One of the most anticipated times in the annual sports calendar is finally upon us. No, not more Olympics ping pong. Though that was pretty cool.
The 2021 NFL season will be here sooner than later. There are a lot of things you need to know in order to prepare for what’s coming next.
As we look forward to the upcoming year, let’s take note of 10 key points that every football fan should be aware of as they get ready for kickoff!
1. Each team will play 17 games this season.
You probably knew this already. The NFL has been branding this season as “the biggest ever”. You’ll see that slogan at least 789 times while watching any given game. Is bigger always better? In cheesesteaks and gambling payouts, yes. I can’t comment on anything else related to size.
Each team will play 17 games, which certainly adds a new element to this season. Some excellent matchups came out of this expansion, such as the following:
- Oct. 17: Seattle @ Pittsburgh
- Nov. 7: Green Bay @ Kansas City
- Nov. 14: New Orleans @ Tennessee
- Nov. 28: Tampa Bay @ Indianapolis
- Jan. 2: LA Rams @ Baltimore
We won’t talk about the Falcons-Jaguars or Panthers-Texans, but those games should have some fantasy football (and betting) implications.
2. A crazy offseason resulted in several players switching teams.
A change in scenery can solve a lot of problems.
Bills WR Stefon Diggs can attest to that, as he ended up leading the league in receptions (127) and yards (1,535) after getting traded from Minnesota to Buffalo in 2020.
Which veteran will see the biggest boost in his new home this season? Luckily, we have an entire article dedicated to that topic.
Matthew Stafford has plenty of talent (and expectations) surrounding his new team, the Los Angeles Rams. His Week 1 debut comes in the form of Sunday Night Football against the Bears. That will surely be entertaining. If you’re a big Andy Dalton fan, like, say, you’re his mother or his wife, watch that game. It may be your first and last chance to see him start.
3. Plenty of players will have new numbers this year.
The NFL decided to relax its restrictions on certain positions being limited to certain numbers. That means that a bunch of grown men and millionaires will be able to fight over jersey numbers that match what they wore back in whenever. Or their lucky number. Or their mom’s birthday divided by Pi. The end result means we are going to see a lot more players with single-digit numbers.
Here’s a list of some players (but not all) who will have a new number this season:
- Jalen Ramsey – CB – Rams: was #20 — now #5
- D.J. Moore – WR – Panthers: was #12 — now #2
- Leonard Fournette – RB – Bucs: was #28 — now #7
- Sterling Shepard – WR – Giants: was #87 — now #3
- Marquise Brown – WR – Ravens: was #15 — now #5
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. A full running list of number changes can be viewed here.
If you memorized players’ numbers. Start over.
4. Seven teams have new head coaches.
The amount of coaching and coordinator changes in the NFL is pretty absurd. If your team was under .500 last year, there’s a good chance you got fired.
Luckily, we have a full write-up on the topic: 14 Coaching Changes With Fantasy Football and Betting Consequences.
The most notable highlights from that article include these new coaches:
- Urban Meyer – HC – Jacksonville Jaguars
- Brandon Staley – HC – LA Chargers
- Nick Sirianni – HC – Philadelphia Eagles
- Robert Salah – HC – NY Jets
- Arthur Smith – HC – Atlanta Falcons
- Dan Campbell – HC – Detroit Lions
That article also covers Dan Campbell’s unique Starbucks order as well as Arthur Smith’s claim to a multinational shipping company. Fun stuff!
5. Rookies will contribute immediately.
College players come into the league with so much talent that they expect to produce from the get-go. This year is no different, as a fantastic crop of rookies will look to have a huge impact starting with the first game. When these high-profile players are drafted onto poor teams, they obviously tend to be pushed out there faster. These players include:
- Trevor Lawrence – QB – Jacksonville Jaguars
- Najee Harris – RB – Pittsburgh Steelers
- Ja’Marr Chase – WR – Cincinnati Bengals
- Kyle Pitts – TE – Atlanta Falcons
Other players like Mac Jones, Trey Lance, and Justin Fields will look to work their way into regular snaps at some point in the season.
For a full list of rookies to watch, take a glance at our article: The 10 Best Offensive Rookies to Make an Impact.
6. The NFL is leaning into sports betting.
The NFL has always had an uneasy relationship with gambling.
Despite that, they seem to be embracing legal wagering as more states adopt legitimate sports betting infrastructure. To that point, the NFL has announced betting relationships with Caesars Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, and FanDuel Sportsbook.
That’s good news if you are a sports betting enthusiast, as these platforms (and others in the space) will have more wagering options and promotions in the future.
Also, if you are into wagering on sporting events, then take a look at our featured article: 10 Profitable and Healthy Tips for Betting on the NFL.
7. Teams will forfeit games in the event of a COVID outbreak.
This is different from last year’s policy, which was much more relaxed at rescheduling games.
This obviously has serious implications for division standings, win totals, fantasy football, and the entire landscape of the NFL as we know it.
Some teams have better vaccination rates than others, meaning that most of their players will have less strict contact-tracing protocols if that becomes an issue.
Having players miss time was already an issue in the first week of training camp, where the Vikings didn’t have a quarterback due to contact tracing. This will surely be an issue throughout the 17-game season. A smart bettor will be paying attention to the Covid suspensions lists on each team. Also, if you happen to have the inside scoop — which team has players violating Covid protocols to visit gentlemen’s clubs.
By the way, did you know this is the NFL’s biggest season ever?
8. NFL referees will crackdown on taunting.
The NFL will crackdown on taunting this season. The league has a zero-tolerance policy for players who taunt the opposing team, as well as their own teammates and fans. Officials are going to be more vigilant in flagging these types of penalties than they have been previously, so you can expect there to be an uptick at first.
Most people joke that the NFL stands for “no fun league”. This won’t silence those people. Let’s be honest, that person is probably your crazy uncle. It’s everyone’s crazy uncle.
If you don’t believe this, then consider the following tweet:
Try to picture the grade school playground at the strictest school possible. That’ll give you some idea of how the NFL will be supervising its players.
9. The NFL will allow liquor commercials.
The NFL will allow liquor commercials for the first time in 2021, a move that is sure to make some people happy and others unhappy. Others will be surprised to know that the NFL had a strict ban on hard alcohol advertising and carry on with their day.
The league announced it was joining forces with one of America’s top alcohol producers, Diageo PLC, to sell liquor-branded merchandise during telecasts.
You might know Diageo PLC from literally everything in your liquor cabinet. They are like the Proctor & Gamble of hard alcohol. Seriously, these guys own pretty much every well-known liquor: Crown Royal, Johnny Walker, Ciroc, Smirnoff, Bailey’s, Tanquery, etc.
10. The Pro Bowl is back!
The Pro Bowl is back, which is cool if you are into that sort of thing.
The Super Bowl, which will be played at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, is scheduled for February 13, 2022. That’s the latest we’ve ever seen the big game. Do you know why?
BECAUSE WITH EVERY TEAM PLAYING 17 GAMES, THIS IS THE NFL’S BIGGEST SEASON EVER!
I kid. But it’s time to get excited. Christmas comes in September.