- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2022

The Washington Commanders have yet to start a season fast under coach Ron Rivera. But if that is ever going to change, this year is the year.

The NFL released its full schedule Thursday, and the Commanders open the season on Sunday, Sept. 11, hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars — owners of last season’s worst record. After the Jaguars, the Commanders travel to face the rebuilding Detroit Lions. That’s two winnable games before back-to-back NFC East showdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles, then the Dallas Cowboys

Strength-of-schedule rankings have Washington tied with Dallas for the easiest slate in the NFL. The Burgundy and Gold’s opponents combined for a .462 winning percentage in 2021 — and that may be the key this season for Rivera, who has said he wants his team to make a huge jump in Year 3. Rivera has led the Commanders to a 14-19 record in two seasons with one playoff appearance. 

Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars also holds significance for Carson Wentz. The new Commanders quarterback, then with Indianapolis, suffered a humiliating defeat to the Jaguars in Week 18 last season that hastened the end of his tenure with the Colts.

Wentz will get a shot at revenge and redemption against Jacksonville coach Doug Pederson, who first coached the quarterback in Philadelphia. 

The Jaguars matchup is one of a series of notable games for Wentz. The 29-year-old will face his two former teams in Indianapolis (Oct. 30, Week 8) and Philadelphia on Sept 25 (Week 3) and Nov. 14 (Week 10).

The November Eagles contest, too, is one of two prime-time games for the Commanders. The showdown in Philadelphia takes place on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” but a few weeks before that, Washington travels to Chicago to take on the Bears for “Thursday Night Football” on Amazon Prime Video. This will mark the first season in which Amazon has exclusive rights to “Thursday Night Football” after agreeing in 2021 to pay the league $1 billion annually for the package.

Washington closed last season on a pivotal five-game stretch against all NFC East opponents. That won’t be the case this upcoming season. After playing the Eagles and Cowboys in Weeks 3 and 4, the Commanders don’t face another NFC East foe until Week 10 (Philadelphia). The Commanders also don’t play the New York Giants until December — when Washington faces them twice in a row, sandwiched around a bye week.

The Commanders’ Week 14 bye is the team’s latest bye week in franchise history. When the NFL expanded to 17 games last season, the league made a team’s bye week between Weeks 6 and 14. Under a 16-game slate, the bye took place between Weeks 4 and 12. 

As part of the 17th game slate, Washington takes on an additional AFC foe and this year that will be the Cleveland Browns — who come to FedEx Field with new quarterback Deshaun Watson on Jan. 1 for a 1 p.m. start. That will be Washington’s second-to-last game as they close the season hosting the Cowboys on either Jan. 7 or 8.

Washington’s toughest stretch, on paper, could be the middle of the season, starting with an Oct. 23 matchup with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Following that game, Washington travels to Indianapolis, hosts the Minnesota Vikings — for Kirk Cousins’ first game back at FedEx Field since leaving in 2018.

But things appear to get slightly easier after that. The Commanders’ next four games are at Houston (Nov. 20), Atlanta (Nov. 27), at New York (Dec. 4) and the Giants again. Each of those teams held a top 10 pick and they are expected to be among the league’s worst again. 

After facing the Giants for the second time in 2022, the Commanders are set for a road matchup on Christmas Eve against the San Francisco 49ers. Christmas is on a Sunday this year, so the league will hold most of its games on the Saturday before — although the NFL will have three Christmas Day games.

Washington won’t play on Christmas nor will it play on Thanksgiving — somewhat of a surprise as the Commanders had played on a holiday in four of the last five seasons before 2021. Washington didn’t play on Thanksgiving last year, either.

The NFL season overall kicks off Thursday, Sept. 8, when the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams take on quarterback Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills.

Washington’s 2022 schedule 

Week 1, Sept. 11: Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Week 2, Sept. 18: at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Week 3, Sept. 25: Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Week 4, Oct. 2: at Dallas Cowboys, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Week 5, Oct. 9: Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Week 6, Oct. 13: at Chicago Bears, 8:15 p.m. (Amazon Prime Video)
Week 7, Oct. 23: Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Week 8, Oct. 30: at Indianapolis Colts, 4:25 p.m. (FOX)
Week 9, Nov. 6: Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Week 10, Nov. 14: at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Week 11, Nov. 20: at Houston Texans, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Week 12, Nov. 27: Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Week 13, Dec. 4: at New York Giants, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Week 14, Dec. 11: BYE
Week 15, Dec. 17 or 18: New York Giants (To be determined)
Week 16, Dec. 24: at San Francisco 49ers, 4:05 p.m. (CBS)
Week 17, Jan. 1: Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Week 18, Jan. 7 or 8: at Dallas Cowboys (To be determined)

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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