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Rating every game on the Commanders’ 2022 schedule

Carson Wentz went all out for his introductory news conference. (Julia Nikhinson for The Washington Post)
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When last year’s NFL schedule was released, Washington’s path to a second straight playoff berth appeared clear: Survive a difficult slate of games over the first three months, enter December somewhere around .500 and then finish strong during an unusual five-game stretch against division foes to close the season. Ron Rivera’s squad was 6-6 entering Week 14, but lost four of their next five to miss the postseason and get an early start on resuming their decades-long search for a franchise quarterback.

Enter Carson Wentz, who may or may not be the answer and will lead the Commanders against the NFL’s easiest schedule, based on last year’s records. My colleagues have the full story of Washington’s 17-game slate, which was announced Thursday and includes two prime-time tilts, but in keeping with recent Sports Bog tradition, here’s a week-by-week look at how excited I am for each game on a scale of one to five images of the mustard yellow sports jacket Wentz wore to his introductory news conference.

“I didn’t know it would come in handy here,” said Wentz, who has owned the gaudy top since his days at North Dakota State.

The 15 can’t-miss games on the 2022 NFL schedule

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Jacksonville (1 p.m.)

The bad news for the Commanders is Urban Meyer is no longer coaching the Jaguars. The good news for the Commanders is that he was replaced by Doug Pederson, who did everything in his power to ensure his Eagles lost to Washington the last time he was on an NFL sideline.

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 18, at Detroit (1 p.m.)

Given the Lions’ appetite for kneecaps under second-year coach Dan Campbell, Chase Young better be careful of his surgically repaired ACL when the Commanders visit the Motor City, a place they haven’t won in 14 years. Washington will get a good look at rookie Jameson Williams, one of the wide receivers it opted to pass on taking when it traded down in April’s NFL draft.

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 25 vs. Philadelphia (1 p.m.)

In the first of three total meetings on the schedule against his two former teams, Wentz faces the organization that drafted him No. 2 overall in 2016. The Eagles have won four of their last five games in Landover.

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2 at Dallas (1 p.m.)

Washington returns to the scene of its most humiliating defeat in years, a 56-14 drubbing on “Sunday Night Football” last December that featured a sideline skirmish between Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. Payback is in order, but it’s unclear whether the Commanders are capable of dishing it out.

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9 vs. Tennessee (1 p.m.)

Take it from former Washington cornerback Josh Norman: Things could get ugly when the Commanders face Derrick Henry and the Titans, one of five playoff teams on the schedule. Henry had 21 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown in his only previous game against Washington, a 25-16 Tennessee win in 2018.

Week 6: Thursday, Oct. 13 at Chicago (8:15 p.m.)

Washington has won four straight in Chicago dating back to 2004, its longest current road winning streak against a team that hasn’t relocated during that span. The feat is less impressive when one considers that the wins came against Matt Barkley, Jay Cutler (twice) and Jonathan Quinn, whose career highlight was leading the Berlin Thunder to the 2001 World Bowl title. Second-year Bears quarterback Justin Fields should provide a stiffer test.

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23 vs. Green Bay (1 p.m.)

Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to a playoff win in Landover in January 2016, but he’s 0-3 at FedEx Field during the regular season. Green Bay secured a 24-10 victory at Lambeau Field last year, despite the fact that Washington didn’t punt in a game for the first time since 2000.

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30 at Indianapolis (4:25 p.m.)

Wentz returns to face the team that seemed all too happy to unload him one playoff-less season after he was acquired for two high draft picks. Colts GM Chris Ballard replaced Wentz by trading for longtime Falcons quarterback and former MVP Matt Ryan, who is 5-1 with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions in his career against Washington. Ryan turns 37 next week.

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6 vs. Minnesota (1 p.m.)

Kirk Cousins returns to FedEx Field for the first time since 2017, giving the Commanders an opportunity to unload the thousands of “You like that?!” rally towels they (possibly) still have in storage. Cousins, who has one playoff win in four seasons with the Vikings, completed 23 of 26 passes for 285 yards in a 19-9 win over Washington in Minneapolis in 2019.

Week 10: Monday, Nov. 14 at Philadelphia (8:15 p.m.)

The boo birds at Lincoln Financial Field will be out in full force for Wentz, who fell out of favor with Eagles fans after a strong rookie year. With Garrett Gilbert forced into action because of a coronavirus outbreak that didn’t spare the quarterback room last December, Washington made a bid to upset the Eagles in a rare Tuesday night game before falling short.

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20 at Houston (1 p.m.)

Kyle Allen revenge game? The former Washington quarterback signed a one-year deal with Houston, where he’ll back up second-year pro Davis Mills. The Texans received high marks for their draft, in which they selected LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. No. 3 overall and bolstered their receiving corps by taking Alabama wideout John Metchie III in the second round.

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27 vs. Atlanta (1 p.m.)

The Falcons selected former USC star wideout Drake London with the No. 8 overall pick in the draft. By this point in the season, he could be catching passes from fellow rookie Desmond Ridder.

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4 at N.Y. Giants (1 p.m.)

This game can’t possibly be any uglier than last season’s meaningless finale at MetLife Stadium, when ex-Giants Coach Joe Judge essentially gave up by calling back-to-back quarterback sneaks on second- and third-and-long in the second quarter. Giants edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, the No. 5 overall pick in this year’s draft, could be a thorn in the Commanders’ side for years to come.

Week 14: Bye

Week 15: Saturday, Dec. 17 or Sunday, Dec. 18 vs. N.Y. Giants (TBD)

Fans might need the bye to recover ahead of the excitement of a second game against the G-men in three weeks. Brutal.

Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24 at San Francisco (4:05 p.m.)

Washington makes its first trip to Santa Clara since a 17-13 loss in 2014. The Commanders’ last road game against old friends Kyle Shanahan and Trent Williams, a 23-15 win in which Young and Kamren Curl scored defensive touchdowns, was played at Arizona’s State Farm Stadium because of coronavirus restrictions. This is, by far, Washington’s longest road trip in a season in which it’ll travel fewer miles than all but seven teams.

Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1 vs. Cleveland (1 p.m.)

Deshaun Watson? Baker Mayfield? Jacoby Brissett? Joshua Dobbs? Considering the Browns have had an NFL-high 32 starting quarterbacks since 1999, it’s anyone’s guess who will be under center when they visit FedEx Field on New Year’s Day.

Week 18: Sunday, Jan. 8 vs. Dallas (1 p.m.)

Here’s hoping the NFC East bench wars the Cowboys started last year are reignited in 2022 and Washington rolls out some extra fancy sideline seating for the season finale. Here’s also hoping this game has playoff implications. If not, bump it down a yellow jacket or three.

(Washington Post illustration; iStock)

To recap:

5 mustard yellow sports coats: vs. Green Bay, vs. Dallas

4: vs. Philadelphia, at Dallas, at Indianapolis, vs. Minnesota, at Philadelphia

3: vs. Jacksonville, vs. Tennessee, at Chicago, at San Francisco, vs. Cleveland

2: at Detroit, vs. Atlanta, at N.Y. Giants

1: at Houston, vs. N.Y. Giants

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