Top 10 NFL games featuring Utah ties during the 2024 season

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua (17) runs the ball for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions in the first half during an NFL wild-card playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2024, in Detroit.

While NFL teams have known for months what opponents they would be facing in the upcoming season, they now have dates for each of those games, as the league released its 2024 schedule Wednesday night.

One byproduct of the release was revealing when several intriguing matchups for Utah ties will occur.

From Utah to BYU to Utah State ties, there are a growing number of names around the league that draw attention not just in the state of Utah but around the league as well.

Here’s a look at the top 10 most interesting matchups in the 2024 season that, for one reason or another, carry interesting Utah storylines.

Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs, Week 1

  • Thursday, Sept. 5, 6:20 p.m. MDT (NBC)

  • Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City

Former BYU offensive tackle Kingsley Suamataia might be making his first career start in the NFL’s kickoff event, protecting Patrick Mahomes’ blind side. That’s a big stage to make your debut, in a rematch of last year’s AFC championship game.

Suamataia, the Chiefs’ second-round draft pick who started his college career at Oregon and prepped at Orem High, could face another former Cougar, Ravens outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who excelled in Baltimore last season after starting the year as a free agent.

The victory in the AFC championship propelled coach Andy Reid, the former BYU lineman and grad assistant, and Kansas City into the 2024 Super Bowl, where the Chiefs won their third title in the past five years. Van Noy missed out on his chance to add a third Super Bowl ring in his 10-year career.

Green Bay Packers vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Week 1

  • Friday, Sept. 6, 6:15 p.m. MDT (Peacock)

  • Corinthians Arena, Sau Paulo, Brazil

The NFL’s first-ever game in South America will feature a pair of Utah ties who are coming into their own as pros.

First, there’s Packers quarterback Jordan Love, the former Utah State standout who had an excellent first season as a starting quarterback in 2023. He finished ninth in ESPN’s QBR ratings, just below Mahomes, while throwing for 4,159 yards, 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

How will he look in Year 2 as a starter? It begins Week 1 against Philadelphia.

Speaking of the Eagles, former Utah and Timpview High star Britain Covey has made a name for himself as a punt returner. In his sophomore pro season, Covey led the NFL with 417 punt return yards, and his average of 14.4 yards per return was second-best in the league.

Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions, Week 1

  • Sunday, Sept. 8, 6:20 p.m. MDT (NBC)

  • Ford Field, Detroit

The last time Puka Nacua played in a game, he and the Rams lost to Detroit by one point in the wild-card round of the playoffs back in January.

Nacua, the rookie sensation out of BYU, caught nine passes for a rookie postseason record 181 yards in the loss, capping off a memorable first year that saw him also set the NFL single-season rookie record for receptions and receiving yards.

This game gives Nacua, an Orem High grad, and the Rams the chance to exact some revenge for how their season ended last year.

It also gives Utah fans the chance to see former Utes safety Sione Vaki, a fourth-round draft pick by Detroit, in his first NFL game.

Vaki was a two-way star this past season for Utah, helping out the offense as a running back, and Detroit has left the door open on how they plan to utilize his skills, whether it’s on offense or defense.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Buffalo Bills, Week 3

  • Monday, Sept. 23, 5:30 p.m. MDT (ESPN)

  • Highmark Stadium, Orchard Park, New York

This one has all the makings for some fun viewing for Utes fans.

On one side, there are Buffalo tight end Dalton Kincaid and safety Cole Bishop. Kincaid set the Bills record for receptions by a rookie last year, finishing with 73 receptions for 673 yards and two touchdowns. Bishop, meanwhile, was drafted by Buffalo last month and could be in line for a starting job as a rookie.

On the other side is Jacksonville linebacker Devin Lloyd. Lloyd has become a stalwart of the Jaguars defense in his first two NFL seasons, having started 30 of the 32 regular-season games he’s played.

These three players also represent Utah’s highest draft picks in each of the past three NFL drafts. Lloyd and Kincaid were first-round selections in 2022 and 2023, respectively, while Bishop was a second-round selection this year.

Los Angeles Rams at Chicago Bears, Week 4

  • Sunday, Sept. 29, 11 a.m. MDT (Fox)

  • Soldier Field, Chicago

Nacua, even after being just a fifth-round selection, burst onto the NFL scene last season and became a household name en route to setting the league rookie records with 105 receptions and 1,486 yards (and six touchdowns).

In this one, he’ll line up against a former Ute who also had a standout season in 2023.

Cornerback Jaylon Johnson earned himself a contract extension — worth a reported four years and $76 million — by shining last year for Chicago. He ended the season with 36 tackles, 10 pass deflections and a career-high four interceptions while also scoring his first career touchdown.

Both Nacua and Johnson earned All-Pro second-team honors and were named to the Pro Bowl in the 2023 season.

Their battle could be must-see TV.

Denver Broncos at New York Jets, Week 4

  • Sunday, Sept. 29, 11 a.m. MDT (CBS)

  • MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

There’s no guarantee Zach Wilson will even play in this game, but it’s intriguing nonetheless that the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 draft and former Jet will travel back to New York with his new team.

Wilson, the former BYU and Corner Canyon High star, flamed out in New York, and he has plenty of competition for the starting quarterback role with the Broncos.

The expectation is that former Oregon star Bo Nix, who the team drafted No. 12 overall in last month’s draft, will be given every opportunity to earn the starting job, while veteran Jarrett Stidham has the most experience in coach Sean Payton’s system.

If Wilson does play in this game, he’ll do so in front of a home crowd that more often than not booed the once ballyhooed quarterback.

Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers, Week 7

  • Sunday, Oct. 20, 2:25 p.m. MDT (Fox)

  • Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California

Another week, another rematch game.

This one features the two teams who played in Super Bowl 2024, which the Chiefs won 25-22.

That was the second time that former BYU linebacker Fred Warner, now a star in San Francisco, and the 49ers came up on the losing end against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl in the past five seasons.

The 49ers will get Mahomes and the Chiefs at home in what should be an important game for both teams’ playoff positioning.

Warner, who’s often shown support for fellow BYU alums in the NFL, will get his first chance to face Suamataia.

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs, Week 10

  • Sunday, Nov. 10, 11 a.m. MST (CBS)

  • Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City

Between the Broncos and Chiefs, there are currently 10 total players with Utah ties on these two rosters at this point in the offseason — seven with Denver and three with Kansas City.

This will be the first taste of the bitter AFC West rivalry for several rookies, like the Chiefs’ Suamataia and Broncos outside linebacker Jonah Elliss and wide receiver Devaughn Vele, two former Utes who were both taken by Denver in the 2024 NFL draft.

It’s also the first time that former Utah and Brighton High linebacker Cody Barton will get a chance to play in this rivalry — he’s in his first season with Denver after playing for Washington last season and in Seattle for four years before that.

And hey, perhaps there will be a certain Chiefs fan there as well — anyone seen Tay-Tay?

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears, Week 11

  • Sunday, Nov. 17, 11 a.m. MST (Fox)

  • Soldier Field, Chicago

Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love is hit by Chicago Bears defensive tackle Justin Jones (93) during game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in Green Bay, Wis. | Matt Ludtke, Associated Press
Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love is hit by Chicago Bears defensive tackle Justin Jones (93) during game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in Green Bay, Wis. | Matt Ludtke, Associated Press

Love continued the Packers QB domination over Chicago during his first season as a starter last year. In two wins over the Bears, Love completed 71.1% of his passes for 561 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in the two games combined.

Johnson did not play in the Bears’ Week 18 loss to Green Bay last season, though he did in their Week 1 loss to the Packers. His reputation has grown since the last time he played in this matchup of NFC North rivals.

This game also affords Love to get his first chance to go up against Chicago’s top pick this year, former USC quarterback Caleb Williams.

Williams was the top overall selection in the 2024 draft and there are high expectations for the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner — even higher than those that were initially placed on Love when he was the No. 27 pick in the 2020 draft.

Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams, Week 14

  • Sunday, Dec. 8, 2:25 p.m. MST (Fox)

  • SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, California

Like several other games on this list, this matchup features a BYU vs. Utah undertone.

It also represents one of the premier games to see some of the best young talent the state of Utah has to offer.

There’s Nacua, who’s headed into his second season with Los Angeles and expected to build off his record-breaking rookie year.

Then there’s Kincaid and Bishop for the Bills, who also have their own set of high expectations as top draft picks for Buffalo each of the past two seasons.

Kincaid proved last year he’s capable of rising to those expectations, and Bishop is projected to see plenty of action in 2024 and prove he’s capable as well.

A few honorable mentions

Philadelphia Eagles at Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, Oct. 27, Week 8): Covey faces his old teammate Zack Moss, who’s on his third team in as many seasons and is projected to start at running back for Cincinnati after rushing for a career-high 794 yards and five touchdowns for Indianapolis last year.

Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints (Sunday, Dec. 1, Week 13): This is the second-ever meeting of Taysom Hill and Puka Nacua. Nacua had a 164 receiving yards and a touchdown last year in a win over New Orleans at SoFi Stadium, while Hill played a minimal role in the game.

Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos (Sunday, Dec. 15, Week 15): The Colts have former Utes like Matt Gay and Julian Blackmon in key roles, while former BYU offensive tackle Blake Freeland started nine games as a rookie last season. The Broncos, meanwhile, have their share of aforementioned local ties.