Three Takeaways from The Start of the 2020 NFL Season


Image Courtesy of NBC Sports

With the NFL season underway, it has been great to have football back as it gives a sense of normalcy. The season has still brought its fair share of twists and turns. Here are three key takeaways from the start of the 2020 NFL season. 

Rookies Take the League By Storm

After a shortened offseason, many predicted that incoming rookies would struggle to adapt to the NFL’s violence and sophistication. To some extent, that has proven to be true. Eagles rookie receiver Jalen Reagor and Raiders defensive back Damon Arnette has missed multiple games due to injuries early in the season. 

However, several first-year players all over the league have had a fair share of outstanding performances. First overall pick and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has shown excellent poise for a rookie, with one example being a late 4th quarter drive against the Chargers back in Week 1. While the Bengals tragically lost that game, Burrow’s performance should encourage a Bengals fan base that has had little to cheer about in the past few seasons. 

Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert has also exceeded expectations since replacing former starter Tyrod Taylor in Week 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs. After a freak accident in which team doctors punctured Taylor’s lung before the Chiefs game, Herbert was told he was starting five minutes before kickoff. While the Chargers did lose, Herbert managed to keep the game within three points, an impressive feat nonetheless against the former Super Bowl champs. 

Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb and Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson have played integral roles for their teams’ seasons thus far.

The NFC East Division May End Up Being the Worst Division Ever

Within the NFL, there are eight divisions of four teams each; all grouped more or less according to geographical location. The NFC East division of the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Football Team and New York Giants is the worst so far this season. 

The current division leaders are the Cowboys with a 2-4 record. The combined record for all four teams through 6 weeks is 5-18-1, a 0.2083 win percentage. If the season were to end today, that win percentage would be the worst cumulative win percentage of a division in the league’s history by a wide margin. The two other divisions in history with win percentages remotely close to those were the NFC South in 2014 and the NFC West in 2008. Both of those divisions finished with a cumulative win percentage of 0.343. 

While the Cowboys and Eagles have been the two top contenders in recent memory, both teams have had their fair share of issues that have led to such horrendous starts. For the Eagles, quarterback Carson Wentz has not been able to live up to the No.2 selection and has struggled with a depleted wide receiver corps and offensive line. 

The Cowboys issues started on defense as they are among the worst teams against the pass so far this season. On top of that, the Cowboys lost their presumptive franchise quarterback Dak Prescott to a gruesome, season-ending injury in a divisional game against the Giants in Week 5. 

Former Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton stepped in and has not been able to replicate the amount of success that the Cowboys were having with Prescott at the helm. There is a lot of time left for the NFC East to not end up as the worst division ever, but if the performances worsen and the losses continue to pile up, it is certainly possible that this could be the worst division ever. 

NFC East teams are scheduled to play in numerous prime time slots on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday nights. With the NFC East being particularly weak, this will lead to a decline in views from the NFL audience, not something the league wants to see. The league has already lost so much revenue from not having a regular season and having horrible teams play in prime time slots only makes the situation worse.

The Season Will Be Like No Other

Regarding the impact of the pandemic on the NFL, we have already seen the global pandemic’s effects on games’ schedules and progression. After seeing a highly successful bubble format work for the NBA, many speculated that the NFL would take a similar path. The NFL opted against it and chose to play the games at the same locations as always except having nearly every stadium at limited capacity or no fans at all. 

The bubble idea was unrealistic from the start of the NFL. Firstly, the NBA only brought 22 of 32 teams in the league to the bubble, in part because the NBA was able to complete at least a portion of the season before everything was shut down. The NFL would have to find facilities for all 32 teams that each have 53 players rostered plus coaching staff and essential personnel. 

Compared to the NBA, the NFL’s task was exponentially more complicated and was eventually deemed unrealistic. The NFL must have known it was inevitable that teams would have positive tests without a bubble format in place. The goal was to limit it to potentially one or two only and use contract tracing to prevent team-wide outbreaks. Through six weeks, only the Tennessee Titans have seen a notable outbreak of positive cases that resulted in the cancellation of games. However, with all the travel to regions all over the country, another outbreak would not be unusual if the precautions set by the NFL are not taken seriously. Through just six weeks, the NFL season has already provided us with a lot of firsts. While indeed not a regular season, it is still more exciting than ever.