NFL schedule: Intriguing rookie vs. veteran matchups that could feature welcome-to-the-league moments

Now that the NFL schedule has been released, it’s easy to pinpoint moments to be excited about for the season. That includes a host of talented rookies that will be facing the toughest competition of their lives in the near future. Here's a rookie versus veteran matchup to keep an eye on each week for the upcoming season — even if they don’t go well for the rookie.

Week 1: Jets OT Olu Fashanu vs. 49ers EDGE Nick Bosa

Assuming Fashanu is starting over Morgan Moses by Week 1, the rookie is in for a tough start to his career with the best of the best in Nick Bosa. Fashanu’s performance will be paramount considering this is the first regular season game Aaron Rodgers will play in after last season’s Achilles injury. He’ll need protection against one of the fiercest pass rushers in the league.

Week 2: Saints OT Taliese Fuaga vs. Cowboys EDGE Micah Parsons

Micah Parsons has been giving offensive tackles hell since he got into the league and Taliese Fuaga is going to get a taste of that to start his career. It’s not clear exactly what spot Fuaga will be playing, but he’s got a chance to be a starter at either tackle spot depending on how the next few months play out for the Saints. Parsons will be all over Fuaga no matter where he’s lining up.

Week 3: Patriots QB Drake Maye vs. Jets defense

Drake Maye’s first game against the divisional rival Jets should be a doozy. The Patriots’ offense is very much a work in progress while the Jets defense is firmly one of the best in the league. If Maye can make plays against the Jets’ defensive line and secondary, he just might have what it takes to be the Patriots’ franchise quarterback.

Week 4: Seahawks DL Byron Murphy vs. Lions interior offensive line

Byron Murphy gets a dose of Frank Ragnow in Week 4. The Seahawks rookie has the tools to be a disruptive presence on the interior and a true pass-rushing threat, but the Lions still boast one of the strongest position groups in the league and it will be a good litmus test for where Murphy is early in his career.

Week 5: Giants WR Malik Nabers vs. Seahawks CB Devon Witherspoon

This one is interesting because it’s a battle between two young players that might primarily happen in the slot. In college, Malik Nabers did his best work from the slot where he could use his speed to open up windows in the deep middle portion of the field. That’s where Seahawks star cornerback Devon Witherspoon spent most of his rookie season and played exceptionally well.

Week 6: Commanders QB Jayden Daniels vs. Ravens defense

The Ravens should still have a tough defense even though Mike Macdonald is off to Seattle. They still have one of the most talented rosters in the league and they’re perfectly suited to take advantage of a rookie quarterback behind a shaky offensive line. Like Maye versus the Jets, this will be a great early moment for Daniels to see how he fares against top NFL talent.

Week 7: Packers OT Jordan Morgan vs. Texans EDGEs Will Anderson and Danielle Hunter

Jordan Morgan against two of the best edge rushers in the league should be fun for him. Whether it’s speed or power, Morgan will see it all when he takes on Will Anderson and Danielle Hunter from the Texans.

Week 8: Eagles CB Quinyon Mitchell vs. Bengals WRs Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins

Quinyon Mitchell might be the steal of the first round and he’ll be able to prove it when the Bengals and the Eagles square off. This is probably the best wide receiver duo in football and he’ll see a heavy dose of both Chase and Higgins in this game.

Week 9: Chargers OT Joe Alt vs. Browns EDGE Myles Garrett

Myles Garrett has blown up every offensive tackle he’s faced up against, so no harm no foul if Joe Alt gets crushed here. However, if Alt is actually the level of player he’s been projected to be, he might have a chance of holding his own to a degree.

Week 10: Chiefs WR Xavier Worthy vs. Broncos CB Pat Surtain II

There might not be any players faster than Xavier Worthy and there might not be any cornerbacks better than Pat Surtain II. This is a divisional matchup that should have some good battles over the next few years, but Worthy getting one on Surtain this early might be difficult.

Week 11: Raiders TE Brock Bowers vs. Dolphins S Jevon Holland

One of the most highly touted tight end prospects against one of the best young safeties in the NFL. Holland does a bit of everything for the Dolphins defense and should get his fair share of matches against Bowers — who projects to do a little bit of everything for the Raiders offense.

Week 12: Packers LB Edgerrin Cooper vs. 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey

Go back and watch what Christian McCaffrey did to the Packers defense in the playoffs. Edgerrin Cooper will be tasked with just being better than that. Tough task, but the Packers rookie at least has the speed to be in position to make plays on McCaffrey.

Week 13: Lions CBs Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw vs. Bears WRs Keenan Allen, D.J. Moore and Rome Odunze

The NFC North has one of the most fascinating WR vs. CB battles in the league this year with the games between the Bears and Lions. The Bears now boast arguably the best wide receiver room in the league while the Lions spent their first two picks on cornerbacks while also trading for Carlton Davis. This could be a defining battle in this division for years to come.

Week 14: Titans OT JC Latham vs. Jaguars EDGE Josh Allen

JC Latham appears to have the inside track toward being the Titans left tackle this season which means he’s going to have a couple bouts with the freshly paid Josh Allen. Allen has the speed to, in theory, give Latham fits, but Latham is talented enough to hold his own.

Week 15: Jaguars WR Brian Thomas Jr. vs. Jets CB Sauce Gardner

Whew, good luck Brian Thomas. Thomas is seen as a bit of a project and has a game against Sauce Gardner this season. Just try to run by him, Brian.

Week 16: Steelers OL Troy Fautanu vs. Ravens DL Justin Madubuike

Real Ravens-Steelers football is back. This should be one of the more physical matchups of the season. Fautanu is a skilled, physical lineman just like his counterpart in Madubuike. Fataunu is slated to be a starter at guard where he’ll see plenty of reps against one of the top interior defensive lineman in the game.

Week 17: Dallas OL Cooper Beebe vs. Eagles DL Jalen Carter

Jalen Carter wrecked heads as a rookie and Cowboys interior lineman Cooper Beebe, who is quietly a player of huge importance for the team, will have his chance to prove he belongs twice a season against Carter. Beebe played guard and right tackle for Kansas State, but should settle in at guard for now.

Week 18: Panthers WR Xavier Leggette vs. Falcons CB A.J. Terrell

Another divisional matchup to close this out. Xavier Leggette was drafted to be a powerhouse playmaker, which is the kind of wideout that has given Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell some trouble in the past. Still, Terrell is a talented enough player in his own right that he should be able to give the rookie some fits too.

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