Assuming that the NFL season doesn’t completely collapse – and that cannot be ruled out – Cam Newton and the New England Patriots have just dramatically changed the shape of the AFC playoffs. The Week 6 game between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs just became huge.
By the time it rolls around, the Bills could be in the driver’s seat in the conference — and the Chiefs could feel like they’ve been hit by a bus.
The NFL acted quickly after the Cam Newton news
The NFL and its fans received a huge jolt with the news that New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton has tested positive for COVID-19, according to multiple reports. The Patriots canceled their scheduled Saturday afternoon flight to Kansas City, where they were to take on the Chiefs on Sunday of NFL Week 4.
Getting that game played is of utmost importance since rescheduling it for down the road will require several moving pieces. With the Patriots’ bye in Week 6 and the Chiefs’ in Week 10, other games on the schedule would have to be moved to accommodate the game.
The NFL just went through that scenario with the Tennessee Titans. When the COVID-19 outbreak continued to spread through the Titans, the league gave each team a bye for the weekend and moved their game to Week 7. If order to make that work, the Steelers’ Week 7 game vs. the Baltimore Ravens was pushed back a week and the Ravens will now have their bye in Week 7.
What’s next as a result of the Cam Newton development?
The New England Patriots issued a statement Saturday that they were notified late Friday that a player had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and began a self-quarantine.
“Several additional players, coaches and staff who have been in close contact with the player received point of care tests this morning and all were negative for COVID-19,” the statement said.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to report that the player testing positive was Cam Newton, signed as a free agent in July following the departure of star quarterback Tom Brady to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Upon receiving the news, the Patriots began following the league protocol for immediate re-testing of players and staff and postponed their flight to their Week 4 game.
While the developments were unfolding at the Patriots’ facility, the Kansas City Chiefs were experiencing their own concerns. Chiefs practice-squad quarterback Jordan Ta’amu also tested positive. Though only part of the practice squad, Ta’amu spends time during the week with teammates on offense. He also ran the scout-team offense last week to help the Kansas City defense prepare for Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens.
This could be a Kansas City Chiefs nightmare
The NFL’s initial announcement was that the New England Patriots’ game against the Kansas City Chiefs is tentatively moved to Monday or Tuesday. Given that both teams now have positive tests and will need to do another round of testing Sunday, the more likely scenario has the Patriots flying into Kansas City on Monday for a Tuesday game.
That poses a problem for the Chiefs that could profoundly change what the AFC playoffs look like in January. Kansas City’s Week 5 game is set for Sunday, Oct. 11, at home vs. the Las Vegas Raiders. Playing that on relatively short rest amounts to a hardship, although being the home team somewhat mitigates the situation.
But what follows next is a potential nightmare because their Week 6 game is on the road on Thursday, Oct. 15, against the Buffalo Bills. That potentially makes for three games in 10 games for Chiefs players and coaches.
The Bills are unbeaten entering Week 4 at the Las Vegas Raiders and are supposed to play at the Tennessee Titans in Week 5. Given that the Titans’ own COVID-19 situation is worsening, there is a realistic possibility that the game doesn’t get played. That would give the Bills extra rest for their contest against Kansas City while the Chiefs would be on short rest for the second straight week.
With teams in both conferences fighting for a single playoff bye this year instead of the traditional two for the wild-card round, the scenario would be unfair to the Chiefs. The NFL could push the Oct. 15 game back to Sunday of Week 6, but that would likely mean asking two other teams to move their game up by three days – again on short notice.