As the start of the NFL season arrives, let’s do an exercise in positive thinking.
Repeat after me: “I am clueless.”
Aren’t you feeling better already?
But really, although it might seem like we know the gist of what’s going to happen in the NFL over the next five months — the Chiefs will be great again, the Bears will not again, etc. — the truth is we don’t. At all.
This time last year, the 49ers and Titans were afterthoughts. One team ended up in the Super Bowl, the other in the AFC title game.
The Chiefs delivered on their promise, but about their encore? Since the Steelers dynasty of the 1970s, only four Super Bowl winners have repeated — and none since Tom Brady was in his mid-20s. He’s older than Methuselah now and, in case you hadn’t heard, no longer with the Patriots, which means we have no idea about them anymore, either.
Maybe the Bears will return to their 2018 form, and maybe that’ll put them in position to pull a Miami Heat or a New York Islanders. Whether or not factors related to the pandemic have leveled the playing fields in the NBA and NHL, the fact is those leagues have been bonkers since returning to action. Why not the NFL, too?
Football is here. Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes will make us feel, at once, excited and aggravated as their teams ring in the season Thursday at the home of the champs. And then Mitch Trubisky will do whatever he’s going to do to us when the Bears play Sunday in Detroit.
Torture us? Thrill us? One or the other, definitely. Or both. Or neither.
Here’s what’s happening:
Cardinals at Cubs (3:10 p.m., ESPN)
The Cubs have won 11 of the last 13 games in this rivalry that were started by Kyle Hendricks, who’s always locked in at Wrigley Field. In other words: Don’t let the door hit you on the way out of town, Redbirds.
Celtics at Raptors, Game 5 (5:30 p.m., TNT)
With half a second left in Game 3, this East semifinal series seemed like a lost cause for the defending champs. But then OG Anunoby happened, and now? It’s a total toss-up (kind of like the shot Anunoby hit to win Game 3).
Clippers at Nuggets, Game 3 (8 p.m., TNT)
Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Patrick Beverly — Doc Rivers can throw all of ’em at Nuggets star Jamal Murray defensively, and will.
Heat at Bucks, Game 5 (5:30 p.m., ESPN)
Is that a pulse we detect in the Bucks, who avoided a sweep in Game 4? With Giannis Antetokounmpo hurting, it’s beyond desperation time.
Stars at Golden Knights, Game 2 (7 p.m., NBCSN)
It’s all Robin Lehner, all the time in net for the Knights against a Stars team that’s scoring in droves. A tip of the helmet to the two teams that made it out of a West field so crowded, the Blackhawks were actually in it.
Lakers at Rockets, Game 3 (8 p.m., ESPN)
James Harden and Russell Westbrook might not have a chance against LeBron James and Anthony Davis in a dark alley, but this is a brightly lit bubble with roughly 842 video screens surrounding the court. It’s a fair fight — and it’s on.
White Sox at Pirates (6:05 p.m., NBCSCH)
Playing in Pittsburgh on Roberto Clemente Day? Just perfect. We’ve got a feeling Clemente and Luis Robert would’ve been fast friends.
Islanders at Lightning, Game 2 (7 p.m., NBCSN)
The sixth-seeded Isles are trying to reach the Cup finals for the first time since 1984. Would you believe some of them weren’t even born then?
Reds at Cubs (7:15 p.m., MSN)
It lines up as a Trevor Bauer-vs.-Yu Darvish kind of night. You can’t go to the game, but maybe you can hang a “K” sign on a clothesline at home every time somebody whiffs?
Texans at Chiefs (7:20 p.m., Ch. 5)
Opening night! Do we really have to mention the names Watson and Mahomes again? Yes, we do, and shall remain contractually and morally obligated to do so at every opportunity for as long as they walk this earth.
Sky vs. Wings (7 p.m., The U)
The regular-season finale sure came quickly, didn’t it? After this, it’s time for Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and Kahleah Copper to find out how much heavy lifting they can do with a depleted roster around them.
Tigers at White Sox (7:10 p.m., NBCSCH)
The Sox are back at Guaranteed Rate Field after an eight-game, three-city swing. Did they bring their home-run power home with them? But we kid — of course they did.
Liverpool vs. Leeds United (11:30 a.m., Ch. 5)
Football is back! The Premier League, we mean. Leeds hasn’t been in the top English division since 2004. Might as well take a run at the champs straight away, mates.
Duke at Notre Dame (1:30 p.m., Ch. 5)
Seventy-six FBS teams are ready for some fall football. The Irish head into the strangest season ever somewhere in the top 10. Stay healthy, fellas.
U.S. Open women’s final (3 p.m., ESPN)
If it’s all the same to everybody in New York, a sixth consecutive first-time winner of this tournament sure would be exciting.
Bears at Lions (noon, Fox-32)
The pressure is on Trubisky, Khalil Mack, Matt Nagy and a bunch of other guys. Sorry, Bears, but going 8-8 again isn’t going to cut it. (Just to be sure we’re on the same page: You have to be better than that, not worse.)
U.S. Open men’s final (3 p.m., ESPN)
We’d tell you who’s going to win, but practically everyone we’ve ever heard of either skipped this event or has been eliminated. Guess the ball’s in your court, then.