The world has changed just a bit since the last NFL regular-season Sunday. It was December 29, 2019, and the NFL was looking forward to a postseason that would deliver the first Super Bowl victory in Kansas City Chiefs history. Eight months later, the NFL has returned amid a once-in-century coronavirus pandemic and a renewed push for social justice in the country.
Thirteen games are on the schedule, and ESPN has reporters at every stadium Sunday to follow it. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, all 3,600 players and team personnel who were tested Saturday for COVID-19 returned negative results, meaning everyone is eligible to participate in today’s games.
We’ll chronicle the highlights of today’s pre-game, in-game and postgame action below, so be sure to check back throughout the day.
Amid a season of protocol and policy changes, one part of the NFL’s pregame rhythm will remain constant. Ninety minutes before kickoff, each team must release its list of inactive players for the game. But still, there is a change in how the list will be comprised. In 2020, teams will have the option to carry 48 active players, instead of the usual 46, as long as the team includes at least eight offensive linemen among the active group.
Sunday’s list of inactives for the early games include Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson, who has an ankle injury that will prevent him from helping to protect quarterback Carson Wentz from a Washington Football Team pass-rush that includes rookie Chase Young. Rookie Jack Driscoll will start in Johnson’s place.
Other early game inactives include:
What to watch for
Nine games will kick off at 1 p.m. ET. Here is what to look out for:
Cam Newton will make his debut as the New England Patriots‘ new starting quarterback, at home against the Miami Dolphins. All eyes will be on Newton, but for different reasons. Some want to know if he has finally returned to health after a broken foot cost him his job with the Carolina Panthers last season. Others want to know what Patriots coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels have cooked up for Newton, a player with a far different skill set than predecessor Tom Brady.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are the only home team who will host fans Sunday. The NFL gave teams the option to have fans at games if state and local governments allowed it. The Jaguars will have a reduced capacity of about 17,000 at TIAA Bank Field for their matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. The Detroit Lions, meanwhile, will work with Fox Sports to superimpose virtual fans onto the broadcast of their game against the Chicago Bears.
The Philadelphia Eagles will visit FedEx Field for the first time since the stadium’s home team dropped its nickname and became known, for this season anyway, as the Washington Football Team. Washington head coach Ron Rivera is one of four new coaches who will make their debuts in the early games, along with Matt Rhule (Panthers), Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns) and Joe Judge (New York Giants).