- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 7, 2020

Forget the pandemic and the sports shutdown — the 2020 NFL schedule is out, baby. Without getting too excited over a list of dates, times and opponents, let’s look at five quick takeaways from the schedule release.

1. Five primetime games for Brady and Gronk

Look, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers normally wouldn’t have been given such a bright national spotlight. But these are the “Tompa Bay Gronkaneers,” the team everyone is fascinated to see play because of the Brady-Gronkowski duo reuniting. They play three straight primetime games Weeks 7-9 — Sunday night at the Las Vegas Raiders, Monday night at the New York Giants and Sunday night versus the New Orleans Saints — plus a Thursday-nighter at the Chicago Bears and another Monday game at home to the Los Angeles Rams.

2. New stadiums in Las Vegas, Los Angeles make debuts

Not only are the Raiders officially relocating to Sin City this season, but the Rams and Chargers are set to open their new home in the suburb of Inglewood, SoFi Stadium. The Rams will christen their new building in Week 1 by hosting none other than the Dallas Cowboys on “Sunday Night Football.” One week later, Las Vegas makes its NFL debut in Week 2 when the Raiders have their home opener at Allegiant Stadium against the New Orleans Saints on “Monday Night Football,” while the same day, the Chargers host the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs in their new digs.

3. Thanksgiving features Ravens, Redskins (again)

The Washington Redskins may not have a single primetime game on their slate, but they’re fast becoming a regular Turkey Day team like the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions. They’ll play on Thanksgiving for the fourth time in five years when they visit the Cowboys on Nov. 26; they played Dallas on Thanksgiving in 2016 and 2018 and hosted the New York Giants in 2017. Elsewhere in the area, the Baltimore Ravens will pack for a holiday trip to hated rival Pittsburgh, and a classic Ravens-Steelers showdown should make for a great holiday nightcap. The Lions host the Houston Texans in the early Thanksgiving game.

4. Freaky Friday

We have NFL football on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays and the occasional Saturday. Is Friday next? Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, just 10 games have been played on Fridays, but Christmas Day is the perfect excuse for it. With Christmas falling on a Friday this year, fans will be treated to the Saints hosting the Minnesota Vikings, with a 4:30 p.m. kickoff. It’s a rematch of the teams involved in the 2018 Minnesota Miracle; maybe this year, they’ll witness a Christmas miracle.

5. No apparent pandemic protections

NFL reporter John Clayton said earlier in the week that he’d heard the league planned to make Weeks 1-4 exclusively games pitting AFC teams against NFC teams. The logic went that if the coronavirus pandemic forced the NFL season to start late or have a truncated schedule, the least meaningful games would be easily slashed, rivalry games wouldn’t be lost and everyone would play within their own conference like it was old-school Major League Baseball. But that wasn’t the case, and there don’t seem to be any built-in mechanisms for the NFL to pivot in case of emergency. The league clearly plans for Super Bowl LV to be played on time on Feb. 7.

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