Titans’ COVID outbreak causes havoc in NFL

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When the NFL announced their business-as-usual plans to play the 2020 season, there were plenty of critics that raised an eyebrow.

No bubble? No reduced travel? No pods for teams within the same geographic location?

That business-as-usual plan was far from a success during the Major League Baseball regular season, and it took only three weeks of the NFL’s regular season for those critics to come calling.

The Tennessee Titans announced on Tuesday that eight people within the organization have tested positive for COVID-19, including three players. The Titans and their Week 3 opponent, the Minnesota Vikings, have shut down their team facilities until further testing is complete.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Week 4 games involving those two teams — Steelers at Titans and Vikings at Texans — had been pulled off the board at all Las Vegas sportsbooks.

With both teams sitting atop their division at 3-0, Pittsburgh vs. Tennessee was slated to be one of the biggest games of the ­weekend. Now, it’s problematic they’ll play, given the circumstances in Nashville.

The NFL was playing with fire, both on a macro and a micro level. On the macro level, the observation is easy: There is no bubble. The NHL, NBA and WNBA all reached their respective league finals without a single positive case while playing in an isolated environment.

While it is unlikely that the NFL would have been able to create a similar environment, it still would have been nice to see some geographic adjustments made for this season. There are seven cross-country games this weekend.

On a micro level, should the Titans have been able to travel and play Minnesota in Week 3? Tennessee’s outside linebackers coach and defensive play-caller Shane Bowen tested positive on Saturday before the team left for Minnesota. The Titans were already without offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson, who was placed into the coronavirus protocol earlier this month.

If the Titans and NFL knew that they had a positive case on their hands, what would have been the harm in waiting an extra day or two to ensure there was only one positive? We already have Denver flying across the country to play the Jets on Thursday night, so the precedent for playing on a shortened week has been well established.

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As of Sunday, the NFL has issued $1.7 million in fines to coaches and teams that were not following mask guidelines. While most observers chuckled at Jon Gruden and Bill Belichick for struggling to keep a mask on, the NFL needs to be transparent on their plans to keep this season afloat.

Meanwhile, we will wait and see if the Titans and Vikings get to play Sunday.

Thursday

Broncos at Jets +3: Hold your nose and click the “submit” button. The Jets were No. 2 in the NFL in rushing defense last year, and they are in the top-half of the league at the start of this year. They gave up 3.8 yards per carry to the Colts last week.

The Jets are very capable of stopping the Broncos’ rushing attack. JETS

Sunday

Cardinals -3.5 at Panthers: Kyler Murray threw three interceptions and played one of the worst games of his young career against Detroit, yet the Cardinals still took a lead into the fourth quarter and lost on a last-second field goal.

When your quarterback is handing opportunities to the other team and you are still in the game until the last moment, that is the mark of a pretty good squad. CARDINALS

Giants at Rams, Total 47.5: The Giants’ defense is No. 9 in the league after three weeks at 5.3 yards per play allowed. Not too shabby, right? Well, they played Ben Roethlisberger in his first game in over a year, Mitchell Trubisky who has since been benched in Chicago and San Francisco’s backup Nick Mullens. They will be tested by Jared Goff on Sunday afternoon. OVER

Ravens -13 at Washington: Fair or not, there were whispers during the Ravens’ Monday Night Football collapse. Is Baltimore just a bully that beats up on the bad teams and struggles with the good teams? Lucky for them, they will have the opportunity to take some frustrations out on a bad team. RAVENS

Eagles +6.5 at 49ers: I have been an Eagles critic dating back to last year. I did not agree with a lot of the moves they made and I am not entirely surprised to see them winless after three games. However, San Francisco’s injury situation is still a mess. Getting away from Philadelphia might be a blessing for the Eagles. I will take the points. EAGLES

Monday

Falcons +7 at Packers: We do not need the Falcons to win. We do not need the Falcons to cover the spread as a favorite. We do not need them to hold onto a lead. They just need to stay within a touchdown. FALCONS

Last week: 2-4

Season: 9-9

About the Author

James Bunting

James Bunting covers college basketball, baseball and the NFL for Gaming Today. He has worked as a freelance sports writer for several outlets over the last decade, focusing specifically on the sports betting industry in the last five years.

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