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If The Bubble Is Broken

Mill Woods

Posted on October 6, 2020 14:30

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It took four weeks, but the Tennessee football team finally broke that optimistic spell in the NFL regarding COVID-19. After 20 players and staff tested positive in Nashville, schedules were disrupted — and the world got another reminder of how badly things can go when pandemic precautions are not followed.

I must admit to being euphoric after the first couple of weeks of NFL action. In the consummate contact (collision) team sport, I could not believe there was no disruption due to positive virus cases. But right before Week Four, my optimism cooled. It took just one team out of 32 to throw cold water all over it.

The Steelers got screwed, being forced to move up their bye week. The NFL promises an investigation, but is not detailing what would happen if more scheduling delays break out. A shadow is cast over the rest of the season. With more outbreaks, the NFL would be forced to shorten the regular season. For the playoffs, the NFL could institute a "bubble" — similar to the successful player-quarantine strategy used by the NBA. But, if the NFL's regular season were curtailed, there would be severe damage, both to teams who might have mounted a late-season playoff push and to the NFL's revenues.

It is hard to know how much productivity will be lost by the unbeaten Titans, but if they fall out of contention, that club will not deserve my sympathy. I also had no sympathy for Patriots QB Cam Newton on Monday night, as his team clearly suffered from his absence, dropping what could have been a crucial win against the Chiefs -- a win which also would have kept them closer to the 4-0 Bills.

But those failures mask the fact that most teams are doing a yeoman's job of avoiding virus transmission. Elsewhere around the NFL, it was injuries, not infections, which dropped teams like the Falcons and 49ers into their division cellars. Coaching is the other major factor, so I expect more firings, similar to the sudden ouster of Bill O'Brien in Houston. Falcon HC Dan Quinn immediately comes to mind.

The key to winning in 2020 is complex, creative offenses — and on defense, attacking quarterbacks and shortening plays. As we begin the NFL's second quarter, I expect more success by teams with blitzing defenses and creative offensive schemes. So, I look for a lot more success by the following 16 teams (alphabetically): Bills, Browns, Bucs, Cardinals, Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, 49ers, Packers, Patriots, Rams, Ravens, Saints, Seahawks, Steelers, and Titans.

What about the unfortunate other half? The following 10 teams, in my view, have mature offenses, but lack strong enough defenses: Cowboys, Dolphins, Falcons, Jaguars, Jets, Lions, Panthers, Raiders, Texans, and Vikings.

And the following six teams have attacking defenses but overly-simple offensive schemes: Bears, Broncos, Bengals, Eagles, Giants, and the Washington football club.

If the Titans clean up their act, they can contend, and I still think the full NFL schedule can be played. But teams will have to be almost flawless at testing, social distancing, and masking. In short, the NFL must be more responsible than our politicians. If that happens, we can all enjoy a disease-free season, a credible playoff outcome, and a happy ending on that beloved first Sunday in February.

Mill Woods

Posted on October 6, 2020 14:30

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