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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.

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

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