Return to Normalcy? Football is Back

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2020 has been a rough year for many, but it’s about to get better…

On Thursday, the defending NFL Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs kickoff the 2020 season, followed by a full slate on Sunday and double-header on Monday. Plus, the ACC and Big 12 kick off the power 5 portion of the college football schedule.

I could share my thoughts on football come back, or you could just watch this outstanding montage by ESPN.

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Return of Football

With the return of football, we all return to a little bit of normalcy in a year where normal isn’t a real word.

“New normal” is a phrase you have probably heard a lot. Part of the new normal is athletes making statements about social injustice by using their platform in various ways. In the NFL this weekend, we will likely see many players take a knee during (or around) the National Anthem and others may have messages on their uniforms.

Not sure why this offends so many people, specifically politicians, but for whatever reason, those people will refuse to watch these games. Too bad.

While some people may consider sports an escape, it’s important to remember that athletes live in a world with many issues.

Athletes are more than entertainers, they are people living in this world, trying to make it a better place.

It’s ironic that politicians and people want to tune out the NFL. Everyone should be following their lead. The NFL announced on Tuesday that 44,510 COVID-19 tests were administered to a total of 8,349 players and team personnel. Among those tests, only ONE positive confirmed test. ONE!!!! That is remarkable. NFL is setting an example for how to tackle the pandemic.

What to Know – NFL Week 1

Texans vs Chiefs (Thursday Night)

All-time, Chiefs are 7-5 vs Texans. Since Andy Reid was hired in KC in 2013, Chiefs are 5-2 vs Texans, including 2 playoff wins.

  • 2020 – After Texans went up 24-0, Chiefs won 51-31 in the AFC Divisional round
  • 2016 – Chiefs won 30-0 in the Wild Card round. Brian Hoyer threw 4 interceptions and completed just 15-34 passes.

Last time the Chiefs played the opening Thursday night game was 2017, when they beat the defending champion Patriots 42-27 in Foxborough. Alex Smith threw for 368 yards and 4 TDs.

Patrick Mahomes (#10) and Deshaun Watson (#12) were the second and third quarterbacks, respectively, drafted in 2017. Poor Bears…

Who were the 9 guys drafted before Patrick Mahomes? Plus, a general look back at the 2017 NFL Draft.

Buccaneers vs Saints

Week 1 will feature the 7th career head-to-head matchup between Tom Brady and Drew Brees. These two legends sit #1 and #2 on the all-time passing yards list and this game will be the first that includes two QBs over 41 years old.

More on the all-time rivalry between Brees and Brady.

More on the Bucs below.

Giants vs Steelers

The first of two Monday Night Football matchups during week 1 includes two teams with a combined 10 Super Bowl championships (Giants 4, Steelers 6).

Ben Roethlisberger is the last man standing from the legendary 2004 Draft. Four QBs were drafted in the first round, with 3 going in the top 11. Roethlisberger was the last of the big three QBs to be taken but the last one remaining with his team. The 2x Super Bowl winner remains with Pitt, while Eli Manning (the #1 pick) retired after 2019 and Philip Rivers (#4 pick) left the Chargers to sign with the Colts.

Roethlisberger has started 4 games against the Giants (Steelers have won 3/4) and this will be the first time he faces someone other than Manning.

Browns vs Ravens

This is one of 8 games in 2020 to feature Heisman Trophy winner vs Heisman trophy winner (Baker Mayfield 2017 vs Lamar Jackson 2016).

Most of those games will involve the AFC North, as 3 of the 4 starters won the Heisman Trophy in college (Jackson, Mayfield, Burrow).

In addition to those three QBs, the Ravens have Mark Ingram and Robert Griffin III, giving the AFC North 5 of the league’s 10 active Heisman Trophy winners.

QB Draft Storylines

Texans vs Chiefs – In 2017, Patrick Mahomes was the second QB off the board, going to Kansas City at #10 and Watson was the third QB, going to the Texans at #12.

Bears took Mitchell Trubisky #2 overall. A look back at what it cost the Bears to move up from #3 to #2 during that draft.

Cowboys vs Rams – Jared Goff was the #1 pick in the 2016 Draft. 134 picks later, Dak Prescott was the 8th QB drafted, at #135 overall, in the fourth round.

Browns vs Ravens – 2018 #1 pick Baker Mayfield vs 2018 #32 pick Lamar Jackson

Jets vs Bills – 2018 #3 pick Sam Darnold vs 2018 #7 pick Josh Allen

Raiders vs Panthers – Teddy Bridgewater (#32) and Derek Carr (#36) were the third and fourth QBs drafted in 2014, after Blake Bortles (#3) and Johnny Manziel (#22).

Cardinals vs 49ers – 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Kyler Murray (#1) vs 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year, Nick Bosa (#2).

Other storylines and trends

Seahawks vs Falcons – Dan Quinn has been Falcons head coach since 2015. Prior to that, he coordinated the Seahawks defense in 2013 and 2014, during which Seattle made the Super Bowl both seasons. Quinn is 2-2 vs Seattle, including a loss in 2019.

Titans vs Broncos – The other Monday Night Football Game features a revenge storylines. Jurrell Casey was a third round pick to the Titans in 2011, where he made 5 Pro Bowl appearances and was Second-team All-Pro in 2013. Casey recorded 51 sacks in 9 years. Back in March, Titans traded Casey to the Broncos for a seventh round pick. Casey said he felt like the Titans “discarded him like trash”.

Packers vs Vikings – Packers swept Vikings in 2019, while winning the NFC North division.

Patriots vs Dolphins – Dolphins head coach Brian Flores worked with the Patriots from 2008-2018, winning 4 Super Bowls as an assistant coach. He helped lead Miami to a week 17 win over the Patriots in 2019, which ended the Pats’ 9 year streak of a first round playoff bye. Patriots would go on to lose in the first round.

Colts vs Jaguars – New Indy QB Philip Rivers has won 7 of his 9 career starts vs Jaguars

Bengals vs Chargers – Rematch of the 1982 AFC Championship Game, which Cincinnati won en route to their first Super Bowl appearance.

Eagles vs Washington – Philly has won 6 in a row against Football Team.

Bears vs Lions – Chicago has won 4 in a row, after previously losing 9 of 10.

Drop the Mic

Why is Mitchell Trubisky starting for the Bears? Because he won a rigged competition. Bears GM Ryan Pace could have signed Jameis Winston or Cam Newton, who both will earn slightly more than $1 million in 2019. Instead, he chose to draft a draft pick and pay Nick Foles $21 million. Foles was never going to beat Trubisky. Pace traded too much and invested too much time in the 2017 #2 pick to admit failure already.

It’s weird, but true, to say that 2021 will be the final year for Aaron Rodgers as a Green Bay Packer. I see these teams as options in 2021 – Patriots, Colts, Bucs (if the Brady thing doesn’t work), Saints (replacement for Brees), Bears (IF he is released vs traded – doubtful).

Don’t feel bad for Josh Rosen. Sure the 2018 Cardinals and 2019 Dolphins weren’t good situations for him. But he didn’t exactly make them better. He could have come in to both locker rooms, taken control as a leader and captain and put his stamp on the team. Instead, he sat back and watched everything crumble. Signing with the Bucs was the right move, but there’s little reason to believe he can ever be more than a better version of Blaine Gabbert.

Jaguars aren’t tanking, but they aren’t trying to win. They released and traded a ton of talent since March and are just a couple of years removed from an AFC Championship Game appearance in 2017. Hopefully they hire the right head coach (Eric Bieniemy) and don’t waste Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, who they will draft #1 in the 2021 Draft.

Tom Brady and the Bucs

After 20 years in New England, Tom Brady left the Patriots and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Former Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady replaces former Heisman Trophy winning #1 pick Jameis Winston. Former MVP, Super Bowl QB and #1 pick Cam Newton replaces Brady in New England.

Brady is 57-24 all-time against the Bucs’ 2020 opponents. More on his all-time success vs this year’s schedule.

Brady joins a Tampa Bay team with the second longest playoff drought in the NFL (12 years). They last made the playoffs in 2007, losing to the Giants team that beat Brady’s Patriots.

The last playoff game the Bucs won was on January 26, 2003 when they beat the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Breakdown of 2020 QBs

Here is how each week 1 starting QB was acquired:

Free Agency – 8
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Tyrod Taylor, Kirk Cousins, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Teddy Bridgewater

Draft – 22
Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, Baker MAyfield, Ben Roethlisberger, Deshaun Watson, Gardner Minshew, Drew Lock, Patrick Mahomes, Derek Carr, Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz, Daniel Jones, Dwayne Haskins, Mitchell Trubisky, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, Jared Goff

Trade – 2
Ryan Tannehill, Jimmy Garoppolo

Of the 22 starting QBs who were drafted by their current teams, 17 were first round picks (2 second, 1 third, 1 fourth, 1 fifth)

Of the overall 32 starting QBs – 21 were first round picks, 6 were #1 overall picks

Not-so-secret Identities

Detroit “Patriots” Lions – GM Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia both spent extensive time in the Patriots organization. This off-season, the Lions acquired three former Patriots – LB Jamie Collins, S Duran Harmon, and DT Danny Shelton. Those three join former Super Bowl winners DE Trey Flowers and WR Danny Amendola.

Buffalo “Panthers” Bills – GM Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott previously worked together in Carolina. The following players were with them in Carolina and are now with them in Buffalo – DE Mario Addison, LB AJ Klein, DT Vernon Butler, CB Josh Norman, and DT Star Lotulelei.

More on 2020 NFL Season

29 notable games to be excited about

Revenge games for players and coaches

11 teams enter the 2020 season with 0 Super Bowl victories

College Football

What if: Oregon vs Ohio State

Week 2 was scheduled to include one of the biggest non-conference games of 2020 – defending Big Ten Champions Ohio State vs defending PAC-12 Champions Oregon. Both conferences have postponed their 2020 seasons, so neither team is playing in the near future.

This would have been a rematch of the first ever College Football Playoff Championship in 2016, which saw Ezekiell Elliot’s Buckeyes defeat Marcus Mariota’s Ducks.

But WHAT IF the 2018 Ohio State team that won the Rose Bowl played the 2019 Oregon team that won the Rose Bowl? Who would win?

Pick Em: Joe Burrow or Vince Young

Week 2 was also scheduled to include LSU vs Texas, in a rematch from 2019. The potential of these schools facing has me thinking – which QB would you rather have? 2005 Vince Young or 2019 Joe Burrow.

Both QBs are legends. Both Texas and LSU went undefeated and beat the defending champs in their respective championship games.

COVID College Football

I have long been skeptical that college football would take place in 2020, but here we are – some games have been played and we are days away from ACC games taking place.

I couldn’t be happier that this is happening. The coaches and players want it and are committing to making this work. But what happens when they stop committing? I’ve never been worried about Clemson or the SEC or Oklahoma or the big schools with everything to lose. My fear is what happens when Georgia Tech, Kansas, Arkansas or someone falls to 0-6 and the players stop buying into the protocols and stop following the rules. Is a backup 19 year old on an 0-6 team really not going to go out to the bars or hang with friends? That’s where my skepticism is.

But until my fears are realized, let’s ENJOY college football!!!

Notre Dame in ACC

It’s going to be a weird season, but again, everything in 2020 is weird.

No Big Ten or PAC-12 is one thing, but another thing is that Notre Dame is playing in a conference, playing exclusively an ACC schedule. In 2020. they will be considered an honorary member, who has a chance to play in the ACC Championship Game in 2020.

But don’t get used to this. Irish won’t be in ACC beyond this season nor should they be.

I’m sick of the “Notre Dame should join a conference” conversation. Why should they? College football is a business and Notre Dame is a very successful business. They have their own TV deal (NBC), they certainly bring in plenty of revenue, and they can build the schedule as they see fit.

From an entertainment standpoint, Notre Dame annually plays one of the toughest schedules in the country. If you want, they can play an ACC schedule exclusively, but guess what? They’ll dominate the ACC because lately, it’s been bad.

Notre Dame would play 8 (mostly inferior) ACC teams. When the Irish went 12-0 in 2012 and 2018, they beat 10 power 5 schools, en route to the Championship Game/Playoffs.

Who wants to see Notre Dame vs Duke, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, when you can instead get Notre Dame vs USC, Stanford, Texas, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin.

The other argument for them to join a conference is that they only play 12 games without a conference championship game, which gives them an unfair advantage for the playoffs. Well, Alabama in 2018 and Ohio State in 2017 both made the playoffs with 1-loss and no conference championship victory. Notre Dame had 0 losses and no conference championship victory. What’s the issue, other than jealousy and hatred?

Notre Dame should never join a conference. They should never apologize for their independence, because they are winning in the game of college football. They play the most must-see games and rake in the money. Why change that?

ACC Football

UAB @ Miami (Thursday) – Miami 0-2 in 2019 against C-USA, including a 14-0 loss to Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl to finish the season at 6-7

Clemson vs Wake Forest – Clemson has won 11 in a row against Wake and beat them 52-3 in 2019 and 63-3 in 2018.

Duke vs Notre Dame – first “official” ACC conference game for Notre Dame. Irish won 38-7 in 2019 and are 4-2 all-time vs Duke.

Georgia Tech v Florida State – these schools last met in 2015, GT won 22-16 at home. Prior to that, Florida State won the 2012 and 2014 ACC Championship Games against GT.

Syracuse vs UNC – better basketball game, than football

Bobby Petrino Returns

Bobby Petrino is famous for so many wrong reasons. He was an offensive genius, who helped put Louisville football on the national radar from 2003-2006, going 41-9 in four seasons.

He left to take the Falcons job in 2007, with the expectation that he would elevate Mike Vick. Vick’s arrest happened months after Petrino took the job and he was stuck with Chris Redman, Joey Harrington, and Byron Leftwich at quarterback.

After losing December 10, 2007 on Monday Night Football, Petrino resigned less than 24 hours later and took the Arkansas job. He was fired in 2011 from Arkansas after an affair and motorcycle accident.

He returned to Louisville, helped Lamar Jackson win the Heisman and was then fired in the middle of a 2-10 season in 2019.

Now, HE’s BACK! Petrino is the head coach at Missouri State, who opens up against Oklahoma on Saturday.

About Missouri State football:

  • 1-10 in 2019
  • Haven’t made the FCS Playoffs since 1990
  • 2009 is last time they had a winning record (6-5)
  • 13 wins total since 2015
  • 8-40 conference record since 2014

Oklahoma, meanwhile, will start their 4th QB in 4 years. After rolling out Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts, the Sooners will break their trend of transfers and start top recruit Spencer Rattler, who you may have seen on a Netflix show, QB1.

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Mike is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) and an alum of the University of Cincinnati.

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