The 2022 NFL Schedule is Here! (My way)

This is what the 2022 NFL schedule should look like (unfortunately it won't, though).

And so we’re back! (For the master schedule, click HERE. For color-coded, team-by-team schedules, click HERE. Please note: If you are using a mobile device, the formatting may be skewed).

Days, weeks, and months have passed with this “pet-project” morphing into a full-on labor of love. And my gut feeling is that were the football-loving public ever to see this, they would begin to feel a tug on their heartstrings. Not just for this version of the schedule because of how botched the actual one is, but for the good old days of ABC Monday Night Football, ESPN Sunday Night Football (preceded by NFL PrimeTime, of course), and a mostly-Sunday diet of football with few interruptions to the week that water down the product (I’m talking to you, Thursday Night Football).

How long did this take, you ask? More or less, it took about three months this time. A lot of tweaking. Even more fist-pounding on the desk. But guess what? I loved every minute of it, and I bet you only the late Val Pinchbeck can truly relate to what I’ve done.

There are so many complications, and yet that’s what makes this schedule beautiful, just as it was between 2002-2005. For those who forget, that was the four-year period when the league had 32 teams and still lived on the old TV deal. Frankly, that was when the schedule was at its absolute best.

These days, it almost feels like anyone could make this schedule. No longer do the schedule-makers have to worry about not putting the Raiders and 49ers or Giants and Jets in the same time slot. They don’t really seem to care about travel, three-game road-trips, or overloading a team’s prime-time schedule. This schedule is the most solid proof we’ve ever seen that it really is all about money in the NFL (not that it wasn’t before, but it wasn’t as blatant through the schedule).

Here are the main complications in making this schedule, rules I did my very best not to break, and core beliefs on display:

16 Games, Nothing More

If you’re wondering why I skipped doing this last year, it took me a little time to move past the shock and disgust of the league moving to 17 games for no reason other than money (not player safety, not fan interest, not for the greater good of the game). I had to weigh the option of trying a 17-game slate, but said no way. We’re already living in fantasy universe with this thing, so why change now? Of course I am not factoring in the added matchups, which should just be exhibitions if the league needs to play them (or better yet, put it back as the fourth preseason game).

Monday Night Football needs to be the premier event

What is the point of having Monday Night Football if it isn’t the headline game of the week? Why have an extra day of football for a game that plays second-fiddle to the one the night before? This was one of the more heartbreaking changes that occurred as part of the new TV deal that began in 2006. In this version, MNF is No. 1.

All games will be played in the USA

No, this is not some sort of patriotic statement. I love that the league wants to go global, but one London game is too much, let alone four! The league tinkered with a game in Mexico City in 2005, the only non-US game between 2002-2005, but the travel and timing has thrown the schedule out of whack. Not to mention, who wants to wake up at 9:30 AM local time to watch their team play, or lose a home game off the schedule? There are only eight of these a year; this isn’t baseball.

Thursday football is for Thanksgiving (and the opener)

Again, let’s keep things simple. Thursday football is a scheduling nightmare, and player safety is put at risk. The opening Thursday night game makes sense because no team is playing on a “short week.” Thanksgiving football is the most pure thing about the NFL, so it stays. But only the Lions and Cowboys should carry on this tradition. A Thursday night game on Thanksgiving is overkill.

Week 17 is unrestricted

This is, without a doubt, the worst part of the schedule for me. I don’t even quite know why, but I’m starting to figure it out. And no, it has nothing to do with Patriots-bias, where the Pats get to play their AFC East patsies to round out every year.

First off, it’s stale. With the unveiling of the schedule back in the day, I always looked at Week 17 first. I wanted to know the unpredictable matchups on the docket that would finish off the year. Some of the best Week 17’s of all time happened because of non-divisional matchups, and it stinks to already basically know who is going to play whom in Week 17. That takes away the fun of the schedule being unveiled.

In theory it made sense what the league wanted to do, but rumor has it that this was actually born out of frustration that the Colts did not go for the perfect season in 2009, choosing to rest their players and prompting the change for 2010. I’ll give the league a sliver of credit for finally pitting the Ravens against the Steelers in Week 17. For years, this was a great hypocrisy. Sure, we’ll make all the games divisional games so they’re more competitive… except for the matchups we want to save for primetime. This was the case with the Patriots and Jets the first seven years of this format.

Having Week 17 be all divisional games almost makes it feel like a different season, like the schedule-makers block off this week because of this silly rule. It also can potentially render Week 16 — yes, Week 16! — games meaningless, and in the past two years combined only one division title has actually been decided in a head-to-head matchup.

Don’t flex those muscles

Likely the part of my schedule most vulnerable to criticism, and I understand why, but I chose not to go with the flex scheduling that entered our lives in 2006. It has probably made things better, and yet the league managed to survive all the way through 2005 by setting a matchup and sticking with it. This is a schedule, which means it’s set and structured and not meant to be changed. I understand doing away with the final Monday night game so as not to risk anyone playing a playoff game on a short week (as was the case the last time it happened, with the 2002 49ers), but even just leaving the Sunday night game in place is fine with me.

Also, I refuse to acknowledge the existence of “cross-flexing.” Plain and simple, if the AFC team is the road team, the game is on CBS. If the NFC team is the road team, the game is on Fox.

Time and geography

The hardest part of the schedule usually boils down to balancing the Giants and Jets, and now add in the Rams and Chargers. There is also the MLB schedule that is in play for the first month, as about eight teams prefer not to have the two teams in the city play at the same time. I honored this as well as the days when the NFL had the courtesy not to schedule a Sunday night game up against the World Series.

Since the Giants and Jets share a stadium, they of course cannot be home on the same day. The same now applies on the West Coast to the two Los Angeles teams. They also cannot play in the same time slot or the same TV network. What made the 2022 version of my schedule so difficult was working this in. Basically, this is the same challenge as we had with the 49ers and Raiders both being in the Bay Area, only now we have to factor in that they cannot be home on the same calendar day.

Oh, and by the way, you’ll notice I stuck with the 4:15 p.m. time slot for the nationally televised games, not the silly 4:25 p.m. slot that the league implemented to take up the airwaves for a little longer.

Balanced byes

They would keep the bye weeks rather simple, having them between Weeks 3 and 10, with four teams off per week. Nowadays they are all over the place. Granted, Week 3 is a little early, but this was the system, and it worked just fine and I decided to stick with it.

The Pro Bowl is back in Hawaii after the season!

The way it should be. Really nothing more to say there. Go back and watch highlights from some old Pro Bowls, and you’ll realize it wasn’t always this pitiful display we have now (on the mainland, no less). This all started to go downhill when the league experimented in moving the game to Miami in 2009 (and I can say that with certainty because I was there).

Saturday Night Fever

Good on the NFL for bringing back Saturday football late in the year. The way it used to be was that the league would usually have two weeks (either 15 and 16 or 16 and 17) with Saturday games, with 2005 being an exception because all bulk of the Week 16 games were played on Saturday because Christmas was Sunday. Because the 2022 calendar actually aligns with what the 2005 calendar was, this provided precedent. So as a result, there is a game in a 1:30 p.m. slot, a 5 p.m. slot, and sometimes a primetime game at night. If the 5 p.m. game is a Fox game, the Sunday national games would be on CBS, and vice versa. The Week 17 finale featured one afternoon game and one prime-time game. Because it falls on New Years Eve, I get why the league scheduled a game in Oakland in 2005 (Giants-Raiders), and so I did the same having the Chiefs travel to LA to face the Chargers for a 5 p.m. local start so Angelinos could still enjoy their New Year’s celebrations.

The networks

As there would be 35 primetime games (as opposed to the outrageous, oversaturated 50+ they have now), one network would have to lose an additional game to primetime. To even things out, that network would get one extra “doubleheader” (the nationally televised 4:15 p.m. game of the week). The league would alternate each year, as you would expect. According to the 2002-2005 ledger, the odd-numbered years leave Fox with one less game as a result of 18 of the 35 prime-time games featuring an NFC road team.


There were a couple of oddities (aren’t there always?) I wanted to avoid but simply could not, although there appears to be precedent for these. I always try to avoid more than 3 straight divisional games at a time, but the Seahawks ended up with 4 between Weeks 11 and 14. The 2002 Panthers actually played five straight at one point, with a bye coming after the first three. I also felt badly for essentially having the Cowboys play on two short weeks in 2022. They are always a victim once because of their yearly Thanksgiving appearance, but with the league playing the bulk of its Week 16 games on a Saturday this year, I could not avoid it without breaking another rule. So Dallas plays five days after a Monday night game on the road. They did something similar in 1999, however. Aside from their usual Thanksgiving Day game, they had a late Sunday afternoon game followed by an early Friday road game on Christmas Eve. At least I was able to give them a 4:15 Saturday kickoff, but the idea of putting them as part of a Christmas triple-header did not seem feasible because I did not want to just have one stand-alone game on New Year’s Eve, even if you could make a solid argument that it would make sense to do so. In 2005, the two teams that played on Monday, December 19, the Packers and Ravens, both did not play again until the following Sunday (Christmas Day).

As for the primetime games, what the league used to do was be cognizant of altering home and road games, not repeating matchups if they’re division rivals, and balancing divisional and non-divisional games. No team gets more than three Monday night games nor will they get more than four primetime games overall. It was important — and challenging — to even those out and make sure every top team appeared on SNF at least once. Back in the day, you usually would have anywhere from four to six teams that got snubbed for primetime games; I ended up with four. Teams should not appear on the same primetime network more than once in a three-week span, although it’s not uncommon to have a team play a Sunday night game and Monday night game back-to-back, or vice versa.

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