The NFL returns this week and ‘Kickoff Weekend’ signals the start of a 256-game journey that promises hope for each of the league’s 32 teams as they set their sights on Super Bowl LV, which will be played on Sunday, February 7, 2021 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
The 101st season of NFL play kicks off early on Friday morning as the Super Bowl champions Kansas Chiefs host the Houston Texans at 1.10am Irish time at Arrowhead Stadium in a rematch of the 2019 AFC Divisional Playoffs. The game will be live on both Sky Sports NFL and Sky Sports Main Event.
Last year’s statistics
Last year, teams combined to score 1,244 offensive touchdowns (rushing and passing touchdowns combined), the second-most in a single season in NFL history, and 1,332 total touchdowns, the third-highest total in a single season in league annals. Additionally, 68 percent of games (174 of 256) were within one score (eight points) in the fourth quarter last season, tied for the fifth-most such games in a single season in NFL history, while 52.3 percent of games (134 of 256) were decided by eight-or-fewer points, the fifth-most such games in a single season.
Last year, a wave of young stars burst onto the scene, especially at the quarterback position. The 2019 season saw 208 games feature at least one starting quarterback under the age of 27, the most in a single season in NFL history. In total, quarterbacks under the age of 27 started 287 games and recorded 144 wins in those starts last season, both the highest single-season totals since 1970.
Three quarterbacks under the age of 25 – Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson (2018 NFL Draft), Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes (2017 NFL Draft) and Houston’s Deshaun Watson (2017 NFL Draft) – have led their respective teams to division titles in each of the past two seasons.
New 14-team playoff format
New in 2020, the NFL adopted a 14-team playoff format, with two additional Wild Card teams – one each in the American and National Football Conferences – qualifying for the postseason.
Since 1990, when the NFL adopted the 12-team playoff format, at least four teams every season have qualified for the playoffs after failing to make the postseason the year before. Last season, five teams that missed the postseason in 2018 – Buffalo (10-6), Green Bay (13-3), Minnesota (10-6), San Francisco (13-3) and Tennessee (9-7) – qualified for the playoffs.
Both Green Bay (NFC North) and San Francisco (NFC West) won their divisions last year after missing the postseason in 2018 and at least two teams have won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs in 16 of the past 17 years.
In 15 of the past 17 seasons, at least one team finished in first place in its division the season after finishing in last or tied for last place. In fact, of the 48 teams in league history to go from “worst-to-first,” 25 of them have done so in the past 17 years (2003-19), including an NFL-record three such teams in 2005 and 2006. Two teams during that span, the 2009 New Orleans Saints and the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles, won the Super Bowl after finishing in last place in their divisions the season before.
Can the Chiefs win Super Bowl in 2021?
Fresh from their first Super Bowl in 50 years, the Chiefs begin their quest to repeat as champions. Only eight teams have repeated as champions since the first Super Bowl in 1967, with the 2004 Patriots (Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX) being the last team to accomplish the feat. They will hope for a good run in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.
Records that could be broken this season
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees (77,416 passing yards and 547 touchdown passes) enters the 2020 season as the league’s all-time leader in both categories, while Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady (74,571 passing yards and 541 touchdown passes) ranks second. Brady (283 regular-season starts) can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre (298) for the most starts by a quarterback in NFL history.
Indianapolis quarterback Philip Rivers (59,271 passing yards and 397 touchdown passes) can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (61,361 passing yards and 420 touchdown passes) for fifth in each all-time category, while Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers (46,946 passing yards) can become the 11th player in league annals with 50,000 career passing yards.
New York Jets running back Frank Gore (15,347 rushing yards and 19,243 scrimmage yards) can become the third player in NFL history with 16,000 career rushing yards and fourth player with 20,000 career scrimmage yards, while Detroit running back Adrian Peterson (14,216 rushing yards) can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer Barry Sanders (15,269 rushing yards) for fourth-most in league annals. Peterson (111 rushing touchdowns) can become the fourth player in NFL history with 120 career rushing touchdowns.
Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald enters 2020 ranked second all-time in receptions (1,378) and receiving yards (17,083). Fitzgerald (120 touchdown receptions) can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison (128) for the fifth-most touchdown receptions in NFL history, while Las Vegas tight end Jason Witten (1,215 receptions) can become the fourth player in league annals with 1,300 career receptions.
Five teams enter the 2020 season with a new head coach – Joe Judge with the New York Giants, Mike McCarthy with Dallas, Matt Rhule with Carolina, ron Rivera with Washington and Kevin Stefanski with Cleveland.
Five rookie head coaches have led their teams to the playoffs over the past three seasons: Matt Lafleur (Green Bay) in 2019, Matt Nagy (Chicago) and Frank Reich (Indianapolis) in 2018, and Seán McVay (L.A. Rams) and Seán McDermott (Buffalo) in 2017.
Players on the move
Several notable players were on the move during the offseason, including quarterbacks Tom Brady (Tampa Bay) and Philip Rivers (Indianapolis); running backs Melvin Gordon (Denver) and Todd Gurley (Atlanta); wide receivers Stefon Diggs (Buffalo) and Deandre Hopkins (Arizona); tight ends Austin Hooper (Cleveland) and Jason Witten (Las Vegas); offensive linemen Brian Bulaga (L.A. Chargers), Jack Conklin (Cleveland) and Russell Okung (Carolina); defensive end Calais Campbell (Baltimore); defensive tackles Deforest Buckner (Indianapolis) and Jurrell Casey (Denver); linebackers Cory Littleton (Las Vegas) and Kyle Van Noy (Miami); cornerbacks Byron Jones (Miami) and Darius Slay (Philadelphia); and safeties Jamal Adams (Seattle) and Malcolm Jenkins (New Orleans).
This season’s new stars
Last season, four rookies – San Francisco’s Nick Bosa, Jacksonville’s Josh Allen, Kansas City’s Mecole Hardman and New Orleans’ Deonte Harris – earned Pro Bowl honours in their first season. Who could accomplish the feat this season?
Four quarterbacks – LSU’s Joe Burrow (No. 1 overall, Cincinnati), Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5, Miami), Oregon’s Justin Herbert (No. 6, L.A. Chargers) and Utah State’s Jordan Love (No. 26, Green Bay) – were selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. At least one rookie quarterback has started in Week 1 in 12 consecutive seasons, the longest streak in the NFL since at least 1950.
NFL Kick Off 2020 Schedule
Friday, September 10
Houston at Kansas City. Live Sky Sports NFL & Sky Sports Main Event at 1.10am
Sunday, September 13
Seattle at Atlanta
Cleveland at Baltimore
New York Jets at Buffalo
Las Vegas at Carolina
Chicago at Detroit
Indianapolis at Jacksonville
Green Bay at Minnesota
Tennessee at Denver
Miami at New England Live Sky Sports NFL at 5pm.
Philadelphia at Washington
Los Angeles Chargers at Cincinnati
Tampa Bay at New Orleans Live Sky Sports NFL & Sky Sports Main Event at 9.15pm
Arizona at San Francisco
Monday, September 14
Dallas at LA Rams Live Sky Sports NFL & Sky Sports Main Event at 1.20am
Tuesday, September 15
Pittsburgh at NY Giants Live Sky Sports NFL, Sky Sports Main Event, Channel 5 at 12.00
Tennessee at Denver Live Sky Sports NFL & Sky Sports Main Event at 3.15am