The NFL has figured out ways to make the league a talking point even during what used to be its “dead season” after the NFL Draft. Big-time free agents are still available on the open market, two quarterbacks are still awaiting a trade, and the league has found creative ways to leak schedules to create talking points leading up to today’s extensive schedule reveal. But we already know the opponents and the home/road splits, so who has the most demanding 2022 schedules?
Hardest 2022 NFL schedules
1) Kansas City Chiefs
According to Vegas win totals, the Kansas City Chiefs have the most challenging schedule in the NFL. That isn’t surprising considering the arms race in the AFC, and more specifically, the AFC West. Additionally, the Chiefs won the West last season, so they play a first-place schedule.
Every team in the West is projected to win 8.5 or more games, with three of the four projected to win 10-plus. Only the Raiders (8.5) fall under double-digits. To make matters worse, the Chiefs are playing the NFC West, which boasts three teams projected to win nine or more games.
But it goes even farther. The Chiefs also play the Bengals, Buccaneers, Bills, Titans, and Colts, who all project to win at least 9.5 games.
Kansas City will face the Titans, Rams, and Bills within the comfort of their own home. They must travel to the Colts, 49ers, Cardinals, Bengals, and Buccaneers. That’s eight games against what appear to be quality opponents. Given their divisional games, the Chiefs will face opponents projected to have even or winning records in 14 of their 17 games.
That is an arduous task to undertake. The Texans, Seahawks, and Jaguars are Kansas City’s only potential reprieves.
2) Los Angeles Rams
It’s never surprising to see the defending Super Bowl champions with a difficult schedule. They’re usually coming into a first-place schedule, and they always dominate prime-time games, which the NFL likes to make premier matchups.
The NFC West is also one of the best divisions in football, along with its AFC counterpart and the AFC North. Only the retooling Seahawks project to win fewer games than they’ll lose in 2022. The Cardinals project to win nine games, while the 49ers are at 10.
Like the Chiefs, the Rams will face eight opponents projected to win at least as many games as they’ll lose. They’ll get the Cowboys, Raiders, Broncos, and Bills at home. On the road, they face the Buccaneers, Packers, Chiefs, and Chargers. They’ll also play travel to play the Saints, who were 5-2 last season with a healthy Jameis Winston.
3) Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders have an even bigger divisional problem than Kansas City. Despite having a talented roster, they still project to the bottom of the division. Every other team in the West is projected to hit double-digit victories.
Four non-AFC West clubs projected to win at least 8.5 games will come to the hockey puck to face the Raiders: the Patriots, Cardinals, Colts, and 49ers. Las Vegas gets the Titans and Rams away. The Saints are a quality opponent, and while the Steelers could be under .500, they haven’t finished with a losing record in 16 years.
4) New York Jets
The Jets are the biggest surprise on the list. While they have the fourth-hardest schedule based on 2022 projected win totals, they’re 17th based on last season’s win-loss records.
That’s partially due to the Ravens, Browns, and Broncos being on the schedule. Baltimore and Cleveland disappointed due to injury but look poised to make a triumphant return to relevancy in 2022. Denver was a quarterback away and traded for Russell Wilson in the offseason.
The Jets get the Ravens and Bengals at home while facing the Browns, Packers, Vikings, and Broncos on the road. Wins and losses shouldn’t be the goal of New York’s season, though. Development from Zach Wilson and an improved defense are the actual objectives.
5) Cincinnati Bengals
Sometimes Super Bowl slumps can hamper the losing team, but it happens more infrequently than the narrative suggests. Still, the Bengals certainly won’t have an easy road to repeat as the AFC representatives in 2022.
Their road schedule ranks as the sixth-most difficult in the NFL, while their home SOS is 12th. Of the six non-divisional teams they face that are expected to win at least 8.5 games, four of the six are on the road.
The Bengals will face the Bills and Chiefs in Cincinnati. They’ll go up against the Cowboys, Patriots, Buccaneers, and Titans on the road.