Nearly every game in the NFL these days features at least one former Ohio State player. While we aren’t going to go through every game in the first week of the NFL season, we are going to highlight some of the storylines involving Ohio State players on the season’s first weekend of the regular season.
Houston Texas v. Baltimore Ravens | Sept. 10 - 1 p.m. ET
After being selected with the second overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, C.J. Stroud’s first NFL game will definitely test him. Even though Stroud isn’t officially Houston’s starting quarterback, it is hard to imagine the Texans would take Stroud so high in the draft only to see him sit behind Davis Mills, who was Houston’s starting quarterback for most of last season. It could be a rough start for Stroud, who will see a drop-off in terms of receivers than what he was working with at Ohio State.
Lining up on the opposite sideline in this game are a couple of former Buckeyes. Following a 2022 season that was shortened because of recovery from a knee injury in 2021, J.K. Dobbins will look to regain the form he showed in the 2020 season, where he rushed for 805 yards and nine scores as a rookie. Along with Dobbins, the Ravens also have linebacker Malik Harrison. While Harrison isn’t a starter, he did appear in 17 games for Baltimore last year.
San Francisco 49ers v. Pittsburgh Steelers | Sept. 10 - 1 p.m. ET
There will be a couple of great Ohio State defensive linemen opening up the season in Pittsburgh this year. The Steelers have veteran defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, who will be entering his 13th season in the NFL. While Pittsburgh has a veteran nearing the end of his career, San Francisco defensive end Nick Bosa is entering the prime of his career. Bosa registered 18.5 sacks last year in his fourth season in the NFL.
Tennessee Titans v. New Orleans Saints | Sept. 10 - 1 p.m. ET
With questions at quarterback and wide receiver, it could be a long year for former Ohio State defensive lineman and assistant coach Mike Vrabel. The same can’t be said for the New Orleans Saints, who signed free agent quarterback Derek Carr during the offseason. Carr will have a couple former Buckeyes to throw to. Chris Olave caught 72 passes for over 1,100 yards as a rookie in 2022.
The biggest question for New Orleans is how much are they going to get from Michael Thomas. After catching 470 passes in his first four years in the league, Thomas has played in just 10 games and caught 56 passes over the last three years. If Thomas can stay healthy, the Saints have a scary combo at wide receiver, but it’s hard to have any faith that Thomas can stay on the field after so many injury issues the last few years.
Arizona Cardinals v. Washington Commanders | Sept. 10 - 1 p.m. ET
It doesn’t seem likely that either team will be contending for a playoff spot this year. For Ohio State fans there are a few reasons to tune into this matchup, though. Paris Johnson Jr. will be making his NFL debut for the Arizona Cardinals, who traded up to take the Buckeye offensive lineman with the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft. Johnson could likely be seeing a lot of another former Buckeye, as Chase Young will be looking to stay injury free and put together a big year after the Commanders declined the fifth-year option on his rookie contract.
Along with Johnson and Young, a couple of other former Ohio Staters will be in uniform for Washington. The most notable Buckeye alum is Terry McLaurin, who has caught 299 passes and accumulated over 4,000 yards in his first four seasons in the NFL. Joining McLaurin on offense for the Commanders are fellow wide receiver Curtis Samuel, as well as offensive lineman Andrew Norwell.
Los Angeles Rams v. Seattle Seahawks | Sept. 10 - 4:25 p.m. ET
Following the early games on the first Sunday of the NFL regular season, Jaxon Smith-Njigba will make his NFL debut in Seattle. After being projected in the first half of the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Ohio State wide receiver did slide just a little bit but fell into a great spot. The pressure on Smith-Njigba won’t be quite as high as some of the other spots he was being mocked to, since the Seahawks have D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett at receiver.
Following their Super Bowl win over Cincinnati, the Los Angeles Rams really struggled in 2022. At this point, the Rams look like they are closer to a rebuild than contending for another Super Bowl. Los Angeles did trade away Jalen Ramsey in the offseason, but they do have former Ohio State safety Jordan Fuller in the secondary. Fuller and the rest of the defensive backfield will have their hands full trying to slow down Smith-Njigba and the rest of the Seattle receivers.
Green Bay Packers v. Chicago Bears | Sept. 10 - 4:25 p.m. ET
Now that Aaron Rodgers has been traded to the New York Jets, the NFC Central is truly up for grabs. Last year the Minnesota Vikings won the division, but there is a lot of chatter that the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears will be in the mix this season. Despite not having very much quality talent around him last season, Justin Fields was able to throw for 17 touchdowns and rush for over 1,100 yards and 11 scores last year. Fields will likely put up bigger numbers this year after the Bears not only traded for wide receiver D.J. Moore but also upgraded their offensive line.
Buffalo Bills v. New York Jets | Sept. 11 - 8:15 p.m. ET
The first week of the 2023 NFL season wraps up with an AFC East battle. The Buffalo Bills, who don’t currently have any Ohio State Buckeyes on the roster, take on reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson and the New York Jets. There will be a ton of hype around Wilson this year after the Jets traded for Aaron Rodgers. After catching 83 passes for 1,103 yards last season from Zach Wilson, Mike White, and Joe Flacco, Wilson, and the Jets have made a significant upgrade at quarterback.