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Most anticipated NFL homecoming games since 2000
-- By Garrett Podell, NFL Researcher
The 2021 NFL season -- the league's first 17-game campaign -- will arrive faster than Tyreek Hill running a fade route. In fact, the most anticipated game of 2021 is just 100 days away: Tom Brady returns to New England for the first time as a visitor on Oct. 3.
Brady, winner of six Super Bowl titles with the Patriots, is likely to receive a warm reception from the Foxborough faithful, but welcome-back cheers won't diminish the stakes in his return. Brady raced out to an early lead in the "Who deserves more credit for the dynasty?" debate with head coach Bill Belichick by winning Super Bowl LV in his first season with the Bucs. Back in New England, Belichick and the Patriots went 7-9, experiencing their first losing season since 2000. The franchise responded by spending over $250 million on contracts for 15 players this offseason, which is 1,000-plus percent more than the $24.4 million ($7.8 million guaranteed) they spent on 15 free-agent signings in 2020, per Spotrac. Needless to say, both sides will be highly motivated to win this matchup.
While many of us can't wait to see Brady versus Belichick in Week 4, I thought this would be a perfect time to look back at some of the most anticipated homecoming games from the first 21 seasons of the current millennium. The games are listed in order of anticipation leading up to kickoff, from least to most. The level of anticipation is tied to factors such as a player's status at the time of his return and how his tenure with his former team ended.
2021 Heisman Trophy watch list: Sam Howell, Spencer Rattler lead top contenders
Nine of the top 10 vote-getters for last year's Heisman Trophy were selected in the NFL draft in April, including seven first-round selections, leaving a wide-open field for college football's most prestigious award in 2021. Quarterback candidates abound, as always, for an honor that's been bestowed on a passer 12 times in the last 15 years. At Oklahoma, Spencer Rattler looks to become the third OU QB to win the Heisman in the last five years, following former No. 1 overall draft picks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. It's been almost 30 years since a Miami player won the Heisman (Gino Torretta in 1992) but the 'Canes have a legit contender this season in QB D'Eriq King. Listed in ascending order, here are 10 playmakers to watch for the 2021 Heisman. All but two -- Alabama's Bryce Young and Clemson's D.J. Uiagalelei -- will be at least three years removed from high school after the season, and thus eligible for entry into next year's NFL draft.
Top 11 all-time NFL players from service academies
In honor of Memorial Day, Chase Goodbread looks back at 11 of the best NFL players to come from the service academy (Army, Navy and Air Force) football programs.
Ranking all 52 No. 1 picks of the NFL's common-draft era
If you're scoring at home, the 2019 NFL Draft will be the league's 53rd since the great college marketplace was turned into a single venture. Prior to 1967, the NFL and the AFL were employing their own drafts. That lasted until bidding wars for prospects with two suitors got too pricey. Thus, we now have one prime, combined NFL draft.
A couple years ago, I went through every draft since the two leagues merged this process, assessing the value of all the top overall picks ... a perfect 50 to go through. The list, and each player's journey, sparked much conversation. We now have 52 careers to document, as well as an update as to where many players stand. Why not reassess?
One note: More value was placed on those who paid off for their original franchises, as opposed to journeymen who produced a solid career with other outfits. Your thoughts are always valuable ... @HarrisonNFL is the place.
Bill Belichick tops 2017 NFL head coach power rankings
One head coach made going for it on fourth down no big deal. Another moved his chess pieces around so much he had a wideout masquerading as an RB1. And one of these guys decided to go for the touchdown in overtime of the biggest game of the year.
There can be no underestimating the effect coaches have on NFL games, as Jack Del Rio, Mike McCarthy and Bill Belichick displayed prominently last year. If the latter is the top of the ladder among the front men, who's next? (Wonderful album by The Who, by the way.) Who's 17th? Who's 29th? That's what we've endeavored to figure out. All things were considered: wins, impact, situation, experience and their immediate future.
So take a gander at the head coach pecking order, and then, if you wish, hunt and peck to enter your take on a keyboard ... @HarrisonNFL is the place for feedback.
Comparing starting QBs from 2017 and 1992
Is quarterback play today really superior?
That's what I endeavored to find out, at least partially, by comparing the starting QB for each team today with his counterpart from 25 years ago. With a nod to Paul Zimmerman, a transcendent football writer who compared passers 20 years apart in 2008, I decided to build in a market correction for the proliferation of the passing game between the eras of Dak Prescott and Troy Aikman.
It was a bit complicated, but the QBEA (Quarterback Era Adjustment) shed much light on the '92 elite as contrasted with 2017's projected starters. Further details on the QBEA are provided at the end of this piece. Also, there were just 28 teams in 1992 -- meaning you won't find comparisons for the Panthers, Jaguars, Ravens or Texans, as there was no one to compare those QBs to.
Let's dive in ...