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Extending the regular season in the NFL likely with anymore pandemic postponements

Steve Brownlee

It looks like we’re on the edge of a precipice when it comes to the NFL schedule.

Outbreaks of the coronavirus pandemic have kept a handful of teams from being able to access their training facilities, sometimes for a week or more in the Tennessee Titans’ case.

A number of games have been switched around — with more coming in future weeks — as the league has been able to take advantage of moving teams’ byes.

But if there’s any more virus outbreaks like we’ve seen lately, the NFL in all likelihood will have to either cancel some games altogether or add an extra week — maybe multiple weeks? — to the end of the regular season.

That’s because these bye weeks are quickly being used up.

By my count, 10 teams have already taken their byes — starting with Detroit and Green Bay two weeks ago — and four more will come this weekend.

That’s nearly half the league that no longer has any wiggle room left in the schedule — teams like the Lions and Packers play every week from now through the final weekend on Jan. 3.

If one of those teams has to postpone a game, most options look pretty unpalatable — cram an extra game between two already scheduled games, which seems grossly unfair to the teams involved, or cancel a game outright, leaving some teams to play 15 games and others 16.

A third alternative seems the best, but certainly not ideal — adding an extra week, Jan. 10, to the regular season while also delaying the playoffs a week, too.

There is some precedent for that — after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, no games were played the following weekend, with that entire slate of games played after the final regular-season week. The playoffs were pushed back a week, too, resulting in a league taboo being broken — before then, the Super Bowl was always played in January, even if it had to be Jan. 31.

Now, the Super Bowl is routinely played the first weekend of February.

If no fans or only a limited number of fans is still the rule, moving the date of the Super Bowl might not be the logistical nightmare it would be otherwise.

Oh, by the way, there are two games this week changed from the original schedule — Pittsburgh at Baltimore has now become Pittsburgh at Tennessee, while the Los Angeles Chargers at Miami has become Jacksonville at the Chargers.

Onto the picks:

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Today, 8:20 p.m.

New York Giants at Philadelphia — Normally, this is a high-profile regional rivalry worthy of national attention. Now if they didn’t play it, would anybody notice? Working with reverse momentum of the Giants’ first win on Sunday, I’ll take the Eagles, 31-27.

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Sunday, 1 p.m.

Detroit at Atlanta — The Falcons got the one-week bounce NFL teams often get with a new coach. Here’s Week 2 under Raheem Morris. Lions, 33-29.

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Pittsburgh at Tennessee — I wouldn’t have bet these two would be the last unbeatens in the AFC, but here we are. Tennessee has played more quality opponents and been in more tight games, so I like their chances here. Titans, 29-26.

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Cleveland at Cincinnati — The rats are jumping from the Browns’ ship pretty quickly. All Cleveland needs, though, is to face another leaky defense to make Mayfield, Beckham & Co. looks invincible. Cincinnati will serve that on a platter. Browns, 34-27.

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Green Bay at Houston — The Texans got back to their losing ways last Sunday in the second week of Romeo Crennel as coach. And Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers will keep it that way if he has any say — and he does. Packers, 37-27.

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Carolina at New Orleans — At the beginning of the season, this game looked like a debacle. Now each of these teams has three wins. Panthers, 30-23.

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Buffalo at New York Jets — This game always was a debacle. Bills, 40-13.

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Dallas at Washington — The only way the NFC East can get two wins in one weekend is if they all play each other. That’s what they’re doing. Cowboys, 36-33.

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Sunday, 4 p.m.

Jacksonville at Los Angeles Chargers — Hopefully everybody got the league memo so these teams aren’t sitting alone in stadiums wondering where their opponent is. Assuming they play, Chargers, 28-20.

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Seattle at Arizona — This would’ve been an excellent home game for the upstart Cardinals. But home-field advantage barely exists, if at all, in the coronavirus era. Seahawks, 28-24.

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Kansas City at Denver — KC won’t be complacent with a one-game winning “streak,” even in the thin air of Denver. Chiefs, 40-30.

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San Francisco at New England — Trends say pick the 49ers, as they’re getting healthier, blah, blah, blah. But remember, Patriots coach Bill Belichick knows San Fran QB Jimmy Garoppolo inside and out from when the latter was New England’s backup. Patriots, 23-19.

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Sunday, 8:20 p.m.

Tampa Bay at Las Vegas — The Raiders showed they could contain KC’s awesome offense. But here is Tampa Bay’s awesome defense to contend with. Buccaneers, 28-20.

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Monday, 8:15 p.m.

Chicago at Los Angeles Rams — Da Bears get two prime time games in three weeks. But this L.A. team looks like it’s hitting its stride. Rams 29-24.

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Last week — 9-5, 64 percent. Season — 57-33-1, 63 percent.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.

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