Tom Brady downplayed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' season-opening defeat after the legendary quarterback struggled on debut.

Brady stepped out in a Buccaneers uniform for the first time after winning six Super Bowl championships with the New England Patriots, but he threw two interceptions in Tampa Bay's 34-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

The 43-year-old superstar had a pick-six against the Saints, finishing 23 of 36 for 239 yards and two touchdowns, while he was sacked three times.

"I've lost plenty of games in my career," Brady said. "I know I don't like it. But it happens. We just gotta do a better job."

Brady started well on debut for the Buccaneers, scoring a two-yard touchdown.

He led a nine-play, 85-yard drive, completing his two passes for 37 yards before running the ball into the endzone for the first points of the game.

But he turned the ball over twice, with the second turnover resulting in a touchdown for the Saints' Janoris Jenkins.

Brady, who threw TD passes to O.J. Howard and Mike Evans in Tampa Bay's first game after the preseason schedule was scrapped amid the coronavirus pandemic, added: "It felt like a scrimmage out there.

"But obviously it counts. And I think we're all disappointed it didn't go our way ... We gotta look at each other in the eye. Work harder, put more urgency on the things we have to do. Get back to work and do a better job."

"We didn't do anything that great on offense today," Brady continued. "We made a few plays but, in the end, we're all going to wish we had a lot of plays back. Certainly I do."

Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians defended Brady's performance, telling reporters: "He came out lighting it up. We go right down the field and score a touchdown, so I wouldn't say he was out of sync at all until we started screwing it up.

"We had some good drives and we had some poor drives, but the turnovers and the penalties were the key."

Cam Newton said he is embracing life with the New England Patriots after the former NFL MVP impressed on debut against the Miami Dolphins.

Newton had two rushing touchdowns as the Patriots ushered in the post-Tom Brady era with a 21-11 win over the Dolphins in their season opener on Sunday.

A three-time Pro Bowler, Newton joined the Patriots on a one-year deal following his Carolina Panthers exit to replace legendary quarterback Brady in New England.

Reflecting on his first appearance for the Patriots, which consisted of 75 rushing yards on 15 carries, Newton told reporters: "It was different. It was great for the team to find a way – well, things showed up that we would not have expected, as we knew and things showed up that we did kind of expect.

"So one of the coaching points for the game was to be accessible to in-game adjustments and that's what it pretty much came down to. Getting a win like that, that's not necessarily pretty at times. That's good for the overall team character and I think we've just got to keep building from this."

Newton, who finished 15-of-19 for 155 yards and no interceptions, added: "This is the new normal and I think it's time for everybody, including myself, to realise this is what it's like.

"I think it came full circle today and – for me to just kind of realise that I'm a New England Patriot and I'm just going to embrace this whole moment."

"I'm just so blessed to have this opportunity, man, to, number one, be affiliated with an organisation," he continued. "Knowing that in itself is a blessing. To get a win, that's another added plus.

"But, yet through it all, this has been a strenuous, long process for me, and yet through it all, it's just been gratifying, and I just had such a sense of gratitude to the New England Patriots and to this team, just to give all that I could possibly give and hell or high water, finish today at this particular time with us having, going home with a win."

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick added: "Well Cam's been great for us… he's a very, very unselfish player. He's a great team-mate. He's earned everybody's respect, really, daily. He just continues to do everything that he can to help our team and that's really all you can ask from anyone and he continually does that, puts himself last and puts the team first.

"I think he's done a tremendous job there and I thought he played well today. He hit a lot of passes. He ran the ball well. He led the team. He made some good checks and adjustments, so I thought that he did a good job. There's room for improvement from all of us, so I'm not saying it was the best executed game in the history of football, but we did some good things today in all three phases of the game.

"We're proud of that and we'll go back and work on the things that we need to do to get better, but I thought he did a good job for us."

Cam Newton helped the New England Patriots get off to a winning start and the Chicago Bears staged a remarkable late comeback against Detroit Lions in the NFL on Sunday.

The Pats were comfortable 21-11 winners against the Miami Dolphins in their first game since Tom Brady's departure, with Newton contributing two rushing touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the Bears hit back at Detroit, who had linebacker Jamie Collins ejected for making contact with an official with his helmet in a bizarre incident.


PATS UP AND RUNNING POST-BRADY

The Pats kicked off a new Brady-less era at Gillette Stadium with a routine opening-day victory thanks in no small part to the performance of Newton.

The 2015 MVP scored the 59th and 60th rushing TDs of his career, going 75 yards on 15 carries while also throwing 15 of 19 for 155 yards.

Sony Michel also rushed home from a yard out in the fourth quarter after Jordan Howard had given the Dolphins some temporary hope.


TRUBISKY DRAGS CHICAGO BACK FROM THE DEAD

Chicago scored 21 unanswered points on three touchdown passes from Mitch Trubisky to claim an improbable 27-23 win at Detroit.

The hosts carried a three-score lead into the final quarter yet somehow failed to see out victory

Trubisky picked out wide receiver Anthony Miller for a diving 27-yard touchdown catch with a little under two minutes remaining complete the fightback.

Detroit lost Collins in the second quarter, the linebacker ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct after lowering his head and made contact with an official as he appeared to signal another incident.


RODGERS DISMANTLES MINNESOTA

Aaron Rodgers looked back to his old self, helping himself to a couple of touchdown passes in the second quarter of the Green Bay Packers' 43-34 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

He did not look back from that point on, finishing with four touchdown passes, Davante Adams profiting from two of those, while Marquez Valdes-Scantling also got in on the act.

There was also a scintillating quarterback display from Russell Wilson in the Seattle Seahawks' 38-25 victory against Atlanta Falcons.

Wilson threw for 322 yards and four TDs for the Seahawks, who saw Greg Olsen and Carlos Hyde register debut scores.


JACKSON RESUMES MVP FORM
 
Lamar Jackson was nine-of-10 for 180 yards on throws of 10 yards or more downfield, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to Willie Snead, as the Baltimore Ravens beat Cleveland Browns 36-6. 

He completed 20 of 25 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns in total in a formidable performance, helping the Ravens win a season opener by more than 30 points for a third straight season.

It was a tighter contest in the clash between the Carolina Panthers and the Las Vegas Raiders, meanwhile, with the latter clinching a slender 34-30 road win.

Josh Jacobs rushed for three touchdowns, one of those a six-yard scoring run with 4:08 left, to inspire the Raiders to victory in their debut as Las Vegas' NFL team


JACKSONVILLE SHOCK COLTS

The Jaguars got off to a 1-0 start by overcoming divisional rivals Indianapolis Colts 27-20 at EverBank Field.

The Colts, in their first game with veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, were second best against a Jaguars side containing a number of rookies.

Andrew Wingard intercepted with less than five minutes of a tight contest remaining to set up Josh Lambo's second field goal in a surprise result.

Elsewhere, the Washington Football Team - inspired by Peyton Barber - rallied to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 27-17 from a 17-0 deficit.

Barber ran for two touchdowns in Ron Rivera's debut game, profiting from some poor defensive play from their opponents.


Week 1 scores:

Atlanta Falcons 25-38 Seattle Seahawks
Baltimore Ravens 38-6 Cleveland Browns
Buffalo Bills 27-17 New York Jets
Carolina Panthers 30-34 Las Vegas Raiders
Detroit Lions 23-27 Chicago Bears
Jacksonville Jaguars 27-20 Indianapolis Colts
Minnesota Vikings 34-43 Green Bay Packers
New England Patriots 21-11 Miami Dolphins
Washington Football Team 27-17 Philadelphia Eagles

Tom Brady did not take long to have an impact on his Tampa Bay Buccaneers debut.

The three-time MVP made his Bucs bow against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday after leaving the New England Patriots, where he won six Super Bowls.

And the 43-year-old was quickly in the thick of the action in Week 1, scoring a rushing touchdown on his first drive.

Brady led a nine-play, 85-yard drive, completing his two passes for 37 yards before running the ball into the endzone for the first points of the game.

Cam Newton, Brady's replacement in New England, had earlier scored two rushing TDs in an opening Pats win.

The NFL has announced there were no positive test results for coronavirus ahead of the first Sunday schedule of the season.

A total of 3,600 players and team personnel, along with a further 1,400 gameday assistants, were all cleared to play, as reported by ESPN.

Information of the clean bill of testing was posted on the NFL's official website and credited to "sources", although exact numbers were not included.

The tests were conducted on Saturday and Sunday's 12 games will all be allowed to go ahead as planned, pending the health checks at stadiums.

On Tuesday, the NFL and NFLPA confirmed there were seven positive results for COVID-19 from a total of 44,510 tests administered to 8,349 players and team personnel between August 30 and September 5.

The Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs kicked off the 2020 season on Friday, with the Super Bowl winners triumphing 34-20.

NFL action is back after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Houston Texans to kick off the defence of their Super Bowl title.

A further 15 games across Sunday and Monday will see the league's other 30 teams begin their 2020 slate, with some having greater prospects than others.

The Chiefs and Texans were two of the teams who made the postseason in 2019, but there were 20 that did not, including some historic franchises.

With an increased 14 spots up for grabs – up from 12 last season – many of those non-playoff teams will be eyeing a return to the big time and here we have reviewed six of the best candidates to make the jump.

AFC

Indianapolis Colts

Eight-time Pro Bowl selection Philip Rivers provides the Colts with an upgrade over Jacoby Brissett at quarterback and he will now play behind one of the league's best offensive lines, a situation he never had with the Chargers. 

A difficult offseason for the Texans, last year's AFC South winners, is another boost to the hopes of the Colts, who also made a splash on the defensive side of the ball by bringing in DeForest Buckner from the San Francisco 49ers after his appearance in the Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers went 8-8 last season even without two-time Super Bowl winner Ben Roethlisberger, who missed most of the campaign after shoulder surgery.

Despite a relatively quiet offseason, the Steelers can contend with Roethlisberger back and a defense that finished fifth in yards allowed (third against the pass) and sixth in points allowed, with T. J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick two of their star performers.

Against the odds…

Cleveland Browns

Yes, it's the Browns, and yes, last season they emphatically failed to deliver on preseason expectations and ended up changing their general manager and head coach having gone 6-10.

But despite those woes and an incredibly competitive division that contains the Baltimore Ravens and the Steelers, analysts may have gone too far the other way in dismissing the Browns as a 2020 threat. 

If Baker Mayfield can recover from a poor year and shine like he did as a rookie behind a revamped offensive line, an offense including Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt will thrive, while pass-rusher Myles Garrett -  who has 30.5 sacks in 37 career games - is back from suspension to lead a defense that was a top-10 unit against the pass last season.


NFC

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After winning six Super Bowls and nine AFC Championships in 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, Tom Brady has a new home at the age of 43, instantly making the Bucs a likely playoff team.

Brady has also brought tight end Rob Gronkowski along with him, those two adding to an already explosive Bruce Arians offense that includes pass-catchers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O. J. Howard and Cameron Brate.

With the offense set to shine and the Bucs looking to become the first team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl on home soil, the defense will need to play its part – but there is optimism there too with league sack leader Shaquil Barrett returning on the franchise tag and a promising young secondary in place.

Dallas Cowboys

Fresh from throwing just shy of 5,000 yards and adding 30 touchdowns last season, Dak Prescott would not have believed his luck when top wideout Amari Cooper signed a new long-term deal and Oklahoma prospect CeeDee Lamb dropped to the Cowboys in the draft.

Michael Gallup is also part of an impressive receiving corps being overseen by highly rated offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. A strong all-round roster and a weak NFC East should help new head coach Mike McCarthy as he looks to make the kind of postseason impact that eluded predecessor Jason Garrett.

Against the odds…

Arizona Cardinals

Adding DeAndre Hopkins, one of the NFL's best wide receivers, from the Texans in a one-sided trade was perhaps the deal of the offseason for an optimistic Cardinals team who should improve on their five wins in 2019 and could even be a surprise playoff team.

Hopkins joins franchise icon Larry Fitzgerald as a receiving option for QB Kyler Murray, of whom big things are expected after a largely positive rookie season from the former number one overall pick (3,722 passing yards and 544 rushing).

If they are to contend, big strides are also needed on the other side of the ball, but fans will be excited to see versatile top draft pick Isaiah Simmons paired with All-Pro pass-rusher Chandler Jones.

The new NFL playoff format will see seven teams from each conference reach the postseason, and that presents the division widely regarded as the league's best with an opportunity for history.

A realignment of divisions following the addition of the Houston Texans to the league in 2002 had made it impossible for four teams from the same division to reach the playoffs.

That is no longer the case in the wake of playoff expansion, though, providing the NFC West with the chance to do what the five-team AFC East last did back in 1998.

With division champions the San Francisco 49ers still considered the class of the NFC by many and the Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals all likely to be competitive, there is a clear possibility all four could be playing postseason football come January.

How likely is that? Here we look at each team to assess the chances of the NFC West having three wild card teams to go with its division winner.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are attempting to avenge their Super Bowl LIV agony. Kyle Shanahan's team were minutes away from lifting the Lombardi Trophy before Patrick Mahomes propelled the Kansas City Chiefs to glory.

It is typically usual for great defensive teams as the 49ers were in 2019 to experience some kind of regression and San Francisco traded All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts in the offseason.

However, the Niners still have a ferocious pass rush and a dynamic offense overseen by arguably the league's premier play-caller in Shanahan. The addition of seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams as a replacement for the retired Joe Staley could see a devastating running game get even better while tight end George Kittle is the most versatile offensive weapon in the game.

The question surrounds quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo – maligned by some after the Super Bowl loss – and whether he can take the step forward to keep the Niners atop the conference. With Shanahan calling the plays, the smart money is on Garoppolo and the 49ers silencing the doubters.

Seattle Seahawks

On offense, the Seahawks are the inverse of the 49ers. There are no doubts about their quarterback but there are plenty around the coaching staff's ability to maximize his MVP skill set.

Despite Seattle's bizarre focus on running the ball rather than putting the game in the hands of Russell Wilson, they have missed the playoffs only twice in Pete Carroll's 10 seasons as head coach and the Seahawks were inches away from beating the 49ers in Week 17 and winning the division last year.

There are concerns about the pass rush after Jadeveon Clowney was not re-signed but an underrated secondary was significantly bolstered by the acquisition of All-Pro safety Jamal Adams in a blockbuster trade.

The hope will be that Adams can slow down Kittle and the 49ers. That may be wishful thinking but, as long as Wilson is around to perform his trademark late-game heroics, there appears little chance of Seattle missing out on an expanded postseason.

Los Angeles Rams

Had playoff expansion happened before last season, the Rams would have made the postseason in 2019, a fact that serves as evidence their 'Super Bowl hangover' was not as bad as perceived.

Head coach Sean McVay was overshadowed by Shanahan last year but he remains among the league's best in terms of play-calling acumen. He should continue to put Jared Goff in favourable positions in 2020 but the success of the Rams' quest to get back to the playoffs hinges on two things: their offensive line and their defensive coordinator.

Injuries and a decline in performance from the O-Line was a significant factor in a disappointing 2019 for Los Angeles. They chose to bring back veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth and the hope is that better continuity up front will fuel a committee group of runners to production the departed Todd Gurley was unable to deliver last year.

Brandon Staley is a relative unknown that has the huge responsibility of replacing legendary defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. To his advantage is that he gets to coach perennial Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and the new highest-paid cornerback in football Jalen Ramsey.

If he delivers a resurgence on that side of the ball, expect the Rams to again be a force in the NFC.

Arizona Cardinals

After an Offensive Rookie of the Year season from 2019 first overall pick Kyler Murray, the Cardinals have been the darlings of the offseason.

The stunning trade for All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins won them more admirers who anticipate an exciting offense helping Arizona challenge in the division.

While the NFL is an offense-first league, there is not enough on defense in Arizona to provide the support needed for the Cardinals to contend for the division title.

Pass rusher Chandler Jones is frequently in the Defensive Player of the Year mix and Budda Baker is a versatile playmaker at safety, but a lack of talent elsewhere on defense should stymie their hopes of an NFC West crown.

The offense could be productive enough to keep them in the mix for a wild card berth, however, in a loaded conference, Arizona's shortcomings when Murray is not on the field may just be what stops the entire NFC West from going to the playoffs in 2020.

NFL Sundays are back with a bang this weekend as Tom Brady and Drew Brees duel in New Orleans.

The two future Hall of Famers are set to face each other twice this year following ex-New England Patriots quarterback Brady's decision to join the Saints' NFC South rivals the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason.

Six-time Super Bowl winner Brady - the league's most decorated quarterback - will be aiming to bring the success he enjoyed in New England to a Bucs team deprived of postseason action in recent years.

Here, using Stats Perform data, we take a look at some of the most intriguing Week 1 matchups.

 

FEATURE GAME

Bucs at Saints - Sunday, 4.25pm (all times Eastern)

- Tampa Bay have gone 12 straight seasons without making the playoffs, the second-longest drought in the NFL (Cleveland Browns, 17 straight). The Buccaneers have not won a playoff game since defeating the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2003.

- Brady has joined the Buccaneers after 20 seasons and 285 career games played with the Patriots – the most games with a franchise all-time by a player who subsequently played for another team. Brady has an all-time best .774 career win percentage as a starting QB (minimum 100 starts); the Bucs' .387 all-time win percentage is the worst among current franchises.

- The Saints have won the NFC South three straight years, posting a 13-3 record in each of the last two. They are the fourth NFC team since the merger to have back-to-back seasons of 13-plus wins, joining the 1985-86 Chicago Bears, 1989-90 San Francisco 49ers and 1996-97 Green Bay Packers; no NFL team has ever had three straight 13-win seasons.

OTHER KEY GAMES

Browns at Ravens - Sunday, 1pm

- Since the franchise returned in 1999, the Browns are 1-19-1 in season openers, with the lone win in 2004 versus Baltimore (20-3). Every other team has won at least seven season openers in that span. 

Seahawks at Falcons - Sunday, 1pm

- Ten of the Seattle Seahawks' 11 wins last year – and two of their five losses – came by eight points or fewer. They joined the 1978 Houston Oilers as the only teams in NFL history to win 10 one-score games in a season (defined as seven points when there was no two-point conversion rule, and eight points when there was).

Chargers at Bengals - Sunday, 4.05pm

- Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow will be trying to become the first Heisman-winning QB drafted first overall to win his first start in the NFL since Jim Plunkett in 1971.

Cardinals at 49ers - Sunday, 4.25pm

- In their three-game postseason run in the 2019 campaign, the 49ers outrushed their opponents 612 yards to 212 yards, the best playoff differential for any team since Washington in 1982 and the best all-time by a non-champion.

Cowboys at Rams - 8.20pm

- The 2019 Los Angeles Rams finished third in the NFC West with a 9-7 record. Los Angeles were 7-0 when allowing fewer than 17 points last season, but just 2-7 when allowing 17 or more.

ELSEWHERE...

Dolphins at Patriots - 1pm

- When Cam Newton starts for the Patriots on Sunday, it will snap a streak of 471 consecutive games – regular season and playoffs – in which the Pats have started a QB that they drafted. This is the longest such streak in NFL history.

Bears at Lions - 1pm

- Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is set to make his 150th career start on Sunday. His 41,025 career passing yards are already the most by any QB through 150 career starts, with only Aaron Rodgers (40,715) also reaching the 40,000 mark.

J.J. Watt could not "fully understand" the boos heard during a pre-game moment of unity in protest against racism and social injustice ahead of the NFL's season opener.

Players from Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans linked arms prior to Thursday's contest, which the Chiefs won 34-20 at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs are among the teams letting supporters into their arena during the coronavirus pandemic and, despite fewer than a quarter of the seats being filled, boos could be heard from pockets of the stands.

"The moment of unity I personally thought was good," Texans defensive end Watt told NFL Media. 

"I mean the booing during that moment was unfortunate. I don't fully understand that. There was no flag involved. There was nothing involved other than two teams coming together to show unity."

The NFL has opted to alter its stance on protests this season, with end zones to bear the words "End Racism" and "It Takes All of Us", while players can display the names of victims of social injustice on their safety helmets.

Houston players stayed in the locker room during the national anthem, while the Chiefs' Alex Okafor took a knee.

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said: "[We wanted to] let everyone know that we had their back.

"You can go ahead and whatever you feel is the right decision in your heart, you have your brother's back and you have your brother's support on this team. 

"And we made sure that everybody was comfortable in that area and they weren't gonna get backlash from anybody on this team for doing that.

"And I thought it was a great show of unity amongst both of us, the Chiefs and the Texans.''

Texans coach Bill O'Brien stated he did not hear any booing and pondered whether the jeers may have actually been for his team as the opposing side.

"I thought that that was a nice thing to do, so I'm not sure why they would boo that," O'Brien said. 

"Maybe they were just booing us because we had just come on the field as the visiting team. But yeah, I thought that that was a nice gesture."

Chiefs coach Andy Reid also said he did not hear the boos and added: "I thought that was kind of a neat deal, both sides coming together for a cause and the story was told there. 

"We can all learn from this, and really it's just to make us all better, even a stronger country than we already are. We have a chance to just be completely unstoppable when all hands join together and that's a beautiful thing."

Liverpool ended their 30-year wait for a top-flight title last season by comfortably finishing top of the Premier League.

After coming agonisingly close numerous times in the three decades since their most recent success, the Reds finished at the summit with an incredible 99 points.

The Merseyside club had hardly been starved of major trophies in that time, having won a couple of European Cups, three FA Cups and various other honours.

But for plenty of Liverpool supporters - many of whom would never have witnessed their side winning the title - last season's coronation was seen as a hoodoo being lifted.

Jurgen Klopp is now tasked with making it back-to-back triumphs, though, as history shows, it is not always so easy to push on from such a success.

Here, we look at some previous examples of what happened next after other sports teams ended their long-running title droughts.


Chicago Cubs (MLB) - 108-year wait

The Cubs ended MLB's longest-such drought by winning the World Series in 2016 with an 8-7 Game 7 victory over the Cleveland Indians in 10 innings.

The following season did not turn out to be quite so memorable as, after winning the division title, they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the League Championship Series.


Chicago White Sox (MLB) - 88-year wait

Not quite as long a wait as their city rivals, but a painful one all the same. The White Sox swept the Houston Astros in four games for their third World Series championship in 2005.

They finished third in the American League Central a year later with a record of 90-72 and are still on the hunt for their fourth crown.


Boston Red Sox (MLB) - 86-year wait

After years of falling just short, the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and vanquished the 'Curse of the Bambino' in the process.

Disappointment followed in 2005 as they finished second in the American League East before being swept by the White Sox in the American League Division Series.


Kansas City Chiefs (NFL) - 50-year wait

A more recent example of a team ending years of hurt, the Chiefs - led by the incredible Patrick Mahomes - recovered from 10 points behind to beat the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 in Super Bowl LIV earlier this year.

Seven months on from that famous win, they will enter the much-anticipated season as the favourites of many to match their recent success, much like Liverpool.


Chicago Blackhawks (NHL) - 49-year wait

Patrick Kane was the hero for the Blackhawks, scoring four minutes and six seconds into overtime of their decisive Game 6 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals.

The Blackhawks lost several players due to salary cap restrictions and succumbed to the Vancouver Canucks in seven games in the first round of the following season's play-offs.

 
Golden State Warriors (NBA) - 40-year wait

A first NBA title in four decades for the Warriors was secured thanks to a 4-2 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015 Finals, Steve Kerr's team winning the last three games of the series.

Among other records, they set the best-ever regular season return of 73-9 the next campaign but went on to lose to the Cavs 4-3 in the Finals as their opponents gained revenge.


Indianapolis Colts (NFL) - 36-year wait

The Colts got their hands on the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the 2006 season with a 29-17 Super Bowl XLI victory over the Chicago Bears after ending the regular campaign with a record of 12-4.

Despite improving on their regular season record the folllowing year en route to winning a fifth straight AFC South divisional title, they lost to the San Diego Chargers in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Patrick Mahomes made history after throwing three touchdown passes as Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Houston Texans 34-20 in the NFL opener.

Chiefs quarterback Mahomes became the first player in NFL history to throw three touchdown passes with no interceptions in a third consecutive season opener on Thursday.

Mahomes, who signed a record 10-year, $503million contract extension in the offseason, was 24 of 32 for 211 yards and one sack as the Chiefs opened their title defence in winning fashion.

Before the 2020 NFL season got underway, the Texans remained in the locker room for the national anthem, while the Chiefs all stood on the sideline in Kansas City.

There was also a first for professional sports in the United States, with fans in attendance amid the coronavirus pandemic – the Chiefs allowing a crowd of 22 per cent capacity to enter Arrowhead Stadium, where the Super Bowl banner was unveiled.

The Texans struck first on the road, David Johnson's touchdown giving Houston an early 7-0 lead before the Chiefs took control.

Mahomes led the way, throwing a touchdown to star team-mate Travis Kelce and another to Sammy Watkins as the Chiefs scored 17 unanswered points in the second quarter.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire – Kansas City's first-round pick – scored following a 27-yard run to put the Chiefs ahead 24-7 early in the third quarter.

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson tried to inspire a comeback as Houston snapped a run of 31 consecutive points conceded following Mahomes' short pass to Tyreek Hill but there was no denying the Chiefs, who secured a 10th consecutive win – counting the playoffs and Super Bowl LIV.

Watson finished 20 of 32 for 253 yards, one touchdown, one interception and four sacks.

New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton said he is excited to make his bow for the iconic NFL franchise, playing down any nerves ahead of the showdown against the Miami Dolphins.

Newton will debut for the Patriots on Sunday after signing a one-year deal following his Carolina Panthers release in March.

Former NFL MVP Newton is filling the void left by Tom Brady in New England after the legendary quarterback's move to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Newton has been hindered by injuries in recent years, with the 31-year-old limited to just two games in 2019 following a Lisfranc fracture.

"Excitement level is on 1,000," Newton, entering his 10th NFL season, said on Thursday. "I'm excited, happy. Just to get back into the rhythm of game week -- the preparation, the little nuggets that you can often forget.

"You have to remember, I've been away from football, really, for a full year. I haven't really had this whole process for a long time now, so being around, taking notes, watching film, finding out about different players each and every day, locking in.

"[I'm] excited about the game plan and more excited about just trying to get in a routine with the newness of the playcalling, the coaches and even the players."

Asked if he still experiences nerves before season openers, Newton joked: "I don't get butterflies. I give 'em."

"I've been playing in a lot of games in my life, a lot of opening days, to a lot of impactful, meaningful games, and at this particular point in my career I know how to control myself," he said.

Newton added: "Right now, I'm in a happy place, I feel motivated, I feel a lot of great emotions that are going on and not hindering me from becoming my best self.

"Yet through it all, I like it most that I'm just a piece to a puzzle. I don't want to be the puzzle. I try my best daily to prove my worth to this team and understand there are a lot of guys here who are depending on each other, and I want to be a person the team and these coaches can trust and depend on.

"Two or three months ago, I was questioning a lot of things. Right now, as I'm looking up at Gillette and the iconic logo for the Patriots like, 'How can I lose?'"

Tom Brady acknowledged he is playing catch-up ahead of his Tampa Bay Buccaneers debut, with the prospect of taking part in a real NFL game suddenly in focus amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Brady sensationally swapped the New England Patriots for the Buccaneers via free agency in the offseason, but the six-time Super Bowl champion and his preparations have been restricted due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Coronavirus forced the cancellation of the entire preseason schedule, meaning legendary quarterback Brady and the Buccaneers will have to hit the ground running against the New Orleans Saints behind closed doors in Sunday's opener.

"We've got one more day of practice before we play a game," Brady told reporters on Thursday. "So I think that hit me today that we've had a lot of these practices leading up to it and you just kind of finish practice and you go and watch the tape, then you go and get ready for the next practice.

"I think the reality hit me today that we are actually getting ready to play a game, and it is no longer just another practice tomorrow. We've got live contact, live football, real results, and it is something I haven't done in nine months. We're going to have to learn quickly and get up to speed as quickly as possible. I think the first quarter of the game is going to be new for everybody.

"Getting our feet wet and understanding the speed of the game is going to be a little faster than what it has been in practice. Hopefully I can recall some of things I have done over a period of time and go out there and try to play a real, solid football game against a great football team."

The Buccaneers, who also boast former Patriots star Rob Gronkowski, have not reached the playoffs since 2007 after finishing last season with a 7-9 record in the NFC South.

Brady, 43, added: "Ultimately the team that is going to win is the one that executes the best. So it doesn't matter if there is two million people in the stands or if there is nobody in the stands.

"The team that is going to win is the team that does their job, does their assignment, makes the plays, plays with good fundamentals, plays together, communicates well. All the things that it takes to be a great football team on a consistent basis.

"Ultimately we just have to be able to focus on what our job is and not who is in the crowd, who's not in the crowd. It is going to be a football game once that balls kicks off and we'll all be locked in and ready to go, and understand that all these games count.

"We've got a tough division opponent right off the bat. I think everyone is really excited, and we'll have to go out there and be at our best on Sunday."

An NFL season rarely pans out as expected and 2020 might be the most unpredictable campaign of them all.

After a shortened offseason, which featured no preseason games, the NFL will begin on time, albeit with fans not present in certain stadiums, and in some cases for the entire year.

Yet the threat of the coronavirus pandemic remains and there is no guarantee that every team even completes a 16-game schedule.

Conventional wisdom may therefore go out of the window and, with that in mind, we make some bold calls about what will happen in the coming NFL campaign.

 

THE STEELERS WILL MAKE THE SUPER BOWL

Twelve teams currently have shorter Super Bowl odds than the Steelers, but this is a team that should be considered among the favourites... provided quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can stay healthy.

In 2018, Big Ben led the league in passing yardage (5,129) and completions (452) and threw the most touchdowns of his career in a single season (34), but only played twice last year before undergoing elbow surgery.

It is fair to wonder how he will fare at 38 but Roethlisberger is durable – he missed only three games in three years prior to last season – and simply does not need to put up the numbers he did in 2018 because of the defense.

In 2019, that unit led the league in sacks (54), takeaways (38) and was top five in both points and yards given up. Roethlisberger's return should aid key offensive weapons JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner, while the offensive line is among the best in the business.

Yes, AFC North rivals the Baltimore Ravens have everyone salivating, but the well-coached Steelers haven't had a below .500 season since 2003.

 

DAK PRESCOTT WILL BE NAMED MVP

Young quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson have received plenty of love over the past 12 months as the darlings of the NFL, but Dak Prescott had better stats in many categories last year. 

Prescott, blessed with a fine offensive line himself, was second in passing yardage (4,902), fourth in touchdown passes (30), had two receivers go over 1,100 yards (Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup) and has now been furnished with a first-round pick in CeeDee Lamb, arguably the best receiver in college football in 2019.

His new head coach Mike McCarthy was in Green Bay when Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers won two MVPs, and he can get even more out of Prescott, who will not struggle for primetime exposure given he plays for 'America's Team'.

THE PANTHERS WILL END UP WITH THE FIRST OVERALL PICK IN 2021

The general consensus is the Jacksonville Jaguars will wind up with the NFL's worst record in 2020 – and the chance to likely draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence – given their aggressive rebuild.

Yet young quarterback Gardner Minshew showed something in 2019. He was 16th in QB rating (91.2), 15th in TD percentage (4.5 per cent) and 20th in passing yardage. Minshew will certainly not be in on 'Tank for Trevor SZN' and those middle-of-the-pack numbers suggest he might just win enough games to ruin the Jags' chances of landing Lawrence.

Instead, the Panthers could finish with that 'consolation prize'. Having lost perennial All-Pro Luke Kuechly to retirement, they are set to field the NFL's youngest starting defense in 10 years, one that lacks depth, which means they could find themselves in shootouts.

That's not good news considering their new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has passed for over 300 yards just six times in his 34 career starts. Head coach Matt Rhule presided over rough first seasons at Temple (2-10) and Baylor (1-11) before turning things around, and it might be a similar story in Carolina.

ADAM GASE WILL BE THE FIRST HEAD COACH FIRED

Less bold than the others, perhaps, as Gase would appear to be on borrowed time with the New York Jets, who lost their two best defensive players for this season when Jamal Adams was traded and C.J. Mosley opted out.

Gase, fired by the Miami Dolphins after the 2018 season, was brought to the Jets to bring the best out of young quarterback Sam Darnold and fix a misfiring offense. That offense finished 31st in points and 32nd in offensive yards.

Darnold still has a paucity of offensive weapons, and the Le'Veon Bell signing hasn't worked thus far, with the running back having the 11th-most carries in 2019 (245), but only averaging 3.2 yards per rush - the worst of his career and only the 46th best in the NFL.

The Jets' early-season stretch looks tricky on paper. They face the Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Chargers, Bills and Kansas City Chiefs in their opening eight games. Gase, who was hired before general manager Joe Douglas arrived, may be gone before the leaves turn brown.

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner has been activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Warner was placed on the list, which is for players who have either tested positive for the virus or have come into contact with a person who has contracted COVID-19, on August 31.

His activation means Warner should be available to play in the 49ers' season opener against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

A third-round pick in 2018, Warner was a crucial part of the 49ers' second-ranked defense last season.

He finished the regular season with 118 tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception returned for a touchdown as the 49ers topped the NFC with a 13-3 record.

San Francisco progressed to Super Bowl LIV, where Warner intercepted Patrick Mahomes in the 49ers' 31-20 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs in February.

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