The 2021 NFL season got underway Thursday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Dallas Cowboys at 8:20 p.m. ET. The game has air on NBC because it is considered part of its Sunday Night Football package and can be streamed on Peacock.
The Mac Jones era will begin when the Patriots open the season on Sunday by hosting the Dolphins at 4:25 p.m. on CBS. The Sunday night game will be the Chicago Bears at the Los Angeles Rams at 8:20 p.m. on NBC, while Baltimore heads to Las Vegas for the Monday night opener at 8:15 p.m. on ESPN.
The season will have a bit of a pre-pandemic feel, in that all 32 NFL teams have been cleared for full capacity at their stadiums, and with the Patriots having a quarterback capable of throwing more than eight touchdowns.
Here’s a look at the upcoming season.
After the season opener, the rest of the Thursday night games in September will air on NFL Network.
Jersey number changes: The league adjusted the restrictions on who can wear which jersey numbers. The reasoning was that teams were running low on numbers to give players at certain positions, particularly following the NFL’s expansion of teams’ practice squads from 10 to 16 players last season to allow for increased flexibility during the pandemic.
Prior to this season, only quarterbacks, kickers, and punters could wear single-digit jerseys. Now, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends can wear numbers from 1-49 and 80-89. Defensive backs can go from 1-49, linebackers 1-59 and 90-99, and defensive linemen between 50-79 and 90-99.
Brady has voiced his displeasure, saying it gives the defense the advantage.
“The number rule is crazy,” Brady told the Tampa Bay Times. “Literally, guys changed their numbers today. I’m playing two guys who had different numbers in the preseason. So, yeah you’ve got to watch film and know who you’re studying but so do running backs. They’ve got to know who to block. So does the offensive line. So does the receivers who are adjusting their routes based on blitzes.
It will seem strange in Week 4 if Brady looks across the line of scrimmage and sees Ja’Whaun Bentley at middle linebacker, and the on-field microphones pick up him barking out “8 is the mike! 8 is the mike!”
I’ll have another: The season has been expanded an extra week, with each team playing 17 games this season. Super Bowl LVI will be played on Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium, the home of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers.
More successful onside kicks? Only three onside kicks were recovered by the kicking team last year in 67 tries, the lowest rate of recovery since 2001. This year, only nine players on the receiving team will be allowed within 25 yards of the ball.
Of course, football is a teamwork game. When you play with your friends, remember to cooperate with them and pass the ball frequently to create more offensive opportunities.
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