Bears among 2022 schedule winners while Packers get brutal draw originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Our long national nightmare ended Thursday as the NFL took over an early May day to release the 2022 schedule.
After facing a brutal schedule last season, the Bears will have one of the easier slates in the league. That should help them gain confidence in Year 1 of Matt Eberflus’ tenure.
As with anything in life, there were winners and losers from the 2022 schedule release.
After an offseason filled with drama, Kyle Shanahan needed a win.
He got one in the 2022 schedule for a 49ers team expected to turn the offense over to second-year quarterback Trey Lance.
The 49ers do face a touch stretch from Week 4 to Week 8 when they face the Los Angeles Rams twice and Chiefs once. But the 49ers get a six-week run beginning in Week 9 in which they don’t play a road game. Instead, San Francisco will play four home games, a neutral site game in Mexico, and have a bye week during the stretch.
Don’t be shocked if that six-week span wins them the NFC West.
It’s a good thing the Packers play in the relatively weak NFC North because their 2022 path won’t be easy.
Aaron Rodgers and Co. have a horrific travel schedule. They face the New York Giants in London in Week 5 but don’t get a bye in Week 6. So instead, the Packers will fly back home to face the New York Jets before playing three straight road games against the Washington Commanders, Buffalo Bills, and Detroit Lions.
However, the Packers finish with three of their final four games at home—still a brutal schedule for one of the NFC favorites.
A preseason Super Bowl darling, Justin Herbert, and the Chargers have a chance to get off to a hot start and cement themselves as a true threat to win the AFC.
After opening the season against the Raiders and Chiefs, the Chargers have a seven-week stretch that includes games against the Texans, Jaguars, Falcons, Seahawks, and a Browns team that might not have Deshaun Watson if the NFL levies a suspension.
If the Bolts can at least split the first two games, there’s a real chance they start 8-1 before a Week 10 title in San Francisco.
But as easy as the front half of the schedule is, the back portion is equally challenging. Following the 49ers game, the Chargers close by facing seven teams that had winning records last season. The one team that didn’t? The Russell Wilson-led Broncos.
Two of the hot May teams got no respect from the NFL in terms of scheduling.
Both the Jets and Lions had great drafts. The arrow appears to be pointing up for both franchises. The Jets, who play in the biggest media market, are one of the trendy picks to go from division cellar to playoff contender in 2022.
And yet, the Jets only received one primetime game, the Thursday night game that every team gets.
Meanwhile, the Lions don’t play a primetime game. Their Thursday night game will be, as always, the early game on Thanksgiving.
The preseason Super Bowl favorites got a pretty, pretty lovely draw.
When the worst thing to say about a schedule is that the bye week is a little early (Week 7), you know you made out well.
The Bills also play three of their final five games at home in front of a frozen and inebriated Bills Mafia.
Russell Wilson arrived, and now everyone wants to watch the Broncos.
Denver opens the season on Monday night against Wilson’s former team, the Seattle Seahawks. Then, they get the Texans in Week 2. They need to be 2-0 because things get more demanding, and the end of the road is a monster.
The Broncos’ final six games come against five teams that had winning records last season. The sixth? The Baltimore Ravens. Wilson and Co.’s final stretch is as follows: at Ravens, vs. Chiefs, vs. Cardinals, at Rams, at Chiefs, vs. Chargers.
Confused? Let me explain.
The Bears face one of the easiest schedules in the NFL. Chicago plays the Lions twice, the Texans, the Falcons, the Giants, and the Jets. They also get a Commanders team that is a complete unknown with Carson Wentz at the helm.
In all honesty, even with the easy slate, the Bears are probably staring at 6-11. The ceiling is 7-10.
But the way the schedule panned out also will give the Bears clear benchmarks to gauge their progress under Eberflus.
Chicago opens against the 49ers, a team whose rebuilding model they would like to follow. The Bears get a measuring stick out of the gate to see how far they have to go. At the end of the season, they face the Bills, another team whose success they’d like to emulate. Have they gotten better in the 15 weeks between the 49ers and Bills game? Is there progress? Where are the biggest needs?
They also have their two games against the Packers spaced out. The Bears visit Green Bay in Week 2 but don’t welcome the Packers to Soldier Field until Week 13. Those two games can also help inform the Bears of how things are going early in the rebuild.
When you’ve been one of the best teams in football for half a decade, sometimes the road is difficult. And the Chiefs’ 2022 schedule is a bear.
On top of facing the Chargers, Raiders, and Broncos twice apiece, Kansas City also plays the Rams, Colts, Bucs, Bills, Titans, and Bengals.
If the Chiefs win the AFC West, they will have earned it.