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What Should the NFL Do About COVID Outbreaks?

4 plus weeks into the NFL season, and there are have started to be several outbreaks of the coronavirus among NFL teams. what is currently going on with the Tennessee Titans is of most note and is a situation that must be solved for. In the last 2 weeks, the Titans have had over 20 players and staff test positive for coronavirus, and their Week 4 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was cancelled. This week, they've had even more positive tests and their next game against the Buffalo Bills is now in jeopardy. The game is scheduled for next Tuesday, but would likely be cancelled if the positive tests keep rolling in.

The NFL, so far, has been steadfast in plowing full steam ahead with the season even among small outbreaks - the Kansas City Chiefs played the New England Patriots just 2 days after a Pats player tested positive. The NFL schedule is pretty tight, as teams typically need a week between playing games (or risk a lot of serious injuries occurring), so there isn't a lot of scheduling flexibility. Still, we seem to be at a major inflection point in the NFL outbreak crisis and we're only a quarter of the way through the season - it has come time that major decisions are made about how this is handled. So what are a few options that the NFL has at its disposal?

First, easiest, and to the greatest chigrin of Titans fans, would simply be to make teams with outbreaks forfeit their game for a given week, until they can get things under control. The other team would be given a win, and there are no schedule changes or decision-making insanity needed. I saw this floated on Twitter by several NFL writers, and I like this option quite a bit - it introduces an element of punishment for teams who broke protocols. The flip side of that argument is that the virus is all over and maybe the team or its players didn't break protocol and it was all inevitable, thus a punishment isn't fair. But I think this brings a lot of simplicity and promotes accountability within the team organizations, as no one wants to forfeit games.

Second, the NFL could just move the playoffs back a few weeks in January and just add two (or so) weeks at the end of the year to play make up games for ones that have to be cancelled. I like this option a lot too - the playoffs don't need to start at a specific time, and it avoids all of the schedule juggling. It would be awfully exciting, as well, to have random games at the end of the year that might have a lot of playoff implications. I would have to believe the NFL has this in their back pocket, and will use this option readily, if the outbreaks keep occurring or the schedule juggling gets too intense. These are the 2 best and most practical ideas I can think of.  

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