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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The NFL's postponement of Week 5's Broncos vs. Patriots matchup has shifted the dates of eight games involving seven teams, creating the season's first true scheduling puzzle.

Where it stands: An 18th week of the regular season is reportedly "in play," but the league wants it to be a last resort.

The moves:

  • Broncos at Patriots: Week 5 → Week 6
  • Chiefs at Bills: Week 6 (Thursday) → Week 6 (Monday)
  • Jets at Dolphins: Week 10 → Week 6
  • Jets at Chargers: Week 6 → Week 11
  • Jaguars at Chargers: Week 8 → Week 7
  • Chargers at Broncos: Week 11 → Week 8
  • Chargers at Dolphins: Week 7 → Week 10
  • Dolphins at Broncos: Week 6 → Week 11

The backdrop: The NFL managing this mess while the NBA wraps up its flawless bubble makes for an obvious comparison, but it's not particularly apt given the vast differences between the two leagues.

  • Too many people: The NBA's expanded bubble rosters topped out at around 18 players, and only 22 teams made the trip. NFL rosters are about three times that size, staffs are much bigger and all 32 teams would have participated.
  • Full season: It was challenging enough for the NBA to pull off a three-month bubble; the NFL was staring at a full, five-month season.
  • Game frequency: The NBA fit all its games on a handful of courts with teams playing a few times a week, but NFL teams can't realistically play more than once every five to six days.
  • Add it all up, and unless you know of a facility with 10–15 NFL-grade football fields and lodging for 5,000 people, the single-site bubble was never an option.

Yes, but: While an NBA-style bubble was out of the question, market bubbles (teams living in hotels in home cities) or multiple bubbles (similar to the NHL but with more sites) were both feasible, so it's not like the NFL didn't have options.

  • The league went a different route, ultimately deciding that the non-bubble approach would suffice as long as it remained "flexible and adaptable," chief medical officer Allen Sills told Axios in June.

The bottom line: Sills has repeatedly said the NFL expected positive cases, and the league's protocol was formulated merely to contain the spread. That sounded much better before watching it play out in real time.

Go deeper

Dec 21, 2020 - Podcasts

Milwaukee Bucks owner: NBA teams will lose money this season

The NBA tips off tomorrow night, making it the first major U.S. sports league to play a second season amidst the pandemic. No bubble this time, but also not many in-person fans.

Axios Re:Cap talks with Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry on the business of basketball, how much he expects to lose this season and that massive new deal for two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse under scrutiny for elite club affiliations

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill in February. Photo: Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Image

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said in a statement Wednesday that he is a member of an exclusive Rhode Island sailing club that lacks diversity.

Why it matters: Whitehouse has repeatedly spoken out against systemic racism and come under scrutiny this week for his family's affiliation with elite clubs. This is the second such club accused of lacking diversity that the senator has been linked to in recent days

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Border Democrats want migrants vaccinated

Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Tex.) Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Some Democrats representing border districts want President Biden to vaccinate migrants crossing into the U.S. — especially if he lifts public health restrictions that have prevented them from claiming asylum on American soil.

Why it matters: Inoculating migrants treads a fine line of protecting the U.S. population while possibly incentivizing more migration with the offer of free COVID-19 vaccines. Republicans are likely to pounce on that.

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