On the eve of the official 2022 NFL Schedule release, we breakdown what we already “know”, which games are primed for primetime, and put each opponents into specific buckets.
Charles Robinson @CRob5769
Lead Writer – @ChiefsFocus
Free agency has slowed to a halt, when most of the signings will now be vets who are getting into second and third contract territory. The draft is over and rookie minicamps are complete. Sure, OTAs are coming up, but what’s the next thing we need to get excited about? Obviously, the schedule release.
As is the case with all offseason functions in the NFL now a days (free agency, the draft, training camp), the schedule release has transformed from a day predominantly centered around the teams and season ticket holders plotting out their fall and winter travel plans to a full-on production. Social media is ablaze with speculation on which games will kick off the 2022 season in the primetime slots – Thursday Night Football (likely Bills vs. Rams in LA), Sunday Night Football (likely the Bengals hosting someone), and the Monday Night Football double header. The league has even taken the MNF double header up a notch, announcing that there will be two MNF double headers this year, with the second coming in week 2 as the Titans take on the Bills and the Vikings play the Eagles.
The NFL just continues to pimp and parade these primetime games whether they make sense or not. The Week 2 MNF contests will overlap – with the Titans and Bills kicking off at 6:15 central and the Vikings and Eagles kicking off as that game is likely going to halftime at 7:30 central. But who cares?! Think about the ad revenue the league will share with ESPN with 4 Monday Night Football games in the first two weeks of the season. I’m kind of joking in the sense that the league and Disney don’t necessarily need more money in their pockets, but it does benefit teams in the sense that we’re seeing a period of continued salary cap inflation that will keep franchises from getting completely handcuffed as contract values continue to trend towards the moon.
Back to the schedule release. Here’s what we do know so far :
- Week 2 MNF Matchups (mentioned above)
- Internationals Games
- Vikings vs Saints – October 2 – London
- Giants vs Packers – October 9 – London
- Boncos vs Jags – October 30 – London
- Seahawks vs Buccaneers – November 13 – Munich
- 49ers vs Cardinals – November 21 – Mexico City
- Week 2 Thursday Night Football – Chargers at Chiefs
There have been numerous other leaks, specifically from a twitter account called – creatively – NFL Schedule Leaks. I question the validity of the account myself, it joined Twitter this month and has a little under 7,000 followers. But, for the sake of speculation, let’s go ahead and throw out what they have for the Chiefs while we’re writing about it. For reference, all times listed will be CST, otherwise known as Kingdom Time.
Week 1 : Chiefs at Texans – 12 PM – CBS
Week 5 : Jags at Chiefs – 12 PM – CBS
Week 8 : Bills at Chiefs – 3:25 PM – CBS
Week 17 : Chiefs at Cardinals – 7:20 PM – NBC
A couple take aways from this – if we’re playing the Chargers on a short week in primetime in week 2, I am completely good with opening the season at noon in Houston. We’ll get the Texans into a bucket here in a second, but a win to open the season going into a matchup with a team that will likely split public opinion in the divisional race in 2022 would be a good way to start. SNF in Arizona late in the season makes me feel fantastic – we’ll be hitting the Cardinals during the stretch of the year where Kyler Murray is either injured or has forgotten how to play football, or both.
The Bills game stood out to me as one that didn’t make the most sense, but the explanation does. CBS and Fox each have games throughout the course of the regular season that they can “protect”, meaning they lock them into a timeslot during the day on Sunday and no one else can take them. NBC and the NFL will typically shuffle the prime matchups of the week to “flex” them to Sunday Night Football between weeks 10-15 and in week 17, but can pick 2 between weeks 5 and 10 to do the same, if they have a dud of a matchup scheduled currently. CBS said “hell no” to anyone getting their hands on the Allen-Mahomes V, and for good reason.
Let’s get to the buckets for the Chiefs 2022 opponents. I don’t want to oversimplify this, but I don’t want to overcomplicate it either. I’m already 800 words into this and I’m sure I’ve lost some of you already. First we have to look at the opponents who travel to Arrowhead, and the teams we will face on the road :
At Arrowhead : Raiders, Chargers, Broncos, Bills, Jags, Titans, Rams, Seahawks
Away From Arrowhead : Raiders, Chargers, Broncos, Buccaneers, Texans, Cardinals, 49ers, Colts, Bengals
Overall, a bruiser of a schedule. We’ve all known that for quite some time. The three buckets we’re going to put these into are : Light Work, Should Win, and Absolute Battle. Let me define these real quick.
Light Work – these are games against opponents that the Chiefs outclass in almost every way on the field, and should be massive locks barring any unforeseen circumstances (injuries, suspensions, etc)
Should Win – Pretty self explanatory, no? These are games that the Chiefs – on paper – should win 9 times out of 10. The 1 time out of 10 could happen on the field, and has before (see 2021 Bengals x2)
Absolute Battle – matchups between two of the best teams in the league – it’s anyone’s game. Results of these games will be a complete toss up and will be heavily impacted by each team’s health and other in season factors.
Light Work :
Texans – the Davis Mills show is not putting up enough points on the Chiefs to beat Patrick Mahomes and this retooled offense
Jaguars – the Trevor Lawrence to Christian Kirk connection actually helps me sleep at night.
Seahawks – Drew Lock doesn’t have a ton of experience doing much in his NFL career, except losing to the Kansas City Chiefs
Raiders x2 (some will argue this, but KC absolutely embarrassed Vegas twice last year and I’m not letting go of that) – Derek Carr is still their QB
Should Win :
Broncos x2 – Congrats on Russell Wilson. These games may be more competitive, but Denver is still little brother.
Chargers – I think the Chargers have improved for the immediate future and will split with KC in 2022.
Cardinals – late in the year Kyler has already been mentioned. Only drawback is they’ll the Super Shredder version of Deandre Hopkins back, but I still like the Chiefs in this matchup.
Titans – Just absolutely a team that feels like they’re on the way down. I say this now, but Vrabel will have these guys ready to go – especially against the Chiefs.
Colts – Jonathan Taylor worries me with the current iteration of the Chiefs front 4, but Matt Ryan and that receiving corps instill no fear in me. Stout defense, but KC’s offensive line should do work on a smaller front 7 for Indy.
49ers – they will be chippy, and they play great defense. A road game for KC makes this more difficult, but with uncertainty surrounding Deebo and the effect that will have on the 49ers locker room and the unproven QB Trey Lance, KC gets the nod.
Bengals – this should probably be under “absolute battles”, but Petty Pat seems primed to come out firing in this one. Revenge game x 1,000. Mahomes and the lads will be ready to absolutely throttle the defending AFC Champs.
Absolute Battles :
Bills – the two best teams in the NFL going head-to-head on a Sunday afternoon with Tony Romo and Jim Nantz on the call. A beautiful way to spend a Sunday. Truly anyone’s game, and if the Bills catch the Chiefs slipping in the regular season, we all know how it plays out in January.
Buccaneers – Super Bowl 55 rematch, and any time you get Mahomes vs Brady it’s going to be a slugfest. Patrick has gotten the better of Tom in the regular season, we’ll see if that trend continues.
Chargers – the Chargers are loaded to make a run the next two years (before they have to extend Herbert, and Derwin James, and Rashawn Slater) – now is the time if LA is going to make a Super Bowl run happen, and it would start with splitting the season series with the Chiefs
Rams – defending Super Bowl champs and former Missouri brethren, the I-70 series reboot might not be as high flying as the 2018 Monday Night Football showdown but promises to be an absolute slugfest in 2022.
So, by this logic I would have the Chiefs at a tentative end of season win total of 11-13, depending on how some of those “Should Win” games go. Now, I’m not short sighted enough to ignore the fact that some of the Light Work’s could turn into losses, and some of the Absolute Battles could be blowouts in the Chiefs favor. The NFL season is a wild ride, and none of this will go exactly how I’ve scripted it out in my head.
As for the prime candidates for primetime games? Well, you could start with the absolute battle category up top sans the Bills (if the reports are true) – Rams, Bucs, and Chargers (already confirmed for TNF week 2). I would think at least one of the Broncos games with their new darling Mr. Unlimited at QB would make the cut, and the Arizona game is allegedly already slotted for SNF in week 17 – although if either team is shitting the bed, I would say that would be flexed depending on the other available matchups. Networks love the 49ers, so that game is also a candidate.
In the Mahomes era, the Chiefs have had 20 primetime games in 4 years. Overall, the number has grown from 4 in 2018, 5 apiece in 2019 and 2020, and 6 in 2021 (7 if you count the flexed week 18 matchup against the Broncos on Saturday). If my predictions stand, the Chiefs will have another 6 games under the bright lights with the spider-cam creepily looming and the 8K cameras making everything look like a video game.
Either way, we’ll know far more about how this will all shake out tomorrow night. Whether you’re watching from your living room, a bar with your buddies, or on a Zoom call with friends across the country, embrace the process – pick the wins and losses, talk about how we got screwed, make your travel plans. It’s just another step in the year-round machine the NFL has created that we all know and love.