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Top 10 games of the 2022 NFL season: Chiefs-Bucs, Packers-Bills make list

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated with the dates, times and networks for each game below.

After the wildest offseason in its history, the NFL is set to release its highly anticipated 2022 regular-season schedule.

A flurry of trades, free-agent signings, coaching changes and draft selections have set up the league for yet another enticing season full of intrigue. With that in mind, and ahead of the NFL schedule release (8 p.m. ET on Thursday, May 12, on NFL Network, and the NFL app), I've taken a moment to sift through the matchups for the 2022 season and compile a list of the top 10 games to watch.

This process requires a disclaimer: The AFC West went bonkers in the offseason, bringing a superstar quarterback (Russell Wilson) to Denver, a premier edge rusher (Khalil Mack) to Los Angeles, an elite receiver (Davante Adams) to Las Vegas, and a number of changes to the Chiefs' roster -- including the departure of Tyreek Hill to Miami. Every divisional showdown could probably make this list.

In order to avoid repeating many of these matchups, we're only going to choose one -- the most thrilling of any of the AFC West showdowns from the 2021 season -- for this list. But the AFC West will feature appointment viewing on a near-weekly basis.

With that said, let's dive into 10 games to circle on your calendars this fall.

Week 16: Thursday, Dec. 22 at 8:15 p.m. ET on Prime Video

This tilt made last year's list, and the Jets dressed for the occasion, donning their alternate black uniforms for the showdown of the 2021 draft's top two selections. Their performances didn't quite live up to the hype, but the game itself was exciting, with Zach Wilson leading a go-ahead drive with less than two minutes remaining and the Jets hanging on by the slimmest of margins to defeat Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars. After another busy offseason that included a coaching change for Jacksonville, Year 2 offers better situations for both quarterbacks. Can they put on a better show in 2022 than they did in 2021?

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS

This matchup depends entirely on the status of Deshaun Watson, who still faces 22 civil lawsuits and potential discipline under the league's personal-conduct policy. But if Watson is available to play, it's pretty easy to see why this game lands on this list. Watson didn't take a snap for Houston in 2021 before he agreed to be traded to Cleveland, and if he's at the controls of his new team in his old home of NRG Stadium, well, the entire scene will be one to watch.

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4 at 4:05 p.m. ET on FOX

Mike McDaniel rose from 49ers offensive whiz kid to head coach of the Dolphins in a rather short span of time, and he'll face his old squad and boss in Kyle Shanahan in 2022. McDaniel is tasked with turning Tua Tagovailoa into a franchise quarterback and will run into one of his greatest tests as a novice head coach when he meets the club that knows him best. Will Miami's busy offseason and new-look offense be enough to outperform DeMeco Ryans' defense at Levi's Stadium? Or will the mentor get the best of the mentee?

Week 18: Date and time is TBD

We had to find a way to get Lamar Jackson -- one of the league's most electrifying players -- on this list, and there's no better matchup than a meeting with the team that bullied Jackson's Ravens in 2021. Cincinnati blossomed from little brother to neighborhood menace last season, handling Baltimore in both meetings and legitimizing its standing as a true contender in the AFC on its way to a conference title. The Ravens have had an entire offseason to stew over the results from those two losses, and after a multi-month period of reinforcing their roster and getting healthy, they'll have a chance to exact revenge. What better place than the Bengals' home of Paul Brown Stadium to give Joe Burrow a serving of humble pie? Or will the Bengals prove 2021 was no fluke?

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6 at 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS

The NFL's two most recent Super Bowl champions will meet again at the site of their thrilling Divisional Round showdown in January. The new kings of the league are entering 2022 focused on re-running their sprint to a Lombardi Trophy, while the Buccaneers welcome Tom Brady back from his brief retirement with the goal of returning to the mountaintop. Former Buccaneers and current Rams kicker Matt Gay sent Los Angeles to the NFC Championship Game with his foot in Raymond James Stadium last time around. Will we see this one come down to the final seconds, too?

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4 at 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS

A win-and-in scenario produced a game for the ages in Week 18 of the 2021 season. Las Vegas and Los Angeles traded more haymakers than you'd see in a heavyweight title bout, and when it was finished, the Raiders were the ones with arms raised in victory and a playoff berth in hand. This division will be an 18-week brawl that both of these teams believe they'll have more than a puncher's chance of winning. This showdown could go a long way toward deciding who emerges victorious from the battle royal that will be the AFC West in 2022. We can only hope it will be as exciting as the 2021 season finale.

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC

A clash of the old guard and new school awaits us at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, between two teams whose hearts were broken by Divisional Round defeats last postseason. Back-to-back MVP Aaron Rodgers takes the field against one of the faces of the NFL's quarterbacking future, Josh Allen, in what promises to be an 11-on-11 battle of strategy, finesse and grit. Can the Packers and their revamped cast of offensive playmakers keep pace with the high-powered Bills? Will Green Bay find a way to limit Allen and give Rodgers a chance to score a huge win? This one feels like it's destined for prime time, and if it comes late in the season, these two cold-weather clubs will be ready to battle the elements for the right to claim supremacy.

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC

This title rematch is set to take place at the site of Tampa Bay's second Super Bowl victory, Raymond James Stadium. Tom Brady didn't come out of retirement to go on a farewell tour, and he's not about to shy away from the challenge presented by Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Mahomes has his own revenge to exact on the Buccaneers, who harassed him relentlessly in Super Bowl LV and held the explosive Chiefs to just nine points. Kansas City returns to a place that delivered its most frustrating and painful loss in ages. Will we see a different result more than a year after they last met?

Week 1: Monday, Sept. 12 at 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN/ABC

This one is simple to explain: Russell Wilson returns to Seattle -- the city he called home for the previous 10 seasons -- after a very public breakup. He'll arrive with a team ready to immediately contend and meet one hoping to remain competitive while still finding his replacement. This contest might end up being more about the environment -- the 12s' reception of Wilson, who left them after one Super Bowl title and eight playoff appearances -- than it is about the actual game. Then again, Pete Carroll isn't about to go down without a fight, and we can bank on the Seahawks being geared up to go 10 rounds with Wilson's Broncos.

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16 at 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS

We should take a moment to thank the scheduling gods for delivering a rematch of the best game of the 2021 season, and perhaps ever. Add in the fact an overtime coin toss between these two teams influenced the league to change its postseason overtime rules, and you have a matchup rich in storylines. Allen and Mahomes are the new faces of the NFL, and both teams enter 2022 with visions of kissing the Lombardi Trophy in February. Only one can get there, though, and they might have to go through each other to do so. This regular-season meeting could tell us a whole lot about how the postseason could shake out -- and we can all but guarantee a prime-time setting and the football world turning its collective attention to Arrowhead Stadium for this one.

Follow Nick Shook on Twitter.

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