When it was first released, the Commanders' 2022 regular-season schedule appeared to be a rather advantageous one for Washington. But some further analysis after the slate was made official last Thursday has revealed a few drawbacks.
Now that there's been a bit more time to evaluate the ins and outs of the schedule, here's a more in-depth breakdown of its pros and cons.
Pro: The two games to start the year are extremely winnable
Yes, the Jaguars have a new, non-Urban Meyer-led coaching staff, while the Lions seem to appreciate playing for their leader in Dan Campbell. Plus, the NFL is famous for its annual worst-to-first stories, so maybe Jacksonville and/or Detroit will hastily reverse their fortunes in 2022.
Still, the fact of the matter is that the Commanders face-off with the franchises that held the first- and second-overall picks in the 2022 draft in Weeks 1 and 2. That opening is softer than James Harden in the fourth quarter of a playoff series.
While supporters of the Jags and Lions are likely viewing the matchups against Washington with the same sort of confidence, Ron Rivera's squad couldn't have asked for a better shot at beginning with a 2-0 record. Anything less will be a letdown.
Con: That Week 14 bye is brutal
No bye week is perfect — it's not like they cure every injury, and sometimes, they can actually interrupt the rhythm of a winning streak — but a Week 14 break is not even close to ideal.
A more centered bye (like the Week 9 respite Rivera's team landed in 2021) provides a more timely chance for self-scouting and adjustments, in addition to the usual rest benefits that come with the pause. Remember, Washington went 4-0 after its bye a season ago.
But since the Commanders won't get their hiatus until Dec. 11, they'll have to tweak their approach on the fly if it's faltering and also be prepared for more attrition in September, October and November. It's not going to make or break the campaign, though it is definitely an obstacle.
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Pro: The pre-bye stretch is totally manageable
Washington might hobble into the bye, but at least the three contests before it shouldn't be overwhelming for the organization.
Weeks 11, 12 and 13 feature a trip to Houston, a home date with Atlanta and a visit to New York to see the Giants. That trio, while not as incompetent as Jacksonville and Detroit, isn't exactly frightening.
Should the Commanders start fast and then survive a difficult-looking Week 3-Week 10 span, they ought to be poised for a 2-1 or 3-0 burst ahead of the bye. From there, all that's left is four more crucial showdowns. That is their recipe for relevancy as the year winds down.
Con: There's a hidden problem in the second half of the schedule
In his deeper examination of everyone's journey through the regular season, analyst Warren Sharp uncovered an issue that'll surely irk Rivera.
In Weeks 10, 13, 16 and 18, Washington's opponent will have a three-day rest/prep advantage because they'll be in the Thursday night tilt for the previous set of games while Rivera's side will have suited up on the ensuing Sunday.
Per Sharp, no club had to deal with that kind of disadvantage on four separate occasions in 2021. The Commanders, however (as well as the Jets and Jags), are going to encounter just that in 2022. And for Washington specifically, all four examples fall in the latter portion of the schedule, where such a disparity could be magnified.
Pro: This year's opponents aren't as loaded at quarterback as last year's group
In its non-NFC East bouts in 2021, Washington had the privilege of squaring off with Justin Herbert, Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Derek Carr.
Fortunately, the collection of opposing passers isn't nearly as elite this time around.
Rodgers remains on the schedule, and Deshaun Watson should be in the lineup for Cleveland's appearance at FedEx Field in Week 17. But after those two difference-makers, there's Trevor Lawrence, Jared Goff, Ryan Tannehill, Justin Fields, Kirk Cousins, Davis Mills, Marcus Mariota/Desmond Ridder and Trey Lance/Jimmy Garoppolo.
Last season, the team had to deal with a bunch of Canton hopefuls. This season, on the other hand, many of the Commanders' foes are merely hoping to hold onto their starting jobs.