The schedule for what promises to be one of the stranger National Football League seasons was unveiled tonight, as the league highlighted the big games planned for its 2020 regular-season schedule.
More from Deadline
The league’s full 2020 schedule — 17 weeks, 256 games — is planned to start September 10, the same week as usual. In that opening Thursday Night Football game, the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs will open at home in Arrowhead Stadium against the Houston Texans.
The Sunday Night Football opener on September 13 will feature the Los Angeles Rams’ first game at the new SoFi Stadium, pitting them against the Dallas Cowboys. It will be the first event at the $5 billion venue on the old Hollywood Park site; several concerts slated for the summer — including Taylor Swift, Guns N’ Roses and the quadruple bill featuring Def Leppard and Motley Crue — were canceled amid the coronavirus shutdowns.
There will be another NFL first the following week: The newly moved Las Vegas Raiders will host the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football at the new Allegiant Stadium. It will be the team’s first game in their new Sin City home.
Also noteworthy: Tom Brady will play his first NFL game for a team other than the New England Patriots on September 13, when his Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit fellow all-time QB Drew Brees and the Saints at the Superdome. It also will mark the return of former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who retired after the 2018 season and moved to the announcers booth.
This year’s Turkey Day schedule begins with the traditional Detroit Lions home game, this year against the Texas at 12:30 p.m. ET on CBS. The Dallas Cowboys, who also have a Thanksgiving home game every year, will take on longtime rival the Washington Redskins at 4:30 p.m. ET on Fox. And the late game will have the Baltimore Ravens traveling to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers in another bitter division rivalry. That one starts at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC.
But all of the information comes with a big “If.” While the league is hoping that the regular season can begin on time, lots of questions remain, including when training camps may possibly start. The schedule announcement also doesn’t account for the areas of the country that will reopen from the pandemic more slowly than others, potentially making home games difficult to stage in some hard-hit Northeastern cities.
There is also the looming possibility that the schedule may be pushed back. Reports indicate the NFL has contingency plans that could see the Super Bowl held as late as Feb 28, 2021.
Also up in the air is whether any fans will get to come out and watch the games live. There’s also the question of how to monitor the health of players, coaches and any other attendants at the games for illness, and what to do if someone on a team catches COVID-19.
Despite all that, the NFL is forging ahead.
For now, the NFL plans to start its season as originally planned, including a full 17-week regular season and a full roster of playoff games ahead of Super Bowl 55 in Tampa Bay on Sunday, February 7. However, scheduled international games in London and Mexico City will not be played.
If things don’t go as planned, Sports Business Daily reported that the NFL could start the season as late as October 15 and still have teams that play full 16-game tables. That means eliminating the bye weeks during the season and the week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl.
NFL.com reports that at the peak of schedule planning a few weeks ago, 2,400 cloud computers were used, and they generated 34,000 playable schedules. The NFL reviewed 289 of them by hand.
The one selected has one unusual feature: every team plays two home and two away games in the first month of the season.
For Sunday Night Football on NBC, 19 NFL games will be spotlighted during the 2020 regular season, as well as three postseason and two preseason games.
Check out the full slate of Thursday, Sunday night and Monday games below. Note that “flex” scheduling begins the Sunday of Week 5 and runs throughout the season:
Highlights of the 2020 NBC Sunday Night Football schedule:
All 2019 NFL playoff teams are on the NBC SNF schedule, including three games each for the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, NFC champion San Francisco 49ers, NFC North champion Green Bay Packers, and the Dallas Cowboys, who have won three of the past six NFC East titles.
Matchup milestones: The Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears renew the NFL’s most-played rivalry on SNF, with the 201st meeting in the series on Nov. 29. In addition, Cowboys-Eagles on Nov. 1 is the 14th meeting between the clubs on SNF – ranking as the most-played matchup in NBC SNF history (since 2006). Cowboys-Eagles also marks the 12th consecutive season for the matchup on SNF – the longest streak for any matchup on the broadcast primetime package in NFL history (ABC 1970-2005; NBC 2006-present).
The NFL’s greatest rivalry of the 1990s – San Francisco vs. Dallas – is rekindled on SNF as Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers visit Prescott and the Cowboys on Dec. 20. In total, the two franchises have met in six NFC Championship Games – including “The Catch” game in January 1982. The rivalry reached its height in the 1990s when the teams played nine times overall, and met in three consecutive NFC Championship Games, following the 1992-94 seasons. The winner of each of those three matchups won the Super Bowl.
On Thanksgiving night, 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens visit Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first-ever Thanksgiving game in Pittsburgh. Ravens-Steelers also marks the ninth meeting between the clubs in the NBC SNF package – tops among any AFC matchup.
SNF will also twice visit Allegiant Stadium, the new home of Jon Gruden and the Las Vegas Raiders, as the last two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks come to town. First, Brady and the Bucs visit on Oct. 25, followed by Mahomes and the Chiefs on Nov. 22.
Other notable SNF games: In Week 2, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks host the New England Patriots for the first time since the teams met in the thrilling Super Bowl XLIX; and Garoppolo and the 49ers host two October games in three weeks against fellow young quarterback stars Carson Wentz and the Eagles (Oct. 4) and Goff and the Rams (Oct. 18).
First SNF Game in Buffalo in 13 Years: On Dec. 13, NBC will broadcast its first Bills game in Buffalo since 2007, as Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs and Tre’Davious White host the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Some of the highlights for Monday Night Football:
Raiders make Las Vegas debut and open Allegiant Stadium on MNF’s 50th anniversary on ESPN and ABC –TheRaiders will play their first home game in Las Vegas in their new stadium against Drew Brees and the Saints (Sept. 21) on both ESPN and ABC – the first regular-season NFL broadcast on ABC since the 2005 season. The game will also be played on the 50th anniversary of MNF (sports television’s longest-running series made its debut on Sept. 21, 1970 with Jets-Browns).
Battle of the MVPs: Patrick Mahomes, the 2018 NFL MVP, faces Lamar Jackson, the 2019 MVP, as the Super Bowl champion Chiefs travel to Baltimore in a key matchup of 2019 AFC playoff teams (Sept. 28).
‘Tampa 2’ for Tom Brady – Six-time Super Bowl championTom Brady will make two MNF appearances with his new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at Giants, Nov. 2 and vs. Rams, Nov. 23)
NFC Wild Card Rematch – After a 17-9 road win in their NFC Wild Card meeting in January, the Seahawks will return to Philadelphia (Nov. 30) this fall to play the revenge-minded Eagles.
Super Bowl Contenders Collide – Looking to repeat as NFC champions, the 49ers host the Bills in the Bay Area on Dec. 7 in a matchup of 2019 playoff teams with Super Bowl aspirations.
Appearances by 11 of 12 playoff teams from 2019 – Baltimore Ravens (twice), Buffalo Bills (twice), Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots (twice), New Orleans Saints (twice), Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans.
Appearances by both Super Bowl teams – Chiefs (at Ravens, Sept. 28) and 49ers (vs. Bills, Dec. 7)
The 51st season of Monday Night Football will kick off on ESPN with a doubleheader on September 14: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Giants (7:15 p.m. ET), followed by the Tennessee Titans vs. Denver Broncos (10:10 p.m. / 8:10 p.m. MT). ESPN’s 17-game primetime schedule in 2020 will feature 11 of 12 playoff teams from 2019, including Super Bowl combatants Kansas City and the San Francisco 49ers.
Best of Deadline