With the NFL’s 2021 regular season over and only 14 teams left standing, two things are now finalized: the order for the first 18 selections of this year’s draft, as well as the list of opponents for the 2022 season.
With the basic structure of the 2022 regular season set in stone we can now take a brief look ahead from a New England Patriots perspective. The upcoming season projects to be an interesting one not just given the team’s development behind quarterback Mac Jones, but also based on the list of upcoming opponents.
As usual, New England will play its three AFC East rivals and the AFC teams ending the regular season in the same place within their respective divisions (i.e. second). Furthermore, the Patriots will take on the entire AFC North and NFC North. The interconference opponent added via the introduction of a 17th game in 2021 comes from the NFC West this time around.
With that said, let’s take a look at the Patriots’ 2021 opponents:
Besides the three division games, the Patriots will also welcome three of the better teams in the AFC to Gillette Stadium: the Bengals, Ravens and Colts. Like New England, Cincinnati is currently part of the playoff race in the conference, while the Ravens and Colts just barely missed the cut after suffering losses in Week 18.
The NFC North opponents, meanwhile, are on the other end of the spectrum. The Lions finished their first season under head coach Dan Campbell with a 3-13-1 record, while the Bears jut parted ways with head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace.
The Patriots will take their annual trips to Buffalo, Miami and New York, and also play an additional six road games. The sixth of those games was added through the regular season expansion to 17 games; as a result New England will take on the Cardinals in Arizona.
The other road games feature more new-look teams: the Pittsburgh Steelers will likely be led by a new starting quarterback, while the Minnesota Vikings parted ways with head coach Mike Zimmer this week. The Raiders might also change head coaches, but it seems more likely that interim head coach Rich Bisaccia will keep the job for good.
Furthermore, the Patriots will take on the Browns and Packers — two of the most talented teams in football even though their offseason outlook is quite different. Cleveland faces plenty of questions after missing the playoffs, while Green Bay headed into the tournament as the top seed in the NFC.
As is the case every year, the NFL is expected to announce the full schedule for the next season in April. International games will likely be announced in late January, with the Patriots realistic candidates to play in Germany if games are scheduled there in 2022.