NFL 2016: Kaepernick, Brady & Beckham Jr - all you need to know for new season
NFL 2016: Denver Broncos v Carolina Panthers
Date: Friday 9 September Time: 01:25 BST Venue: Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, plus weekly Tuesday night review on BBC Two from 13 September

Why is American football's biggest star banned for the start of the season? Why is another player refusing to stand for the national anthem? And why has one of the teams moved 1,800 miles during the summer?

The 2016 NFL season kick offs at 01:30 BST on Friday with a rematch of last season's Super Bowl as defending champions Denver Broncos host the Carolina Panthers.

With 32 teams battling to reach the showpiece in Houston in February, BBC Sport looks at the major stories and the star players to watch as the biggest sport in the United States rumbles into life once more.

What happened with 'Deflate-gate'?

Tom Brady and Odell Beckham Jr
Tom Brady, seen here embracing the New York Giants' Odell Beckham Jr during a pre-season game, has led the New England Patriots to four Super Bowl wins

This scandal has been dragging on for nearly two years but finally appears to be resolved.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the sport's most celebrated player over the past 15 years, will miss the first four games of the season after being banned by the NFL for his role in a scheme to deflate balls to give his side an advantage.

Brady, who denies he or the Patriots did anything wrong, abandoned his attempt to fight the ban in July.

The 39-year-old four-time Super Bowl winner was suspended in 2015 and lost his first appeal, but the ban was later overturned by a federal court.

However, the suspension was restored by the Court of Appeal in April after it was challenged by the NFL.

Kaepernick's national anthem protest

Colin Kaepernick kneels during the national anthem before a pre-season game
Colin Kaepernick has refused to stand for the national anthem in a protest against the treatment of black people in the USA

San Fransisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has polarised opinion across the US recently after twice refusing to stand for the national anthembefore pre-season games.

The 28-year-old has said he will continue to sit out The Star-Spangled Banner until he sees an improvement in race relations, citing the number of black people shot by police in the US.

Kaepernick has been accused of showing disrespect to the American military, although some veterans and military members tweeted their support for Kaepernick with the hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick.

Police officers have threatened to boycott 49ers home games unless the organisation takes action against Kaepernick, while Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said that "maybe he should find a country that works better for him".

However, US President Barack Obama said this week that the player had raised legitimate issues and was exercising his constitutional right to make a point.

Although Kaepernick is no longer a regular starter, his number seven jersey has been the top seller on since the controversy began.

We can be sure that all cameras will be trained on him when the anthem is played before the 49ers host the Los Angeles Rams in their season-opener on Monday night.

What's new this season?

Highlights: Broncos win Super Bowl 50

It is a case of Escape to LA for the Rams, who have relocated from St Louis.

It is the first time since the 1994 season that an NFL team has been based in Los Angeles and the move is expected to bring greater revenue from naming and television rights, and future Super Bowls.

Coming off the back of nine straight losing seasons, the Rams are tipped to struggle again but have high hopes for running back Todd Gurley, who is being promoted as the face of LA football.

For the first time since 1997, the opening week of the season features neither Brady nor fellow quarterback Peyton Manning, who retired after leading the Broncos to a shock Super Bowl victory.

The season begins, intriguingly, with a rematch against the Panthers at Denver's Mile High Stadium.

The Panthers lost only one regular season game in 2015 but quarterback Cam Newton, last year's NFL Most Valuable Player, was overwhelmed by the Broncos' formidable defence and gave up three turnovers.

Newton says he will not be looking back to February's defeat, adding: "They're a great team, we understand that. We're putting in our bid to be a great team as well."

Who are the players to watch?

Andrew Luck
Indianapolis Colts' Andrew Luck missed more than half of the 2015 season through injuries

There will be plenty of attention on Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who became the highest-earning player in NFL history this summer when he signed a new six-year deal worth $140m (£105m).

The 26-year-old's wages take him above the annual average of $22.1m earned by Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, although it's not quite at the levels reportedly earned by footballers Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba.

Still, nice money if you can get it.

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr has become one of the sport's biggest names after just two seasons in the NFL with his ability to take stunning catches gaining him worldwide fame.

The 23-year-old has been on a European tour this summer during which he played keepy-uppies with Bayern Munich's Xabi Alonso and practised his catching with Tottenham midfielder Erik Lamela.

Other star names to look out for include Houston Texans defensive end JJ Watt, who led the league with 17.5 sacks last season but is recovering from back surgery; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (1,834 receiving yards in 2015); and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who managed 1,485 rushing yards after returning to action following a ban for "recklessly assaulting" his son.

Who will win the Super Bowl?

NFL Plays of the Week: Aaron Rodgers' 'insane' Hail Mary

It's hard to look beyond the Panthers, assuming they banish any demons lurking from last season's near miss, while the Seattle Seahawks have been one of the league's most consistent teams in recent years and won the Super Bowl in 2014.

The Patriots, the most successful franchise in the modern era with four Super Bowl wins and 13 play-off appearances since the Millennium, are likely to reach the business end once more, assuming the Brady ban doesn't throw them off kilter at the start.

Four-time winners Green Bay Packers will be guided by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who pulled off an extraordinary 'Hail Mary' in the play-offs last season, and are major contenders to reach the showpiece again, along with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Broncos enter the post-Manning era with Trevor Siemian, who has yet to attempt a pass in the NFL, as quarterback. The reigning champions may struggle to defend their title.

Which teams are coming to Britain this season?

Jacksonsville Jaguars celebrate a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills at Wembley in October 2015
The Jacksonsville Jaguars will play one home game at Wembley every season until at least 2020

For the third successive season, three matches will be staged in London, although there is a new venue for one of the games.

Beckham Jr will be the star attraction when the Giants face the Rams on 23 October at Twickenham, as the home of English rugby union hosts the NFL for the first time.

Wembley, the usual home for the international series, stages the other two games, with the Jacksonville Jaguars playing the Indianapolis Colts on 2 October and the Cincinnati Bengals taking on the Washington Redskins on 30 October.

Are any Britons playing in the NFL?

Jack Crawford sacks Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill
Jack Crawford (number 58) sacks Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill during a pre-season game

More than you might imagine. Dallas Cowboys defensive end Jack Crawford went to the same City of London secondary school as Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe.

Crawford, who featured in every game last season, is probably the most successful of the Britons in the NFL.

Oakland Raiders have the Manchester-born right tackle Menelik Watson, who missed the entire 2015 season after rupturing his Achilles tendon.

London's Jay Ajayi is a running back for the Miami Dolphins, although he has missed out on a starting berth for Sunday's game at Seattle, while Efe Obada, a defensive end, has been picked up by the Atlanta Falcons.

Who to follow on social media

The NFL and NFL UK's official accounts are good starting points, while, given recent events, Colin Kaepernick's Twitter feed is worth keeping an eye on.

Tom Brady is a regular poster on Facebook, Patriots team-mate Julian Edelman is entertaining and the Texans' JJ Watt fairly prolific.

Among journalists, ESPN's Adam Schefter and Sports Illustrated's Peter King have seven million Twitter followers between them.

How can I follow it on the BBC?

Green Bay Packers fans
Reggie Yates has been exploring what the Packers mean to the people of Green Bay

In all manner of ways.

There will be four special BBC One programmes to launch the new season, beginning this Sunday at 00:20 BST after Match of the Day. Touchdown USAsees Reggie Yates visit Green Bay to learn about its unique relationship with the Packers.

The NFL Show follows on 17 September. Mark Chapman will provide a 30-minute digest of all the major stories alongside charismatic Super Bowl winners Osi Umenyiora and Jason Bell.

There will also be a Tuesday night review show every week of the season on BBC Two, starting on 13 September at 23.20 BST. NFL: This Week will feature the best of the action all the way through to Super Bowl LI on 5 February.

The BBC will again have live coverage of the Super Bowl, along with the three London games in October, and regular commentaries on Radio 5 live sports extra.

There will be weekly highlights and clips available on the BBC Sport website and a range of social and digital content, including Facebook Live.