This may be the weirdest season in National Football League (NFL) history. There will likely be no fans in stadiums throughout the year except for a few teams. In addition to this, the offseason was shortened and team personnel were not allowed to enter the team buildings until May 19 at a limited capacity. This puts some teams at an advantage and others at a disadvantage.
Teams at an Advantage
One team at an advantage is the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens have one of the most stable organizations in the league. Baltimore is returning most of the same team from last season and have had the same head coach since 2008 in John Harbaugh.
Offensive Coordinator (OC) Greg Roman was hired before last season and led one of the most prolific offenses to the one seed in the AFC. On the defensive side of the ball, Don Martindale returns at Defensive Coordinator (DC). Martindale has been with Baltimore since 2012 and took over the DC role in 2018. In his time in charge, he has led the Ravens to two top 5 defenses.
With all this stability in the Ravens leadership, the uncertainty that COVID brings should not “rock the ship” in M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens have depth and coaching to likely be a Super Bowl contending team once again.
Another team at an advantage is the Seattle Seahawks. They also have a great head coach/quarterback duo in Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson. Carroll has been in charge of Seattle since 2010 and Wilson has been leading the offense since 2012.
The OC for the Seahawks is Brian Schottenheimer. He’s been in charge of the offense since 2018 and has a good relationship with Wilson. Schottenheimer has helped Wilson grow into a top three quarterback in the league. Defensively, the Seattle unit is led by Ken Norton Jr. He has been in the position for the Seahawks since 2018 as well.
Having stability in all these positions is huge in a year such as this one. The Seahawks are already an extremely talented team, and the stability will only help them improve and is a reason why they are a Super Bowl favorite.
Teams at a Disadvantage
A team that is at huge disadvantage this season is the Cleveland Browns. While the Browns have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, they bring in a whole new coaching staff. The head coach is Kevin Stefanski. This is his first time in his career holding the head coach position. At OC is Alex Van Pelt. He was last an OC in 2009 with the Buffalo Bills. Since then Van Pelt has been a quarterbacks coach all over the league. At DC is Joe Woods. He previously coached the San Francisco 49ers secondary and was the Denver Broncos DC.
While these all may be great hires, the limited offseason does not give them much time to feel out the team and make a connection. OTAs were pushed into training camp and pads were prohibited until August 14. This all puts the Browns at a huge disadvantage going into the 2020 NFL season.
One more team that will feel the ill effects from COVID-19 this season is the Arizona Cardinals. While the Cardinals have experience in charge, they are still a young team. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury is going into his second year as an NFL head coach with a second year quarterback. While signs are good, the second year jump is extremely important. Without time to work together in the offseason, they may not have the opportunity to take as big of an improvement in their sophomore season.
In addition, the passing coordinator (yes you read that right) Tom Clements is also in his second season. He now needs to find a way to incorporate Deandre Hopkins as effectively as possible into the offense which will be key to Arizona’s success. At DC is Vance Joseph. He is also going into his second season as a coach for the Cardinals. Last season Arizona finished 28th in total defense, not a great showing for Joseph, but there is time to improve. Unfortunately, this season it will be even harder because of COVID.
Arizona is a team many pick as a dark horse, especially with the playoffs being expanded this season. It will be increasingly difficult for them to get there though just because they do not have as much of a time to improve from last season.
This season is going to be a crazy one and likely will hold many excitements. The Super Bowl champion may be a team that comes out of nowhere, but it most likely will not. Trusting the teams who are constantly good is the best way to predict the playoffs and the Super Bowl matchup. Teams with newer coaches may be overwhelmed which will hurt their chances in a season where a roster can get sick very quick.