The 2022 NFL schedule is out and it’s always fascinating to see what the folks who make the schedule think about a particular team.
It might sound conspiratorial, but when a team has a three-game road trip in November or faces defending Divisional Champions in four games of a five-game stretch or they give a team a Monday Night Football game followed by Sunday Night Football less than a week later, it’s essentially a challenge to a team the NFL schedule makers want to see prove itself.
They also can lighten the load of some teams with a three-game home stand or a well-placed bye week, somewhere around Week Eight. They can’t play with the teams on the schedule, those are set by a formula, but how they stack them and when they play them and how many prime-time games they play is always on the table and always fun to try and interpret.
So, what to make of the Jaguars fall slate? It’s tough to say what the folks in the NFL’s Park Avenue offices were thinking when they put together a schedule that on the surface looks brutal for a team with four wins in their last 33 regular season games.
The Jags open the 2022 campaign with three games away from Jacksonville in the first four weeks of the season, thanks for nothing! It begins in Washington on Opening Day and the first bit of drama arrives with the Colts in Week 2 in Jacksonville where they were humiliated on the final Sunday of the 2021 regular season … think they’ll remember who sent them home for the season instead of laying down and letting them walk over the Jags for a trip to the playoffs?
Trips to Los Angeles to face a loaded Chargers team in a stadium where the Jaguars are 0-2 and in a state where they’ve only ever won in Oakland followed by a trip to Philadelphia where new head coach Doug Pederson returns home to face a hostile Eagles crowd that once backed him sort of give you a sense of how challenging this season might be.
October gets into full swing with the Texans at TIAA Bank Field and a trip to Indianapolis making three of the first six games important AFC South matchups. It’s unusual that the Jaguars would be finished with the Colts by Week 6 but that’s the way the schedule falls this fall, and the Colts are followed by the Giants at home and the Russell Wilson-led Broncos at Wembley Stadium in London.
Then, the schedule turns downright ugly. Most folks expect the Raiders — who arrive for a home game in Week 10 — will push for a playoff spot now that quarterback Derek Carr has been reunited with college buddy and All Pro receiver Davante Adams, and a trip to Kansas City in Week 11 will test a young team against one of the very best quarterbacks in professional football, even if Tyreek Hill is now playing in Miami.
The Week 12 bye should be welcome after Arrowhead Stadium, but hold on because the Ravens arrive for a Thanksgiving weekend showdown — which means Lamar Jackson, annually an MVP candidate. December and January feature four road games in the final six of the season, including a trip to face Derrick Henry in Nashville, that rarely ends well for the Jags and a game in Jacksonville against America’s Team on Dec. 18, followed by a quick turnaround since they play on the following Thursday evening, the 22nd, in New York just before Christmas.
It all ends in Jacksonville against Derrick Henry and the defending AFC South Champions on either Jan. 7 or 8 thanks to the flexible Week 18 scheduling.
I say the fun ends because, as I see this schedule, the folks who wrote it don’t see the Jaguars as a playoff team in Doug Pederson’s first season. This is the kind of schedule that on the surface seems like they still see the Jaguars as fodder for the powerful AFC teams on the calendar in November and December with the beginning and end of the season away from home so often. Let’s face it, if they were Green Bay, they’d have home games in December, and Aaron Rogers has earned that over his long career.
You never know how it’s all going to shake out, who is going to stay healthy or who might be missing their starting quarterback, but they certainly didn’t do the Jaguars any favors with this one.
My read on this schedule is the NFL wants to see if they’re ready to turn the corner with Trevor Lawrence and Pederson, and if they can come through this somewhere in the neighborhood of eight wins they might find themselves with a much different kind of schedule in 2023.
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