Even before the NFL released its schedule for the 2020 season, the league was confident it would play a full 16-game schedule on time despite the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with a second wave of the coronavirus looming, the NFL could be forced to change its schedule.
While the league released a full 2020 schedule this past week, officials crafted it to make the schedule portable. As a result, if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens or team owners decide they don’t want to play in empty stadiums, the NFL could make a major adjustment to the upcoming season.
According to NBC Sports’ Peter King, the NFL’s portable schedule would move the first four weeks of the season into January. As a result, the 2020 season would start on Thursday, Oct. 8 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers set to face the Chicago Bears on “Thursday Night Football.”
League officials have already discussed delaying the season by a month to buy additional time during the COVID-19 pandemic. By delaying the season a month, teams in states with bans on mass gatherings through September, could potentially start their season with fans in attendance.
It’s worth watching, given some of the league’s most popular teams are at risk of playing in empty stadiums. A recent statement by California Governor Gavin Newsom hinted that teams like the Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers would need to start the 2020 season in empty stadiums. Meanwhile, the New England Patriots could face similar restrictions based on recent comments from Boston’s mayor.
The NFL is at risk of taking a massive revenue hit if games are played in empty stadiums this year, so owners and players are willing to push the season back to avoid it.
If the NFL pushes the 2020 season back a month, Week 17 could take place on Jan. 31 with the NFL Playoffs beginning in February. From there, the league could eliminate the Pro Bowl and have Super Bowl LV played on Feb. 28.
For now, the NFL remains hopeful that the COVID-19 pandemic will improve across the country by September. If that doesn’t happen, fans will be waiting even longer for football to return.