The annual release of the NFL schedule has become a spectacle unto itself over the years, and 2022 was no different.
Now that the dust has settled, five matchups (in no particular order) stand out as it pertains to players from a Hawaii perspective.
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Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals, Sept. 29, 2:15 p.m. HST
Because they were the top two quarterbacks taken in the 2020 NFL Draft, Saint Louis alum Tua Tagovailoa and Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow often get compared to each other. The two went 1-1 against each other in college. Although Tagovailoa won his start against the Bengals in the 2020 season, Burrow did not play due to a torn ACL. If both are still healthy ahead of the Week 4 matchup, it would be the first time both played in a game against each other as pros.
Detroit Lions at New England Patriots, Oct. 9, 7 a.m. HST
The Lions invested heavily in former University of Hawaii linebacker Jahlani Tavai by using a second-round draft pick on him in 2019, only to release him prior to the 2021 season. Tavai latched on with the Patriots and eventually found a role with the six-time Super Bowl champions. Week 5 of the 2022 season will be his first time squaring off against his old team.
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons, Sept. 11, 7 a.m. HST
This matchup will be the regular season opener for both teams. It will also be Saint Louis alum Marcus Mariota‘s first official game as a member of the Falcons, and he appears likely to get the starting nod under center.
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills, Dec. 18, time TBD
The Dolphins are 0-4 against the Bills during Tua Tagovailoa’s time with the franchise. The 2022 Week 15 matchup is likely to have playoff implications one way or another, and the Ewa Beach native will be tested in a multitude of ways in what promises to be a cold one in Orchard Park. Will the Dolphins make the playoffs? Will Tagovailoa be viewed as the permanent answer at quarterback in Miami? This particular matchup could provide some clarity.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans, Jan. 8, time TBD
Each team has two players with Hawaii ties, with star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (Punahou) and punter Rigoberto Sanchez (University of Hawaii) on the Colts squaring off against linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill (Kamehameha) and kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn (Punahou) on the Texans. Because both teams are in the same division, the two teams will face each other twice annually. But next season’s Week 18 matchup is crucial particularly for the Colts, who infamously lost their Week 18 matchup against the league-worst Jacksonville Jaguars last season to miss the playoffs.