After making it through the first month of the season mostly unscathed, the NFL finally felt the wrath of the coronavirus pandemic this week as two games have had to be postponed (Steelers at Titans, Patriots at Chiefs). Although the league was able to reschedule each game with relative ease, that won’t be the case if more games get postponed down the road. The league definitely seems to know that rescheduling games won’t be so easy in the future, which is why it’s considering adding an extra week this year. According to the Washington Post, the NFL has been discussing the possibility of adding an 18th week to the regular season, although the Post did point out that the idea is in its early stages.
According to NFL.com, if the league decides to move forward with an 18th week, the Super Bowl would still be played on the same date that it’s currently scheduled to be played (Feb. 7). To make the extra week fit, the NFL would simply eliminate the bye week between the championship games and the Super Bowl. Under this scenario, the final week of the regular season would be Jan. 10 and the playoffs would begin the weekend of Jan. 16-17 with the Wild Card Round. The divisional round would then be played the weekend of Jan. 23-24 with the championship round scheduled for Jan. 31.
The league is going to discuss adding a week during a conference call that’s scheduled for Monday. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora has reported that coaches, general managers and owners will all be required to be on the call.
Even though the idea of expanding the season is still in its early stages, the Tennessee Titans might end up forcing the league’s hand. Over the past week, the Titans have had 18 members of their organization test positive for COVID, including nine players. Due to the outbreak, the NFL had to postpone the Titans game against the Steelers from Week 4 to Week 7, which didn’t cause a big ripple on the overall schedule. However, if the Titans can’t play in Week 5 against Buffalo, that would put the NFL in a situation where the only way to reschedule the game would be to add an extra week to the season. By adding an extra week, it would also give the NFL a much-needed buffer in case multiple games down the road need to be postponed.
In New England, a positive COVID test from Cam Newton forced the NFL to postpone the Patriots-Chiefs game from Sunday to Monday (7 p.m. ET, CBS). One issue there is that the postponement means that Kansas City will now have to play three games in 11 days, which isn’t ideal. That game would also still be postponed further if more positive tests are recorded between now and kickoff and if that happens, the two teams may need to play during the NFL’s proposed extra week.
The only downside to adding an extra week is that the teams earning the top seed in each conference would potentially get two weeks off before playing their first playoff game. Although every team loves a bye week during the postseason, if you get two weeks off, it’s not crazy to think that players could get rusty. It would also be risky since those players could contract COVID during their 14 days away. To keep that from happening, the NFL could consider a bubble for the playoffs, and it wouldn’t be surprising to find out that the league is also considering that as it continues to deal with more and more positive COVID tests.