As we enter Week 8 of the 2020 NFL season, 14 teams have already taken their allocated bye week for this season, with another four this week, meaning over half the league will have had their single permitted bye week for this season. This could be an issue when it comes to the NFL playoffs starting on time.
Four of those 14 were forced to take their bye week early due to COVID outbreaks for either themselves or their opponents, and with only 17 weeks to fit in all 16 games. Inevitably with 10 weeks left to go this season and over half the byes having already been taken, it seems increasingly likely that at least one team would be forced to play twice in a week or forfeit at least a game to complete the season in 17 weeks while taking one bye. There is however one option the league has to solve this upcoming schedule conundrum. Announce a short postponement to the playoffs of two weeks and increase the number of COVID byes a team can take.
This move would, while unusual, not be unprecedented. In 1993, the league planned 18 weeks with both teams having two byes, and back in 2001, the whole league bye took a week to mourn the September 11th attacks, causing the NFL playoffs to be delayed a week.
How Likely Is an NFL Playoffs Postponement?
According to numbers released on Tuesday, 19 positive cases were recorded in the week of October 18th through October 24th (eight players and 11 amongst other personnel). Numbers identical to last week and with new cases each day, nationwide, still being in the tens of thousands, the answer to whether these are likely to be needed is very likely.
According to an article from Michael Silver of NFL.com from October 12th, the league was considering implementing a Week 18 to play the Denver Broncos–New England Patriots game before eventually deciding to give both teams their bye Week 5 and rescheduling multiple games for multiple teams so that they could play that game week six.
All Games Must Be Played No Matter What
Teams like the New Orleans Saints and the Cleveland Browns likely to be fighting for a wild-card spot. And then you have teams like the New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars that are likely to be fighting for the first overall pick in the draft class with a man whom many people argue is the best prospect at the quarterback position since Andrew Luck. So any loss of games for any team, anywhere in the league, has the potential to affect not just this season but many seasons to come.
With new teams announcing new cases for both players and staff at an alarming rate, the league should hurry up, confirm what we all expect and remove any doubt that both fans and organizations have. The season must be extended! All future COVID enforced postponements must take between the scheduled season end and a new playoff start date two weeks out for the current planned date. Multiple teams shouldn’t be forced to change their schedule due to an outbreak on another team. Come on NFL, announce a postponement to the NFL playoffs now and save both your fans and your team this headache. Extend the season and put all these concerns to rest permanently.