Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

COVID-19 could force 49ers, NFL teams to play reduced 12-game schedules

Oct 4, 2020 at 12:43 AM--

After three weeks of play, COVID-19 is already threatening the NFL's 17-week season. Four teams have had at least one player test positive for the highly-contagious virus amid this pandemic. They are the Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, and New Orleans Saints. The Titans' situation is described as an outbreak with their number of affected personnel now up to 18.

The NFL is postponing games as the league tries to get a handle on the situation.

According to Pro Football Talk, there are now rumblings among coaching staffs of shortening the NFL season from a 16-game schedule for each team to 12 games. That could mean each team playing its division opponents only once and eliminating one interconference matchup.

That may not be enough to keep COVID-19 from derailing the NFL season, though.

A hard bubble may be implemented, with all 32 teams forced to stay in hotels — NFL Players Association (NFLPA) permitting. At this point, it is hard to believe the NFLPA would balk at the potential proposal given the situation and alternative. A bubble has worked for the NBA. The Major League Baseball playoffs are set to play in one too.

What would eliminating three division games mean for the playoffs, where division standings are important for seeding? Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk has a suggestion.

"With the normal six games in the division cut to three," writes Florio, "the league also should consider using a 16-team playoff field that takes the best eight teams from each conference, without regard to division standings. That's what the NFL did with a nine-game season in 1982, which was shortened due to a strike."

Of course, he points out that it is only his thought on the situation and not based on anything he has heard from inside the NFL.

The San Francisco 49ers have had three players placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and none since linebacker Fred Warner was removed from it on September 9. Wide receiver Richie James Jr. and running back Jeff Wilson Jr. spent time on the reserve/COVID-19 list before that.

The 49ers are scheduled to host the Philadelphia Eagles at Levi's Stadium tonight.

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