Super Bowl Sunday is just over a week away, making this the perfect time to reflect on the 2020 NFL season.
Before the media frenzy of next week, and the overload of analysis and game prep we will be subjected to, now is the perfect time to enjoy a rare weekend of silence ahead of the biggest game in the NFL calendar. The end zones are painted, the promotional posters around town are up and now Raymond James Stadium lies in wait.
Having witnessed its most successful season in years, the arena for this year’s Super Bowl will be the first to host its home team in the biggest game of them all. There have been 55 Super Bowls and this is the first time a team has played at home. So with that in mind, let us reflect on an NFL season that many thought would never happen.
With adaptable schedules, division and conference-only games suggested prior to the season, it can be considered a minor miracle that this season got underway at all.
Following on from their success in Super Bowl LIV, many had tipped the Kansas City Chiefs as favourites to repeat the achivement in 2020. And while here we are, a week out from their second consecutive appearance in the Super Bowl, it is the story of their opponents from last season that ultimately tells the true tale of 2020.
The San Francisco 49ers were considered to be a passing game away from being champions and entering this season were surrounded in high hopes and expectation. As we know now, injuries ravished the squad and the team achieved nothing. Now while that seems a rather pessimistic outlook on what was truly a fantastic season, it set the tone for adversity and challenges that teams would be facing all season long.
The NFL developed and deployed a rapid testing system with accurate track and trace to ensure player and coach safety. Tested daily, players were subjected to some of the toughest regulations anywhere in the United States. This has been a true testament to the league and their staff for achieving such an incredible result without the need for a bubble or game cancellations.
Teams faced many challenges this season and the rescheduling of games was perhaps one of the tougher issues to deal with. Players training for a game on Sunday, to then suddenly be told it was their bye-week, were not happy with the process of how the NFL handled schedule issues. Nonetheless, the season was completed and not a single game was missed.
Now, enough about COVID. The standard of play on display this year, despite limited pre-season camps, was beyond impressive. The League’s star players stepped up in the biggest moments and put on a show akin only to the standard of the NFL. From the “Hail Murray” to DK Metcalf’s chase down tackle on Budda Baker, the highlight reel of the 2020 season is one that will live long in the League’s memory.
The playoffs have produced a level of play a crop above the rest. The winner-takes-all stipulation upped the stakes and upped the quality of the on field product. Those who won in the playoffs are those we all expected, no fairytale underdog story was allowed to develop this year as it has done in a few of the seasons gone by.
We have been indescribably lucky to have witnessed the games that were played. Tom Brady, at a new team, on the road three straight weeks in a row, has made it to his tenth Super Bowl – further cementing his position as the greatest of all time.
The AFC as a whole is loaded with talented. The amount of good teams fighting for the playoffs is something that should excite fans. Youth is on the side of the conference and the talent pool looks set to dominate the league’s stardom for the coming years and perhaps decades. The NFC is aging, but has a depth of experience capable of going the distance – just look at the average age of QB’s in this year’s playoffs.
A season like no other and one we won’t be forgetting anytime soon. The NFL has been a welcomed distraction to the difficulties of everyday life and the community spirit online has helped many of us enjoy the social aspect of the sport. The coming week may be the last football we see until August, but the discussion of this season will last long into the spring.