Much differently than any other, the 2020 NFL season starts tonight.

Following the returns of several other major sporting leagues, the NFL seemingly had the most time to prepare for their season amidst the COVID-19 global pandemic. To comply with safety guidelines, the Washington Post said the NFL is promoting social distancing in shared spaces, hosting virtual meetings when possible and implementing cleaning and disinfecting procedures. There are to be little to no fans in certain stadiums, and like other leagues, there will be artificial crowd noise played through stadium loudspeakers to try and mimic some kind of normalcy.  

The season is undoubtably going to be immensely different from any other, but there is still the same thrill and excitement surrounding teams and players. Like other years, there are teams that are predicted to thrive or flop, and there are also teams that may surprise everybody.

The Houston Texans start us off tonight in Kansas City against the Superbowl champion Chiefs. This game is thrilling for NFL fans for many reasons, the main being that Superbowl LIV MVP Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs take the field for the first time since they won it all in February.

Both Mahomes and Houston’s quarterback Deshaun Watson signed pretty hefty deals this offseason. According to CBSSports.com, “Mahomes landed the most lucrative contract in American team sports history in early July when the 2018 NFL MVP signed a 10-year, $450 million contract extension worth up to $500 million with incentives.” This makes him the NFL’s highest paid player.

On Saturday, Watson signed a four-year, $156 million extension worth a maximum of $160 million through incentives.” No matter which QB comes out on top tonight, its nearly a guarantee that both the Chiefs and the Texans are going to be playoff teams come Week 16.

Perhaps the most startling news for NFL fans this offseason, however, involved New England hero Tom Brady. The six-time Superbowl champ signed a two-year, $50 million fully guaranteed contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with up to $4.5 million each year in incentives and includes no-trade and no-tag clauses, according to NFL.com. To fill the enormous hole left in Pats Nation, New England turned to former Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton, who signed a notably meek, one-year, $1.05 million contract with the franchise in June, according to Boston.com.

With all the drama that surrounds well-known pro quarterbacks, there also comes the promising rise of the rookies. This year holds perhaps the most anticipation for the new Cincinnati Bengals’ starting QB: 2019 Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. Burrow led the nation in TD passes, and he and the LSU Tigers won a College National Championship in January, so hopefully some of that success can carry over to Cincinnati, because boy do they need it.

After the game tonight, nearly every other team plays on Sunday, except for the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos, who play Monday night. Though played in unusual circumstances, this NFL season is sure to be as interesting as any other.