NFL fans won’t have to wait long to see Tom Brady on the national stage.
The six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, who left the Patriots in March after 20 seasons to join the Buccaneers, will face fellow star quarterback Drew Brees of the Saints in a nationally televised Week 1 game on Fox on Sunday, Sept. 13, in New Orleans.
Brady, who will turn 43 in August, signed a two-year, $50 million deal with Tampa Bay after becoming an unrestricted free agent for the first time since being drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round in 2000. He’ll face Brees, 41, who briefly contemplated retirement but decided to return in 2020 for at least one more year. Brees owns the NFL records for the most passing yards (77,416), completions (6,867) and touchdown passes (541), with Brady second in all three categories.
The NFL released its full schedule Thursday night but now must wait to see if conditions related to the coronavirus pandemic will permit the schedule to proceed as planned. The league is working on contingency plans in case there is a delay to the season, but the NFL is planning on playing a regular schedule with fans in the stands.
“The release of the NFL schedule is something our fans eagerly anticipate every year, as they look forward with hope and optimism to the season ahead,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement Thursday night. “In preparing to play the season as scheduled, we will continue to make our decisions based on the latest medical and public health advice, in compliance with government regulations, and with appropriate safety protocols to protect the health of our fans, players, club and league personnel, and our communities.
“We will be prepared to make adjustments as necessary, as we have during this offseason in safely and efficiently conducting key activities such as free agency, the virtual offseason program, and the 2020 NFL draft.”
The Brady-Brees matchup is one of several enticing games this season, as the league’s veteran and younger quarterback standouts square off in a series of prominent duels.
The defending champion Chiefs, led by Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, will host the Texans in the regular-season opener on Thursday night, Sept. 10, in Kansas City. The game, to be televised by NBC, is a rematch of the AFC divisional-round game won by the Chiefs, 51-31, at Arrowhead Stadium. Mahomes led the Chiefs back from a 24-0 first-half deficit with five touchdown passes. In what could be a Super Bowl preview, the Chiefs will visit the Saints in a Week 15 matchup at the Superdome.
Brady again will be in the national spotlight on Oct. 18 when Aaron Rodgers and the Packers visit the Bucs in a Week 6 matchup. Rodgers led the Packers to a 13-3 record and a berth in the NFC Championship Game last season, but that didn’t stop the Packers from drafting his heir apparent, Utah State’s Jordan Love. Brady will face Mahomes in Tampa in Week 12.
One-time Brady understudy Jimmy Garoppolo will face Rodgers in a rematch of last season’s conference title game — won by the 49ers, who advanced to Super Bowl LIV before losing to the Chiefs. The Packers will visit the 49ers in a Thursday Night Football matchup on Nov. 5. Garoppolo and the 49ers will visit the Patriots, who are expected to go with second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham as Brady’s successor, on Oct. 25.
A Rodgers-Brees matchup highlights Week 3 in a Sept. 27 Sunday night game in New Orleans, followed by a Mahomes-Lamar Jackson matchup the next night in Baltimore. Jackson won last year’s MVP award, but the Ravens lost in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs at home to the Titans. A rematch of that game will be held Nov. 22 in Baltimore.
Brees and Garoppolo are set to face each other a second straight year, as the 49ers will visit the Saints in Week 10. Last year, the 49ers won, 48-46.
The Ravens will face the Steelers in what figures to be a key AFC North game on Thanksgiving night at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Earlier in the day, the Lions will host the Texans and the NFC East rivalry between the Redskins and Cowboys will continue at AT&T Stadium.
A Dec. 6 meeting between Cincinnati and the Dolphins in Miami could feature No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow of the Bengals and Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa, who was drafted fifth overall.