5 intriguing NFC West games in 2022: SoFi Stadium showdown, Mexico City rematch
Three of the last four Super Bowls featured a team from the NFC West.
The division is traditionally one of the most competitive in the league — three teams made it to the postseason last year.
Will the Los Angeles Rams repeat as NFC West and Super Bowl champions? They retooled and reloaded their roster, but the Rams have the most difficult strength of schedule in the NFL entering 2022.
And they have competition across the division.
The San Francisco 49ers will finally bring second-year quarterback Trey Lance into the spotlight, and the Arizona Cardinals are motivated after late season's flameout. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are rebuilding.
The NFC West is wide open once again. Here are five highly anticipated matchups involving NFC West teams in 2022:
Week 1: Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams (Thurs, Sept. 8 at 8:20 p.m. ET)
The NFL’s 103rd season kicks off with a juicy matchup between the Bills and Rams in the 14th meeting between the two franchises.
Los Angeles begins its Super Bowl defense at the same site where they won the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Meanwhile, Josh Allen and the Bills are among the favorites to represent the AFC in this year’s Super Bowl.
Buffalo had the No. 1 ranked pass defense last year. They'll be tested early against 2021 receiving triple-crown winner Cooper Kupp and veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford leading the Rams' passing offense.
Former Rams pass rusher Von Miller will be on the opposite side Week 1. He joined the Bills defense in the offseason. Buffalo is hoping the veteran is the missing piece to the puzzle. But, the Rams still have the best defensive player in all of football — Aaron Donald.
These are two of the most talented teams in the NFL. Both the Bills and Rams have serious Super Bowl aspirations. Is this a Super Bowl 57 preview? Only time will tell. But what we do know is this matchup is custom made for primetime.
Week 9: Los Angeles Rams @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sun, Nov. 6 at 4:25 p.m. ET)
The Bucs play a Rams team that bounced them from the playoffs last year. Will Brady, who turns 45 on Aug. 3, get revenge or will the defending Super Bowl champs show once again they are the best of the NFC?
Both teams have future Hall of Famers on their rosters, headlined by Brady and Donald.
It’s going to be a long day at the office if the Bucs don’t contain Donald and the Rams front. Brady had a 25% competition under duress from Los Angeles in the divisional playoff loss. Donald had five tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and eight pressures in the game.
The November matchup between the two NFC contenders is right before the stretch-run to the playoffs.
Week 11: San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals (Mon, Nov. 21 at 8 p.m. ET)
In 2005, the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals played the first regular-season game outside the United States when the two clubs met at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. It was the eighth largest crowd in NFL history with 103,467 fans in attendance.
Fast forward 17 years, the 49ers and Cardinals meet again at the same Mexico City stadium.
The Week 11 game will air on Monday Night Football, so there will be immense buildup to the contest. The Cardinals should have wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins back from a six-game suspension. Hopkins averages eight receptions and 92 career receiving yards against San Francisco.
Arizona swept the season series last year.
Week 17: San Francisco 49ers @ Las Vegas Raiders (Sun, Jan. 1 at 4:05 p.m. ET)
The 49ers will play at Allegiant Stadium for the first time since their former Bay Area neighbor moved to Las Vegas. Niners' nation travels well, and a New Year’s Day game in Las Vegas gives fans more incentive to go.
On the field, it will be interesting to see how quarterback Derek Carr and wide receiver Davante Adams fair against a stingy 49ers' defense and fierce pass rush. Carr and Adams broke records when they were college teammates at Fresno State.
Will Carr have enough time to operate against one of the best front sevens in the NFL?
The key to the 49ers stout defense is linebacker Fred Warner. Warner might be the most underrated player in the league. The 2020 All-Pro has tallied at least 118 tackles in his first four seasons.
The 49ers and Raiders' all-time series is knotted at seven games each.
Week 17: Los Angeles Rams vs. Los Angeles Chargers (Sun, Jan. 1 at 8:20 p.m. ET)
The Rams and Chargers meet for just the second time since both franchises moved to Los Angeles. This will be their first regular-season matchup inside SoFi Stadium.
The reigning Super Bowl champions are winning the perpetual battle for LA. But the Chargers had one of the most impressive offseason in the league, acquiring outside linebacker Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson.
There’s star power on both sides of the field, and Hollywood will be out to witness this game between crosstown rivals. The Week 17 matchup could have serious playoff implications. It's also the first-ever primetime game between the Rams and Chargers.