The best rookie matchup each week of the NFL season

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 13: Bryce Young #9 of the Carolina Panthers passes the ball to quarterbacks coach Josh McCown of the Carolina Panthers during practice at Bank of America Stadium on May 13, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 13: Bryce Young #9 of the Carolina Panthers passes the ball to quarterbacks coach Josh McCown of the Carolina Panthers during practice at Bank of America Stadium on May 13, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

With the NFL schedule locked in, NFL Draft picks across the league are set to face-off with each other. What are the best rookie matchups?

The NFL schedule officially came out last week and it had the football world buzzing about the primetime slate, the international bouts, the new Black Friday duel between the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets, and important divisional games late in the season. The schedule release is all about tantalizing matchups and the thought of getting to see rookies take the field for the first time.

With the 2023 NFL Draft class’s first-round loaded at quarterback, offensive tackle, and pass rusher, the schedule release was a perfect opportunity to start daydreaming about some of the best rookie vs. rookie matchups of the season. Plenty of games set for this upcoming NFL season appear to be brimming with fun rookie battles, making it difficult to select just one to focus on each week. However, when rookies take the field this September for their first year in the NFL, many will be set for marquee clashes with their contemporaries throughout the season that stand out above the rest.

The best rookie matchup each week of the NFL season

Week 1: Darnell Wright, OT, Chicago Bears vs. Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Green Bay Packers

It may not be the sexiest head-to-head rookie battle of the season, but getting two top-13 picks duking it out in the trenches in one of the most historically rich rivalries in the NFL? That’ll get the juices flowing. Both Darnell Wright and Lukas Van Ness were touted as big, athletic, and raw prospects during the NFL Draft process and both landed in ideal spots. The Chicago Bears want a mauler at right tackle to protect Justin Fields and boost the run game while the Green Bay Packers love long and explosive pass rushers to develop.

While Wright is essentially sharpied in to start Week 1 for the Bears, Van Ness, who never started a game at Iowa, will be coming off the bench behind Preston Smith. That could mean there won’t be a ton of reps between the two, but when they do line up against each other you best get your popcorn ready. With his violent punches and tone setting demeanour, Wright is going to look to finish Van Ness into the ground, while the Packers pass rusher’s non-stop motor and ability to convert speed-to-power should lead to some exciting collisions between the two.

Runner up: Peter Skoronski, OL, Tennessee Titans vs. Bryan Bresee, DL, New Orleans Saints

Week 2: CJ Stroud, QB, Houston Texans vs. Anthony Richardson, QB, Indianapolis Colts

There’s a chance one of, or both, the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts will let the NFL world down by not naming CJ Stroud and Anthony Richardson their respective starting quarterbacks at the beginning of the season. Absolute worst case this is actually a battle between Davis Mills and Gardner Minshew, but hopefully DeMeco Ryans and Shane Steichen give us a must-watch rookie quarterback matchup early in the season. If it doesn’t happen in Week 2, it will certainly happen in Week 18.

Between Stroud’s fit in Bobby Slowik’s Shanahan offense and Steichen getting a freak of nature in Richardson after helping Jalen Hurts and Justin Herbert develop in recent years, this could give the NFL world a glimpse at the future of the AFC South. A divisional game between two top-four picks at the most important position in all of sports is bound to generate quite a few hot takes and plenty of eyeballs. Stroud’s a diabolically accurate pocket passer and Richardson possesses a cannon arm and the athleticism and size to hit home runs as a runner; two very different styles, yet two extremely gifted and young quarterbacks. This could be an important game early in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race.

Runner-up: Jaxon Smith Njigba, WR, Seattle Seahawks vs. Brian Branch, DB, Detroit Lions

Week 3: Bijan Robinson, RB, Atlanta Falcons vs. Jack Campbell, LB, Detroit Lions

The battle of the devalued positions? Not quite the catchy name to market the matchup between Bijan Robinson and Jack Campbell, but getting to see these two clash will be worth your time. While they may not technically go head-to-head very often, Campbell is going to be tasked with helping improve one of the worst run defenses in the NFL and what better way to test him than to see him against one of the league’s best rushing attacks.

Inserting Robinson into Arthur Smith’s offense behind the Atlanta Falcons mauling offensive line should immediately lead to big-time production. To help stymie Robinson, Campbell’s going to need to utilize his range, take on skills, and instincts to be a sideline-to-sideline run defender. He’ll also need to show his coverage chops if he ends up matched up with Robinson, who happens to have elite pass catching back potential. For Robinson, his combo of contact balance, burst, body control, and open field elusiveness could lead to plenty of chunk runs if Campbell and Co. struggle. Another interesting storyline with this game is the Detroit Lions will have the only other first-round running back, Jahmyr Gibbs, taking the field.

Runner-up: Broderick Jones, OT, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Las Vegas Raiders

Week 4: Broderick Jones, OT, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Will Anderson, EDGE, Houston Texans

Few matchups are more compelling than getting to see two first-round picks truly duke it out one-on-one in the trenches for four quarters. Not only will Broderick Jones and Will Anderson bring the Georgia vs. Alabama SEC rivalry to the NFL, both players were so coveted by their new teams that the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans both traded up to land them. It’s hard to imagine either of them not being Week 1 starters, Jones is the exact player the Steelers offensive line has been missing and Anderson is new Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans defensive cornerstone and the lead Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.

What makes this matchup enticing is the run game. Jones is dripping with potential thanks to his physicality, athleticism, and nastiness, while Anderson is a technically sound edge setter with plenty of pop in his hands as well as one of the highest effort players in the class. But of course what’s really going to sell this battle is the passing downs. Jones has the tools to develop into a franchise left tackle, however he’s going to need to improve his hand placement and footwork when dealing with such an explosive and powerful pass rusher like Anderson. A big performance from either one will go a long way for bolstering the narrative around their respective rookie seasons.

Runner-up: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Seattle Seahawks vs. Deonte Banks, CB, New York Giants/Jalin Hyatt, WR, New York Giants vs. Devon Witherspoon, CB, Seattle Seahawks

Week 5: Steve Avila, IOL, LA Rams vs. Jalen Carter, IDL, Philadelphia Eagles

No team will rely on rookies more this season than the Los Angeles Rams. With a depleted roster and over a dozen rookies on their two-deep, it could get ugly. Yet, the first rookie they selected in the 2023 NFL Draft appears to be a building block for the future. Big Steve Avila should be starting at guard from day one and by Week 5 he’s going to have his hands full with arguably the most talented rookie in the class in Jalen Carter. It’s an even more mouth-watering matchup when you consider these two already went head-to-head in the CFP National Championship Game where Carter and Georgia stomped TCU and Avila. (Despite the loss Avila played a heck of a game against the Bulldogs front.)

Given the Philadelphia Eagles depth up front, Carter may not play more than 35 snaps in this game, but with his first step, wiggle, and violent hands, he’ll keep Avila’s hands full. Carter has rare pass rush potential for an interior pass rusher and with the Eagles deep rotation he should be fresh for most of this game. What will help Avila is his strong base, consistent balance, and vice grip hands; when he latches on his pass pro he’s hard to beat. When these two clash on run downs it will look like two rams head butting in battle with Avila’s power and Carter’s ability to hold the point. This is up there for the most fun rookie matchup of the season.

Runner-up: Zay Flowers, WR, Baltimore Ravens vs. Joey Porter Jr., CB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 6: Jordan Addison, WR, Minnesota Vikings vs. Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Chicago Bears

Last season the Chicago Bears relied on more rookies in their secondary than anybody else in the NFL. It had its ups and downs, but there’s clearly been an effort in the previous two draft classes from GM Ryan Poles to overhaul this defense. That continued with the selection of Tyrique Stevenson, a big press corner from Miami. For the Minnesota Vikings, with their lone top-100 selection in this draft class, they invested in a running mate for Justin Jefferson and made Jordan Addison the fourth first-round receiver of the 2023 NFL Draft.

A perfect test for them both will be this Week 6 divisional game where Jefferson will be garnering so much attention that there’s an opportunity for Addison and Stevenson to spend plenty of time one-on-one. What makes this such a captivating matchup is the contrast between the two; Addison is tiny (5 feet 11, 173 pounds) and didn’t test very well while Stevenson is big (6-0, 198, 32 3/8-inch arms) and explosive. Addison’s release repertoire and route running prowess, he’s the best in the class, will help him against Stevenson’s length and physicality in press. These two will get to deal with each other again in Week 12 on Monday Night Football.

Runner-up: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Arizona Cardinals vs. Byron Young, EDGE, LA Rams

Week 7: Darnell Wright, OT, Chicago Bears vs. Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Las Vegas Raiders

Talk about two hog mollies taking it to each other for 60 minutes, it’s going to be a bloodbath between Darnell Wright and Tyree Wilson. Two of the most physically imposing players in the 2023 NFL Draft class and two top-10 picks who are both known for their freakish combo of size and explosiveness. This may not be an alluring football game between two potential bottom dwellers, but seeing Wright and Wilson deal with each other could make it a worthwhile watch.

Wright plays right tackle like he’s a boxer looking for the knockout punch, he’s mean, powerful, and heavy handed. Wilson plays on the edge like he’s a grizzly bear ready to run through a wall to get to his food (the quarterback) using his length, strength, and ability to generate speed-to-power to do so. It’s an immovable object meeting an unstoppable force type of matchup that will be won by whichever fighter can mix in a changeup. For Wright, he’ll need to rely on his anchor and improved hand placement and bend to fight Wilson’s power and for Wilson, he’s going to need to show a counter move for when Wright is able to keep his strength in check. There are going to be some highlight reel reps when these two go head-to-head.

Runner-up: Matthew Bergeron, OG, Atlanta Falcons vs. Calijah Kancey, IDL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 8: CJ Stroud, QB, Houston Texans vs. Bryce Young, QB, Carolina Panthers

It’s not often three quarterbacks go in the top-four picks of the NFL Draft, and it’s even less often that those quarterbacks all face each other as rookies. With CJ Stroud and Anthony Richardson going to the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts, respectively, they’ll potentially play each other twice this season (assuming they both start from the hop). To make matters more interesting, the AFC South will be playing the NFC South this year, giving both Stroud and Richardson the opportunity to match wits with Bryce Young.

The Carolina Panthers moved up to No. 1 to make Young their franchise saviour, and while he’ll have all season to prove them right, seeing him take on both quarterbacks taken after him will add another talking point to the debate. Young’s processing skills, field vision, and ability to thrive out of structure with rare poise for a young passer are why teams overlooked his size throughout the NFL Draft process. Stroud on the other hand is the more accurate pocket passer and possesses the better arm, but was dinged for lacking the skills to make plays off script and not playing with the same poise as Young. It’s such a treat that we’ll get to see the top two quarterbacks in the NFL Draft, who just so happen to be the first and second overall picks, matchup as rookies. The Young vs. Stroud debate will go on for years, and this is the first look at them on a professional field together.

Runner-up: Steve Avila, IOL, LA Rams vs. Mazi Smith, IDL, Dallas Cowboys

Week 9: Anthony Richardson, QB, Indianapolis Colts vs. Bryce Young, QB, Carolina Panthers

In almost any other week the matchup between Zay Flowers and Devon Witherspoon would be the rookie focal point, but they’re a casualty of this fascinating quarterback class. That’s right, in back-to-back weeks the NFL world gets to enjoy Bryce Young taking on the No. 2 and No. 4 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. It’s truly delicious that the NFL schedule makers set the games up this way. Seeing Young stand next to Anthony Richardson will surely lead to memes circulating on the internet, but when they take the field it will be all business in a potential key game in the race for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Given the “It” factor Young appears to possess with his innate ability to escape pressure and extend plays before finding open receivers and Richardson’s rare athleticism, jaw-dropping pocket navigation, and flamethrower of an arm, there’s going to be plenty of big moments to come out of this game that have the NFL world abuzz. In terms of how much this game will matter in the grand scheme of the season, it may not at all, and it’ll be taking place at the same time as a game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, so many people may not prioritize it, but in a few years it may be looked back on as a peek at the bright future ahead in Indianapolis and Carolina.

Runner-up: Zay Flowers, WR, Baltimore Ravens vs. Devon Witherspoon, CB, Seattle Seahawks

Week 10: Peter Skoronski, OL, Tennessee Titans vs. Calijah Kancey, IDL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Two teams who could find themselves in purgatory given their roster situations, the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers both opted to invest in trench help with their first-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Titans had Peter Skoronski, the best offensive line prospect in the class, fall into their laps at No. 11 and the Buccaneers took one of the most electric pass rushers in the draft with Calijah Kancey at No. 19. While this might not jump off the page as a game to watch this NFL season, this rookie matchup is up there for one of the most fun this season.

In Skoronski, the Titans are getting a plug-and-play offensive lineman with few flaws outside of his length and they’ll likely mitigate that concern by playing him inside at left guard. He’s the type of player who can help reinvigorate their front with his polish and power. While Kancey isn’t nearly as safe a prospect, he’s certainly more exciting with his freaky twitch, pass rush repertoire, and short area quickness. Tune in to see if Skoronski’s balance, base, and body positioning can slow Kancey’s violent hands and lighting get off on passing downs and watch out for Skoronski’s physicality, quickness, and leverage getting the best of Kancey in the run game. This will be football porn for offensive/defensive line lovers.

Runner-up: Broderick Jones, OT, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Green Bay Packers

Week 11: Paris Johnson Jr., OL, Arizona Cardinals vs. Will Anderson, EDGE, Houston Texans

After some wheeling and dealing from new Arizona Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort, Paris Johnson Jr. became the team’s new franchise cornerstone after they took him sixth overall. They made Johnson Jr. the first offensive lineman selected in the 2023 NFL Draft and there will be big expectations for him as the team tries to turn things around under new head coach Jonathan Gannon. For now, it’s not clear what position Johnson Jr. will start at, while he’s a natural left tackle, DJ Humphries has been the lone steady starter upfront for Arizona when healthy since 2016. Johnson Jr. started at right guard in 2021 for the Buckeyes, but more likely he’ll be at right tackle for the Cardinals.

Assuming he’s outside at tackle, this is another bad game that will be made infinitely more fun by the potential rookie matchup. Who doesn’t want to see the first offensive lineman and first defensive lineman selected in the NFL Draft class go to war? While Will Anderson is a power rusher and physical run defender, Johnson Jr. is more of a dancing panda with nimble feet and natural movement skills. Watching him try to anchor against Anderson in pass protection and sustain his blocks and flash power in the run will be a big indication of his potential going forward.

Runner-up: Jalin Hyatt, WR, New York Giants vs. Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Washington Commanders

Week 12: Jayden Reed, WR, Green Bay Packers vs. Brian Branch, DB, Detroit Lions

This rookie matchup is a little off the beaten path, especially when you consider that this week will also potentially feature Anton Harrison vs. Will Anderson and Broderick Jones vs. Myles Murphy; all first-round picks fighting in the trenches. But despite those being fun ones, Jayden Reed vs. Brian Branch is going to be a bare knuckle brawl. The Green Bay Packers rarely draft sub-195 pound receivers, which speaks to how much they love Reed and view him as a transformative slot receiver for Jordan Love. For the Detroit Lions, having Brian Branch, a top-30 talent in the class, fall to them at No. 45 because he plays a devalued position, was a slam dunk pick.

Now every football fan in America will get to enjoy these two going at it on Thanksgiving Day. Reed is a spark plug with the way he attacks the football at the catch point, fights for every yard after the catch, and utilizes his quickness and explosive route running to create separation. Branch, who is expected to start at nickel, is one of the smartest football players in the class staying one step ahead by leaning on his instincts and suddenness in coverage; he’s also a ferocious tackler with fantastic take on skills. These two are going to build up quite a rivalry in the NFC North.

Runner-up: Anton Harrison, OT, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Will Anderson, EDGE, Houston Texans

Week 13: Quentin Johnston, WR, LA Chargers vs. Christian Gonzalez, CB, New England Patriots

There are just a few weeks throughout this upcoming NFL season where a first-round rookie wide receiver will potentially matchup with a first-round rookie cornerback. One of the biggest showdowns will take place later in the season when both the LA Chargers and New England Patriots are likely hunting for a playoff spot. The Chargers took Quentin Johnston No. 21 to give Justin Herbert yet another physical weapon and the Patriots were the beneficiaries of Christian Gonzalez’s surprising slide when they selected him at No. 17. Now, both bring explosiveness and size to AFC playoff contenders.

Johnston adds a new wrinkle to the Chargers passing attack with his knack for turning short and intermediate routes into big plays thanks to rare YAC ability for a receiver of his size. Pairing that with his body control, ball tracking, and explosiveness, he has the capability of being a terrifying threat for the Chargers. It’ll be a tall task for Gonzalez to slow him, but the Oregon product is one of the most naturally gifted athletes in the class. His foot quickness, fluid hips, suddenness, and speed make him a scheme diverse player with the patience and size to match up in press-man and the reaction speed and awareness to play off-zone. The big question will be if Gonzalez has the take on skills to wrangle Johnston in the open field and if Johnston has the ball skills to win contested catches over Gonzalez.

Runner-up: Broderick Jones, OT, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. BJ Ojulari, EDGE, Arizona Cardinals

Week 14: Josh Downs, WR, Indianapolis Colts vs. DJ Turner, CB, Cincinnati Bengals

Essentially Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard attacked the 2023 NFL Draft by just drafting the most explosive athletes at positions of need with Anthony Richardson being the poster child for their process. The lone exception to the teams approach was the selection of slot receiver Josh Downs at No. 79… which means Ballard and head coach Shane Steichen must have loved the North Carolina product. While Downs should earn a role quickly, the Bengals and Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin opted to look to the future by prioritizing selecting players who likely won’t need to contribute as rookies. One of those selections was DJ Turner and his 4.26 speed at No. 60.

By Week 14, Turner might not yet be seeing significant action, but if he is it would make plenty of sense for him to matchup with Downs throughout this game. Turner, like Downs, lacks size, but he makes up for it with his suddenness and physicality in press-man coverage. His change of direction skills would be perfectly utilized against Downs, who is about as pro-ready a route runner as you’ll find in a rookie. Downs route pacing, stem work, lateral agility, and awareness to work open for his quarterback make him a superb chain mover; Richardson’s going to love him. Relying on Turner’s elite athleticism and feistiness could be the Bengals best approach to dealing with Downs.

Runner-up: Broderick Jones, OT, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Keion White, DL, New England Patriots

Week 15: Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Detroit Lions vs. Drew Sanders, LB, Denver Broncos

While positional value and process can be argued all day about the Detroit Lions method to the 2023 NFL Draft, there’s no denying that Jahmyr Gibbs being inserted into Ben Johnson’s offense is going to be fun as hell. Gibbs gives the Lions the type of player they always hoped D’Andre Swift would become and should become just as valuable in the passing game as he is in the rushing attack. Detroit drafted four players before the Denver Broncos made their first pick (Marvin Mims at No. 63) and then picked again before the Lions fifth pick and took linebacker Drew Sanders No. 67.

Sanders, an Alabama transfer whose draft stock exploded in his lone year at Arkansas, was tabbed as a potential first-round pick. His size, explosiveness, range, and pass rush ability are what made him tantalizing and despite his fall, he’s a perfect fit in Vance Joseph’s defense. By Week 15, Sanders’ ability as a blitzer could help him find a role. If that’s the case, seeing how his fluid movement skills translate if he’s matched up against Gibbs in coverage could go a long way towards Sanders finding more playing time. With an exciting combo of burst and contact balance, Gibbs is a home run threat on every touch, but more importantly he’s a natural pass catcher who can cut on a dime in the open field and run routes like a slot receiver. Sanders’ range could be an important key to slowing Gibbs in this one.

Runner-up: Rashee Rice, WR, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Christian Gonzalez, CB, New England Patriots

Week 16: John Michael Schmitz, OC, New York Giants vs. Jalen Carter, IDL, Philadelphia Eagles

When you’re in a division with the Philadelphia Eagles you best reinforce your offensive line. The Eagles finished with 70 sacks last season, two shy of the 1984 Chicago Bears record, and then added two more defensive linemen from Georgia in the first-round in Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith. Carter is the most talented rookie in the whole class and gets to learn from four-time All-Pro Fletcher Cox while playing with college teammate Jordan Davis. The defensive line rotation is so deep that Carter will be fresh all the time and likely play somewhere between 25-40 snaps per game. Point being, any offensive line that has to deal with this group is going to be in trouble.

To help mitigate that trouble, the New York Giants, who had one of the worst interior offensive lines in football last season, selected plug-and-play center John Michael Schmitz with the 57th pick. Schmitz gives the Giants a high IQ pass protector who will utilize consistent hand placement and a strong anchor to try and deal with Carter’s ridiculous athleticism, wiggle, and pass rush repertoire. In the run game, Carter’s ability to shoot gaps and shed blocks could be a problem, but Schmitz works so well on doubles and climbing to the second level that it will surely lead to a few splashy Saquon Barkley runs. These two in a street fight twice a year for the foreseeable future? That’s NFC East football, baby! (This game also happens to be the second game of the Christmas Day slate.)

Runner-up: Broderick Jones, OT, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Myles Murphy, EDGE, Cincinnati Bengals

Week 17: Dealers choice

There’s no tougher week to single out a rookie matchup than Week 17. There’s just no clear and obvious choice, but plenty of alluring options. If the Philadelphia Eagles were to play Nolan Smith a significant amount as a rookie, then seeing his violent hands and instant explosiveness up against Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr.’s natural footwork and length would be the pick. Those are the only two first-round rookies potentially going head-to-head, the problem is that Smith may not need to play much.

Looking for a two for one? The Pittsburgh Steelers play the Seattle Seahawks in Week 17, which means Broderick Jones vs. Derick Hall and Jaxon Smith-Njigba vs. Joey Porter Jr. is on the table. The problem here is that Hall isn’t necessarily going to start as a rookie and Smith-Njigba will likely play predominantly in the slot while Porter Jr. will play on the outside. Still, Hall is a ball of rage with his ability to convert speed-to-power and utilize a nasty long arm move while setting the edge like a madman. Jones’ power and explosiveness will lead to car crash collisions with Hall. If Porter Jr. does end up on Smith-Njigba, his length and smothering playing style will be a fun contrast to JSN’s natural ball skills and smoothness as a route runner.

There’s also a trio of second-round offensive linemen who should be starting by Week 17 that will be tasked with corralling some long and athletic defensive linemen. When the Atlanta Falcons play the Chicago Bears, Matthew Bergeron will see a heavy dose of both Bears top-65 selections on the interior D-line, Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens. Cody Mauch, another NFC South guard, will be going toe-to-toe with first-round pick Bryan Bressee when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the New Orleans Saints. And in another divisional game, the Buffalo Bills will depend on O’Cyrus Torrence to give their O-line a boost in the run game while the New England Patriots hope Keion White’s ability to play inside and on the edge will help slow the rushing attack.

The final rookie matchup from Week 17 that sticks out is Zay Flowers vs. Cam Smith. Flowers, the Baltimore Ravens first-round pick, has the ability to play in the slot or out wide with his route running prowess and vertical speed. Well, the Miami Dolphins took Smith No. 51 due to his talents to line up outside and utilize his fluid athleticism and inside at nickel where his footwork and scrappiness pop off the screen. They may not get a ton of reps against each other, but this will be a thrilling tussle.

Week 18: CJ Stroud, QB, Houston Texans vs. Anthony Richardson, QB, Indianapolis Colts

What a perfect way to end an NFL season full of scrumptious rookie matchups. Not only is it insurance in case the Houston Texans and/or Indianapolis Colts don’t start their first-round quarterback in the Week 2 divisional game, but it will be a nice way to see how both CJ Stroud and Anthony Richardson have progressed from that initial duel.

Ultimately this game probably won’t mean much and it’s hard to imagine many non-Texans/Colts fans tuning in given the probability games with playoff ramifications will be taking place at the same time, however this is going to potentially be a big one in the Offensive Rookie of the Year battle. It’s safe to assume Stroud’s accuracy and decision making will help him be an extremely efficient passer in Bobby Slowik’s offense. That could mean steady passing numbers with minimal turnovers. For Richardson in Shane Steichen’s offense, he’ll surely have big plays all over his resume thanks to his arm and legs. With Bryce Young and Bijan Robinson probably being in the thick of the Offensive Rookie of the Year race too, it could come down to the last week of the season. On top of that storyline, it’s also likely the last time we’ll see the No. 2 and No. 4 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft until September, 2024, so it’s always nice to leave the fans with a good taste in their mouths about the future of the franchise… and it could be a preview for the landscape of the AFC South going forward.

Runner-up: Zay Flowers, WR, Baltimore Ravens vs. Joey Porter Jr., CB, Pittsburgh Steelers