With the beginning of every NFL season, there’s always a laundry list of issues and storylines to watch. The 2020 NFL season is no different … except it features even more compelling plots due in large part to COVID-19.
With the full-schedule kickoff Sunday, here’s a look at my top-10 storylines as season begins:
1. Does the NFL get the entire season of games in without COVID-19 interruption? The NBA and NHL have been doing it in a bubble and successfully so. A bubble isn’t feasible in football and baseball, which has had a few bumps. Now it’s the NFL’s turn.
2. Tom Brady in pewter. TB12 in TB instead of NE is going to take some getting used to. For more on that, please read “Serby Sez’’ to your left on this page.
3. Quality of play. With the pandemic eliminating preseason games and drastically reducing training camp time, how sloppy will the product on the field be? It could be ugly early.
4. Continuity is king. As a result of the truncated offseason and camps, we’re likely to see an early separation by NFL teams that have returning coaching staffs, QBs, systems, etc. Those teams will have a massive advantage over those with new coaches and QBs, because there’s been so little time for the new to acclimate — other than in Zoom meetings.
Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Patrick MahomesGetty Images (3)
5. Can the Patriots survive without Brady? If they’re going to continue their AFC East dominance, they’re going to do it with Cam Newton at QB, not someone figured to be a fit with Bill Belichick.
6. Quiet please. We’ve been witnessing the other major sports playing in empty arenas. Now it’s the NFL’s turn. It’s going to be weird. And it’s going to be a particular shame in L.A. and Vegas, where two new stadiums will open and fans won’t be allowed inside.
7. Which rookie QB will emerge? Joe Burrow, the No. 1-overall pick, has the best chance, because he’ll start immediately in Cincinnati. Many eyes will be on Miami, where Ryan Fitzpatrick starts over Tua Tagovailoa. For the moment. At what point, though, does Dolphins coach Brian Flores turn to Tua?
8. What does Patrick Mahomes have in store for an encore? The defending Super Bowl champion told fans after he was named Super Bowl MVP: “This is just the beginning.’’ Gulp.
9. What does Lamar Jackson have in store for an encore? Mahomes got the Lombardi Trophy, but Jackson was the league MVP with video-game numbers (36 passing TDs to six INTs, 1,206 rushing yards and seven more TDs). Can he keep that pace in 2020? If he can, maybe he’ll be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February.
10. Is there a point when things get uncomfortable in Green Bay for Aaron Rodgers? Instead of helping their star QB by adding one of the top WRs in the draft, the Packers drafted Utah State QB Jordan Love. Coming off a 13-3 season, that showed little love to Rodgers, who’s been biting his tongue since and has to feel like the Packers are formulating an exit plan for him.
Provided COVID-19 doesn’t rob us of any more than it has already, NFL 2020 figures to be fun. Enjoy the ride.