The 2020 NFL Season will be an odd one. It will present a multitude of challenges and questions we have yet to have thought of to this point (though we tried our best). For preventing transmission of COVID-19, each team has enacted strict protocols for the protection of players, staff and fans of the NFL, to the point where many won't have fans. The word "odd" doesn't really begin to cover it. However, come Sunday, here are some "storylines" I'll have my eye on.
COVID-19's Affect on the Game
- Will we see fewer rookies involved than we have in recent years past?
- Does the defense still carry the upper hand to start off the season?
- What does a fanless stadium look like? Does it alter home-field advantage?
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how most of sports look for the time being. The COVID-19 prescreening with temperature checks and a schedule of testing. Face masks are in. The fans are out ... but not everywhere. The most interesting question, however, is how all of these things alter the competition. The NFL has taken steps to maintain a level playing field, but there are certain aspects of competition that are hard to recreate equally, considering some stadiums' ability to host games at a limited capacity.
There are also plenty of other questions surrounding how the individual teams will respond to the pandemic. Will we see teams hold back their rookies considering their limited time in camp this offseason? Are they behind on development? Will the offenses take more time to gain rhythm into the season, perhaps causing a dip in fantasy football production across the board? Time will tell, but I am excited to gain some insight in Week 1 and beyond.
A Post-Brady Belichick and a Post-Belichick Brady
The stories of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have become so intertwined that it's difficult to tell where one stops and the other begins. Now is our opportunity to find out. It's sometimes easy to forget that Belichick ever coached elsewhere. We might never know whether the greatest quarterback of all time made the coach, or the coach made the greatest quarterback of all time. There's never been a doubt that Brady brings an edge to the table. There's never been a doubt that Belichick brings discipline.
The interesting thing about this question is that both the coach and the player have made this question more difficult to answer in this offseason. Brady may have signed with the best possible (most stacked) roster to make a final Super Bowl run or two before retirement. It's fully loaded and led by an offensive-minded coach. Conversely, in New England, Belichick recruited Cam Newton, who could not be more different from Brady. It's interesting to see how each of these players have pivoted as they parted ways. I hope to have some further clarity as we see the season play out.
How will the Browns utilize Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt?
Kareem Hunt was signed to a 2-year, $13 million contract to keep him in Cleveland through the 2022 NFL Season. In a call with the media Wednesday, Kevin Stefanski spoke highly of both running backs, but the truth is, we haven't seen a large-enough sample size to know the role they're each likely to play. The new pay day is a tick in Hunt's corner. The heavy usage in the endzone is a tick in Chubb's back. The target volume is a point to Hunt.
A Kevin Stefanski-led Minnesota Vikings ran the ball nearly 30 times per game in 2019. Considering the extension for Hunt, what if Chubb doesn't return on his second-round draft stock in redraft leagues? We should start to gain insight into their long-term plans for each of these backs as we see the coaching staff divide the workload at kickoff on Sunday.
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Wednesday Practice & Injury Updates
Daily news slants:
Rams CB Jalen Ramsey signed a monster 5-year, $105 million deal with $71.2 million in guarantees. The defensive back signs the biggest contract ever at his position, and the rest of us are left to do some math. The Rams have dished out several record-breaking deals in the past few seasons, including one for DT Aaron Donald, one for Todd Gurley, one for Jared Goff, and now, Jalen Ramsey. Now, the word is that Cooper Kupp is next. The cap is a myth. ... Sean McVay again reiterated that the Rams will utilize a running back by committee approach. It brings a hit to the value of all three RBs in LA. ... Vikings DE Danielle Hunter was placed on injured reserve for a neck injury, keeping him out of the lineup for at least three weeks into the 2020 season. ... After the Washington Football Team listed J.D. McKissic as their starting running back, Ron Rivera noted that they do intend to utilize a "committee". If it's true, it would be a tough break for anyone who spent a third or fourth-round pick amid the Antonio Gibson hype.
*Each of these players is looking high-risk to start Week 1 in fantasy lineups, even if active