The Jaguars have a confirmed positive COVID-19 test from their practice squad. If they, or the league, determine that the virus is spreading within the organization, Sunday’s game between Jacksonville and Detroit could be postponed.
If it is postponed beyond Tuesday night (the NFL’s new Monday night), it will become the first game to be played in an eighteenth week of the 2020 season.
It’s an easy conclusion to reach, for one very important reason: The Lions already have had their bye. So with 12 games to play and 12 weeks left in the season, Jaguars-Lions would fit nowhere else on the schedule.
That’s why an eighteenth week feels inevitable. As more and more teams use their bye weeks, the windows close for rearranging the schedule to keep the 256 regular-season games within 17 weeks.
There’s a separate question that needs to be considered in this regard. If, when the later weeks of the season come around, the Jaguars and Lions are mathematically eliminated from the postseason, why play the game? Other than providing a more complete picture when it comes to draft order, there would be no reason for the makeup game to be made up.
For that reason, it makes even more sense to have a makeup weekend earlier in the season. Many think the league would simply tack the extra games onto the weekend after Week 17. The better play, as suggested to me 10 days or so ago by Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, would be to bump Week 17 to Week 18 and to play the makeup games in Week 17.
It actually may be even smarter to pick an earlier weekend for the eighteenth week, so that Jaguars-Lions remains technically relevant. The rest of the schedule would be pushed back by a week. Then, if a nineteenth weekend is needed (and it very well could be) those games could be dropped into Week 18, and Week 18 (previously Week 17) would become Week 19.
Under that scenario, there’s still a chance that a meaningless game would be bumped to the penultimate week of games. Whether that game gets played is a question the NFL would have to resolve later, including the extremely important question of whether the players would get paid for a game that they otherwise would be willing and able to play.