There is a rumor afoot among those who follow closely the happenings in the NFL that the league might be leaning toward a 16-team playoff format if too many games are lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.
As teams prepare to enter Week 9, there are still a number of new cases popping up in the league and it is apparent that more work needs to be done to bring the coronavirus under control.
The NFL Could See Postseason Changes
Earlier in the season, the NFL sought to simply replace a game that had to be rescheduled into that team’s scheduled bye-week. That started off well enough, but, like most things in the league, things got way too complicated, way too quickly.
There is a group meeting somewhere known as the NFL competition committee which is expected to present the 16 team contingency plan for the playoffs to the owners of the NFL teams where all final decisions are made concerning the National Football League.
The team owners hold the power. They pay commissioner Roger Goodell around $1 million per year each to run the league, but the final say rests with the owners on all issues. The contingency plan for the NFL playoffs is looking more and more like a reality as more bye-week dates fall to COVID-19 and more and more players become exposed and infected by the virus.
The committee’s proposal is a simple 16-team format with eight teams drawn from each conference, the NFC and the AFC. The winners of each of the four divisions within the conference would obviously be in followed by a wild card winner from each. That leaves the definite possibility of a team making it to the NFL playoffs with a losing record, such as in the NFC East, but sometimes that’s just the way it is.
Aside from that, the adjusted playoff format would proceed in a more or less normal fashion with the 8th seed team playing the first seed team. 7th seed plays the 2nd seed, 6th seed plays the 3rd seed and the 4th and 5th seed teams mixing it up in the conference playoffs.
However, everyone from the owners to the water boys is worried that more of the NFL season could be canceled if the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise again in what is looking very much like a third wave coming at us, from who knows where. Even as it stands today, there would be very few football fans in attendance at these playoff games to cheer their team on. That kind of takes some of the fun out of the event.
Still, the US continues to lead the world with 9.2 million positive COVID-19 infections and over 230,000 of us already dead. And then we have to wonder if some of these NFL teams are going to have enough healthy, ready to go, players left on the roster when the playoffs do finally roll around.
Injuries, Suspensions Force Teams To Adjust
The beleaguered San Francisco 49ers have lost the two guys that most fans would consider to be the best players on the team. Tight end George Kittle is out with what appears to be a broken bone in his foot, as is quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, with one of those elusive, and painful, high-ankle sprains. It is doubtful at this point that either of the 49ers’ star players will make it back to the playing field this season.
Several NFL players have now tested positive for COVID-19 and hopefully are now resting up in isolation for the protection of others. They include Marlon Humphrey of the Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers running back A.J. Dillon, who has been placed on the COVID-19 reserve list. The Arizona Cardinals now have both cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. and linebacker Devon Kennard on the reserve COVID-19 list, as well.
Damontre Moore of the Seattle Seahawks has been suspended six games violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substances policy. He’ll sit out those games without pay for breaking the rules and will be eligible to return to the active roster after the Seahawks take on the New York Jets in Week 14.
The Chicago Bears will play a couple of games without receiver Javon Wims. He has been suspended two games for his attack on New Orleans Saints safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson this past weekend and won’t be around as the Bears take on the Tennessee Titans or the Minnesota Vikings.