After much uncertainty and debate amid the coronavirus pandemic, the new NFL season begins this week with superstar quarterbacks once again the main attraction.

Having not had a preseason, fans will be craving the return of on-field action when the Kansas City Chiefs begin the defence of their Super Bowl title against the Houston Texans on Thursday to open the campaign.

A thrilling free agency and draft process lit up an offseason that also contained multiple high-profile trades.

Movement in the quarterback market was at its most dramatic in recent memory, setting the stage for a 2020 season that will look very different to the last, and not just because of the new COVID-19 protocols.

Here, we look at some of the QBs who are preparing to start defining seasons.
 

TOM BRADY

Brady opted to leave the New England Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after winning six Super Bowls and nine AFC Championships across 20 spectacular seasons.

What proved to be his last year with the Pats was not a vintage one – in 2019 Brady had his lowest yards per attempt (6.6) since the 2002 season, his lowest touchdown total (24) in a 16-game season since 2003 and his worst passer rating (88.0) for six years.

The veteran’s supporters cited problems with his receiving corps, while critics pointed to diminishing physical abilities. 

At the age of 43, he will look to prove he still has what it takes with a new team, who are looking to become the first to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy in their home stadium, a feat that would further enhance Brady’s legacy.

CAM NEWTON

Brady’s replacement in New England also comes into 2020 with a point to prove.

Unhappy after his release by the Carolina Panthers, the former NFL MVP eventually joined the Patriots on a one-year deal that will only earn him around $1million.

Foot and shoulder injuries have limited Newton’s effectiveness over recent years and he has not come close to matching his 2015 totals of 35 passing touchdowns and a further 10 on the ground.

But he now has the chance to return to the top as he joins an organisation with a winning mentality. Solid play is not too far in his past, with the 94.2 passer rating he achieved in 2018 – the last year he saw significant playing time – being his second-highest in a nine-year career.

AARON RODGERS

After the Green Bay Packers made the shock move to draft Jordan Love in round one, a 36-year-old Rodgers will need no motivation to show he still has plenty left in the tank.

Coming into the 2020 season, Rodgers has 8,444 yards, 51 touchdowns and just six interceptions to his name over the last two years – but a second Super Bowl appearance has so far eluded him. 

BAKER MAYFIELD

A desperately disappointing sophomore season for Mayfield resulted in the firings of the Cleveland Browns’ general manager and head coach.

With new coaching staff, a rebuilt offensive line along with a stellar supporting cast including Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the former Oklahoma QB will have fewer excuses if he repeats his 2019 passer rating of 78.8 and a 3.9 per cent interception rate.

JOSH ALLEN

Stefon Diggs has been added to a Buffalo Bills receiving corps that looks like one of the NFL’s best, giving Allen impressive tools to make a further jump in year three.

Despite leading the Bills to the playoffs last season, the QB continues to divide opinion, as he is yet to post a completion percentage above 60.

But his passer rating improved from 67.9 to 85.3 coming into this year and 17 touchdowns as part of 1,141 yards on the ground across his first two seasons highlight his effectiveness as a dual threat. 

PHILIP RIVERS

A strong offensive line may have provided some of the motivation for Rivers’ decision to join the Indianapolis Colts after 16 years with the Chargers.

Despite eight Pro Bowl berths and reaching 4,000 yards passing in 11 of the last 12 seasons, Rivers is waiting for his first run to the Super Bowl, with time of the essence at the age of 38.

LAMAR JACKSON

Jackson’s talent cannot be questioned after a stunning 2019 season saw him claim the MVP award, having thrown for 36 touchdowns to just six interceptions while adding 1,206 yards and seven scores on the ground.

But two years of being one-and-done in the playoffs is a record he is desperate to end and the challenge of even coming close to matching such a spectacular individual year is a daunting task for the third-year pro as he looks to establish himself among the league’s greats.

DAK PRESCOTT

With his contract saga still unresolved after two years and Andy Dalton signed as insurance, all eyes are on Prescott with the Dallas Cowboys once again.

CeeDee Lamb has joined Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in a receiving group that should help him record similar spectacular numbers to 2019, when he racked up 4,902 passing yards and threw for a touchdown on five per cent of his attempts (30).

Prescott has a new head coach and has not missed a game in four seasons, but he may need to improve a record of just one playoff win over that timespan to ensure he follows Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson in landing a mega payday.