Friday, July 31, 2020

NFL 2020: The Year in Preview

By Jeffrey Boswell

* Myles Garrett and former New Orleans Saint Kyle Turley meet for a charity helmet-removal ceremony on November 14th, the anniversary of Garrett's incident with Mason Rudolph. The event, dubbed "The Great American NFL Jerk-Off," raises $250,000 for charity.

* After 149 receptions in 2019, the Saints Michael Thomas one-ups himself, posting 150 catches, 79 more than Miami's DeVante Parker. Thomas then tweets at Parker: "Congratulations! You made the 'All Pronoun Team,' because no one knows your name. #He.'"

* DeAndre Hopkins explodes to start the season, with 32 receptions, 396 receiving yards, and 6 touchdowns in his first four games. Asked what the key to his amazing success is, Hopkins replies, "Miles and miles of separation ... from Bill O'Brien."

* Philip Rivers has the second-most famous surgery for a Colts quarterback when he undergoes a vasectomy in October. In his next game back on October 18 versus the Jets, Rivers shoots blanks in the first quarter, going 0-7.

Rivers bounces back the following week, when he and his wife announce that they're expecting their 10th child in July.

On the year, Rivers is efficient and limits his interceptions as the Colts ride the league's best rushing game and a strong defense to the AFC South title.

* In his first game as a Falcon, Todd Gurley rushes for 11 yards on 8 carries and 4 touchdowns, all 1-yard touchdown runs, as Atlanta beats Carolina, 31-24.

A knee injury sidelines Gurley in Week 4, an ailment which never fully heals. Gurley ultimately plays in only 7 games, and leads the league in touches, from the medical staff.

* Jameis Winston cuts his interception total from 30 in 2019 to 17 in 2020. Winston attributes the vast improvement not only to clearer vision due to Lasik surgery, but also to attempting only 34 passes as the backup to Drew Brees.

The Saints finish the season 12-4, one game ahead of the 11-5 Buccaneers, and beat the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game.

* The Las Vegas Raiders christen Allegiant Stadium on opening day as former Raider legend Sebastian Janikowski serves as Master of Ceremonies. After ceremoniously breaking a bottle of Dom Perignon on the stadium's facade, Janikowski opens another bottle and offers glasses of champagne to each of the 32 Raiderettes, who all unanimously decline to drink.

The Raiders are toast in their opener, as the Saints crush them, 31-12.

* On opening day against the visiting Chargers, a sluggish Joe Burrow tosses 4 interceptions, is sacked 5 times, and vomits on the field in the third quarter. In the post-game press conference, Burrow apologizes for his performance, and promises to learn from his mistakes, and swears he'll never spend another Saturday night with Pacman Jones.

On the season, Burrow passes for 3,756 yards and 4 touchdowns with 16 interceptions, and the Bengals finish 3-13, last in the AFC North.

* After re-aggravating a back injury on October 4th, Rob Gronkowski announces his retirement. Just two days later, Gronk agrees to terms to host two new television shows during fall sweeps, Discovery Channel's "The Science of Drinking Games," and MTV's "Celebrity Sack Tap."

* On November 1st, with the Packers holding a 10-point lead over the visiting Vikings with 7 seconds left and with possession, a heartbroken Aaron Rodgers takes a knee, and proposes to former girlfriend Danica Patrick. In a touching twist, Brett Favre rolls up in a golf cart and presents the band, a green opal set in a 100% copper ring, as well as a Copper Fit wedding gown.

Patrick declines the offer via Twitter, and later reveals she left Rodgers for David Spade.

Rodgers leads the Packers to a second-place finish in the NFC North and a wild card berth in the playoffs.

* In November, Christian McCaffrey opens a nightclub in downtown Charlotte called "Run CMCBGB's WWJD," a venue that offers Christian rock, world-class atmosphere, and exotic VIP lounges, all in an alcohol-free environment. The club shutters its doors in December due to lack of interest.

McCaffrey is all business on the field, and leads the NFL in touches for the second consecutive year, with 399, and later pens a book chronicling his 2020 season, titled "Just Give Me the Darn Ball."

* ESPN's 2021 "Body" issue breaks new ground, featuring not athletes, but the equipment that trains them. Not surprisingly, football's "Jugs Machine" lands the coveted cover spot.

* Cam Newton easily wins the starting quarterback job in New England and dominates in the Patriots first four games. Newton enters the Week 5 game against the visiting Broncos with 4 rushing touchdowns and 7 passing scores, but literally loses his "s," crapping his pants when he sees Von Miller across the line.

Amazingly, the incident leads to an endorsement deal with Nautica's fashion sleepwear, in which Newton appears in print ads saying, "When you're pooped and need a change, try Nautica pajamas."

* On his first two rush attempts as a Bronco, Melvin Gordon fumbles, and the "Melvin Gordon II" memes are born, such as "Time II Bench Melvin Gordon," "Dos Ickies," "II Bad," "All II Often," and "Boyz II Bench."

Gordon's ball-handling struggles continue into October, but he eventually turns things around, thanks to the help of a clinic of hypnotists, whom Gordon refers to as his "Dream Team."

Gordon finishes the season with 799 yards on the ground and 450 receiving yards with 7 total touchdowns.

* The Seahawks visit the Rams on November 15th, and Jalen Ramsey and Jamal Adams convene at midfield prior to kickoff. The two exchange pleasantries and discuss plans to co-write a book tentatively titled "How to Alienate Friends, Influence Public Opinion, Be the Walking Definition of 'Disgruntled' and Force a Trade."

In a Week 14 contest versus the visiting Jets, Seattle defeats Adams' former team 27-13. Adams has 2 interceptions, but complains he could have played better.

* Bears legends Mike Ditka and Willie Gault team up to promote American Home Equity Bank & Semi-trust's "Double Reverse Mortgage," which encourages elderly Bears fans to "live fast, die soon."

Chicago's on-the-field product is just as untrustworthy, and a 2-5 start results in the firing of Matt Nagy on October 27th. Ditka is briefly considered for the job along with Bob Swerski, but the assignment ultimately goes to defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who leads the Bears to a 7-9 finish.

* With his signature blond hair back, Odell Beckham, Jr. announces the "Blond Ambition Tour 2020." Beckham later appears on the cover of Vogue, then completes the hat trick when he reveals that he is dating Madonna.

Beckham finishes the season with 87 receptions for 1,234 yards and 10 touchdowns, while the Browns finish 9-7, behind the Ravens and Steelers in the AFC North.

* Attendance is Los Angeles for the Chargers first four home games is abysmal, with attendance averaging around 30,000 in SoFi Stadium, which seats 70,000. Many attribute it to the unwillingness of San Diego and surrounding area residents to travel to Los Angeles, a phenomenon called "SoCal Distancing."

The Chargers struggle on the field also, finishing in a tie for last in the AFC West with the Raiders at 6-10.

* Patrick Mahomes purchases an island in the Lesser Antilles on September 17th to celebrate his 25th birthday. With a massive $477 million contract under his belt, Mahomes christens the getaway "Treasure Island," and posts a Gilligan's Island-themed pic on Twitter showing Mahomes as Gilligan and Andy Reid as the Skipper.

Mahomes passes for 4,788 yards and 42 touchdowns and the Chiefs repeat as Super Bowl champions when they defeat the Saints, 31-27.

* After seeing the 2010 movie Inception, Dallas owner Jerry Jones asks his R&D department to inquire into the possibility of "planting a seed in the head of that agent of Dak Prescott's."

Jones is talked out of the scheme and into "Plan B," which is merely receiving an 8x10 signed photograph of Leonardo DiCaprio.

* Former Carolina and Dallas defensive end Greg Hardy is victimized by an elaborate prank organized by Sasha Baron Cohen. In the scheme, Cohen, posing as a UFC matchmaker named "Joo Shih Tzu," convinces Hardy to participate in the organization's first inter-gender contest, to take place at UFC 253 in Las Vegas against a female opponent to be named later. Hardy readily accepts before Cohen reveals the ruse, sending Hardy into a frenzy.

* Drew Brees finally "takes a knee," albeit just to the groin, when he appears as a guest on MTV's "Johnny Knoxville's Jackass NFL Punt, Pass, and Kick in the Balls Special." The show airs as part of the network's "Football is Back" programming on September 9th, sandwiched between 12 hours of "Ridiculousness."

* In the Packers home opener against the Lions on September 20, Aaron Rodgers connects with DaVante Adams on a 15-yard TD pass late in the first quarter. Adams then celebrates with a Lambeau Leap into the empty stands and bangs his head on an empty seat. Adams enters the NFL's concussion protocol, while the Packers secure a federal loan to outfit the end zone seats with NASCAR's "SAFER Barrier."

* Gardner Minshew II lights up the Bengals in Week 4 for 450 yards passing and 5 TD passes in a 42-17 Jags rout. Minshew is named AFC Offensive Player of the Week, and honor topped just a day later when Minshew is tapped for the role of Bo Darville in Smokey and the Bandit 4.

* Washington stuns the Cowboys, 24-23, on Thanksgiving, led by 3 TD scores, 2 on the ground, from Dwayne Haskins. Haskins celebrates back in D.C. on Friday night, a little too hard, and is cited for urinating in public, leading to the embarrassing headline "Dwayne Vein Drain" in The Washington Post.

NFC Division Winners

NFC East: Philadelphia
NFC North: Minnesota
NFC South: New Orleans
NFC West: San Francisco

Wild Cards

Dallas
Tampa Bay
L.A. Rams

NFC Championship

New Orleans over Tampa Bay

AFC Division Winners

AFC East: Buffalo
AFC North: Baltimore
AFC South: Indianapolis
AFC West: Kansas City

Wild Cards

Pittsburgh
Tennessee
Cleveland

AFC Championship

Kansas City over Pittsburgh

Super Bowl LV

Kansas City over New Orleans

Super Bowl LV Halftime Performers

Kanye West, Kacey Musgraves, and Tool

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