The NFL has released its schedule 2020-21, with the season set to start at its scheduled time despite the coronavirus pandemic
A new season, a new decade, a new era, a new quarterback duel. A revisit of Patrick Mahomes versus Deshaun Watson is perhaps the perfect way to whet the appetite of NFL fans longing for the return of football.
The pair will trade blows on the opening day of the 2020 season as the Kansas City Chiefs begin their Super Bowl defence against the Houston Texans on Thursday, September 10 – providing there are no changes to the schedule in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
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Two of the league’s superstars slinging dimes, slipping through the clutches of pass rushers and resuming what has the potential to be football’s next great battle under center.
7:06 Remind yourself of what happened the last time Mahomes and Watson met…
It will mark the third time Mahomes and Watson have faced off in the NFL after the former sat behind Alex Smith in Kansas throughout his rookie year.
Arrowhead Stadium ran out of touchdown fireworks when they last met in January as a Mahomes-inspired Chiefs overturned a 24-point deficit to run out 51-31 winners in a thrilling Divisional Round matchup.
Watson had taken advantage of a mistake-ridden start from the hosts, before Kansas hit back with seven-straight touchdowns and 41 unanswered points to parade their Super Bowl credentials. Mahomes was majestic on the day, a highlight being his ingenious toe-drag to avoid passing the line of scrimmage before flipping the ball to Travis Kelce for a five-yard touchdown.
It proved a disappointing end for the Texans, who had made it as far thanks to a stunning effort from Watson to escape an overtime sack and put his side in game-winning field goal-range against the Buffalo Bills on wildcard weekend.
0:52 Deshaun Watson managed to avoid an almost certain sack in overtime to setup a 28-yard game-winning field goal against the Bills
Their careers are well-aligned, the pair born three days apart in September 1995 and split by just two picks at the 2017 NFL Draft, Mahomes going to the Chiefs at No 10 and Watson to the Texans at No 12.
Mahomes is a league MVP, Super Bowl champion and Super Bowl MVP, as well as the fastest player to 7,500 career passing yards. Watson is the first player in NFL history to record 4,000 passing yards, 25 or more passing touchdowns, over 500 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns in a single season. Their haul of respective individual feats is extensive, and will no doubt continue to grow.
Andy Reid vs Bill O’Brien
For Andy Reid to have shaken the monkey of being the winningest head coach without a Super Bowl ring off his back should be a stark warning to the rest of the league. He knows how it’s done and has the team to do it again and again. February’s 31-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers could just be the start.
The Chiefs have won four successive AFC West division titles and reached the playoffs in six out of seven years under Reid, who currently sits on a seventh-highest 207 career wins as an NFL head coach.
Despite eventually coming out on top in January’s contest, he is seeking a stronger start from his team when they welcome the Texans to town.
“O’Brien’s done a great job there, they’ve got a heck of a football team and we respect the heck out of them,” Reid told the Chiefs website. “We didn’t play very well to start that game, we’ve got to do a better job the next time of starting faster.
0:49 The decision to cancel plans to host NFL games in London this year was a ‘no-brainer’ amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to NBC host Mike Florio.
“I was proud of the guys for hanging in there, I didn’t see anybody drop their heads, everybody kept a positive attitude and we were able to turn it around.”
Across from him Bill O’Brien finds himself under enormous scrutiny as he continues to juggle head coach and general manager duties.
O’Brien’s Texans team have clinched four AFC South titles in his six seasons in charge, falling short in the wildcard round twice while reaching the Divisional Round twice.
“Everybody wants to start off the season on national television and we’re able to do that,” O’Brien told the Texans website. “We’re playing a great opponent, obviously Super Bowl champions led by Andy Reid. It’s going to be a big challenge for us, our guys are looking forward to that.”
1:27 Re-live Watson’s top combinations with DeAndre Hopkins
Pressure on O’Brien largely stems from some head-scratching off-field business decisions, including the trade that saw star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick head to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for running back David Johnson along with second and fourth-rounders.
Watson enters 2020 without his ever-reliable security blanket. His receiver corps now includes veteran free agency acquisition Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks via a trade with the Los Angeles Rams, adding to the talented but injury-prone Will Fuller and the useful Kenny Stills.
They were meanwhile relatively quiet in the NFL Draft, sitting out round one having traded their pick to the Miami Dolphins as part of last summer’s deal to acquire offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, who was signed to a mammoth three-year, $66m extension with $57.85m guaranteed this April.
5:56 Round up of the first ten picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, which saw LSU quarterback Joe Burrow go number one to the Cincinnati Bengals
O’Brien addressed the defensive line with TCU’s Ross Blacklock early in the second round before using their second of just five picks on Florida edge player Jonathan Greenard.
As for the Chiefs, the rich got richer. They kept hold of a key contributor to their Super Bowl success by franchise-tagging defensive tackle Chris Jones, re-signed receiver Demarcus Robinson and added veteran offensive tackle Mike Remmers.
They had the luxury of selecting LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round of the Draft, giving offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy an exciting all-purpose toy to make use of. The 21-year-old had 1,867 total yards and 17 touchdowns en route to National Championship success with the Tigers last season.
In addition, they addressed a defense that improved drastically over the course of 2019 with Mississippi State linebacker Willie Gay Jr., Louisiana Tech safety L’Jarius Sneed, Michigan defensive end Mike Danna and Dulane cornerback Thakarius Keyes.
Can the Chiefs be thwarted? How has the dynamic changed in Houston? It beckons as an absorbing season launch.