by Daniel Olsen
NFL fans can celebrate in knowing that their season is not too far off. While the big news right now is the Utah Jazz fighting for the top seed in the upcoming NBA Playoffs, the NFL schedule was also released this week. First came the early release of the Week 1 matchups. While there are plenty of games to be excited about throughout the season, it’s time to focus on the top five games that football fans of the state of Utah should be excited about.
1. New York Jets vs Carolina Panthers
BYU fans will want to circle this game on their calendar. Not only will it feature their superstar quarterback Zach Wilson playing against the former Jets QB, it will also feature a matchup between him and his former teammate.
Brady Christensen was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the third round with the 70th overall pick. While the two will never be on the field at the same time, fans can watch Wilson take snaps when the Jets take the field. When Sam Darnold comes on for the Panthers, it will be interesting to see if Christensen can help give him the protection he never had in his tenure with the Jets.
2. Green Bay Packers vs New Orleans Saints
This could possibly be the Old Wagon Wheel quarterback matchup that nobody ever got to see in college. Taysom Hill finished his BYU career in 2016 and Jordan Love started his career with the Aggies the following year. the retirement of Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, there will be a new leader at the helm of both teams.
The main competitor for Hill in New Orleans will be former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston. While he racked up over 19,000 passing yards in the Sunshine State, he also had his fair share of interceptions. Hill appears to be the favorite based on his performance last year and the new $140 million dollar contract. However, Sean Payton can still use him wherever he is needed if it’s not as the starter under center.
On the other hand, the Packers are searching for a Plan B if and when Rodgers leaves. Love, the first round selection for the Packers in 2020, was the only other active QB on the roster until just this week. Blake Bortles was just assigned to the team. Assuming Rodgers and the Packers do not make amends, Bortles and Love will be competing to be the main man.
3. Chicago Bears vs Los Angeles Rams
After the second game, there is a considerable drop in intrigue. That is because there aren’t high profile or new faces on either team. However, there are a few people to watch and this will be the first Sunday Night Football game of the season. Fans can relax as Carrie Underwood sings the introduction and hypes up the game that America that America will be waiting all day for.
In this NFC battle, the Chicago Bears will most likely have first round quarterback Justin Fields taking snaps. He will have the luxury of former Ute cornerback Jaylon Johnson shutting down receivers on the other end. BYU fans can also cheer for rookie Khyiris Tonga. He will be battling for playing time at defensive tackle.
Fans of the Los Angeles Rams can also find some local talent on the roster. Weber State defensive end Jonah Williams and Ute safety Terrell Burgess are on the roster for this West Coast team.
4. Baltimore Ravens vs Las Vegas Raiders
Fans of Monday Night Football look to this game to get them through a difficult work week. They will have no trouble being entertained in this one when the Las Vegas Raiders take on the Baltimore Ravens.
Tyler Huntley is the main man on Baltimore with ties to the Beehive State. In 2019, he had one of the best statistical seasons for the Utah Utes in the last few decades. He signed with the Ravens as a free agent last year after not getting drafted by any teams.
Ty’Son Williams is also a running back who played for BYU as a graduate transfer after playing for the South Carolina Gamecocks and North Carolina Tar Heels. He will be battling for carries with the other four running backs on the roster.
On the Raiders, tight end Matt Bushman will be representing BYU as an undrafted free agent. He is an intriguing prospect as he missed all of the memorable 2020 season due to an injury. He will be joined by three Utah State Aggies: cornerback Nevin Lawson, safety Dallin Leavitt and kicker Dominik Eberle. These fantastic four players will look to get a win for the home team when they host the Ravens on this Monday primetime game.
5. Dallas Cowboys vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This game is important because it officially starts the regular season in this Thursday NFL Kickoff game on NBC. Both teams are already excited about the matchup. Utah Utes and Cowboys fan Post Malone made an appearance in a hype video about the schedule announcement for the team. Reigning Super Bowl champion Tom Brady quipped about his excitement to play America’s team.
Bradlee Anae and Francis Bernard are the pair of Utes representing the Beehive State. They traded in their Ute red for blue Cowboys uniforms that closely resemble a BYU uniform. If you take off the Dallas star logo, both the navy and Royal blue threads look eerily similar to the ones worn by BYU.
Chris Wilcox will be the lone representative for the state of Utah on the Tampa Bay side. The cornerback for the BYU Cougars was selected late in the seventh round. He will look to crack the rotation and help the Buccaneers become the first team to repeat as champions in 17 years.
No matter which college team Utahns cheer for, it’s clear that college players out of this state are representing the NFL well.
Featured image courtesy Jet X Graphic, Getty Images