The Gang Has an Outbreak

Week 15 is chalk full of high level competition across the league. Playoff implications are riddled throughout the schedule, but an unexpected wrench has been thrown into the plan.

Since Monday, there have been 75 players to test positive for COVID-19 and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. What will be interesting to see is whether the league and NFLPA will come to a new agreement on rescheduling. Back in July, the NFL made this decision:

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported…the NFL sent a memo to its clubs stating that if a game cannot be rescheduled during the 18-week schedule due to a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players, the team with the outbreak will forfeit and be credited with a loss, per sources informed of the situation.

Kevin Patra via NFL.com
https://www.nfl.com/news/nfl-covid-19-outbreaks-unvaccinated-players-forfeit-cancelled-game

That memo was sent out after a positive response to the vaccination mandate that the league had put into place, and most clubs were boasting a 90% or more vax rate. At that point, which seems like a lifetime ago in pandemic terms, the world was convinced that the vaccine would suppress its spread substantially. We’ve all witnessed the variant stage of this shit show, and now the NFL is feeling its wrath.

The real curveball in all of this is the number of players who have now been caught in a fib. Whether it be dishonesty about vaccination status or a fake vaccination card, there has recently been a surge in discovery of players who found a loop hole. That, in terms of the big picture, may lead to a change in the direction of the stretch run ahead of us.

The Chiefs and Chargers are playing on Thursday Night Football this week, and two of the biggest stars in the matchup will be absent. Chiefs DL Chris Jones, and Chargers LT Rashawn Slater both tested positive this week. Additionally, the Browns are set to host the Raiders in the first Saturday game of the year, and are currently going to be without 10 (TEN!) players.

What if Chris Jones and Rashawn Slater were Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert? TNF is a battle for the AFC West. Would the league really not bend with those stakes at hand? More importantly — from the commissioners perspective at least — what would missing those two superstars from action mean for viewership? On the other hand, with Cleveland, at what point is a roster so diminished that it isn’t safe to take the field for competition? The Browns are a bubble team, but let’s assume that the Patriots have a breakout in the next 72 hours and can’t field a team. They have a tough matchup with the Colts this week and playoff seeding, as the season moves on, will be directly impacted by that game’s result. Would the league not flex that game to avoid the tongue lashing they would receive for the impact on either teams potential?

More will come of this in the very near future, and you had better keep your head on a swivel. Best case scenario, your team doesn’t get hit too hard and avoids this debacle all together. Worst case, the final four weeks of the regular season need to be completely overhauled, and the elements of predictability and preparation are out the window.

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