According to a source familiar with the NFL’s scheduling scenarios, when the league decided Sunday morning not to play Broncos-Patriots on Monday night, it debated an indefinite postponement, which would essentially have put the “Week 18” scenario in play.
Instead, the Broncos-Patriots game was moved to next Sunday — and a contingency plan involving eight games, eight teams and six switched bye weeks was implemented. However, once a team that’s already had its bye can’t play in a given week, Week 18 will likely become a reality.
This could happen as soon as Monday morning. If positive tests among the Buffalo Bills and/or Tennessee Titans force Tuesday’s game between those teams to be postponed — and given that the Titans have already had their bye — the game would be indefinitely postponed (potentially pushed to Week 18).
In a Week 18 scenario, the league would likely only play those games if they had a significant impact on the playoffs. It’s possible that if the game was, say, to decide whether a team was the fifth or seventh seed, the NFL would elect not to play it.
That said, Week 18 is likely a reality, and, depending upon future postponements — and with the possibility that a team could be impacted more than once (after having lost its bye week) — there could even be a Week 19 added.
So, what would this mean for the postseason? It could be delayed, obviously. The league could save a week by deciding to cancel the Pro Bowl and play the Super Bowl one week after the conference championship games (which has been done before).
As for Super Bowl LV? Well, it’ll be much easier to change the date of the game than in other years, when hotels are booked far in advance and legions of fans from outside the area are in play. The Super Bowl could be delayed one, two or three weeks.
Bottom line: Expect at least one week to be added to the regular season, and that alone may not solve the problem. The goal remains for each team to play 16 regular season games — eight home, eight away — but that, too, could fall by the wayside as things evolve.