The 2022 schedule release is just days away from being revealed, but many are already trying to dissect each opponent.
For the Commanders, who finished the 2021 season 7-10, there should be an opportunity to improve in the third season of Ron Rivera’s tenure. Thanks to matching up against teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC South and the Detroit Lions in the NFC North, the Commanders are tied with the Dallas Cowboys for the easiest strength of schedule.
In anticipation for the 2022 schedule release, which is set to drop at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network, Commanders.com is breaking down each division to look ahead for what's in store for Washington this season. Here are the divisions we've broken down so far:
Next up is the NFC North.
Green Bay Packers
- 2021 record: 13-4
There's no doubt that the Packers are among the best teams in the conference; having Aaron Rodgers tends to do that. However, the Packers' offense is going to look drastically different in 2022.
The Packers made waves earlier this year by trading Davante Adams -- regarded by many as the best receiver in the NFL -- to the Las Vegas Raiders in exchange for a haul that included a first- and second-round pick. They did mitigate the loss by signing Sammy Watkins prior to the draft, but it will be difficult to replace Adams' playmaking ability, as he's recorded at least 1,000 yards in three of the last four seasons.
The Packers have been focused on building up their defense this offseason, and they achieved that in the first two rounds of the draft by taking Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt from Georgia. Wyatt provides the Packers with a dominant run-stuffer, while Walker, who recorded six sacks in 2021, should give them a pass-rusher to bump up the 39 sacks they recorded last season.
The Packers will be competitive as long as Rodgers is under center, but it remains to be seen how they intend to make a run in the postseason without one of the best weapons in football.
- 2021 record: 3-13-1
It was clear throughout the season that the Lions were going through a rebuilding year in 2021, although they were competitive in several contests. The expectation is that Dan Campbell's squad will be better in 2022, and their offseason moves have added fuel to that notion.
The Lions provided Jared Goff with an experienced weapon by signing DJ Chark away from the Jaguars. Chark was one of Jacksonville's best weapons in 2019 and 2020, although he missed most of last season with a fractured ankle. They also re-signed Josh Reynolds in addition to bringing back a slew of their defensive players.
Jameson Williams should be the playmaker the Lions were lacking last year once he recovers from his torn ACL. Aiden Hutchinson, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, is a talented player the Lions build around up front. NFL.com's Chad Reuter gave the Lions a "B+" for their overall draft haul, highlighted by what Reuter called "the best defender available" and "the best receiver in the draft."
The Lions have the 28th easiest strength of schedule, so if the investments pay off, they could become a more interesting team to watch in 2022.
- 2021 record: 8-9
The Vikings have their answer at quarterback for at least another year in Kirk Cousins, and the duo of Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook are still the best weapons the Vikings have to offer. Their service will be needed if they hope to get back into playoff contention.
The Vikings' biggest free agent moves come on the defensive side of the ball. Patrick Peterson is back after spending last year in Minnesota, and he's still playing solid football with 45 tackles and an interception last year. Za'Darius Smith, who spent the last three seasons in Green Bay, is coming off a back injury, but his resume is more than enough for the Vikings to take a chance on him.
In the draft, the Vikings grabbed safety Lewis Cine, who led Georgia with 73 tackles and nine pass breakups. They also added depth to their offensive line with LSU's Ed Ingram and bolstered their defense with Brian Asamoah, Akayleb Evans and Esezi Otomewo.
The Vikings were never able to gain any positive traction last year with a pattern of two-game win streaks followed by two-game losing streaks. Perhaps the additions on defense will help get them back on track.
- 2021 record: 6-11
The biggest move of the offseason for the Bears was getting rid of Matt Nagy and replacing him with Matt Eberflus. The hope is that the former Colts defensive coordinator will be able to surround Justin Fields with a more advantageous situation.
Judging by their recent moves, it seems there are some steps to address their various issues. The offensive line was a weak spot for the team in 2021, so it signed three new players at the position to provide more protection for Fields. There will be a few new weapons for Field, too, as they brought in Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown.
In the draft, the Bears brought in 11 players, highlighted by second-round pick Kyler Gordon. In addition to adding three more offensive linemen, they also injected more talent into their secondary with Penn State's Jaquan Brisker, who is regarded as one of the better safeties in the class.