How The NFL Could Have Done A Version Of The Bubble

The NFL season had been going well in the first three weeks. There had been no positive COVID-19 tests to impact games and the protocols the NFL had in place seemed to be working.

Well, all of that came crashing down with the Tennessee Titans after their game with the Minnesota Vikings. The Titans started off with a linebacker coach that had Covid-19 and did not make the trip to Minnesota, and ended up this week with a full-fledged outbreak on their team.

Combine that with the diagnosis of Cam Newton as having Covid-19 and the league went from great to crisis management in one week.

The Titans game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers was moved to Week 7, along with Pittsburgh’s bye week game becoming the week their game versus the Ravens was moved to. Now the Steelers really don’t have a bye week, as this past week was considered one. But it really wasn’t because they practiced all week in preparation for a game that did not happen.

The Patriots had to move their game to Monday night. There are some fans that think they should not have even played and some that think the NFL is doing their best to create as safe a space as possible. Then there are some people that think there should have been a bubble in place for the season.

There are plenty that think the bubble would not have worked, but if constructed correctly, a bubble-like scenario would have worked perfectly.

First, the bubble like the NBA was not going to be something that could ever work. There would have been no way 32 teams could be in one city and be able to play all those games there. It just would have been a logistical nightmare and virtually impossible.

However, one thing that could have worked would be a rotational bubble.

The first thing the NFL could have done is picked four cities as host cities for a rotational bubble. The ideal cities would be ones that have stadiums that have more than two locker rooms in them.

Four stadiums that would have fit this setup perfectly would be MetLife Stadium (home to the New York Giants and New York Jets), Sofi Stadium (home to the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers), Levi’s Stadium (home to the San Francisco 49ers) and AT&T stadium (home to the Dallas Cowboys).

The next step in the process would be to set up cross-divisional matchups at all four stadium sites. By cross-sectional, an example would be to have the NFC West face off against the AFC East at Levi’s Stadium.

That would allow all teams at least seven games versus non-divisional and divisional opponents and it gives no team an advantage because, for the most part, there are no fans that would be at the stadiums. Also, for safety concerns, both teams would need to arrive two weeks before the rotational bubble starts for testing.

After the first round of games, then you go to your next round of matchups. You keep the teams like the NFC West together for their divisional games, but then you bring in another division like the NFC East and have them play their total of seven games, finishing up their divisional games and leaving two games for the rest of the season.

From there, the NFL could send eight teams to another site for testing and then have those teams spend a total of four weeks (two weeks of testing and quarantine and two games) to get your total of 16 games for the season.

Now that may seem rough when it comes to seeing family, but as conditions get better or if things were to get better during the season, maybe the NFL would allow family members to visit after they quarantined. That is a question of this plan that remains out there but as of right now, it is the cost of business if they would have been able to put this plan in place.

The NFL now has to try and do damage control and hope nothing like what happened with the Titans happens again, but there definitely could have been a better plan in place. We shall see what happens, but the NFL failed in setting up a good plan with all the time they had. Not to say they did not have a plan but as we’ve seen in the last week, it could have been better.

Mike Patton

Nashville, Tennessee

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