If the NFL can pull off the 2020 season without any problems related to COVID-19, that might end up being among the best examples of sports-world revenge on a virus that has wreaked havoc on lives across the globe.
Outside of the colossal world health issue, the NFL season could provide football fans with some respite from the coronavirus thanks to its plethora of intriguing storylines. Among them is revenge — an action that keeps players pumped and trash talking while providing fans with the endorphins necessary to shut off the rest of the world for three hours each Sunday.
Here are five games loaded with revenge factor:
Melvin Gordon’s first game against the Chargers
Chargers at Denver Broncos, Nov. 22: After holding out for a new contract at the start of the 2019 season, it appeared the prolific running back and the Chargers were destined to part ways at the end of the season. Melvin Gordon, however, didn’t go scurrying off to an NFC team in search of a (much reduced) payday. He signed with the Denver Broncos, giving him two opportunities a season to show the Chargers what they’ll be missing. Will we see a Rocky Mountain career high for Gordon against his old team or move evidence as to why the Chargers said goodbye?
Myles Garrett returns to Pittsburgh
Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, Oct. 18: The low point of the 2019 NFL season came when Browns defensive end Myles Garrett ripped off the helmet of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and hit him in the head with it during a game on Nov. 14. Garrett was suspended for the rest of the season without pay. He accused Rudolph of using a racial slur during the skirmish, which the quarterback denied. While there’s a good chance Rudolph will not be under center when the two teams meet up, it’s anyone’s guess how the Steelers (and their fans) will react when Garrett takes the field.
Houston Texans look to avenge playoff loss
Houston Texans vs. Kansas City Chiefs, Sept. 10: Remember when the Texans led the Chiefs by 24 points in the AFC divisional playoffs only to watch Patrick Mahomes go on a very Doug Williams-like touchdown scoring spree to mount an insane comeback? Well, Texans coach Bill O’Brien would like to exorcise those bad demons by opening the season with a win over the reigning Super Bowl champions. In addition, trading away wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has put O’Brien’s personnel decisions under the microscope, giving him — and the the Texans — plenty of fuel to prove their naysayers wrong.
Odell Beckham Jr. faces the Giants
Cleveland Browns vs. New York Giants, Dec. 20: Odell Beckham Jr. established himself as one of the NFL’s most dynamic wide receivers during his five years with the Giants before being traded to the Browns in arguably the most shocking move of the 2018-19 offseason. The man who brought New York stunning one-handed touchdown catches, amazing athleticism, sideline fights with kicking nets and infamous party boat poses was gone in an instant. Beckham will surely be looking for a big performance against the Giants, and the Big Blue faithful will be sure to give him a cold December welcome.
Tom Brady faces the Chargers
Chargers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oct. 4: There were a couple of hours on March 17 when the Chargers were supposedly in the hunt for Tom Brady. If they were indeed legitimate contenders to sign the quarterback during his first foray into free agency, the Chargers had to quickly shift to Plan B in its post-Philip Rivers plan. Depending on how well quarterback Justin Herbert plays at the start of the season, the Chargers might not be that bloodthirsty for revenge, but getting snubbed by Brady for the Buccaneers still has to sting a bit. A win over Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the Buccaneers would go a long way in showing the Chargers are better off.
The NFL is operating under the assumption that the season will be played as scheduled, but COVID-19 has created many challenges for the league.