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Analysis | The 15 can’t-miss games on the 2022 NFL schedule

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The matchups already were known. Some of the games previously had been announced. And yet the NFL still managed to turn the unveiling of its 2022 regular season schedule into a made-for-TV event Thursday night. Here’s a quick look at the most intriguing games.

Bills at Rams on Sept. 8: For a second straight year, the NFL season begins in the stadium in which the previous season ended. The Rams begin the defense of their Super Bowl title by hosting the Bills at SoFi Stadium in a glitzy matchup. For the Rams, left tackle Andrew Whitworth retired. Pass rusher Von Miller left via free agency. Robert Woods was traded and fellow wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has not been re-signed. But the Rams added wideout Allen Robinson and linebacker Bobby Wagner as free agents, and now they will see whether last season’s win-now approach can produce more than one championship.

Colts at Texans on Sept. 11: It seemed unlikely when the offseason began that quarterback Matt Ryan would be leaving Atlanta. But everything changed when the Falcons tried but failed to complete a trade for Deshaun Watson. Rather than keeping Ryan and attempting to repair the relationship, the Falcons allowed Ryan to move on by trading him to Indianapolis. He should provide stability at quarterback for a Colts team that is strong around him.

Broncos at Seahawks on Sept. 12: In an offseason of blockbuster NFL trades, perhaps the biggest was the deal that sent nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson from Seattle to Denver. Wilson returns to Seattle as he makes his Broncos debut amid the soaring expectations that he will restore the franchise to immediate Super Bowl contention. The quarterback he will oppose is, for now, undetermined. The Seahawks added Drew Lock from the Broncos in the Wilson trade. They re-signed Geno Smith. But they repeatedly passed up the quarterbacks available in the NFL draft and have not struck a deal with the Browns for Baker Mayfield.

Chargers at Chiefs on Sept. 15: The league and team owners are taking a chance by putting their “Thursday Night Football” package on Amazon Prime. The NFL is, by far, the most prized property on television. But the league and owners believe that streaming is the future, and it will be intriguing to see what level of viewership the Thursday night package draws in Year 1. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post.) The first Thursday night game of the season being carried by Amazon is an attractive Week 2 matchup between the Chargers and Chiefs.

Chiefs at Buccaneers on Oct. 2: The Sunday night game in Week 4 brings a rematch of the Super Bowl, won by the Bucs, to close the 2020 season. Neither team made it back to the Super Bowl last season. But both are expected to be in the mix this season.

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Bills at Chiefs on Oct. 16: Their overtime thriller during last season’s AFC playoffs was so compelling that some called it one of the best postseason games ever played. Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes put on a memorable display of quarterbacking greatness. The Chiefs’ victory, achieved with a touchdown on the opening possession of overtime, was enough for the league and owners to change the overtime format for postseason games, ensuring each team at least one offensive possession. There won’t be as much at stake this time. But it still should be entertaining.

Commanders at Colts on Oct. 30: The Colts gave up on quarterback Carson Wentz after only one season. Wentz actually played reasonably well overall for the Colts. But there were issues with injuries and questions about his vaccination status, and the team’s failure to reach the AFC playoffs made for a decidedly dour mood at season’s end. Wentz makes his return, trying to demonstrate that he can be the solution to the Commanders’ quarterback problems.

Packers at Bills on Oct. 30: No one should be overly surprised if this is a Super Bowl preview. The Packers, however, must prove that they can remain a top contender in the NFC after trading wide receiver Davante Adams, putting an even greater burden on quarterback Aaron Rodgers as he seeks a third straight league MVP award.

Rams at Buccaneers on Nov. 6: The Rams’ 30-27 triumph in Tampa in the divisional round of last season’s NFC playoffs kept them moving toward their Super Bowl championship and appeared to end the NFL career of Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady. His storied career was concluding, it appeared, on a valiant but losing note as the Bucs scored 24 straight points to erase a 27-3 deficit but fell on a field goal as time expired. But now Brady gets another chance at the Rams, with his offseason retirement announcement being followed less than six weeks later by his un-retirement proclamation.

Seahawks vs. Buccaneers on Nov. 13 in Munich: The NFL plays its first regular season game in Germany as it continues to attempt to broaden its international appeal, an effort that has intensified with the implementation of the 17-game season.

Cowboys at Packers on Nov. 13: Cowboys Coach Mike McCarthy returns to Green Bay to face Rodgers, his former quarterback, and the Packers, his former team. The matchup also could be significant for NFC playoff positioning.

Giants at Cowboys on Nov. 24: The Cowboys host an NFC East opponent for their traditional Thanksgiving Day game. Perhaps the Giants, with their new football decision-making regime in place and coming off a promising performance in the NFL draft, still can be playing for something at that point. The Cowboys drew a huge TV audience for their Thanksgiving loss to the Raiders in overtime last season, so the nation undoubtedly will be watching.

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Browns at Texans on Dec. 4: Watson potentially makes his return to Houston following the offseason trade that sent him from the Texans to the Browns. The issue, of course, is whether Watson will be in Cleveland’s lineup, with the NFL mulling a potential suspension under the personal conduct policy.

Bengals at Patriots on Dec. 24: Do quarterback Joe Burrow and the Bengals have staying power, or were they a one-year wonder? It should be evident by this point. The Patriots again will be attempting to show that they can return to top-contender status in the AFC. They were close last season but then faded late in the regular season and were a playoff nonfactor.

Buccaneers at Falcons on Jan. 7 or 8: Brady already has lined up a lucrative deal with Fox to head to the broadcast booth after he’s done as a player. This could be his final regular season game — although, as his reversal this offseason demonstrated, there’s no way to know for certain.

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