Preview to the 2020 Inauspicious Season

By on September 4, 2020
Aaron-Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is about to enter a truly unprecedented season of football in 2020. It’s impossible to predict what will happen in a typical year, let alone what might happen in a season affected by the coronavirus pandemic. As we’ve seen with Major League Baseball, it would be a welcomed surprise if all 32 teams played all 16 games as scheduled.

What to Expect:

With the regular season just a week away, games will look a lot different this year than in years past. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the upcoming season, their plan for the pandemic and addressing social justice issues on a conference call on Tuesday. Goodell confirmed that this season, the league will have the phrases “End Racism” and “It Takes All of Us” painted in the end zones.

Goodell also discussed one of the major differences in this season, which is a lack of fans at most stadiums. While some teams are allowing a limited number of fans at games from the start, most have either made the decision to not have fans at all this season, or at least not in September.

Many are wondering if the lack of overarching policy from the league will cause a disparity in competition, with some teams having a home field advantage.

Goodell says the league does not think there’s any advantage between those welcoming in fans and those who are not able to, either by choice or local regulations. 

“We do not believe it’s a competitive advantage. We discussed it very early on with our Competition Committee and with our clubs. We do not see that,” he said. 

“We obviously have varying capacities across the league, and from our standpoint, we want to invite our fans in if we can do it safely and we can do it with the full support of local officials. We think our fans want to come the stadium.”

He also brought up the lingering question of safety and their expectation of finishing the season. 

“We’re looking to start and complete the season on time,” Goodell said. “We have to put ourselves in the best possible position to complete the season. We will remain vigilant and adapt to circumstances as needed.”

He says while he believes the minimal positive COVID-19 cases show what they’re doing is working, he wants to make sure the league does not “get comfortable.”

Goodell admits there’s still a lot of uncertainty however. “We’re not patting ourselves on the back yet,” he said. “It will not be easy, and it will be different. But we are prepared.”

Matthew Emmons – USA TODAY Sports

Expanded Playoffs:

The NFL finally moved forward on expanding its postseason from 12 to 14 teams, a revenue boost nearly a decade in the making. During negotiations for the new CBA, the NFL projected this expansion would generate $150 million in additional revenue.

Each conference will add a third wild-card team, creating back-to-back tripleheaders during the opening weekend of the playoffs.

As part of the new plan, the No. 2 seed in each conference lost its first-round bye and will host the No. 7 seed during the wild-card round.

According to an NFL analysis, the likelihood of the No. 2 seeds winning the Super Bowl will drop by 9% in this new format. The format increases the chances of an 8-8 team making the playoffs but also reduces the chances of a 10-6 team missing out.

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Roster Changes:

All 32 NFL teams can now carry up to 16 players on their practice squad, including six veteran players. That means experienced players across the league may end up on practice squads this season. 

Teams also are allowed to protect four players on the practice squad on a weekly basis. For example, the Bengals can block any team that tries to steal one of their four ‘blocked’ players and will be able to do that every Tuesday throughout the season.

Another major change includes the injured reserve designation. Unlimited players can return from IR (Injured Reserve) after three weeks. That means a player that suffers a hamstring injury and would normally miss 3-4 games will likely end up on injured reserve. This is separate from the COVID-19/reserve list.

Two other things to take note of, teams can fine players $50,000 for refusing to be tested for COVID-19. Also, teams will be able to promote a player from the practice squad to the active roster up to 90 minutes before game time. 

The NFL season kicks off on Thursday, September 10 with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texas. You can watch the game at 8:20p.m. on NBC.

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