The 2022 NFL schedule is officially here. And despite the regular season still being four months away, it's never too early to preview the season.
The Commanders enter the season tied with Dallas for the league's easiest schedule, as both club's 2022 opponents had a combined winning percentage of .462 last season. Yet, that only means so much. The NFL is full of parity year-to-year, as it's likely several teams that made the playoffs last year will be watching the postseason from home in 2022.
After finishing with a 7-10 record in 2021, Washington expects to take a big leap forward in Year 3 under Ron Rivera. The club acquired Carson Wentz via trade in March, hoping to end the longtime search to find a franchise quarterback. The Commanders' draft haul was highlighted by former Penn State standout Jahan Dotson, who should immediately bring some production to the wide receiver room.
With each NFL team only playing 17 regular-season games, there are always tons of storylines for each individual contest. But sometimes, some intriguing narratives become forgotten about. That's what we're here for.
Here's one subplot to watch in every Commanders game...
Week 1 -- Commanders vs. Jaguars
Subplot: Brandon Scherff faces his former team.
All the pressure will be on Wentz when the Commanders take FedEx Field in Week 1 against Jacksonville. The Jaguars were the team to end Wentz and the Colts' season in Week 18 last year, marking the unofficial end to his tenure in Indianapolis.
While Wentz's debut is certainly important, it will be interesting to see Jaguars guard Brandon Scherff face Washington, his former club, in his first game with his new team. Scherff spent the first seven seasons of his career in Washington and earned five Pro Bowls during that span. He was named first-team All-Pro in 2020, the first Washington player to earn that honor in over two decades.
Yet despite all of his success on the field, Scherff and Washington were unable to agree to a long-term deal. Scherff publicly stated his desire to remain in Washington for the remainder of his career, but after playing on the franchise tag twice, he bolted for Jacksonville on a three-year deal the first day free agency opened this past March.
Week 2 -- Commanders @ Lions
Subplot: Will Jameson Williams be ready to play?
The Detroit Lions made a major move during the opening round of the 2022 NFL Draft, trading back up into the first to select former Alabama star Jameson Williams 12th overall.
Williams, who turned in a standout season for Alabama this past fall, likely would have been the top wideout off the board had he not torn his ACL during the National Championship against Georgia. Still, Williams' body of work earned him a high first-round selection.
With Washington set to face Detroit in Week 2, there's no guarantee Williams is healthy enough to play. ACL injuries take anywhere from 6-12 months to fully recover from and Williams injured his in January. Mid-September would put him roughly around the nine-month mark in his recovery. How quickly Williams advances in his recovery is worth keeping an eye on.
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Week 3 -- Commanders vs. Eagles
Subplot: Commanders first look at A.J. Brown as an Eagle
One of the biggest moves that occurred on draft night had nothing to do with a player being selected. The Eagles acquired former Titans star receiver A.J. Brown via trade and immediately signed him to a long-term extension, giving QB Jalen Hurts a dynamic 1-2 pairing in Brown and 2021 first-rounder DeVonta Smith.
Washington has yet to face Brown in his career, as the Commanders last played the Titans in 2018, the year before the wideout was drafted. Brown, like Commanders star Terry McLaurin, has enjoyed an excellent start to his professional career. His new contract could also be a negotiating point for McLaurin as he attempts to ink a long-term deal with Washington, too.
Week 4 -- Commanders @ Cowboys
Subplot: How does Dallas' offense look without Amari Cooper?
During his three and a half seasons in Dallas, wide receiver Amari Cooper seemed to save his best games for those against Washington. Just take a look at these numbers:
After trading Cooper to the Browns this offseason, Dallas is hoping third-year wideout CeeDee Lamb can make the leap as the team's new WR1. Lamb is extremely talented and could very well turn out to have a better career than Cooper. But make no mistake about it, Washington is thrilled to see Cooper out of the division.
Week 5 -- Commanders vs. Titans
Subplot: Jahan Dotson vs. Treylon Burks
The 2022 NFL Draft was loaded with wide receiver talent, as six wideouts came off the board during the first 18 selections. Washington and Tennessee each took a wideout in the first round, as the Commanders selected Penn State's Jahan Dotson two picks before the Titans nabbed Arkansas' Treylon Burks.
With the Commanders and Titans set to face one another in Week 5, it will be interesting to see which rookie receiver has been more productive to start their respective careers between the two. Burks figures to have a big role immediately following A.J. Brown's departure, but Dotson should have plenty of opportunities to make an instant impact in Washington as well.
Week 6 -- Commanders @ Bears (Thursday Night Football)
Subplot: Charles Leno Jr. returns to Chicago.
For the first time since he was released by the Bears last spring, Commanders left tackle Charles Leno returns to Soldier Field to face his former team. He's already looking forward to it, too.
Leno, a seventh-round pick by the Bears in 2014, started all 16 games for Chicago every season from 2016 to 2020. He was released following the 2021 NFL Draft after the Bears selected Teven Jenkins in the second round.
Leno signed with Washington on a one-year deal in May of 2021. He started all 17 games for the Commanders last season and played quite well. In January, Leno earned a three-year, $37.5 million extension to remain with the Burgundy and Gold.
Week 7 -- Commanders vs. Packers
Subplot: How does Green Bay's offense look without Davante Adams?
The Commanders' Week 7 matchup against Green Bay will be the third time in four years the two teams meet in the regular season, with the Packers winning each of the past two matchups. However, there will be one notable presence missing from this year's matchup.
Green Bay traded star wideout Davante Adams to Las Vegas this past offseason, leaving Aaron Rodgers in search of a new No. 1 wideout. Adams has historically played well against the Commanders, highlighted by a six-catch, 76-yard performance last year that included a trip to the end zone.
With no clear replacement for Adams on Green Bay's roster, it'll be interesting to see who Rodgers turns to as his new go-to guy. Washington will find out in Week 7.
Week 8 -- Commanders @ Colts
This game marks Carson Wentz's return to Indianapolis after they traded him to Washington this past offseason. It was a messy divorce between the two sides, as Colts owner Jim Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard have continued to take shots at the QB even after the trade.
No subplot matters here -- this is the storyline to follow in Week 8.
Week 9 -- Commanders vs. Vikings
Subplot: Kirk Cousins returns to FedEx Field.
It feels like a lifetime since Kirk Cousins was Washington's quarterback, which is why it's hard to believe that he's yet to return to FedEx Field since departing for Minnesota in 2018. The Vikings and Commanders have played once since Cousins left, but that game was in Minneapolis.
Cousins had multiple great moments at FedEx Field during his career in Washington. From his comeback against Baltimore as a rookie, to "You like that?!" in 2015, to his masterclass performance against Green Bay on Sunday Night Football in 2016, Cousins made some excellent memories in that stadium. We'll see if there's any extra emotion when he returns.
Week 10 -- Commanders @ Eagles (Monday Night Football)
Subplot: Nope x2.
Like Washington's game two weeks prior, the major storyline here is Wentz's return to Philadelphia for the first time since the Eagles traded him to Indianapolis last spring.
Although Wentz has tried to downplay what his return to Lincoln Financial Field will mean, it's going to be the only thing anyone talks about prior to this game. There's a reason the NFL scheduled this matchup for Monday Night Football, after all.
Once again, no subplot matters here. Wentz's return to Philly is what matters.
Week 11 -- Commanders @ Texans
Subplot: Can Washington end a 16-year drought?
It's hard to believe given the current state of the Texans, but Washington has not beaten Houston in 16 years. The last time the Burgundy and Gold defeated Houston was in 2006 when Mark Brunell was Washington's quarterback. So, yeah, it's been a while.
Although the two teams only play once every four years, Houston has defeated Washington three straight times. The Texans' last victory over Washington came in 2018, which was the infamous Alex Smith injury game.
Hopefully there's better juju in the air when the two teams meet this season.
Week 12 -- Commanders vs. Falcons
Subplot: What's Atlanta's QB situation?
For the first time since 2007, Atlanta's starting quarterback will be someone other than Matt Ryan. The Falcons signed Marcus Mariota in free agency after trading Ryan to the Colts, a veteran player who figures to be a stop-gap solution at the position. The team also drafted Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder in the third round.
Forecasting who Atlanta's starting quarterback will be for the Falcons' Week 12 matchup against Washington is impossible at this time. It's a storyline worth following, though.
Week 13 -- Commanders vs. Giants / Week 14 -- BYE / Week 15 -- Commanders @ Giants
Subplot: Shades of Washington's 2021 schedule.
During this three-week in December stretch, the Commanders will host the Giants, then have a super-late Week 14 bye, before facing the Giants once again the next week. This is eerily similar to how Washington ended its 2021 season with five straight NFC East games, which included both Dallas and Philadelphia twice over a three-week stretch.
Washington's other four divisional matchups are spread out throughout the season, as they should be. But the Commanders will have to get really familiar with the Giants over these few weeks.
Week 16 -- Commanders @ 49ers (Christmas Eve)
Subplot: Nick Bosa vs. Chase Young
If both Chase Young and Nick Bosa are able to stay healthy in 2022, this Week 16 game will mark the first time both former No. 2 overall picks and ex-Ohio State teammates get to play against one another. The two teams played in 2020, Young's rookie season, but Bosa was out with an ACL injury.
Of course, Young is currently recovering from his own ACL tear but hopes to be ready by Week 1. Bosa turned in a stellar season for the 49ers in 2021 coming off his injury, perhaps providing his former college teammate a blueprint on how to return to the field even better.
This matchup should be a fun one, especially if both Young and Bosa are on the field.
Week 17 -- Commanders vs. Browns
Subplot: Washington's first matchup at the new-look Browns.
In an offseason full of player movement, especially amongst the league's biggest stars, the Browns made arguably the biggest move of them all by acquiring quarterback Deshaun Watson from Houston.
Watson's status for the 2022 season remains up in the air, as he still faces 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault and harassment. He was not criminally charged. There's a chance Watson gets suspended by the NFL, but unless it's a full-year ban, he'll likely play Week 17 against Washington.
Week 18 -- Commanders vs. Cowboys
Subplot: Playoff aspirations?
Washington ends its season in Week 18 against Dallas, a matchup of the past two NFC East winners.
Both the Commanders and Cowboys have playoff aspirations once again in 2022. With the two teams set to face one another in the final week of the regular season, this game could have a major impact on both the division standings and overall playoff seeding.