The flashy Los Angeles Rams will begin their journey to defend their Super Bowl championship against the Buffalo Bills, a team that offered one of the most memorable games in N.F.L. history the last time it played.
Russell Wilson will start his career with the Denver Broncos by returning to his previous home of a decade — and will surely be greeted by a deafening chorus of boos, cheers or both — against the Seattle Seahawks on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” in Week 1.
And a streaming platform will debut its new broadcasting abilities with a bitter rivalry between two A.F.C. West foes.
The N.F.L. on Thursday released its 2022 regular-season schedule, which includes contests the league hopes will build off the 2021 season’s success and an off-season defined by high-profile trades and free-agent signings. Teams have known their 2022 opponents for months based on their divisions and records last season, but the N.F.L. formally solidified dates and time slots after disclosing some of the matchups in recent weeks.
The Rams, whose star-studded roster includes defensive tackle Aaron Donald, receiver Cooper Kupp and quarterback Matthew Stafford, have the toughest strength of schedule: The teams they will play won 57 percent of their games in the 2021 season. They open the season on Sept. 8, a Thursday, at 8:20 p.m. Eastern time on NBC at home against the Bills. Buffalo in free agency signed outside linebacker Von Miller, who became a key component of the Rams’ Super Bowl run after arriving from Denver in a trade.
In January, Buffalo lost a thrilling divisional-round playoff game to Kansas City so consequential that it compelled the league to rewrite its postseason overtime rules to allow each team to receive an offensive possession. Led by Miller, quarterback Josh Allen and receiver Stefon Diggs, the Bills are Caesars Sportsbook’s betting favorite to win the Super Bowl, which will be hosted on Feb. 12, 2023, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
The Rams and the new-look Broncos will play one of the three Christmas games at 4:30 p.m. on CBS and Nickelodeon. The other games that day include the Green Bay Packers at Miami Dolphins at 1 p.m. on Fox and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Arizona Cardinals at 8:20 p.m. on NBC. It is the first tripleheader for the N.F.L. on Christmas and will directly compete with the N.B.A. for attention on the holiday.
The Rams often played against Wilson during his tenure with the Seahawks, but the Christmas game will be the teams’ first encounter since Seattle dealt Wilson in March to the Broncos in a blockbuster trade. The league scheduled Wilson’s homecoming to Seattle for 8:15 p.m. on ESPN on Sept. 12, a game that will also be the debut for the network’s new broadcast tandem, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, formerly of Fox. Tickets for that game sold at an average price of $451 within an hour of the schedule’s release, according to the online ticket marketplace Vivid Seats, the highest average price for a Seahawks home game since 2017.
The announcement of the schedule on Thursday — in a prime-time broadcast on NFL Network and ESPN — continued the N.F.L.’s trend of turning off-season events, including the draft and the scouting combine, into spectacles as it tightens its grip as the top sports league in the United States. Backed by lucrative media-rights deals and a ratings spike in 2021 after expanding the regular season to 17 games from 16, the N.F.L. built suspense in recent weeks by revealing certain games on morning shows with broadcast partners and previewing marquee matchups on social media.
The streaming service Amazon Prime Video will begin broadcasting the league’s Thursday night games on Sept. 15 with a notable Week 2 matchup between Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers. The A.F.C. West rivals, who split close games last season with one-possession margins, will look different. The Chargers, with their blossoming young quarterback, Justin Herbert, added defensive support in the edge rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson, while Kansas City dealt the speedy receiver Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins in March after he requested a trade.
Kansas City will also play in prime time against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a rematch of the 2020 season’s Super Bowl, on Oct. 2 at 8:20 p.m. on NBC. Tampa Bay remains a national draw after quarterback Tom Brady, 44, the winner of a record seven Super Bowls, announced he would return for a 23rd N.F.L. season after briefly retiring in February. This week, Fox announced that Brady would become a commentator for the network whenever his playing career ended.
The Buccaneers will also play in the N.F.L.’s first game in Germany, where they will face the Seahawks in Munich on Nov. 13 at 9:30 a.m. on NFL Network. It is part of the N.F.L.’s return overseas after it canceled games abroad in 2020 because of the pandemic. In 2022, London will host three games: the Minnesota Vikings against the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 2 at 9:30 a.m. on NFL Network; the Giants against the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 9 at 9:30 a.m. on NFL Network; and the Denver Broncos against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 30 at 9:30 a.m. on ESPN+. The Arizona Cardinals will play the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City on Nov. 21 at 8:15 p.m. on ESPN.
Keeping with tradition, the Lions and the Cowboys will play on Thanksgiving. Buffalo will play at Detroit at 12:30 p.m. on CBS, and Dallas will host the Giants at 4:30 p.m. on Fox. In the night game, the New England Patriots will face the Vikings at 8:20 p.m. on NBC.
Cleveland’s quarterback Deshaun Watson will visit Houston to play the Texans, the team that drafted him in the first round in 2017, unless the league disciplines him for the 22 civil cases filed by women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. That game is scheduled for Dec. 4 at 1 p.m. on CBS.
The league did not announce times for the divisional matchups in Week 18, as those games may be moved to prime time if they carry playoff implications. Kansas City’s road game against the Las Vegas Raiders, who now feature Davante Adams, and Baltimore Ravens’ matchup at the Cincinnati Bengals, the reigning A.F.C. champions, may be candidates for those slots.