With COVID-19 impacting multiple NFL teams this weekend, the league is exploring contingency plans on how to soften the blow the pandemic may have on the remainder of the season.
One of the ideas being discussed is adding a Week 18 in order to give the league an extra week to reschedule postponed games, according to a Washington Post report.
Two games this week have already been postponed due to COVID-19 outbreaks. The Tennessee Titans – which have had at least 18 positives between players and staff – have had their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers rescheduled for Week 7 on Oct. 25 while the New England Patriots – whose quarterback Cam Newton tested positive – have had their game against the Kansas City Chiefs pushed back from Sunday to Monday.
The Titans could also reportedly face disciplinary action for their outbreak as the league and NFLPA investigate the origins of how the outbreak occurred.
The talks of a Week 18 are reportedly in the early stages and the league plans to conduct a conference call on Monday with the head coaches and general managers of all 32 NFL teams regarding the importance of following coronavirus protocols.
The addition of a Week 18 also raises questions on how it would affect the playoff schedule. The league could delay the start of the playoffs back a week, or it could eliminate the bye week between the AFC and NFC Championship games and Super Bowl in order to keep the Super Bowl as scheduled on Feb. 7, 2021 in Tampa Bay.
One thing that is becoming clearer, however, is the possibility of a bubble for the playoffs, according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, who reports that the Titans’ outbreak has brought internal discussions of a playoff bubble back to light.
Another contingency that multiple coaches have suggested to ProFootballTalk is to reconfigure the schedule to a 12-game season – playing division rivals only once and scrapping one interconference game.
Any changes proposed by the league would have to be collectively bargained and agreed upon by the NFLPA.