The NFL released its official 2020 schedule Thursday night, and as we continue to deal with the difficulties and uncertainties that come with the COVID-19 pandemic, the 17-week slate of games gives football fans something tangible to look forward to.
While it’s very possible the league will have to make adjustments as the sporting world continues to navigate its own challenges in the weeks and months to come, the full version we see today is filled with all kinds of intriguing storylines and prime-time matchups.
Here are eight takeaways from the 2020 schedule release.
Tom brings prime time to Tampa
After playing only one prime-time game last season and just 17 in the past 15 years combined, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will finally shine in the league’s spotlight with an NFL-maximum five prime-time matchups — that’s the most in franchise history – including prime-time slots in three straight weeks (Week 7 at Vegas, Week 8 at Giants and Week 9 vs. Saints).
Of course, it’s not surprising that they should be the only non-playoff team of 2019 to get top billing this year – the arrival of Tom Brady and his good pal Rob Gronkowski makes the club a must-watch every week, and a strong slate of opposing QBs adds to the fun, too. Brady will host Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins and Matt Ryan in his new home.
Maybe with all these Bucs games we’ll be watching now, we’ll actually get used to seeing Brady and Gronk in Bucs gear…? Yeah, no, probably not.
While Thursday’s schedule reveals everyone’s curious about Brady’s new digs, we’re equally intrigued by how the Patriots will fare without him for the first time since 1999. New England continues to get priority billing in 2020 with Bill Belichick & Co. also getting five prime-time slots, which means we’ll actually be seeing much more of Brady and Belichick in 2020… just, not together.
Bills get prime-time billing, too
Brady’s departure from the AFC East could see a new club crowned division champ, and the schedule-makers have their money on the Buffalo Bills. The club got itself a prime-time promotion this year, with four games on the big stage – the most they’ve had in a single season since 1996. They handled it quite well:
Act like you’ve been there. pic.twitter.com/DHtQOT8PtF
— Primetime Bills (@BuffaloBills) May 8, 2020
Everyone wants to go to Vegas
The Las Vegas Raiders have a new home, and everyone wants to see it first-hand.
After enduring a month-long road stretch last year, the Raiders are getting star treatment in 2020. All four of their prime-time games will be played at Allegiant Stadium, their new state-of-the-art digs, starting with their home opener in Week 2 against the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football. (They’re tied with the San Fransisco 49ers for hosting the most prime-time games.)
Of course, we won’t know for a little while yet whether there will be fans in the stands for the grand opening, but it’ll be a special moment for the league nonetheless as we all watch a new football market join the ranks.
The Seahawks are going the distance
Part of playing on the west coast is the long distances travelled for games each week, and the Seattle Seahawks will feel that first-hand this year. Games in Atlanta, Miami, Buffalo, Philadelphia and D.C. will see them rack up the mileage in 2020, showing quite the discrepancy considering the Ravens’ Eastern-heavy slate.
Speaking of travel, the Patriots play two games in L.A.’s SoFi Stadium this year, but lucky for them they’ll only have to make the trip once as they take on the Chargers in Week 13 before playing the Rams a week later. An off-day in between in sunny L.A. in December sounds pretty nice.
Jets might be in trouble
We already knew they’d have a tough slate of opponents this year, considering a heavy helping of west-coast powerhouses at either end of the season. Their .533 opponent win percentage gives them a strength-of-schedule rating that’s second-toughest behind the Patriots – but we’re not conditioned to worry about New England’s ability to win.
The Ravens, in addition to having the lightest travel schedule, also have the easiest schedule on paper considering the .438 opponent win record of their 2020 adversaries.
Bundle up, we’re heading to Lambeau
Sunday nights at Lambeau field are something special, and this year we’re getting two helpings — with the full, cold-weather experience.
Four teams have three Sunday Night Football outings apiece in 2020: The Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys host just one of their games, and the Chiefs technically just have one true Sunday-nighter at home considering the first SNF production is the Thursday season-opener. The 49ers and Packers each host NBC’s Sunday Night Football crew twice, with both of Green Bay’s games taking place in late November and December, respectively. Bundle up.
49ers, Seahawks get the grand finale encore
Last year’s regular-season finale featured an absolute thriller between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks, with the division crown and home-field advantage on the line.
Wanna do it again? The schedule-makers say yes, and we are here for it.
While, surprisingly, neither matchup between these teams (they also go head-to-head in Week 8) is a prime-time contest this year, it’s safe to say all eyes will be on this one yet again, regardless.
Clubs get creative
Without live sports to keep us going, clubs around the league found some creative ways to keep us all entertained online Thursday night with some pretty awesome schedule-release videos. From cats to dogs, throwback to on-trend, and silly to downright beautiful… here are some of our favourites:
Bored in the house but counting the days until our Sunday Best pic.twitter.com/vlAcmdei4V
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) May 7, 2020
A closer look at our 2020 schedule pic.twitter.com/yvPe8Ppkrp
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) May 8, 2020