A Christmas Day matchup between the Los Angeles Rams, the reigning Super Bowl champions, and the new-look Denver Broncos is a highlight of the early portion of the N.F.L.’s schedule release, which includes contests that the league hopes will build off the 2021 season’s success and an off-season defined by explosive trades and free-agent signings.
The league will announce the full 2022 regular season schedule Thursday at 8 p.m. (all times Eastern) on NFL Network, but select game matchups have been disclosed in recent weeks. Teams have known all of their opponents for months based on their divisions and records last season, but they are still awaiting times and dates.
The Rams, whose star-studded roster includes defensive tackle Aaron Donald, receiver Cooper Kupp and quarterback Matthew Stafford, currently hold the toughest strength of schedule. The teams they will play won nearly 57 percent of their games in 2021. The Christmas Day matchup, which will air at 4:30 p.m. on CBS and Nickelodeon, features Russell Wilson, whom the Rams played often during his decade with the Seattle Seahawks before the team dealt him in March to the Broncos in a blockbuster trade. It will be one of three Christmas Day games, which will directly compete against the N.B.A. for attention on the holiday.
The drama of the schedule release continues the N.F.L.’s trend of turning off-season events, including the draft and the scouting combine, into prime-time spectacles as the league tightens its grip as the top sport in the United States. Backed by lucrative media-rights deals and a ratings spike in 2021 after expanding the regular season to 17 games, the N.F.L. built suspense in recent weeks by revealing select games on morning shows with broadcast partners and previewing marquee matchups on social media.
The streaming service Amazon Prime Video will begin broadcasting the league’s Thursday night games on Sept. 15 with a notable Week 2 matchup between Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers. The divisional rivals, who split close games last season with one-possession deficits, will look different. The Chargers, with their blossoming young quarterback, Justin Herbert, added defensive support in the edge rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson, while Kansas City dealt Tyreek Hill, its speedy receiver, to the Miami Dolphins in March after he requested a trade.
Kansas City will also play in prime time against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a rematch of the 2020 season’s Super Bowl, on Oct. 2 at 8:20 p.m. on NBC. Tampa Bay remains a national draw after Tom Brady, 44, the winner of a record seven Super Bowls, announced he would return for a 23rd season after briefly retiring in February. This week, Fox announced that Brady would become a commentator for the network whenever his playing career ended.
The Buccaneers will also play in the N.F.L.’s first game in Germany, where they will face the Seahawks in Munich on Nov. 13 at 9:30 a.m. on NFL Network. It is part of the N.F.L.’s return overseas after it canceled games abroad in 2020 because of the pandemic. In 2022, London will host three games: the Minnesota Vikings against the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 2 at 9:30 a.m. on NFL Network, the Giants against the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 9 at 9:30 a.m. on NFL Network and the Denver Broncos against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 30 at 9:30 a.m. on ESPN+. The Arizona Cardinals will play the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City on Nov. 21 at 8:15 p.m. on ESPN.
Game dates that have not yet been released also feature exciting matchups. Buffalo and Kansas City will look to recreate the frantic energy of last season’s A.F.C. divisional playoff round, a game that resulted in the league rewriting its postseason overtime rules to allow an offensive possession for each team. Wilson will return to cheers or boos, or both, in Seattle when he faces his former team.
Deshaun Watson and the Cleveland Browns will also play at the Texans, the team that drafted him in the first round in 2017, unless the league disciplines him for the 22 civil cases filed by women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. Divisional games in the A.F.C. West, including the Chargers against the Las Vegas Raiders and their new receiver, Davante Adams, and in the A.F.C. North with the Cincinnati Bengals, the reigning conference champions, against the Baltimore Ravens, should also receive prime-time showings.