NFL preview: Brady in Tampa and other storylines

DAVID WARRINGTON

The 2020 NFL season, like many things this year, will look different than usual. NFL players reported to training camp on Tuesday, July 28, and many steps are being taken due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For one example, teams will hold training camp at their home facilities instead of off-site facilities, as is the norm. A few other protocols include a 21-day period of non-contact practices, technology to assist with contact tracing and consistent testing. Players and staff will be tested every day for the first two weeks and every other day after that.

There are specific plans in place in the event of a positive test. If someone tests positive and is symptomatic, they must quarantine for ten days and must be without symptoms for 72 hours before they are allowed to return to play, and they also must have a negative test. If someone tests positive and is asymptomatic, one of two things has to happen. They either have to wait 10 days and have a negative test, or they must wait five days and have two negative tests before they can return to play.

Looking ahead to the on field action, there will be no preseason games this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The season will open on Thursday, September 10 as the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, will host the Houston Texans. Twenty-six teams will play on Sunday, September 13, with games starting at noon and continuing throughout the rest of the day. Opening week will wrap up on Monday, September 14, with a Monday Night Football double header. The New York Giants will host the Pittsburgh Steelers, and that game will be followed by the Denver Broncos hosting the Tennessee Titans.

Many see the Kansas City Chiefs as favorites to repeat as Super Bowl champions after winning it all a year ago. They will be led by franchise quarterback Patrick Mahomes who was resigned this offseason to a record-breaking ten-year, $450 million contract that could be worth up to $503 million if all incentives are met. Another team to keep an eye on is the Baltimore Ravens. In his first season as a full-time starter at quarterback, Lamar Jackson led the Ravens to a 14-2 regular season and was voted as the unanimous league MVP a year ago. The Ravens were upset in the divisional round by the Tennessee Titans last year, but still show a lot of potential for a deep run this season.

The San Francisco 49ers made it all the way to the Super Bowl a year ago, losing to the Chiefs. With Jimmy Garropolo still under center, Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman still in the back field and many big players returning from a stellar defense a year ago, the 49ers could make a push at a big season. A sleeper team that could potentially make some noise this year is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady will be at the helm of the Tampa Bay offense this year. He will have several offensive weapons, including Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, LeSean McCoy and former Patriot teammate Rob Gronkowski. This offensive firepower on top of a solid offensive line, including rookie from the University of Iowa Tristan Wirfs, and a stellar defense makes Tampa Bay a team to keep an eye on.