2021 NFL Schedule Creates Crimson Tide Matchups
Whether it's Tua Tagovailoa's Miami Dolphins against Mac Jones's New England Patriots, Amari Cooper's Dallas Cowboys vs. Patrick Surtain's Broncos, or Henry Ruggs's Las Vegas Raiders against Minkah Fitzpatrick's Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL will have many Crimson Tide matchups to watch for in the coming season.
With over 75 Crimson Tide alumni holding a roster spot this offseason, it's no surprise that every where fans look on the recently unveiled 2021 NFL schedule, Bama Pros are looking across the field at a former teammate or brother in crimson flame.
Here are the five matchups Crimson Tide fans can look forward to this NFL season.
Tua Tagovailoa VS. Mac Jones
For better or worse, these two Crimson Tide legends are destined to face each other at least twice a season for the rest of their careers. There's no better time to start of the interesting rivalry than Week 1 of the NFL Season.
Tagovailoa will head into the road matchup with a revamped offensive line and a familiar weapon in Jaylen Waddle. The Dolphins are a contender in the AFC now with the pieces added this offseason, and with Tagovailoa cemented as the permanent quarterback, there are no more excuses to hold back this exciting team.
As for Jones, his status as the starting quarterback of the New England Patriots is still left to be decided. Cam Newton is the incumbent starter, but after a very questionable 2020 season, his role is far from decided. As the 15th overall pick, however, Jones is expected to have every opportunity to become Boston's pride signal caller.
If Jones isn't the starter Week 1, the Patriots and Dolphins will meet again in Miami for the season closer in Week 18.
Derrick Henry VS. CJ Mosley
Coming off a 2,000-yard campaign, and a strong run at NFL MVP honors, Derrick Henry returns for a 2021 season looking to bring his Titans to new heights. Tennessee is looking to continue the build towards a Super Bowl run behind Henry and there is no doubt the tread on Henry's tires are strong enough to make another go.
As for CJ Mosely, he returns to football altogether, having opted out of the 2020 season entirely due to COVID-19. Mosely returns to revamped Jets squad that welcomes in respected defensive mind Robert Saleh as its new head coach. After years of success with the San Francisco 49ers defense, Mosley should have no trouble getting back in the swing of things.
Mosley and Henry will meet on the field in Week 4 for the first time since Week 6 in 2018. In that game, Henry rushed for just 21 yards on seven carries as Mosley's Ravens dominated to 21-0 shutout victory. Much has changed in three years, and seeing how these two Crimson Tide legends meet in the A gap this go around will be quite the sight for Crimson Tide fans.
Amari Cooper VS. Patrick Surtain
Patrick Surtain will be tested week in and week out in an AFC West division filled with great wide receivers. However, some of the 9th overall pick's biggest tests will come out of conference. In Week 9, Surtain may find himself lining up across from one of the greatest receivers in Alabama history: Amari Cooper.
Cooper and the Cowboys had a rough 2020 season after quarterback Dak Prescott broke his leg. Still, Cooper individually held his stats to his standard and has shown no signs of slowing down as he becomes a well-respected veteran of the position.
As for Surtain, he won't meet every team's number one receiver with Kyle Fuller manning the opposite sideline. Still, the Broncos feel their franchise drafted the best cornerback in the class in April, meaning there won't be any coddling of the young prodigy. Don't be surprised to see Surtain line up across Cooper in AT&T Stadium.
Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen VS. Landon Dickerson
In Weeks 15 and 17, the rivalry games between the Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles will take place. That late into the season is quite a time to wait and for many unexpected turns in the NFL to take shape. Still, one of the most intriguing trench battles among Crimson Tide pros this year will see the interior defensive front of Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen taking on 2nd-round rookie Landon Dickerson.
Payne and Allen have been a force of nature for the Washington Football Team for years since both were taken with back-to-back 1st-round picks by Washington in 2017 and 2018. The two have combined for 27 sacks in Washington and are a handful for even the best NFL offensive lines.
Dickerson will have to win the left guard job, though seeing as the Eagles traded up in the second round to select him, it would come as no surprise if he does fill that spot as a rookie. Dickerson won't be fresh meat for Payne and Allen though with these matchups taking place so late in the season. Dickerson was regarded as the best interior lineman if not for injury and was drafted as such.
This matchup could very well become the battle of the unstoppable force versus the immovable object twice a year for many seasons to come.
Henry Ruggs III VS. Minkah Fitzpatrick
What's the best way to combat speed in the NFL? It's not easy, no matter what path a coach chooses, but having the best free safety in the league can go a long way in forming a sound defense.
In Week 2, the Pittsburgh Steelers will host the Las Vegas Raiders meaning Henry Ruggs's elite speed will be on full display against a questionable group of cornerbacks for Pittsburgh. Luckily for the Black and Gold, Minkah Fitzpatrick mans the deep center third of the field to give the last line of defense against speed demons like Ruggs.
Ruggs's rookie season wasn't an all-timer by any means, but his speed was still a difference maker for the Raiders throughout the 2020 season. With just 26 catches for 452 yards and two scores, he'll be looking to prove that he can be the number one option for quarterback Derek Carr in a young receiving corp. After all, Ruggs closed the season out with a game-winning score against the Jets proving he's a valuable asset down the field when given a chance.
Almost nothing gets past Fitzpatrick though. Fitzpatrick has allowed just 51% of passes headed his way to be completed and has nine interceptions in his two years with the Steelers. Teams don't test him often, and when they do, they pay harshly.
Still, Joe Haden has lost a step and the other corners in Pittsburgh are wildly unproven. If the Raiders want to get an early advantage at Heinz Field, the best way may be taking early shots downfield with Ruggs. Whether or not Fitzpatrick can keep up with Ruggs may be the difference in this one.