When Patrick Mahomes swept the Kansas City Chiefs to Super Bowl victory in Miami, all of the discuss was of a dynasty.
The seven months since have seen unprecedented change. But the NFL, a $25billion (£19m) trade, takes a knee for no-one.
The 2020 season begins in a single day because the Chiefs host the Houston Texans. It options the sport’s highest-paid gamers as Mahomes duels with fellow 2017 draftee Deshaun Watson.
With protests, with out followers, the addition of two new stadiums and two extra playoff groups, plus Tom Brady taking part in in pink, it guarantees to be a season like no different.
Kansas City Chiefs head into the brand new season trying to repeat their Superbowl success
Can the Chiefs repeat?
Super Bowl MVP Mahomes dislocated his knee in week seven, missed two video games and mounted a miraculous restoration. It culminated with a crescendo of comeback victories within the playoffs towards Houston, Tennessee and, most dramatically of all, San Francisco in Miami.
After rewarding the now totally match Mahomes with a blockbuster $450million (£350m), 10-year deal, the Chiefs additionally tied up head coach Andy Reid and have stored most of their high-octane offense in place. In the draft, they added operating again Clyde Edwards-Helaire to bolster their floor recreation.
Defensively, nomadic playmaker Tyrann Mathieu has discovered a house, and if his management and ball-hawking abilities can infuse the Chiefs with the type of perception which stored the San Francisco 49ers scoreless within the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, don’t rule out a repeat.
But historical past just isn’t on their aspect. Just 12 groups have made it to back-to-back Super Bowls. And solely seven have received consecutive championships, the final being the New England Patriots in 2004.
Patrick Mahomes helped lead the Chiefs to success and will likely be now hoping for a repeat
WEEK ONE (UK time)
Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football Team
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
Las Vegas Raiders at Carolina Panthers
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriot
Los Angeles Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants
Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos
Who else is in rivalry?
The Baltimore Ravens regarded set to brush into the Super Bowl, but met a buzzsaw within the form of the Tennessee Titans and an impressed Derrick Henry within the Divisional Round.
With final season’s MVP Lamar Jackson thriving in Greg Roman’s scheme, the Ravens possess a fearsome protection, which has been bolstered by linebacker Patrick Queen within the draft and veteran lineman Calais Campbell in free company.
Not for the primary time, San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan felt the Vince Lombardi trophy slip from his grasp.
And Jimmy Garoppolo, who already has two rings, might surprise if he’ll get the possibility so as to add to them.
And whereas Shanahan is an offensive genius, the 49ers steamrollered into the Super Bowl due to a smothering defensive position, which bar the departed Deforest Buckner, stays intact.
In a season the place continuity might be very important, the New Orleans Saints boast the most effective rosters and a coach and a quarterback who’ve carried out all of it earlier than.
But if they’re to triumph they need to accomplish that with out the deafening roar contained in the Superdome, in the intervening time at the very least.
Backed by a rock-solid protection, can the Steelers attain the playoffs for the primary time since 2017, a relative drought in Pittsburgh?
Elsewhere, the Seattle Seahawks are at all times there or thereabouts and Titans head coach Mike Vrabel was already giving opposition quarterbacks nightmares with out Jadeveon Clowney.
Dallas must be explosive and the second 12 months of Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay will likely be compulsive viewing for a myriad of causes.
Dark horses? Indianapolis. Outsiders? Don’t sleep on Denver.
Last season’s MVP Lamar Jackson will hope to guide the Baltimore Ravens to the Superbowl
Super Bowl spending spree
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers received Super Bowl XXXV in 2003 with a loaded protection. This season they’re going about issues just a little in another way.
No crew has ever received the Super Bowl in their very own stadium, but with the Raymond James Stadium set to host the massive dance in February, the notoriously miserly Glazer household morphed right into a bottomless pit.
In March got here Tom Brady on a two-year, totally assured $50million (£39m) deal. He could also be 42, but is a six-time Super Bowl-winner and arguably the best quarterback to have performed the sport.
Next, Brady’s previous sparring companion Rob Gronkowski pulled himself off a celebration seashore and out of retirement. But can the tight finish’s battered physique nonetheless do it?
And when Leonard Fournette was waived by Jacksonville, the bowling ball operating again – who has run for 1,000yards-plus in two of his three seasons with the Jaguars – was added to Bruce Arians’ offense.
With Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, two lanky, quick receivers who’ve a declare to being the league’s greatest duo, already in situ, watching the Bucs received’t be boring. And due to some new duds, they give the impression of being good too.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have introduced in veteran quarterback Tom Brady, 42
What concerning the Patriots?
Cam Newton is Brady’s successor on the new look New England.
Newton is trying to resurrect his profession after a number of accidents, and has acquired reward from Bill Belichick, whereas offensive co-ordinator Josh McDaniels now has a cell quarterback at his disposal.
But with a league-high eight gamers opting out resulting from Covid issues (amongst them linebacker Dont’a Hightower and security Patrick Chung), the Patriots additionally noticed key defensive items transfer on in free company.
The division has acquired stronger. Buffalo added receiver Stefon Diggs whereas their No 3 total protection retains 9 starters. Miami are steadily rebuilding, but the Jets are, effectively, nonetheless the Jets.
It would take a courageous man to wager towards Belichick: the Patriots have received the AFC East 19 instances up to now 21 years, and for the final 11 seasons in a row. But regardless of their huge expertise, a deep playoff run seems past them.
Cam Newton has succeeded Brady on the New England Patriots at quarterback
An invisible opponent
The NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to an amended collective bargaining settlement in July and consequently, some 71 opted out of the season on well being grounds resulting from Covid-19.
They embrace proper guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif from the Super Bowl-winning Chiefs, who will proceed to check medication at Harvard.
But in a contact sport that includes 256 common season video games in a number of locations, Covid-19 will undoubtedly proceed to play its half.
After seeing baseball’s season derailed by a raft of constructive exams, final month hearts have been in mouths after 77 NFL gamers from 11 groups produced constructive take a look at outcomes. They have been rapidly deemed to be ‘false positives’ from the New Jersey laboratory.
‘It will not be easy, and it will be different,’ NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell mentioned, ‘but we are prepared.’
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has opted out of competing within the NFL this season on well being grounds
Movement for change
Colin Kaepernick started protesting towards police brutality and social inequality by refusing to face for the nationwide anthem earlier than a 2016 preseason recreation.
Players have continued to kneel earlier than matches, to the chagrin of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and house owners akin to Jerry Jones, who in 2017 mentioned: ‘We cannot in anyway give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag. We know that there is a serious debate in this country about those issues, but there is no question in my mind, that the [NFL] and the Dallas Cowboys are going to stand up for the flag.’
But within the wake of the demise of George Floyd in Minneapolis, NFL gamers posted a video demanding social change.
‘I want we had listened earlier, Kaep, to what you have been kneeling about and what you have been attempting to deliver consideration to,’ Roger Goodell mentioned considerably awkwardly final month to former NFL participant Emmanuel Acho on Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.
As members of the Trump household tweet towards the NFL, it’s inevitable that extra gamers will kneel earlier than video games. That will begin with the likes of Mahomes and a lot of his team-mates earlier than the curtain-raiser towards the Houston Texans.
And whereas there’s a perceived change of opinion throughout the league, it’s price noting that Kaepernick final featured in an NFL recreation on January 1, 2017. The quarterback has made it to this 12 months’s Madden, but he’s nonetheless and not using a crew.
More playoff groups, fewer followers
First the World Cup in 1998, then the European championship 18 years later. Now the NFL decides to tinker with the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t repair it’ mantra.
In extending the variety of groups within the playoffs from 12 to 14 – in doing so which means solely the highest seed in every convention obtain a first-round bye – 44 per cent of groups will likely be within the playoffs.
It will increase the worth of the No 1 seed (within the final seven Super Bowls each crew has acquired a primary spherical bye) and will seemingly lengthen teaching careers. Last season this is able to have seen the 8-8 Steelers and the Rams (9-7) sneak in.
Watching the sport may even be totally different. The Chicago Bears, the Raiders and Washington will play with out followers at residence video games for your entire season.
The Jets, Giants, Bills and Eagles is not going to be letting supporters in ‘until further notice’, whereas others will play in empty stadiums till October.
But the shortage of a league-wide, uniform method – the Miami Dolphins will permit 13,000 into their opener towards the Bills – has open the door to criticism.
‘I think it’s truthfully ridiculous that there will likely be on the floor what seems to be a taking part in area that’s like that, inconsistently throughout the league with the totally different away stadiums,’ Bills head coach Sean McDermott mentioned.
Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott has criticised the shortage of uniform regarding how NFL groups will likely be permitting followers into stadiums this time period
LONGEST SERVING HEAD COACHES
Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints): January 18, 2006
Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007
John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008
Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010
Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013
Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 2, 2014
Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings): January 15, 2014
Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons): February 2, 2015
Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles): January 18, 2016
April’s digital draft was thought to be the most effective in years at broad receiver. Jerry Jeudy, thought of essentially the most NFL-ready wideout since Larry Fitzgerald, will line up reverse celebrity within the making Courtland Sutton in Denver.
The Cowboys stole in for CeeDee Lamb at 17, and the slot receiver would be the beneficiary of taking part in in an offense that includes Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.
At quarterback, how will No 1 total choose Joe Burrow fare in Cincinnati? We will quickly discover out, in contrast to his friends Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert, who begin the season as back-ups in Miami and on the Chargers, respectively.
There are 5 new head coaches – Matt Rhule is the brand new sheriff on the town in Carolina, whereas Kevin Stefanski will get his large break answerable for some large names in Cleveland after leaving the Vikings after 14 years.
It’s all change within the NFC East, with Joe Judge and his bodily practices shaking issues up on the New York Giants and Ron Rivera rebuilding in Washington.
After a 12 months out, Mike McCarthy, who received the Super Bowl with Green Bay in 2011, takes over on the circus referred to as the Dallas Cowboys, for whom a return to the playoffs is a minimal.
Denver Broncos’ Jerry Jeudy is taken into account essentially the most NFL-ready wideout since Larry Fitzgerald
New groups, new grounds
In gentle of protests towards racial injustice and police brutality, proprietor Dan Snyder lastly succumbed after years of strain, altering the identify of his franchise to the Washington Football Team.
Elsewhere, the Raiders, as soon as of Los Angeles, have been uprooted once more from their non secular residence of Oakland and will play within the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. The 65,000-seater stadium price $1.9billion to construct and is a throw of the cube from the Strip.
250 miles southwest in Inglewood, CA, is the SoFi Stadium, the brand new residence to the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers.
Also referred to as Stan Canyon, the $5bn (£1.5bn) stadium is thrice the scale of Disneyland was the dream of Rams and Arsenal proprietor Stan Kroenke.
It is the second stadium within the NFL to be shared by two groups – the Jets and Giants play at MetLife Stadium, NJ – and will host Super Bowl LVI in 2022.
Against all odds
A little bit over 4 years in the past, Teddy Bridgewater virtually misplaced his left leg after a non-contact harm on the Vikings apply facility.
He convalesced. He returned to play an emotional sequence for Minnesota at US Bank Stadium. He moved to the New York Jets in 2018 earlier than the Saints supplied him the back-up spot.
And when Drew Brees was injured final season, Bridgewater went 5-0 to maintain up the Saints play-off cost.
Now handed the beginning spot in Carolina after Cam Newton’s departure, Bridgewater, 27, is simple to root for. Still cherished in Minnesota, he’s adored by team-mates and followers alike.
In Washington, there may be an equally compelling story.
Quarterback Alex Smith, the No 1 choose of the 2005 draft, made the ultimate 53-man roster after breaking the tibia and fibula in his proper leg towards the Houston Texans in November 2018.
Now 36, Smith underwent 17 surgical procedures and virtually had the leg amputated. His recuperation is documented by ESPN in the remarkable – and, this cannot be stressed enough, gruesome – Project 11.
While he begins the season at No 3 on Washington’s depth chart, that Smith is even standing is testomony to the person.
Ales Smith has comeback from virtually having his leg amputated to characteristic for Washington
The NFL is brutal. On and off the sphere. The most punishing place is that of operating again, with the typical profession lasting 2.57 years. Enter Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson, who’ve 28 years of expertise between them.
Gore, the third main rusher of all time, has pounded his technique to 15,347 yards.
Now getting into his sixteenth season and first with the New York Jets – he has solely missed 14 common season video games in that spell – Gore has the possibility to line up towards all of his former groups this season, starting with the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The 49ers, Colts and Dolphins observe.
Peterson, 37, was launched by Washington and rapidly picked up by Detroit. He sits at fifth within the all-time checklist with 14,216 speeding yards.
However lengthy the pair go on for, they are going to be unlikely to hassle No 1 Emmitt Smith (18,355 yards), nor Walter Payton (16,726 yards) at No 2.
But Peterson could have his eyes on Detroit Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, who sits at No 4 with 15,269 yards.
Frank Gore is getting ready for his first season with the New York Jets and his sixteenth total
Efe Obada made the Carolina Panthers’ remaining 53-man roster on Saturday, was waived on Sunday and re-signed on Monday. Now in his third 12 months, the versatile defensive lineman will hope to make a major contribution after that includes in 26 video games up to now two seasons.
Elsewhere, veteran linebacker Jack Crawford will swimsuit up in Tennessee, and the Scottish Hammer, Jamie Gillan, enters his second season as punter at Cleveland.
Efe Obada, who grew up in London, has made the Carolina Panthers’ remaining 53-man roster