating the same opponent in a regular-season game; it only qualifies if you beat that team in the postseason. Got it? Good. That said, count on Tom Brady to seek revenge against the Rams, who came to Tampa Bay last January and capsized the Bucs’ boat parade toward a title repeat. In that divisional playoff game, Brady led Tampa all the way back from a 27-6 third-quarter deficit only to watch L.A. walk it off on Matt Gay’s 30-yard field goal with no time left for a 30-27 victory.

8. Chiefs at Bengals (Sunday, Dec. 4, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS): It’s a rematch of last January’s AFC championship game, which boosted the growing legend of Joe Cool even further. See the previous PSA about regular-season payback for devastating postseason defeats. It doesn’t exist.

7. Rams at Packers (Monday, Dec. 19, 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC): A shocking 49ers comeback in the divisional playoffs last January prevented Green Bay from hosting the Rams in the NFC championship game. This season, we’ll get to see Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp at Lambeau Field going head-to-head with Aaron Rodgers and … well, that’s the big question for the Packers. Who’ll replace the departed Davante Adams as Rodgers’ new No. 1 receiver? It might be too early for rookie Christian Watson to fill those shoes, but expect Rodgers to throw as many pinpoint-accurate passes necessary to try and take down the defending champs.

6. Packers at Bills (Sunday, Oct. 30, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC): Luckily, this Week 8 game will take place before winter hits Western New York, so the teams won't have to deal with adverse conditions. And that's perfect when it's Aaron Rodgers versus Josh Allen. Who doesn't want to watch the two gunslingers try to outdo each other? And, as with the remaining inter-conference showdowns on this list, this matchup could be the season finale.

5. Chiefs at Buccaneers (Sunday, Oct. 2, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC): It’s Patrick Mahomes against Tom Brady. It’s a rematch of Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium, where the teams played for the pandemic-season title in February 2021. It’s a game that very well could be a preview of Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Ariz.

4. Rams at Chiefs (Sunday, Nov. 27, 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX): These powerhouses could meet at State Farm Stadium in February, too. It was the expected Super Bowl matchup last February, but Joe Burrow and the Bengals had other plans. Questions about the Chiefs' offense naturally ensued after the surprising trade of six-time Pro Bowl wideout Tyreek Hill to Miami, but do you really think K.C. won’t be as dangerous with the ball in Patrick Mahomes’ hands and Andy Reid calling plays? Come on now.

3. Packers at Buccaneers (Sunday, Sept. 25, 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX): This could be the last time Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady face off in their Hall of Fame careers. Brady, who turns 45 in August, has won their last three matchups to gain a 3-1 all-time edge, the most recent victory against Rodgers coming in the 2020 NFC championship game at Lambeau Field. To see two of the greatest QBs ever go head-to-head is worth your time and attention. Also, both teams are betting favorites to dethrone the Rams in the NFC. So there’s that to consider as well.

2. Bills at Rams (Thursday, Sept. 8, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC): Football fans were deprived of one more Josh Allen drive when a Bills-Chiefs divisional-round playoff classic abruptly ended with a single Chiefs touchdown in overtime (thank goodness the NFL changed its postseason OT rules). The 2022 season will begin in glorious fashion with Allen getting multiple possessions against the defending champion Rams at spectacular SoFi Stadium. These two teams could very well meet again on Feb. 12, 2023 for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The Bills, not the Rams, are currently the odds-on favorite to win it all.

1. Bills at Chiefs (Sunday, Oct. 16, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS): Hopefully, these teams pick up where they left off last January when the Chiefs prevailed 42-36 overtime in one of the most thrilling playoff games in recent memory.

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