It’s been a whirlwind year for sports. In the US, makeshift playoff series’ for the NBA and NHL have at least provided a conclusion for stunted regular season play. The MLB, on the other hand, continues to stumble through an improvised season.
In comparison, the NFL has thrived. The league ended its season in February with one of the most exciting Super Bowl faceoffs in the sport’s history. Since then, the NFL has continued on more or less as normal.
Following Super Bowl Sunday, the NFL Draft took place in early April. From there, teams began an adjusted summer training regime. Pre-season play was canceled, but regular-season play began as usual in early September.
Fans have been busy, as well, as they prepare for a busy season. Although play has just started, pundits, as well as fans who regularly bet on NFL games, are focused on three teams that came away strong from last year’s play. The Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, and San Francisco 49ers are all favored to make it to Sunday Funday in 2021.
In particular, the 49ers will be fighting for a chance to face the Chiefs again in a Super Bowl and come away victorious this time. But there are a few other moving pieces for fans to keep their eye on in the 2020 NFL season.
American football is known for its long list of complex rules. The longer you watch the sport, the more intuitive the rules become—though having a friend handy is always helpful for the first few games.
Newcomers to the 2020 season may hear some changes being noted by fans or sports commentators. The list is long, but the most relevant rule changes include expansion of automatic replay rules, when a player can or cannot be tackled (‘defenseless’), and stricter rules regarding purposefully creating stoppage time.
Additionally, the NFL Playoffs has expanded to include 14 teams. Both conferences will now have three wild card berths rather than two.
Washington Redskins Name Change
After a decades-long battle about the name and mascot associated with the Washington Redskins franchise, owners have decided to rebrand the team. This comes after ample pressure from a variety of social justice groups that have been active since the 1990s, as well as a slew of sponsors that requested the team change its name in the past years.
At the moment, the team is known simply as the ‘Washington Football Team’. A full rebranding (including a new mascot) is expected for the 2021 season.
Big Draft Picks
One of the most exciting parts of the NFL season is predicting which incoming talents from the NCAAF will go where, and with what consequences. This is often a big part of NFL Week 1 picks, which take a close look at the first week of play to determine a team’s promise for the upcoming season.
This year’s biggest talents include Joe Burrow, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, who was picked up by the Cincinnati Bengals; Chase Young, multi-award-winning defensive end, who was picked up by the Washington Football Team; and Jeff Okudah, Ohio State’s premier cornerback, who went to the Detroit Lions.
Las Vegas Raiders Start Their Career in Vegas
The (former) Oakland Raiders franchise moved to Las Vegas, and this year marks their first season with the NFL. They’ll be kicking off their season at the Allegiant Stadium in late September against the New Orleans Saints.
Like the NFL to Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium is brand new. It will also be home to the University of Las Vegas Rebels NCAA football team and even includes an in-person sports betting lounge in a stadium, one of the only in existence in the US.
No International Series
Although the NFL’s International Series is usually a hit-or-miss affair, it’s one of the few ways that international fans can engage with the sport outside the US. The series involves a number of regular-season games that are played abroad.
In the past, locations have included London and Mexico City. However, a recent foray (and mishap) in Canada for a friendly match won’t likely see the NFL travel north again anytime soon.