The 2023 NFL schedule’s top Black quarterback matchups to watch
From Patrick Mahomes vs. Russell Wilson to C.J. Stroud vs. Bryce Young, a spotlight on intriguing matchups of signal-callers in the first half of the NFL season
The era of there being standout Black quarterbacks throughout the NFL is underway, and the league’s 2023-24 schedule released Thursday reflects the group’s elite status.
Games featuring veteran African American star passers and highly touted rookies figure to be among the most anticipated by NFL fans. That’s what happens after, among other notable accomplishments recently, two star Black quarterbacks faced off in the Super Bowl for the first time last season, and three Black signal-callers were selected during the opening round of the NFL draft for only the second time.
Andscape picked the most interesting matchups in which high-profile Black signal callers could meet during the first half of the season.
Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens – The Texans hope that rookie C.J. Stroud, the draft’s second overall pick, will be the cornerstone of a major turnaround under first-year coach DeMeco Ryans, who’s one of only three Black head coaches in the league. A prolific two-year starter at Ohio State, Stroud possesses both the top-notch physical tools and the drive to succeed in the NFL.
For months, it seemed the Ravens and superstar quarterback Lamar Jackson were careening toward an ugly breakup, but their relationship improved quickly after team officials offered Jackson a contract extension that includes $185 million in guaranteed money. With the guarantees in his new deal, Jackson, the 2019-20 Associated Press NFL MVP, ranks second only to the Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson ($230 million guaranteed). Will this be the season that Jackson, who has finished the last two seasons injured, finally shines during the postseason and reaches a Super Bowl?
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans – Two picks after the Texans selected Stroud, the Colts tabbed Anthony Richardson to lead them. Richardson wowed club decision-makers at the NFL scouting combine and rocketed into the draft’s top-five picks. He’s 6-feet-4 and weighs 244 pounds, covers 40 yards in 4.43 seconds and possesses outstanding arm strength. Make no mistake, a Stroud-Richardson matchup so early in the season would stir excitement in both fan bases. The question is will Richardson and Stroud start so early in their rookie seasons.
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens – Last season for the Florida Gators, Richardson completed only 53.8% of his passes. Based on Richardson’s accuracy problems at Florida, the widespread belief among NFL talent-evaluators and coaches is that he would be best served by being a backup as a rookie while continuing to grow in the film room and on the practice field. But if the Colts disagree, and Richardson takes the team’s reins quickly, a Richardson-Jackson matchup could be a dazzling offensive show.
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns – Watson and Jackson, the two highest-players, respectively, in NFL history, square off. Clearly rusty after returning from suspension last season, Watson must return to form to have the Browns’ unprecedented investment in him pay off.
Denver Broncos at Chicago Bears – Although Russell Wilson is a future Hall of Famer, his first season with the Broncos was an unmitigated disaster. Wilson had only 16 touchdown passes – by far the lowest total of his 11-year career – and the Broncos were a dysfunctional 5-12 mess. Will new Broncos coach Sean Payton, a Super Bowl winner, be able to get the perennial Pro Bowler pointed in the right direction again? During the offseason, the Bears finally bolstered the offense, at least on paper, around young quarterback Justin Fields, who must take a significant step forward this season.
Houston Texans at Carolina Panthers – In the draft, Stroud was second only to Carolina’s Bryce Young, the No. 1 overall pick. The winner of the Heisman Trophy in 2021 while directing the Alabama Crimson Tide, Young is the sixth African American signal-caller to ascend to the top position in a draft. Even before the Panthers acquired the draft’s top pick in a trade with the Chicago Bears, Young was the first name on their draft board. The Panthers and Texans hope that Young-Stroud matchups will be must-see viewing for more than a decade.
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos – Entering his seventh season and sixth as a starter, Kansas City superstar Patrick Mahomes is the NFL’s best player. The only active quarterback with multiple Super Bowl victories, Mahomes also has two Associated Press MVP awards and two Super Bowl MVP awards. Last season, Mahomes led the NFL in passing yards, passing touchdowns and Total QBR. And he accomplished all of that after the Chiefs traded future Hall of Fame wideout Tyreek Hill. Russell is the dean of the NFL’s Black quarterbacks.
Seattle Seahawks at Baltimore Ravens – As a starter for the first time since the 2014 season, Geno Smith had the greatest season of his nine-year career while leading the surprising Seahawks to the playoffs. Smith completed a league-best 69.8% of his passes. He also ranked in the top five in touchdown passes and passer rating. For his efforts, Smith was selected the Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year in 2022 and the Seahawks rewarded him with a new contract that includes $27.3 million in guaranteed money.
Whenever Jackson plays, especially during the regular season, he’s capable of producing eye-opening performances with both his legs and passing arm.