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5 Takeaways from the Commanders' 2022 schedule

FedExField

Start marking your calendars, because the Washington Commanders' schedule has arrived.

The 2022 edition, which was released Wednesday night, includes rivalries, primetime matchups and plenty of opportunities to improve upon the 7-10 finish in 2021.

Here are five takeaways from the team's 17-game slate.

1. Two primetime games.

It's the first thing fans search for once they get their eyes on the schedule, and this year, they'll find two road primetime matchups.

First, the Commanders will travel to Soldier Field -- where Ron Rivera played for nine seasons -- to take on Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears in Week 6 for Thursday Night Football. Fields, who was the 11th overall pick in 2021, should be a unique challenge for the Commanders; in addition to his 1,870 passing yards, he also picked up 420 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

The next time the Commanders will be on primetime comes four weeks later. It will be a Monday Night Football matchup in Week 10, and it will pit Carson Wentz against his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles.

It will be the first time playing at Lincoln Financial Field since 2020.

Wentz, who spent five seasons with the Eagles, doesn't need to be told how passionate the Eagles' fan base can be. He was asked about what it will be like to play against the team that drafted him No. 2 overall when the Commanders traded for him.

Wentz took the question in stride.

"I'm sure I'll hear a little bit of everything. Definitely am aware of that. I embrace it. I embrace it. It's exciting. I try and keep all those things at bay and just, 'Hey, just football, just go play ball. And all the outside noise will take care of itself.'"

Still, seeing Wentz playing against the Eagles at their home stadium is sure to cause some waves.

2. The season starts and ends at home.

Having a home field advantage can be key to starting and finishing the season on a strong note. Fortunately, the Commanders have the luxury of doing both this season.

The Commanders will open the season with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 11, making it the third consecutive time they will start the regular season at FedExField and the first time first time it will open against an AFC South opponent since 2014. On paper, the Jaguars are not the same caliber as Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers were a year ago, but Doug Pederson is known for being a skilled offensive coach, and he has surrounded last year's No. 1 overall pick, Trevor Lawrence, with more talent.

The more interesting of the two matchup comes in Week 18 against the Dallas Cowboys, who swept Washington in 2021 and are the reigning NFC East champs. Commanders fans will remember the last time the Cowboys were in FedExField, when they jumped out to a 24-0 lead and staved off a late comeback for a 27-20 win.

Last year, the Cowboys ran away with the division, but there hasn't been a repeat winner in the NFC East since 2004, and Washington should more competitive with Wentz at the helm and the defense bouncing back from its 2021 performance. They'll need all the help they can get to swing the momentum in their direction, though, so perhaps hosting the season finale will accomplish that.

3. Three division matchups in the final five games.

Last year, the Commanders faced a five-game division gauntlet to close out the year. On one hand, it did give them full control of their playoff hopes; on the other, every loss carried more weight.

There won't be a similar slate this year, but with three of its last five games against division opponents, there's a good chance the fate of the NFC East will come down to the final stretch of the season once again.

We've already covered the season finale against Dallas, but it is worth noting that the Cowboys will be without Amari Cooper, who was traded away to the Browns. However, the offense is still led by Dak Prescott with CeeDee Lamb, Ezekiel Elliott around him, and the defense is expected to be solid again with Micah Parsons highlighting the pass rush.

Weeks 13-15 are going to be interesting, though, because the Commanders' bye week is sandwiched between two matchups against the Giants. Washington is familiar with such a layout -- they had to play both the Eagles and Cowboys with such a short turnaround. But the bye week does allow some leniency. They'll get to adjust without having to worry about another opponent between games.

Washington didn't have much trouble with the Giants in last year's Week 18 matchup, but it was decided by a last-second field goal in Week 2. If the Commanders were able to sweep the Giants again, it would provide a massive boost to their division hopes late in the season.

In preparation for the Washington Commanders' 2022 season, here's a look at what the quarterbacks for each opponent, in no particular order, did during the 2021 season.

4. Facing both of last year's No. 1 seeds

The Commanders are tied with the Cowboys for the easiest strength of schedule in the league. But there are still some difficult opponents in the lineup, and two of them were the class of their respective conferences in last year's regular season.

Washington will face the Tennessee Titans and the Green Bay Packers in Weeks 5 and 7, respectively. While they received early exits in the playoffs, they were both No. 1 seeds with a combined record of 25-9.

Tennessee (12-5) dealt with injuries all season, running back Derrick Henry being one of them. However, they worked around playing with a depleted roster and ripped off six straight wins from October to November. They will be without A.J. Brown, but they replaced him with Arkansas' Treylon Burks in the draft.

Green Bay (13-4) will also not have its top receiver from previous years, as it traded Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders. Still, the Packers have Aaron Rodgers, who decided to return to the Packers this offseason, and they've been to the NFC Championship in two of the last three seasons.

Rivera often talks about facing measuring sticks in the season to see where his team is at in their development. There aren't many high measuring sticks than last year's No. 1 seeds in the postseason.

Check out the top shots from the Washington Commanders' three-day rookie minicamp (Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)

5. A favorable home schedule

Facing the Titans and Packers will be a challenge, but at least the Commanders are afforded the luxury of seeing both at home. In fact, the matchups are only part of a favorable home slate.

That was not the case last year, when the Commanders faced a difficult travel schedule. It included a road trip to Green Bay, followed by a flight to Colorado to play the Denver Broncos. They had to fly to Las Vegas on a short week after playing the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football.

This year, the Commanders only have one trip out west to play the San Francisco 49ers in Week 16. And many of their tougher games will be at home; in addition to the Titans and Packers, the Commanders also play the Vikings, Falcons and Browns at FedExField.

And with three of the last four games being played at home, it should give the Commanders a chance to finish strong.

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