The 2022 NFL schedule is out and there's no doubt, per usual, some teams have it much easier or more difficult than others. Some teams play in tougher divisions, while some catch an unlucky break based on when they're playing certain opponents.
Some breaks are determined immediately by the strength or weakness or particular divisions. Other benefits come from drawing the right interdivisional matchups at the right time and where a team a finished in last year's standings.
Considering all those factors, here's separating the best and worst schedules among Super Bowl hopefuls, prime playoff contenders and teams looking for a quick turnaround with their final records:
Winners and losers of 2022 NFL schedule
Winners: Green Bay Packers
The Packers have been a 13-win machine in three seasons under coach Matt LaFleur. Their playoff letdowns with two-time reigning MVP QB Aaron Rodgers aside, they are set up to be favorites for the NFC No. 1 seed again.
The bookend four games against NFC North foes ensure a hot start and solid finish. Playing at the Buccaneers in Week 3 and at the Bills in Week 8 are their toughest games, and both come in the first half around plenty of favorable action. The second half is sweeter, with both the Rams and Cowboys coming to Lambeau Field.
Outside of the teams in the NFC East, no team that faces a fair share of good opponents has it better than Green Bay.
Losers: Kansas City Chiefs
The crossover play between the loaded AFC and NFC Wests presents an immediate extra challenge for all eight teams involved. The AFC West teams get some reprieve in also facing the entire AFC South. But the negative separation for Kansas City is drawing Tampa Bay, Buffalo and Cincinnati on top of that.
Three of the Chiefs' first four games and four of seven overall are on the road before a Week 8 bye. They go away to play the Cardinals, Colts, Buccaneers and 49ers in that first half. At home, they draw early prime-window matchups with the Chargers, Raiders and Bills in that mix.
Coming out of the bye, the Chiefs face the Titans at home in Week 9. In Weeks 12 and 13, the Chiefs have a home-away 1-2 punch against the two Super Bowl 56 teams, the Rams and Bengals. They also have all three division road games in the second half. Kansas City is still the favorite to win a much-improved West, but the schedule will likely keep it from the No. 1 seed.
Winners: Dallas Cowboys
The NFC East teams are sitting pretty in general as their rotation draws two breaks (except for the Packers) with the NFC North and AFC South. The Cowboys, as the still clear best team in the division, are tied with the Commanders for the weakest strength of schedule based on combined record of 2021 opponents (133-155-1, .462).
At first glance, starting with consecutive home games against the Buccaneers and Bengals seems brutal. The Cowboys also go to the Rams in Week 5. But the weak conference teams in the East and North counteract that well. The second half also looks like an opportunity to dominate after the Week 10 game at Green Bay, which also comes after an ideal bye. Dallas is set up to either match or improve upon 12-5 to finish ahead of Philadelphia again.
Losers: Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers
The Cardinals also have it pretty bad and the Seahawks don't have it that much better because of that NFC West vs. AFC West factor. NFC West teams also need to play the Buccaneers and the rest of the NFC South.
Forget about three teams from the division making the playoffs again. So here's focusing on the division's two best teams who played in last season's dramatic NFC championship game.
The Super Bowl champion Rams need to host the mighty Bills in the opener. Their first two road games are in Arizona and San Francisco, ahead of drawing the Cowboys in Week 5. After facing the 49ers early again in Week 8, the Rams see November starting at the Buccaneers and ending at the Chiefs.
The NFC runner-up 49ers start a little easier at the Bears, but in October between the two Rams games, they also host the Chiefs. The second half has some traps, including a Mexico City trip vs. the Cardinals, the Buccaneers at home and the Raiders in Las Vegas. Double-digit wins won't come easy for either the Rams or 49ers.
Winners: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens ended up with a far more favorable schedule than their AFC North opponents in what's arguably the NFL's toughest division. Why? That's the benefit of a rare last-place losing season at 8-9.
The AFC North draws a welcome mix of the AFC East and the NFC South, where after the Bills and Buccaneers, there's a considerable dropoff. The Ravens' three unique games from the rest of the division are against the Giants, Jaguars and Broncos.
Facing the entire AFC East in the first four games with the Bills last (and at home) is nice. The Thursday night Week 8 game at Buccaneers is the Ravens' other difficult non-division test in the first half. The second half offers breaks with Carolina, Jacksonville and Atlanta. The Ravens should be in good shape to at least return to the playoffs with a wild card.
Losers: Cincinnati Bengals
The NFL parity gods gave the Rams the most daunting strength of schedule. After the Cardinals, the Bengals come in third with the quality of their opponents. For the first time, Cincinnati hosts Pittsburgh in the opener and has to turn around to travel to Dallas in Week 2. October is bookended by road division matchups with the Ravens and Browns.
After a Week 10 bye, the reigning AFC champions go to Pittsburgh and Tennessee back-to-back, leading into a Week 13 AFC championship rematch with Kansas City at home. Weeks 15 and 16 keep up the second-half doozy as Cincinnati goes to Tampa Bay and New England in consecutive games. Joe Burrow and the Bengals have their hands full to repeat in the division and get well positioned to get back to the Super Bowl.
Winners: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts stumbled out of playoff contention late last season. They have a good chance to rebound with at least a wild card while challenging the Titans for the division crown.
The AFC South draws a balance between the AFC West and the NFC East. The Colts also play the Patriots, Steelers and Vikings as part of the second-place schedule. Consider the Titans get the Bills, Bengals and Packers in those games instead.
The Colts should like opening with Texans-Jaguars and closing with Giants-Texans. They also get the Chiefs (Week 3), Eagles (Week 11), Steelers (Week 12) and Chargers (Week 16) at home peppered throughout the slate. The most difficult two-game stretch is back-to-back on the road at New England and Las Vegas (Weeks 9 and 10), but the rest is rather manageable for Indianapolis to do better than the 9 wins from 2021.
Losers: Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are hopeful for a breakthrough as at least a wild-card team after two winning seasons. They have high expectations with rookie coach Mike McDaniel after an aggressive offseason of major offensive improvements, led by the blockbuster trade for Tyreek Hill to pair with Tua Tagovailoa.
Unfortunately, their schedule does no favors to survive the AFC gauntlet. September itself could crush Miami's dreams with New England, Baltimore, Buffalo and Cincinnati stacked against it. Pittsburgh also looms in Week 7 around a few first-half breaks.
After a Week 11 bye, the second half starts well with the Texans and ends well with the Jets. But consider what's in between from Weeks 13-17: at 49ers, at Chargers, at Bills, vs. Packers, at Patriots. The Dolphins aren't set up to make a big splash in 2022 because they will be mostly swimming with sharks.