COVID: The biggest wildcard in NFL history

COVID-19 protocols trump factors like injuries, opponents and key calls, and could be the single biggest factor in the fate of teams fighting for the Super Bowl.

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Sports

January 8, 2021 - 12:13 PM

Head coach Ron Rivera of the Washington Football Team stands at attention prior to taking on the Seattle Seahawks at FedExField on December 20, 2020 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images/TNS)

PITTSBURGH — It would be ideal if the winner of the Super Bowl was actually the best team in the NFL. That happens sometimes, but often there are other factors — injuries, the right path of opponents, a couple of key calls — that help determine the winner.

COVID-19 protocols trump all of those factors and could be the single biggest factor in the fate of teams fighting for the Super Bowl. We — at least in my lifetime and I’m 50 years old — can never recall any non-football factor that weighs so heavily on the outcome of the games. We have never seen anything that could change the fortunes of a team as quickly as these COVID-19 protocols have.

We got another reminder of this with the Browns announcing that their head coach, Kevan Stefanski, and guard Joel Bitonio and receiver KhaDarel Hodge tested positive for COVID-19 and will not be available for the Steelers-Browns playoff game Sunday.

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