Merry Christmas, everyone.
And not just because the defending Super Bowl champions will host the Denver Broncos on December 25.
The schedule release is my favorite day of the offseason. It's Christmas in May. When the calendar takes shape and the opponents become real targets in time. It's also nice to be able to anticipate and plan, including for the holidays. Hope you feel similarly about what has become the latest tentpole event for the NFL.
Simultaneously, the 2022 slate represents the most rigorous and accommodating schedule the Rams have been assigned since returning to Los Angeles (and maybe ever).
The nine-home-eight-away imbalance tilts in their favor this year.
Layer in an "away" game against the Chargers in Week 17, and it becomes 10 contests at SoFi Stadium with just seven true road trips. The Rams will only play in the eastern time zone - triple checks to be sure this is accurate - once? Once.
The flip side is that this has already been singled out as the toughest path in the league.
It is very much a first-place schedule. A crossover with the AFC West, the most buzzworthy division in the NFL this offseason, makes for an absolute gauntlet.
And a whole lot of attention on the Rams.
How Many Prime Times?
Not only will the Rams have a target on their back, they'll also have a ton of eyeballs watching their every move.
They've been assigned the preliminary maximum of five prime time appearances (with the potential to flex into even more down the schedule).
Rams to host Broncos on Christmas Day 2022 on CBS and NickelodeonRams release official 2022 scheduleRams to open 2022 season at home vs. Bills in NFL Kickoff Game
An additional seven placements in the FOX or CBS "second window" (1:25 p.m PT) equates to a total of 12 of the 17 Rams games reaching a national audience.
Said another way, only four Rams games are currently penciled in for regional coverage (with the regular season finale TBD, as always). So for those of you outside the greater Los Angeles area, you shouldn't be sweating your television coverage maps much this season.
Where's the Bye?
That's earlier than any team would like. Earliest of Sean McVay's tenure, in fact.
Unfortunately, the bye comes after just two road trips, and even those are short pitstops within the division.
One positive is that it lands right before a home game against the 49ers, giving the Rams extra time to prepare for their biggest rival in Week 8.
When is Thursday Night Football?
Well, it's in two places this year. Atop the schedule versus Buffalo. Playing opening night at home is arguably the biggest scheduling advantage the NFL has to offer.
Then an actual short week in December against the Raiders.
(For what it's worth, the 2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers also had to play twice on Thursday last fall coming off a Super Bowl victory. The 2020 Kansas City Chiefs did not. Neither did the 2019 New England Patriots.)
Fortunately, that Week 14 with Las Vegas follows a home game the Sunday prior versus Seattle. Convenient.
TNF against the Raiders also affords the Rams a "mini bye" before their trip to Green Bay for one of the season's most important showdowns.
So all-in-all, positive news on the Thursday Night front.
Any Consecutive Road Trips?
Indeed, there are. A couple, in fact.
The Rams go to Arizona and San Francisco back-to-back in Weeks 3 and 4 (with an extra day between those games to minimize the impact). And they go to New Orleans and Kansas City on consecutive Sundays in November.
Given that there are only seven true road trips on the slate, this is a bit unlucky.
Nonetheless, the Rams have been absolute road warriors under Sean McVay's leadership and have never let a plane impact their performance.
How About Alarm Clock Kickoffs?
They've also dominated the early window while playing in the central and eastern time zones, challenges that historically have proven to be severe disadvantages for West Coast teams.
This year, L.A. will play only one such contest - at New Orleans on November 20 at 10:00 a.m. PT.
And, who knows? That game has flex potential. It's the Rams first return to the Superdome since the 2018 NFC Championship Game, after all.
Any Weather Worries?
How about the week before Christmas on the Frozen Tundra?
Those of us who are thin-skinned might have preferred Green Bay earlier on the calendar. But Monday Night Football at Lambeau in December? That's way too cool to be upset about the cold.
Thanksgiving Sunday at Arrowhead could be crisp, as well.
For a variety of reasons, I prefer playing on Christmas Day to Thanksgiving Thursday. Especially when December 25 lands on a Sunday. But I understand the contingent that hopes for a Turkey Bowl game each time the schedule is released. Maybe next year.
The Rams don't leave the time zone until November. Week 9!
In a couple previous seasons, the Rams had gone roughly a month between home games. This season, they go more than a month (October 3 - November 6) without a road game.
Biggest stunner for me is that the trip to Kansas City isn't on Monday Night Football. Since the teams last met in the greatest game in MNF history at the Coliseum in 2018, it felt like that would be a layup for the schedule makers. Speculating why it didn't play out that way: (1) FOX probably really wanted the defending Super Bowl Champions traveling to face a franchise that's hosted four straight AFC Championship games. Can't blame them. (2) The AFC West is so strong, and the Rams schedule is so loaded, there were plenty of other great opportunities for the Rams and Chiefs to appear on MNF - to wit, L.A. at Green Bay. I'll be curious to see what the Kansas City MNF assignment looks like.
My only gripe - and it's minor - is playing San Francisco twice in October. That's wonky. I was banking on a Week 18 rematch, in fact, given how compelling that game was at SoFi Stadium last January. With the Rams and Niners widely thought of as the two best teams in the 2022 NFC West, it's odd that they complete their home-and-home before Halloween.
Taking that peculiarity a step further, the Rams play Arizona and San Francisco twice each in the first 10 weeks. They don't see Seattle until Week 13, then play the Seahawks twice in the final six games.
All in all, this is a compelling schedule that's also conducive to repeating. Can't wait to reign with the Rams.