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Strong slate of games in Week One shows NFL expects to start on time

Mike Florio and Chris Simms break down the AFC East and explain who, if anyone, has a leg up in this now hotly contested division without Tom Brady.

Prior to the release of the 2020 NFL schedule, there were reports and rumors that the NFL planned to fill the early portions of the schedule with games that could easily be canceled. That didn’t happen.

Instead, the NFL put together a strong slate of Week One games, showing that the NFL is fully planning to start the season on time, rather than potentially delay the start of the season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 NFL season opens with the traditional Thursday night game hosted by the Super Bowl champions. The NFL scheduled Houston to visit Kansas City, a prime time matchup between two of the league’s best young quarterbacks, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. That’s exactly the kind of showcase game the NFL would use to start the season with a bang -- not the kind of game the NFL would schedule if it feared Week One wasn’t going to happen.

Also in prime time in Week One is Cowboys at Rams on Sunday Night Football. The Cowboys are the league’s biggest TV draw, and they’re opening the new stadium in Los Angeles. That’s a big game for the league.

Among the Sunday afternoon games in Week One is Buccaneers at Saints, with Tom Brady facing Drew Brees. Brady’s arrival in the NFC South makes the two Bucs-Saints games among the marquee games of this NFL season.

And contrary to reports early this week that the NFL planned to open the season with AFC vs. NFC games that could easily be canceled without affecting the playoff race, the Week One schedule is filled with divisional matchups and other games between teams that are expected to battle for playoff spots. Only two Week One games, Raiders-Panthers and Steelers-Giants, match the AFC against the NFC.

If we’ve learned anything in the last four months, it’s that a lot can change in the next four months. But right now, the NFL is setting up its schedule with the plan that it will start Week One on time.