For every apparent diamond on the 2022 NFL schedule, there are doubtless going to be corresponding lumps of coal on the 18-week regular-season rundown.
Every NFL schedule seemingly emerges with a plethora of gems – this year’s premiering with a delightful Bills-Rams contest to kick off the season Sept. 8 in Los Angeles – and even a fair amount of appealing counterfeits given most teams, players and fans approach the new campaign viewing the glass as definitively more than half-full.
But for every apparent diamond, there are doubtless going to be corresponding lumps of coal on the 18-week regular-season rundown. (If you’re a Giants fan, enjoy some of those matchups that might inflate your win total – Panthers, Bears, Lions, Texans, Jaguars, Seahawks – but forgive the rest of us for shielding our eyes.)
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But for my money – and all divisional matchups except one were excluded since 1) they’re commonplace and 2) they’re typically closely contested – these loom as the eight worst games of the 2022 season:
1. Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Nov. 20
Based on my most recent (post-draft) power rankings, this projects as a meeting of the league’s two worst teams. Both are clearly in rebuild mode and largely devoid of established talent … though second-year Bears QB Justin Fields might look at Atlanta’s offense with envy, juxtaposed with what he’s working with, and wish his hometown Falcons had decided to draft him in 2021.
2. Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Sept. 18
Really not trying to pick on the Falcons – and this pairing is a fun callback to those old NFC West days when Atlanta was inexplicably a “western” team. But referencing those power rankings once again, this represents a tilt between the league’s reigning Super Bowl champions in their own building and – in one guy’s humble opinion – its worst team. But if you like massive point spreads …
3. Houston Texans at Chicago Bears, Sunday, Sept. 25
Come to Soldier Field – at least it shouldn’t be brutally cold – to see Da Bears host what’s likely the AFC’s struggle bus, even if it appears the Texans are finally on the way back from rock bottom. Yet, depending on how things go, the home fans might wind up wishing their team had drafted Houston QB Davis Mills instead of Fields.
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4. Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers, Thursday, Nov. 10
Really not trying to pick on the Falcons here, but it’s an NFL scheduling tradition to drop in a Thursday night dud – typically a game used to fulfill the requirement that all 32 clubs are featured in prime time at least once during the season. Silver lining? You can get some early Christmas shopping done on the side if you choose to log in to Amazon Prime Video that night.
5. Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Sept. 25
Sincerely, truly not trying to pick on the Falcons here, but Atlanta’s quarterbacks are presumed starter Marcus Mariota, third-rounder Desmond Ridder and Feleipe Franks. Seattle’s are Drew Lock, Geno Smith, Jacob Eason and rookie Levi Lewis. No matter the combination, this might be as bad a QB matchup as you can find in the league … though maybe Baker Mayfield eventually gets into the mix, even if there’s no guarantee he elevates the Q rating of this game much.
6. Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Oct. 2
Maybe Kyler Murray and Co. against Christian McCaffrey and (fill-in-the-quarterback) could be fun – if the principals are healthy – though it’s worth noting Carolina has won six straight in this series. But from a visual perspective? It might not get much worse than the two teams arguably most in need of uniform updates, especially if the Cards are wearing their road whites sullied by that gross piping and huge Cardinal red shoulder swatches. The Panthers do typically wear white this early in the year … I’m just saying, does anyone really want to watch this?
7. Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Sept. 11
Week 1, meaning a widespread expectation new Browns QB Deshaun Watson probably won’t be eligible to play. Could be a confluence of uninspiring quarterback play and eyesore threads.
8. Denver Broncos vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Oct. 30
If you plan to post for this one, which will be played in London’s Wembley Stadium, you’ll have to be up at 9:30 a.m. ET … probably while recovering from your Saturday night Halloween party … and, on top of that – if you don’t live in the Denver, Jacksonville or European market – you’ll need a subscription to ESPN+ to watch … and just after you shelled out for Amazon Prime and those Thursday night games. Bloody bollocks.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.