There’s no asterisk on the NFL’s 2020 regular-season schedule, but everyone knows it’s there.
The NFL released the schedule to great fanfare on Thursday night. Like the draft, the schedule release seems to grow each year. This year, NFL Network had a three-hour special on the schedule.
The games and dates are written in pencil this year, due to coronavirus restrictions. While NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in a memo urged teams to not comment on hypotheticals regarding the 2020 season, the uncertainty isn’t going away.
Troy Vincent, NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said there is no unreleased schedule that accounts for a shortened season or delayed start.
“This is the schedule,” Vincent said on NFL Network. “We’re excited about this schedule. We do our proper contingency planning but no, there is no other schedule.”
For now, all the NFL can do is release a schedule that looks fairly normal and hope it starts as planned on Sept. 10. Even amid that uncertainty, it was good to see NFL games with dates attached to them.
Chiefs open the 2020 regular season
The opening game of the NFL season is always a big part of the schedule, as the defending Super Bowl champions traditionally host a game on Thursday night of Week 1. The 2020 season is scheduled to kick off Sept. 10 as the Kansas City Chiefs host the Houston Texans. The Chiefs have an exciting first four games: vs. Texans, at Los Angeles Chargers in their new stadium for Week 2, at the Baltimore Ravens on “Monday Night Football” in Week 3 and hosting the New England Patriots in Week 4.
Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the team Brady left, the Patriots, were among the most interesting teams leading up to the schedule release. The Buccaneers haven’t had this much attention in many years, and the Patriots are still a draw as they try to reinvent themselves.
The Buccaneers will start the season with a great matchup at Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. They have prime-time games on Oct. 8 against the Chicago Bears, Oct. 25 against the Las Vegas Raiders, Nov. 2 vs. the New York Giants, Nov. 8 against the Saints and Nov. 23 against the Los Angeles Rams. That’s four prime-time games in a five-week stretch, and five night games in seven weeks. We’ll have plenty of chances to see Brady in pewter.
The Patriots will see plenty of prime-time action even without Brady: Week 2 at the Seattle Seahawks, Week 9 at the New York Jets, Week 10 vs. the Ravens, Week 14 at the Rams and Week 16 vs. the Buffalo Bills.
Thanksgiving games are always an important part of the NFL schedule. Those games kick off with the Texans at the Detroit Lions, then the Washington Redskins at Dallas and the third game is an AFC North battle between with the Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Las Vegas Raiders start over in a new market. The first regular-season home game for the Raiders is scheduled for Week 2 on “Monday Night Football” against the Saints. The Raiders will host four prime-time games, which the team said is a franchise record.
The anticipated opening of SoFi Stadium in Inglewood is also a highlight on the schedule. The first official regular-season game is scheduled for the Los Angeles Rams to host the Dallas Cowboys on “Sunday Night Football” in Week 1. The Chargers’ home opener is Week 2 against the Chiefs.
With the early-season games in new stadiums, the NFL doesn’t seem concerned about construction delays due to the coronavirus.
NFL schedule released in full
The big question with the schedule release was how the NFL had set up contingency plans for the possibility of the start of the season being delayed, or the season being shortened. There weren’t any clear contingency plans built into the schedule as teams released their schedules a half hour before the NFL Network’s special at 8 p.m. ET.
In his memo this week, Goodell said the NFL would be “prepared to address any contingencies as they arise,” and the league presumably has some plans for what happens if the season can’t start on Sept. 10. The NFL still has four months to figure out all the details.
“The plan is to move forward as normal, to play a full season, a full schedule until the medical community tells us otherwise,” Vincent said on NFL Network. “That’s been our approach from day one.”
There won’t be the same level of anticipation that goes with the schedule release every year. There’s too much uncertainty for fans to book road trips or buy tickets. The schedule was released, and now we wait for what happens next.
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