The dust has settled on the unveiling of the schedule for the 2020 NFL season and, as normal, there are some intriguing matchups and patterns that quite often reflect how teams are viewed after a flurry of offseason activity.
The Buccaneers have arrived. Bruce Arians' team will play an NFL-high five primetime games in 2020. They are joined by some expected and familiar names in Baltimore, Dallas, Green Bay, Kansas City, New England and San Francisco. The only surprise on the list, for me, was the inclusion of Sean McVay's Rams.
Can we get a little love, please?
Spare a thought for the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins, who are the only teams in the NFL not to appear in a primetime game during the 2020 season. But both clubs do play in exclusive windows on Thanksgiving Day, so they will get their fix of national attention on that holiday. Carolina, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Miami have just one primetime game apiece.
The Raiders have been given four primetime games and each of them will come at their shiny new Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. The Silver and Black will play in front of a national audience at home against New Orleans (Week 2), Tampa Bay (Week 7), Kansas City (Week 11) and the LA Chargers (Week 15).
Three teams open the season with back-to-back games against playoff clubs from a year ago. Miami open at New England and then host Buffalo in Week 2, while the New York Jets begin against the Bills on the road before taking on San Francisco at home. Miami's tough start continues against Seattle in Week 4 and at San Francisco in Week 5. That is hard indeed, but how about the opening two weeks for the Houston Texans? Bill O'Brien's men face the last two NFL Most Valuable Players as they take on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 and then Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2.
Warming Tommy's bones
It's becoming clear that Tom Brady's 43-year-old bones are going to benefit from playing for the warm-weather Tampa Bay Buccaneers, especially down the stretch. Brady's final seven weeks feature the following game lineup... home, home, bye, home, indoor road, indoor road, home. The coldest game he is likely to play all year comes at Carolina in mid-November, where the average seasonal temperature is 51 degrees Fahrenheit (10.5 Celsius).
There are some fantastic rematches on the cards in 2020, starting with the season opener in Kansas City where Mahomes and Deshaun Watson will look to create their playoff magic of January. There are plenty more intriguing rematch games... Kansas City at Baltimore in Week 3, San Francisco at New Orleans in Week 10 and Tennessee at Baltimore in Week 11, to name a few.
Pack Your Toothbrush!
Three teams will need to make their all-important playoff push on the road at the end of the season. Miami, who can feel aggrieved about their tough start, end away from home at Las Vegas and Buffalo. Atlanta, Tennessee and Minnesota also finish with back-to-back road games. Nine teams will venture out on the road for three straight away games in 2020 - Arizona, Cleveland, Dallas, Las Vegas, Minnesota, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Tennessee.
Oh, Give Brian Flores A Break!
Five teams end their regular season with three of their final four games against 2019 playoff teams. And yes, you've guessed it, the Miami Dolphins are one of them! The Dolphins play Kansas City in Week 14, New England in Week 15 and at Buffalo in Week 17. The others with similarly-challenging finishes are Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans and Washington.
Some divisional foes will become very familiar with each other during the 2020 season. The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets become the first teams to play back to back games since the San Diego Chargers and Seattle Seahawks in 1991. Miami host the Jets in Week 10, both clubs have their bye week in Week 11 and they meet again in New York in Week 12. Atlanta and Tampa Bay will also be sick of the sight of each other by the end of the season as they meet twice in three weeks (Weeks 15 and 17).
The Race to Top Seed
If the Baltimore Ravens are in a sprint finish for the top seed in the AFC come late-November, could they benefit from six straight games against teams who failed to make the 2019 playoffs? Of course, things change from year to year in the NFL and what looks favourable at first glance should prove to be much, much tougher in reality... at Pittsburgh, Dallas, at Cleveland, Jacksonville, New York Giants, at Cincinnati.
Bonus Quick Hits
Dan Quinn's Atlanta Falcons are in for a real test in 2020. They face a league-high five offenses that ranked in the top five attacks in the league a year ago.
Arizona and San Francisco have a league-high nine games against teams who finished above .500 in 2019.
According to records from 2019, the New England Patriots have the toughest schedule in 2020 with their opponents having a winning percentage of 53.7. Baltimore have the easiest with opponent's winning 43.8 percent of their games a year ago.