Last season, the Washington Commanders had one of the most demanding schedules in the NFL. They’re up against top quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. They played seven teams that made the playoffs — half of their 14 opponents.
This is not expected to happen this year.
The Commanders will have one of the easiest schedules in 2022, according to NFL data, as their opponents combined last season with a league-worst .462 winning percentage. Only the Dallas Cowboys — also with a .462 schedule intensity — were just as easy.
The league’s schedule is scheduled to be released Thursday at 8 p.m. The NFL has been slowly rolling out games ahead of release. Of the dates announced so far, none involve Washington.
But because of the league’s schedule, Washington’s opponents are already well known. In addition to facing their divisions, the commanders will also play against the AFC South (Colts, Titans, Jaguars and Texans) as part of the league’s cross-divisional game. Overall, only five teams on Washington’s schedule last year made the playoffs. Burgundy and Gold’s opponents won 133-155-1 on aggregate.
As a refresher, here’s who’s on Washington’s list. Commander plays at home with the Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, Vikings, Packers, Titans, Jaguars, Browns and Falcons. On the road, Washington will play the Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, Bears, Lions, Texans, Colts and 49ers. The exact sequence will be announced later this week.
Washington’s schedule is good news for head coach Ron Rivera, who detailed his team’s need to make a big leap in his third season. Rivera, who went 14-19 in two seasons, likes to compare Washington’s rebuild to his time in Carolina, and in Rivera’s third year there, the Panthers The team’s record improved from 7-9 to 12-4.
The Commanders focused on quarterback upgrades in the offseason. The team traded for veteran Carson Wentz, who Rivera believes will help Washington take it to the next level. Washington had a relatively quiet free agency after acquiring Wentz from the Colts, but added depth to the offensive line by signing guards Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner. In the draft, Washington focused on adding weapons around Wentz as the team selected first-round perimeter Jahan Dotson.
Maybe in Washington’s favor: No team has won the NFC East in consecutive years since the Philadelphia Eagles in 2003 and 2004. But the Cowboys — last year’s champions — could be the first team to do so because of their schedule. The Hawks, meanwhile, are also seen as serious candidates to win the division, acquiring star wide receiver AJ Brown in the offseason.
The Los Angeles Rams will have the toughest schedule next season, according to the NFL. The defending Super Bowl champs face a range of opponents that combined to a .579 winning percentage a year ago.
Of course, the intensity of a team’s schedule is difficult to guarantee the outcome of the game. Teams can significantly improve or go backwards from year to year, so just because a team’s schedule looks easy now doesn’t mean it’s going to become that way.
At the very least, though, the weaker schedule on paper creates an opportunity for Washington to make a big leap forward. Whether or not teams take advantage will be up to the players and coaches.