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The NFL returns for the 2022 season, one that promises hope for each of the league's 32 teams as they set their sights on Super Bowl LVII.
NFL 2021 was one of the most competitive seasons in league annals and was the first year of an enhanced season structure which featured each team playing 17 regular-season games. The 2022 NFL season will be filled with memorable moments, as young players emerge, familiar faces continue their climb up the record books and teams vie to make their mark in the postseason.
Every team enters the season with hope and a trip to Arizona for Super Bowl LVII in mind. Below are a few reasons why:
Eighteen teams remained in Super Bowl contention on the final day of the 2021 regular season, tied for the most such teams since 2006 (20).
Four teams clinched a division title after not winning their division last year (Cincinnati, Dallas, the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay) and at least two teams have won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs in 18 of the past 19 years.
The Cincinnati Bengals clinched the AFC North after finishing in last place in the division in 2020 and in 17 of the past 19 seasons, at least one team finished in first place in their division the season after finishing in last or tied for last.
Seven teams clinched playoff berths after missing the postseason in 2020 (Arizona, Cincinnati, Dallas, Las Vegas, New England, Philadelphia and San Francisco) and since 1990 -- a streak of 32 consecutive seasons -- at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.
There were 21 overtime games last season, including three in Week 18 which featured teams winning in overtime to qualify for the postseason (Las Vegas, Pittsburgh and San Francisco), marking the first time since 1993 that multiple playoff teams won in overtime in the final week of the season. The competitiveness of the 2021 regular season fed into one of the most exciting and dramatic postseasons to date.
The Los Angeles Rams won Super Bowl LVI and for a 17th consecutive season, the NFL has a new Super Bowl champion, extending the longest streak without a repeat winner in league history. Only eight teams have repeated as champions since the first Super Bowl in 1967, with the 2004 Patriots (Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX) being the last team to accomplish the feat. It also marked the second-consecutive season in which a team won the Super Bowl in their home stadium, after Tampa Bay also did so in Super Bowl LV.
From the Divisional Playoffs through Super Bowl LVI, six of the seven games were decided by exactly three points. The only game that wasn't was Kansas City and Buffalo in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, which was decided by an overtime touchdown.
The total margin of victory across the final seven playoff games (Super Bowl LVI, Conference Championship and Divisional Playoffs) was 24 points (3.4 points per game).
Among the many notable accomplishments players and coaches can achieve during the 2022 season:
Tampa Bay quarterback TOM BRADY (84,520 passing yards and 624 touchdown passes) enters the 2022 season as the league's all-time regular-season leader in both categories and can become the first player in NFL history with 100,000 career passing yards, including the postseason.
Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS, who ranks fifth all-time in touchdown passes (449) and 10th in passing yards (55,360), can become the first player ever to win three consecutive Most Valuable Player awards.
Indianapolis quarterback MATT RYAN (59,735 passing yards and 367 touchdown passes) can become the eighth quarterback ever with 60,000 passing yards and ninth quarterback all-time with 400 touchdown passes.
Tennessee running back DERRICK HENRY needs 10 rushing touchdowns to become the fifth running back all-time with at least 10 rushing touchdowns in five consecutive seasons.
Tampa Bay wide receiver MIKE EVANS needs 1,000 receiving yards to become the first player with at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first nine seasons in NFL history.
Kansas City tight end TRAVIS KELCE (704 receptions and 9,006 receiving yards) can become the fifth tight end all-time with 800 receptions and fifth tight end ever with 10,000 receiving yards.
Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman AARON DONALD (98 sacks) needs 12 sacks to become the fourth player since 1982 with at least 110 sacks in his first nine seasons.
New Orleans defensive end CAMERON JORDAN needs seven sacks to become the sixth player since 1982 to record at least seven sacks in 11 consecutive seasons.
Pittsburgh linebacker T.J. WATT can become the first player to lead the league in sacks in three different seasons since 1982.
New England head coach BILL BELICHICK ranks third all-time with 321 total victories (regular-season and playoffs combined) and needs four wins to surpass George Halas (324 combined wins) for the second-most total victories by a head coach in NFL history.
Green Bay head coach MATT LAFLEUR can become the first coach since 1970 to win at least 13 games in each of his first four seasons as an NFL head coach.
Kansas City head coach ANDY REID needs 10 wins to become the third coach in NFL history to record at least 10 wins in eight consecutive seasons.
Beginning with the 2021 season, NFL teams approved an enhanced season structure that will feature each team playing 17 regular season games and three preseason games.
The NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in March of 2020 enabled the league, with the approval of the union and its players, to enhance the regular season with a move to 17 games, marking the first change to the season structure since the 1978 campaign ushered in an era of 16 regular-season and four preseason games.
The 17th game features teams from opposing conferences that finished in the same place within their division the previous season. The NFC was determined to be the home conference for the 17th game in 2022.
Under the scheduling formula below, every team plays 17 regular-season games with one bye week. Teams will host 10 games overall -- either nine regular-season games and one preseason game or eight regular-season games and two preseason games.
Home and away against its three division opponents (six games).
The four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (four games).
The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (four games).
Two intraconference games based on the prior year's standings (two games). These games match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched in the same way each year.
One interconference game based on the prior year's standings on a rotating four-year cycle (one game). These games match a first-place team from one division against a first-place team in an opposite conference division that the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place and fourth-place teams in each division are matched in the same way each year. The home conference for this game will rotate each season.
NFL Kickoff Weekend will begin Thursday night, September 8, and the regular season will end Sunday, January 8, 2023. The season will conclude with Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium in Arizona on Sunday, February 12, 2023.
The enhanced season will ensure that beginning in 2022, all 32 teams will play internationally at least once every eight years. The scheduling of up to four neutral-site games per year in a country outside the United States will focus initially on Canada, Europe, Mexico, South America and the United Kingdom. In addition, interested teams can continue to volunteer to play home games internationally, as is currently the case.
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