Circle these games on the calendar.
The 2022 NFL season may be more than three months away, but that won’t stop fans and pundits alike from looking ahead to what is coming this fall.
That’s true, too, for Utah NFL fans who support their players in the pros — guys who hail from the state or competed collegiately at places like BYU, Utah and Utah State.
What are the best games to watch for Utah NFL fans this year?
These five NFL games provide some of the most intriguing matchups featuring Utah ties in the 2022 season.
Week 1: Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets
The first week of the season will see former Utah safety Marcus Williams make his debut with the Ravens.
Williams was a free-agent addition, inking a five-year, $70 million deal with Baltimore, according to Spotrac, after spending his first five NFL seasons with the New Orleans Saints.
On the opposite side of the field, former BYU and Corner Canyon High quarterback Zach Wilson will be kicking off his second pro season after being the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
After a challenging rookie season where he threw just nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions, Wilson is gaining attention for his offseason workout regime.
Utah ties on the Ravens’ and Jets’ rosters: Baltimore, QB Tyler Huntley (Utah), FS Marcus Williams (Utah); New York, DL Bradlee Anae (Utah), CB Javelin Guidry (Utah), S Kai Nacua (BYU), QB Zach Wilson (BYU and Corner Canyon High).
Week 10: Los Angeles Chargers at San Francisco 49ers
For just the second time, former BYU linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Fred Warner are facing each other in the NFL during this Sunday night matchup.
Van Noy got the better of Warner when the Patriots beat the 49ers in 2020.
Now, Van Noy is on his third NFL team in as many seasons after signing with the Chargers this offseason.
Warner, meanwhile, is a captain on a strong San Francisco defense heading into his fifth NFL season.
The game pits two teams expected to be playoff contenders.
Utah ties on the Chargers’ and 49ers’ rosters: Los Angeles, CB Michael Davis (BYU), S Alohi Gilman (Orem High), LB Kyle Van Noy (BYU); San Francisco, LB Fred Warner (BYU), P Mitch Wishnowsky (Utah).
Week 12: New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers
This is a BYU fan’s dream vacation — see the Cougars play at a Power Five opponent, then watch a couple of former BYU stars in an NFL game the same weekend.
The Cougars will wrap up the regular season with a game at Stanford on Nov. 26, and BYU fans can stay in the region for this contest the next day.
The Saints visiting the 49ers provides another intriguing matchup, with former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill — now working as a tight end in New Orleans — against his old Cougar teammate Warner, a star linebacker for San Francisco.
This brings up imaginations of Hill facing Warner on a key play that could determine the outcome of the game. Who would win — one of the NFL’s best cover linebackers, or a quarterback-turned-tight end?
Utah ties on the Saints’ and 49ers’ rosters: New Orleans, LB Kaden Elliss (Judge Memorial High), QB Taysom Hill (BYU), LB Nephi Sewell (Utah and Desert Hills), WR/RS Rashid Shaheed (Weber State), S Daniel Sorensen (BYU); San Francisco, LB Fred Warner (BYU), P Mitch Wishnowsky (Utah).
Week 13: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams
Former Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner was a star for the Seahawks defense over the past decade.
Now, after the Seahawks released the six-time first-team All-Pro this offseason and he signed with the Rams, he’ll get his first chance to face his former team in a NFC West division matchup in Los Angeles.
Former Utah and Brighton High linebacker Cody Barton, meanwhile, is in line to take over Wagner’s middle linebacker spot on the Seattle defense.
Former Utah and Orem High kicker Matt Gay will also be involved here, as he’s become a reliable option on the Rams’ special teams.
The two teams will meet again on Jan. 8 in Seattle.
Utah ties on the Seahawks’ and Rams’ rosters: Seattle, LB Cody Barton (Utah and Brighton High), S Marquise Blair (Utah), DT Bryan Mone (Highland High), RB Darwin Thompson (Utah State); Los Angeles, S Terrell Burgess (Utah), K Matt Gay (Utah and Orem High), LB Bobby Wagner (Utah State), DT Jonah Williams (Weber State).
Week 16: Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets
This one may not grab a lot of attention from a national perspective, but this primetime Thursday night matchup just before Christmas will feature two Utah ties who’ve been first-round draft picks the last two years.
First, there is former Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd, who became the first former Utes linebacker to go in the first round when the Jaguars selected him No. 27 overall back in April.
He’s expected to be a starter in Year 1 and should have plenty of opportunities to make plays in the middle of the Jacksonville defense.
Then there is Wilson, the former BYU quarterback in his second season.
This will be the second matchup between Wilson and Trevor Lawrence, the former Clemson quarterback who was taken one spot before Wilson in the 2021 draft, at No. 1 overall.
Last year, Wilson got the best of Lawrence in a Jets win, accounting for two touchdowns, while Lawrence had the better passing numbers (280 to 102).
Utah ties on the Jaguars’ and Jets’ rosters: Jacksonville, OL Nick Ford (Utah), LB Devin Lloyd (Utah), DT Jay Tufele (Bingham High); New York, DL Bradlee Anae (Utah), CB Javelin Guidry (Utah), S Kai Nacua (BYU), QB Zach Wilson (BYU and Corner Canyon High).
Games that just missed the mark
Week 1, Sept. 11 — New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons: Former BYU running back Tyler Allgeier makes his NFL debut in the first of two games against NFC South rival New Orleans, which has a handful of Utah ties.
Week 4, Oct. 2 — Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles: If former Utah and Timpview High playmaker Britain Covey makes the 53-man roster — he signed with the Eagles as a rookie undrafted free agent — he would face his old teammate, Lloyd, a month into his pro career.
Week 12, Nov. 27 — Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars: There are several Utah ties in this matchup, the most intriguing of which involves the veteran Williams against the rookie Lloyd.
Week 15, Dec. 19 — Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers: There are some big Utah State names in this one on opposite sides — Wagner and quarterback Jordan Love — though it would be surprising if Love actually plays, considering he’s the backup to Packers All-Pro QB Aaron Rodgers.