COVID-19 outbreaks force NFL to prepare for schedule changes

By Vincent Frank
Aug 8, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; A closeup of the NFL shield on a goal post before the preseason game between the Chicago Bears and the Carolina Panthers at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

We have seen it on a near never-ending loop around the NFL world in recent weeks. Outbreaks of COVID-19 forcing the league to change its schedule on a dime.

In some cases, the league’s decision to keep its current schedule has led to a competitive disadvantage on the football field. Just ask the San Francisco 49ers.

As we hear more news about potential outbreaks of the virus around the NFL world, the league itself is apparently looking into its schedule over the long term and is prepared to make changes.

Related: NFL Week 10 schedule, predictions

NFL schedule changes amid COVID-19 outbreak

NFL thinking of changes to its schedule
Aug 24, 2020; Costa Mesa California, USA; A face mask advisory sign at Los Angeles Chargers training camp amid the global coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL teams will vote on a proposal for contingency playoff plans should the pandemic continue to impact the league in a big way. According to multiple media reports, said vote on Tuesday will include the following:

  • Potential for a Week 18 after the regularly-scheduled season finales and before the wild card round.
  • Increase the playoff field to 16 teams (eight per conference).
  • Making sure the Philadelphia Eagles (or eventual NFC East winner) is not guaranteed home field in the playoffs.

That latter point is interesting. It would only come to fruition if the NFL were forced to expand its playoff format to 16 teams due to big regular-season games being canceled. Remember, Philadelphia sits at 3-4-1 and in first place in the NFC East. There’s been a lot of scuttlebutt about a team out of that division likely making the playoffs without a winning record.

This comes on the heels of some concerning COVID-related news around the NFL world, something that could potentially impact the Week 10 schedule.

Steelers place Vance McDonald on COVID list

This is interesting in that it was reported earlier on Monday that an unnamed player on the Steelers’ roster tested positive for COVID. If that was indeed McDonald (no reason to suggest otherwise), it could have an impact on the Dallas Cowboys.

Remember, the Cowboys played Pittsburgh this past Sunday.

49ers, once again, place Kendrick Bourne on COVID list

Yet another interesting development from around the NFL world, Bourne’s placement on said list comes after he received a false positive ahead of the 49ers’ Week 9 game against the Green Bay Packers. It’s not yet known whether Bourne tested positive for the virus or came into close contact with someone who had contracted it.

However, this raises some obvious questions. Despite his false-positive last week, Bourne still had to sit out Thursday night’s game. He was joined by Trent Williams, Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel on the sideline after all three came in close contact with Bourne.

Related: If you’re a fan of the 49ers, check out #NinerNation rumors, rankings, and news here.

Sitting at 4-4 heading into that game, San Francisco was blown out. Despite push back, the NFL still decided to play this game on Thursday instead of moving it to either the weekend or earlier during the work week.

This latest news dump will continue to raise questions about the NFL COVID-19 protocols and its schedule moving forward on the 2020 season.