The NFL season has already seen multiple games postponed and delayed due to COVID-19 outbreaks and with more problems on the horizon, Super Bowl LV could be facing a delay.
While the NFL hasn’t needed to reschedule its biggest event since Super Bowl XXXVI, which was postponed as part of the league’s schedule adjustments following the Sept. 11 attacks, it might be forced to take drastic action this season.
NFL schedule: Can the NFL postpone Super Bowl LV?
As we’ve seen this season, the NFL does everything it can to avoid sweeping changes to its schedule. When the Tennessee Titans had a COVID-19 outbreak before Week 4, the league rescheduled the Steelers-Titans game. We saw the first major adjustment the following Sunday, due to the New England Patriots’ outbreak, when eight teams were impacted by changes to the schedule.
The NFL has done everything it can to avoid creating a Week 18, an additional week during the regular season to account for games postponed due to COVID-19 outbreaks. However, following the cancellation of the 2020 Pro Bowl, it’s evident Goodell and league officials are preparing for more problems.
With the number of new coronavirus cases spiking across the United States and an alarming number of players landing on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the pandemic is only getting worse. So while the NFL has found ways to buy time and stuck to its schedule for the NFL Playoffs, it seems evident that won’t last for long.
In fact, the fallout could be far more significant than we realized. During a virtual interview, Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy revealed Super Bowl LV could be pushed back by a month.
There was already a chance Super Bowl LV could be played without fans in attendance, something the NFL was already thinking about in May. This also isn’t the first time we’ve heard about the Super Bowl potentially being moved to March, but that scenario was only considered possible if the regular season was delayed.
The NFL needs to be prepared for the worst-case scenarios, which includes far larger outbreaks across the league. With each passing week, as more teams come off their bye, there will be even less flexibility for the league to work with. Even postponing one Week 5 game impacted eight teams and the fallout would be more significant for any future adjustments.
However, the NFL does have some flexibility here. Super Bowl LV, scheduled to be played at Raymond James Stadium in Florida on Feb. 7, 2021, is an open-ended event. As detailed by former Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee, the NFL has accommodations in Tampa reserved for a full month. So, if Super Bowl LV needs to be moved from Feb. 7 to March 7, or any Sunday in between, it can do that.
In a year where the NFL’s revenue was projected to take a massive hit this year due to the pandemic and steep cuts in profits generated from stadiums, the league needs a full season. It will be even more dependent on the NFL Playoffs and Super Bowl LV, especially.
If hosting the playoffs in regional bubbles and moving the Super Bowl back multiple weeks ensures a full season, the NFL will do it. It would obviously have major ramifications for teams on the road to Super Bowl LV, but that’s only fitting for 2020.