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Tom Brady in Las Vegas in Week 1? We’ll find out soon

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) passes in the first half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)

The NFL will release its 2020 schedule this week, and while contingency plans are expected to address whatever restrictions are imposed by the COVID-19 crisis, the plan is to play a full schedule that begins Sept. 10 and ends Feb. 7 in Tampa, Florida, the site of Super Bowl LV.

It’s a day that fans mark on their calendars, including in Las Vegas, where the Raiders begin their new journey in their new home at Allegiant Stadium. And could Las Vegas be on center stage in Week One?

Like, say, Tom Brady making his debut with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under the bright lights of a national TV audience against the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium, either as the centerpiece for the NFL’s opening night Sept. 10 or as the prime-time jewel on “Sunday Night Football” on Sept. 13?

Nobody throws a party like Las Vegas, so you know Derek Carr and all of his new offensive toys will be greeted like rock stars. Slowly but surely the Raiders have built an exciting young roster filled with promising playmakers. And their new home can’t wait to wrap its arm around them.

But now more than ever, fans need the escapism that sports provides. The NFL has remained in the spotlight during the coronavirus pandemic, supplying endless storylines throughout an eventful offseason and a virtual draft that took fans’ minds off COVID-19 for three days. If the record-breaking TV ratings for the draft are any indication, fans can’t wait for the season to start — even if they might not be allowed into stadiums to watch the games.

No doubt, if the NFL can pull off the season with minimal glitches, it will go a long way toward lifting up a nation fatigued by this pandemic.

But the league could take it one step further by offering an opening act that will blow the lid off.

The Raiders’ national appeal would rock the ratings as is, but this year in particular with speedy rookie wide receiver Henry Ruggs catching long balls from Carr and defensive newcomers Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski adding more punch and flair. Throw in their new digs in iconic Las Vegas and it increases the enchantment.

Adding Brady to the mix is next-level drama and intrigue.

Love him or hate him, there is no doubt Brady moves the needle. But there was a predictability to his existence in New England that almost grew stale. That has all changed now that he’s with the Buccaneers, who have transformed from a team nobody really cared about to one everyone is now fascinated by.

With six Super Bowl rings, Brady perhaps is the greatest quarterback, if not player, of all time. But how much of his greatness was self-created and how much was dependent on Bill Belichick and the infrastructure provided by one of the most well-run franchises in sports history?

We rarely get answers to those types of questions, but with Brady fleeing New England in pursuit of new challenges, we’ll finally get an idea of whether it was Brady who made the Patriots or the Patriots who made Brady.

And there is no better place to start getting those answers than in Las Vegas against the Raiders on one of the two prime-time opening week NFL stages.

Vincent Bonsignore at Follow on Twitter.

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