Judging Week 12 NFL overreactions: Is the season in peril? Are the Giants good?

  • Joined ESPN in 2011
  • New Jersey native and author of two published novels

It takes me 2½ hours to drive from my house to Foxborough, Massachusetts. I did it Saturday without stopping, which meant I didn’t check my phone for 2½ hours on Saturday afternoon. This is a partial list of things that happened during that time:

  • The Baltimore Ravens placed six more players on the COVID-19 reserve list, bringing their total at the time to 18.

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers placed starting running back James Conner on the COVID-19 reserve list, meaning that he, along with all of those Ravens, would have to miss Tuesday’s Steelers-Ravens game that has already been postponed twice.

  • The San Francisco 49ers learned that, due to state and local COVID-19 restrictions, they would not be able to play home games in Santa Clara, California, for the foreseeable future.

  • The Denver Broncos learned that all of their quarterbacks were ineligible for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints because one of them had tested positive for COVID-19 and the other three had been identified as high-risk close contacts of his and therefore would have to sit out at least five days.

Even for 2020, that is an eventful 2½ hours.

If you’re looking for reasons to feel confident that the NFL can play this season to completion, Week 12 hasn’t helped much. If the Ravens and Steelers do play Tuesday night, Baltimore will be more short-handed than any team has been for any game so far this season. And yes, that includes the Broncos, who literally had to play Sunday’s game without a quarterback.

With COVID-19 cases spiking throughout the country, holiday travel making everybody nervous about further spikes and colder weather starting to limit outdoor activity, the NFL knows things are only going to get more difficult from here. The best case for the remaining five weeks of the regular season — and the postseason that follows — is that the league has to dance around continued chaos and bizarre situations like the ones that arose this week in Baltimore and Denver. The worst-case scenario is that it has to pause or cancel the remainder of the season because it reaches a point in which its protocols can’t control the spread of the pandemic within team facilities.

The latter possibility feels more real than it has at any point since the protocols were agreed upon by the NFL and the NFL Players Association this summer, and it leads us to begin this week’s overreactions column with the one that is dwarfing all of the others:

The NFL season is in peril

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