As an avid fan of the NFL, it doesn’t get any better than football season. This past Sunday, when I turned on my TV, the excitement and pregame jitters couldn’t have been more real for me.
While I watched Scott Hanson, host of NFL RedZone, say the words “seven hours of commercial-free football starts now,” it was like the NFL’s theme music to my football-loving ears.
Back in elementary school, there was no greater punishment my parents could give me than forbidding me from watching football on Sunday.
And with the pandemic threatening to cancel the pro football season all together, COVID-19 almost dealt all of us football fans that punishment. It wouldn’t have been for just a single week either.
A canceled season for a NFL fanatic like me is unthinkable, but by playing games with limited or no fans at all, and taking the proper precautions along with canceling the preseason, pro football finally was able to return.
A lot of the excitement surrounding this year comes from this past off-season, which saw much change around the National Football League.
It was exhilarating to see the results on Sunday of the league-altering off-season, which saw many legends and stars of the game go to different teams, either through free agency signings or head-scratching trades.
It will definitely take some time for me to get used to seeing Tom Brady play under a Buccaneers helmet and Cam Newton in a Patriots jersey, as those are sights I just never thought I’d see.
With these superstar players changing teams, it’s also a sign of a new era of star players coming into the league.
These last few seasons have really served as a transition period of sorts for the league, with new, young players coming in, and almost immediately — as rookies or second year players — becoming superstars. All the while, older star players have begun fading into the background of the game.
The Kansas City Chief’s Patrick Mahomes became the youngest NFL MVP when he won the award in 2018, after a record-breaking season in which he threw for a league-high 50 touchdown passes and was one play away from being in the Super Bowl.
But he was just getting started, and during Super Bowl LIV he led the Kansas City Chiefs in a comeback for the ages and defeated the San Francisco 49ers back in February.
Then to open this season on the NFL’s opening Thursday Night Football game, Mahomes threw for three touchdowns against Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans.
Watson, who is just as dynamic in his own right, threw a touchdown and ran one in after an off-season in which he signed the second biggest contract in history, only behind Mahomes’ mega-deal.
Reigning MVP Lamar Jackson also played extraordinary on Sept. 13, destroying the Browns’ defense in a 30-point blowout win. During his season a year ago, in which he led the league in touchdown passes with 36 and became the youngest MVP ever, he led the Baltimore Ravens into the playoffs.
The young quarterback boom has definitely been great for the league, as it’s been refreshing and downright awesome to see the new superstar quarterbacks take over and play a more exciting style of football.
I know Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have their legions of fans and supporters, but there just isn’t a good argument to be made that in their primes they were anywhere close to being able to do what these guys are capable of doing.
The way the quarterbacks are playing today, it has to make every football fan sit back and think. Why has the game not always been played this way?
A trail blazer and master of this style of play is former MVP quarterback Cam Newton, who debuted — for the first time in his pro career outside of a Carolina Panthers uniform this past Sunday — for the New England Patriots.
Newton didn’t disappoint as he rode his new wave right over the Dolphins and to a victory in which he had two rushing touchdowns to go along with a scuffle with a few disgruntled Miami players after the game.
I couldn’t have been happier as a fan of Newton since his college days at Auburn that he had such a good start to the season after battling injuries during his last two seasons in Carolina, to go along with with poor wide receiver play and a coach who didn’t appreciate him.
The Arizona Cardinals emerged out of the smokey, Northern California haze with their young, dynamic quarterback and reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray, who was making plays all over the field.
Murray and second year head coach Kliff Kingsbury showed off just what their team is capable of by beating the reigning NFC champion 49ers in the most exciting game of the day, which consisted of goal line stands, crucial missed field goals and the game being decided in the final seconds.
The Cardinals featured off-season acquisition DeAndre Hopkins heavily, as he had his career high in catches during the game with fourteen to go along with 151 yards receiving. He also made the game-breaking play in the fourth quarter.
While Murray has been in MVP talks already for this season, many people have said it’s just hype and he and the Cardinals will struggle in their tough division. But after what I saw on Sunday, they look like a gridiron force to be reckoned with.
With the next generation of quarterbacks taking over this past week and dominating with jaw-dropping plays, it has really never been a better time to be a fan of pro football, as we are now in the era of the complete, do-it-all quarterback, and football’s certainly better for it.
However, as spectacular and revealing as this past weekend was in the NFL, it really made me realize if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a sports fan this year, it’s to not take sports being played for granted.
As we’ve seen with other sports here in 2020, they can be taken away in a flash, and be gone as fast as a Mahomes laser beam pass into the end zone, or a lightning strike of a touchdown run by Jackson.