The NFL season kicks off tonight with the reigning Super Bowl champs, the Kansas City Chiefs, taking on the Houston Texans.
There’s lots to talk about, especially with the season launching during a global pandemic, but here are five things we think you should know heading into the season:
1. Big-time money
The Chiefs vs. Texans is a significant game, and not just because it’s the NFL season opener.
Patrick Mahomes, quarterback for the Chiefs, and Deshaun Watson, quarterback for the Texans, signed the largest and second-largest contracts in NFL history this off-season.
Mahomes’ contract is worth $503 million over a ten year period, while Watson’s is worth $177 million over four years.
Deshaun Watson, left, and Patrick Mahomes, right, signed contracts worth big money this off-season. (Image credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images, Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
That’s right, the two most expensive QBs in NFL history are going head to head on opening night.
Who will end up being worth all that money?
2. Kap is back (well, sort of)
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since the 2016 season, after which he became a free agent.
Many experts believe he’s good enough to make multiple NFL teams, but since he began taking a knee during the national anthem to protest oppression and police brutality against Black people, no team has signed him to play.
Colin Kaepernick has become a leading figure when it comes to athletes tackling racial justice issues. (Image credit: Cameron Mandato/Getty Images)
Madden 21, the new football video game from EA Sports, has added Kaepernick as a free agent and playable character for the first time since 2016.
In a news release, EA Sports said Kaepernick is “one of the top free agents in football and a starting-calibre quarterback.”
Fans “want to see him back in our game,” the company said.
3. Player protests will be supported
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said that the league will support players protesting racial injustice during the upcoming season.
But the issue of protesting the national anthem is still messy.
Members of the Buffalo Bills kneel during the national anthem prior to a game in 2019. (Image credit: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
In May, the NFL and team owners agreed that players on the field should stand during the national anthem, but they were allowed to remain in the locker room if they wished to protest.
Any players who protested on the field would be fined by the league.
This solution seems to have made no one happy, with people on both sides criticizing the policy.
4. Brady on the Bucs
Quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have been one of the longest and most successful partnerships in NFL history.
After 20 seasons with the Patriots and six Super Bowl wins, Brady and the Patriots parted ways and he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Tom Brady practises during training camp in August 2020. (Image credit: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
The question is: will Brady, who many consider the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, be able to bring his winning ways to Tampa Bay?
5. COVID-19 rules
Unlike other pro sports leagues, the NFL will not play in a bubble.
Teams will play both home and away games, although there will be restrictions on the amount of freedom players will have on the road and the number of staff they can take with them.
Coaches and staff will be required to wear masks at all times on the sidelines during games, while players are encouraged to do the same.
Most NFL stadiums will be without fans for the beginning of the 2020 season. (Image credit: Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Six of the 32 NFL teams have announced plans to allow fans to attend games, although the crowds will be smaller than usual.
The proposed numbers range from 6,000 to 17,000 depending on the team. That’s a far cry from the league’s average stadium capacity of 69,444.