NFL gears up for another intriguing season

Luke Henne / Sports Editor | After a 2020 season in which all 32 NFL teams either operated with capacity limitations or did not permit fans to attend games at all, every stadium is expected to be at full capacity for the start of the season.

Brentaro Yamane | Staff Writer

Sept. 9, 2021

As the National Football League prepares to kick off its 102nd season, there are many storylines that people are paying attention to, building an overall sense of excitement.

With the Covid-19 vaccine readily available, speculation arose about whether NFL players would be required to get the vaccine. As of right now, the league has not mandated the vaccine.

Popular players like Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins have not been vaccinated, having expressed the opinion that taking the vaccine is a matter of personal choice.

With all 32 of the league’s stadiums being permitted to operate at full capacity once again, teams will generate more revenue compared to last season, which is sure to make ownership groups across the league smile.

For the first time ever, the league’s schedule will consist of 18 weeks (17 games per team). The league’s tenative calendar includes multiple games being played on Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

The new schedule format does provide an advantage for half of the league, but a disadvantage for the other half. With a 17th game being added to each team’s schedule, 16 teams will get nine home contests and eight road contests, while the other 16 teams will get eight home games and nine road games.

With some teams having an additional home game under the league’s new format, that might provide some teams with some extra home-field advantage throughout the duration of the regular season.

During every offseason, players join new teams via free agency. Whether that is to cash in after a strong prior season, or to prove one’s value to a team by signing a cheap contract, many players have found new homes for this upcoming campaign.

Some notable players that signed with new teams during free agency were quarterback Andy Dalton (Chicago Bears), wide receiver A.J. Green and defensive end J.J. Watt (Cardinals), defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (Cleveland Browns) and linebacker Bud Dupree (Tennessee Titans).

Big-time acquisitions also occurred by way of the trade market. Some prominent trades that happened over the offseason were the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams swapping quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff, offensive lineman Orlando Brown Jr. being sent from the Ravens to the Kansas City Chiefs and longtime Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones being acquired by the Titans.

Additionally, lots of big-name rookies are set to make their NFL debuts after being drafted in April. Stars like Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence and New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones are ready to step into the bright lights after highly successful collegiate careers.

Other rookies such as Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts, Lions offensive tackle Penei Sewell and Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons are all expected to have a major impact on their respective teams early in their professional careers.

While teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks are all expected to be Super Bowl contenders, the team that people will be paying close attention to is Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the defending Super Bowl champion.

Quarterback Tom Brady returns for his 22nd season in the NFL and his second with the Buccaneers after spending the first 20 years of his career with the Patriots. The team only lost four players in free agency, and most of those players did not have a big role on last year’s title team.

All 22 starters from Super Bowl LV will return to Tampa Bay this season, and with that in mind, it’s hard not to see them as a favorite to win the title for the second consecutive season.

It’s hard for people to not pay attention to the NFL when everyone is talking about games and pertinent news either on television or on social media. With that in mind, the league is set for what is expected to be another captivating season of football.

All 32 teams are set to be in action this week, with 14 of the league’s 16 games scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 12.

The campaign is set to officially kick off this Thursday, Sept. 9, when the Buccaneers begin their quest for back-to-back titles against the Cowboys at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.