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Clowney vs. Manziel among rookie meetings we'd like to see


The NFL schedule has been released and, while we've known each team's slate of opponents for some time, we finally have a complete picture of when each matchup will take place. With the 2014 NFL Draft just two weeks away, what better way to look at the schedule than to take a guess at which games might take on a greater meaning when factoring in the incoming rookie class.

With that in mind, here are a few team/player marriages we'd like to see on draft weekend and the games we'd be tuning in to see.

1. Clowney chases Manziel

Matchup: Texans at Jaguars (Dec. 7 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS) and Jaguars at Texans (Dec. 28 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS)
The skinny: With the division rivals holding the first- and third-overall picks in the draft, we could get not one but two chances to see two impact players go after one another. The rumor is Houston is coming around on picking Jadeveon Clowney with the draft's top pick and that would set things up nicely if Johnny Manziel becomes Jacksonville's quarterback with the third pick. A lot of folks will say Clowney was picked to chase Andrew Luck around the division, but the selection of Manziel means the defensive end would have plenty of opportunities to get after the highly elusive former Texas A&M star. The second meeting between the two would be Manziel's homecoming and take place about an hour away from where he left his mark in college.

2. Johnny Football vs. America's Team

Matchup: Jaguars vs. Cowboys, Nov. 9 at 1 p.m. ET on FOX (in London)
The skinny: Since we've already put Manziel on the Jaguars, how about the drama surrounding the game against one of his childhood favorites? Add in the fact that the popular quarterback would be playing America's Team in London at the famed Wembley Stadium and we're sure the broadcasters will have no shortage of things to talk about. One other juicy matchup that could come if the Jaguars select Manziel? Opening week the team travels to take on the Eagles at 1 p.m. ET on CBS. Why's that notable? It could be the first time Manziel competes against the coach he once committed to in high school, Chip Kelly, who was at Oregon at the time.

3. Rookie quarterback vs. rookie quarterback

Matchup: Texans at Browns, Nov. 16 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS
The skinny: If the Texans do take Clowney with the top pick, they'll likely look to snag a quarterback at the top of the second round. Teddy Bridgewater could be sitting there or maybe the pick will be somebody like Jimmy Garoppolo. Derek Carr has been frequently linked to the Browns with their pick at No. 26. Bridgewater vs. Carr late in the season could add a little juice to this game. It would also be a matchup of Carr vs. the team that took his brother first in the 2002 draft. ... How about Houston grabbing Blake Bortles with the first pick and Manziel getting taken by Cleveland with the fourth-overall pick to set up another great rookie quarterback matchup?

4. Top wide receiver faces the Legion of Boom

Matchup: Seahawks at Rams, Oct. 19 at 1 p.m. ET on FOX
The skinny: Nobody really knows what St. Louis will do with the second-overall pick in the draft, but one appealing option is to give Sam Bradford another dangerous weapon in Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Regarded as the best receiver in the draft by just about every analyst, he'll be able to cut his teeth fairly early in the season with back-to-back home games against the 49ers and Seahawks. If Watkins wants to live up to his billing, one way to prove it would be a great game against Seattle's Legion of Boom secondary, which has been the league's best.

5. SEC Championship Game rematch

Matchup: Saints at Falcons, Sept. 7 at 1 p.m. ET on FOX
The skinny: There are just a handful of NFL teams located in SEC territory, but the Saints and Falcons are two clubs that have large followings in the South. So there might be no better way to start the NFL season than by staging an SEC Championship Game rematch of sorts at the Georgia Dome as former Mizzou end Kony Ealy comes off the edge against former Auburn tackle Greg Robinson. Recent mock drafts have Robinson landing with the Falcons and Ealy going to the Saints, so it's possible the players could line up against each other in Atlanta next season.

6. The replacement shares field with Steve Smith

Matchup: Panthers at Ravens, Sept. 28 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS
The skinny: Everybody will be talking about Steve Smith facing his old team for the first time, but what about the pressure the player billed as his replacement will face? The growing consensus seems to be the team will grab at least one wideout in draft, so perhaps Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks will take the field looking to show Panthers fans it's OK to get rid of all those Smith jerseys.

7. Young CB takes on the master

Matchup: Chargers at Broncos, Thursday, Oct. 23 at 8:25 p.m. ET on CBS and NFL Network
The skinny: Recent mock drafts by NFL Media analysts have San Diego selecting Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller. We could find out how quickly the rookie is adjusting to life in the NFL when the team heads to Denver for a huge divisional showdown. Can Fuller bait Manning into a mistake or will one of the NFL's most experienced passers take aim at the new kid in the secondary in prime time?

8. Containing CJ2K

Matchup: Raiders at Jets, Sept. 7 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS
The skinny: There's a chance that Buffalo's Khalil Mack will be on the board when the Raiders select with the fifth-overall pick, and he'd be a huge upgrade for the team on defense. The Raiders' season starts with a tough cross-country trip to take on the Jets. Chris Johnson was brought in to help provide a spark to Gang Green's offense, but he might have a tough time getting going if Mack is as good as everybody thinks.

2014 NFL Draft Winds
College Football 24/7 takes a look at the rumors connecting draft prospects with NFL teams leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft.

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» Tracking teams' interest in top prospects

9. Hard hitters add to intense rivalry

Matchup: Steelers at Ravens, Sept. 11 at 8:25 p.m. ET on CBS and NFL Network
The skinny: This is one of the most intense rivalries in the NFL and each team takes their cues from their hard-hitting defenses. Both clubs could add a defender in the first round of the draft this year so why not throw Louisville safety Calvin Pryor on the Ravens and Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard on the Steelers? Both players are known for their physicality against opposing wide receivers, so they would fit right into this prime time rivalry game.

10. Roll Tide, War Eagle

Matchup: Bears at Panthers, Oct. 5 at 1 p.m. ET on FOX
The skinny: The last time Ha Ha Clinton-Dix played Auburn, the game turned out to be an instant classic, but he was on the losing end of the matchup. A few mock drafts have him winding up with the Bears, so the Alabama safety would have an opportunity early in his career to get a little revenge for that rivalry loss by taking it out on the Tigers' most famous active NFL player in Cam Newton. Consider yourself warned to expect a flurry of "Roll Tide" tweets if Clinton-Dix picks off a Newton pass.

Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.



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