After 256 games, numerous fines, dozens of quarantines, practice facility closures, hospitalizations, decimated coaching staffs, COVID lists, and one game delayed three times in a week, the NFL’s chaotic pandemic-infused regular season is over.
Here’s a look at how each team fared in the time of COVID-19.
Despite having to share facilities with their division rivals, the San Francisco 49ers from December on, the Cardinals avoided a COVID-19 breakout. Future hall-of-fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald missed a game in early December vs. New England. The Cardinals finished 8-8, just missing a playoff berth after losing to the LA Rams on Sunday.
The Falcons held five virtual practices due to contact tracing protocols and six players, including first-rounder A.J. Terrell and starting defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., spent time on the COVID-19 reserve list. The Falcons at 4-12 finished last in the NFC South.
The Ravens experienced the league’s most notable outbreak. The team’s spread followed an overtime loss to Tennessee on Nov. 22, leaving at least 20 players off the roster ahead of a Thanksgiving game vs. the Steelers. The game was postponed to Sunday, then Tuesday, then Wednesday. When the Ravens finally took to the field, they were without more than a dozen starters, including quarterback Lamar Jackson. They lost 19-14. The Ravens finished the season 11-5 and will play the Titans at 1:05 p.m. ET Sunday in the wild-card game.
The Bills had a trio of games moved through December. Tight end Tommy Sweeney tested positive and missed the rest of the season after being diagnosed with myocarditis, a COVID-related heart inflammation. The Bills are playing the Colts at 1:05 p.m. ET Saturday in the wild-card round.
Ten players made it onto the Panthers’ COVID-19 list, including cornerback Rasul Douglas for two games. The Panthers were placed on intense, team-wide protocol twice, but avoided any significant outbreaks among the players or coaches. Carolina finished 5-11, second-to-last in the NFC South.
Nose tackle Eddie Goldman opted out of the season and left a gaping hole in the Bears’ run defense. Chicago also closed its facility in November. Other than that, the Bears remained relatively unscathed and will face the Saints in the wild-card game at 4:40 p.m. Sunday.
The Bengals coaching staff was decimated in November with defensive line coach Nick Eason, cornerbacks coach Steven Jackson, linebackers coach Al Golden, receivers coach Bob Bicknell, and defensive assistant Mark Duffner missing games. The depleted Bengals finished 4-11, last in the AFC North.
The Browns had rolling shutdowns in their facility since mid-November, causing the team to pivot to Zoom meetings and work-from-home setups. More than two-dozen starters, including the entire receiving corps, rotated through the COVID-19 list reserve list. Linebacker Sione Takitaki and fullback Andy Janovich were a couple of notables with positive cases. Cleveland beat Pittsburgh Sunday to play their way into the wild-card round where they’ll face Pittsburgh once again.
Starting quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle during a third-quarter run that went awry in Week 5 against the Giants. Backup quarterback Andy Dalton missed a pair of games and claimed he didn’t have a sense of taste or smell in the wake of his infection in December. The Cowboys were forced to go with rookie Ben DiNucci in a 23-9 loss to Philadelphia in November, and the season went downhill from there as they finished 6-10, third in the NFC East.
The Broncos made headlines in late-November when they lost their entire quarterback corps to the virus and contact tracing. The team elected to pull up a rookie receiver with college QB experience, and the results were disastrous. Three assistant coaches were infected — defensive coordinator Ed Donatell missed all of November and was hospitalized at one point with respiratory complications. Bronco great and current GM John Elway and CEO Joe Ellis also caught the virus. Denver finished 5-11, last in the AFC West.
The Lions fired head coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn in late-November, then saw the virus run through the rest of its coaching staff in December, becoming the first team since the ’78 Pats to have three head coaches in a season. Detroit finished 5-11, last in the NFC North.
Green Bay Packers
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers breathed new life into his career and the Packers’ offense as Green Bay completed a season playing in front of no paying fans at Lambeau. Rookie running back A.J. Dillon and his partner in the backfield, Jamaal Williams, were placed on the COVID-19 list due to contact tracing in November but other than that the team’s front-line starters remained virus-free. At 13-3, Green Bay won the NFC North and enjoys a Week 1 bye in the playoffs.
The Colts lost their sack leader, defensive end Denico Autry, for a few weeks in November. 2019 Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and rookie running back Jonathan Taylor also saw time on the COVID list. Colts coach Frank Reich said the team considered sending backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett for virtual meetings in case something should happen to starter Philip Rivers. Indy finished 11-5 and faces the Bills at 1:05 p.m. ET on Saturday in the wild card.
In November, the Texans played at Jacksonville after linebackers Whitney Mercilus, Jacob Martin, and Dylan Cole tested positive. Offensive tackle Max Scharping tested positive for the virus during the team’s bye week, and the team was forced to close its practice facility. Otherwise, Houston starters and coaches remained COVID-free en route to an unmemorable 4-12 season.
The Jags probably should have never gotten going. The NFL’s worst team had the most players (12) on the COVID-19 list to open training camp. Though they got the virus under control, rescheduling only one game during their bye week, the Jags finished 1-15 — last in the AFC South and the league.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs were down wide receiver Mecole Hardman and left tackle Eric Fisher in Week 10. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz also tested positive, along with backup outside linebacker Martinas Rankin. Still, the rest of the Chiefs’ frontline starters and coaching staff remained off the COVID reserve list. The reigning champions managed to skip the post-Super Bowl season slump, finishing with a league-best 14-2 record, home-field advantage, and a first-round bye.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders racked up an enormous amount of COVID-related debt in their debut season in Sin City. Fined more than $1.2 million with a sixth-round pick taken away for COVID-19 violations, the Raiders led the league in protocol gaffes. The Raiders finished 8-8 in their first season in Vegas.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers didn’t have one player opt-out of the season, and had no COVID cases until late-October. In a rebuilding season, the team completed its campaign relatively unscathed, finishing a respectable 7-9 with projected NFL Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert improving week-over-week under center.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams decided to double down, erecting a giant tent in the parking lot of their training complex to hold team meetings outdoors. There was only one outbreak, affecting mostly practice squad players, through the season. Though quarterback Jared Goff (thumb surgery) is out for the playoffs, they’ll face the other COVID-free squad, the Seahawks, in Seattle on Saturday.
COVID-19 rolled through the Dolphins clubhouse, sidelining outside linebackers coach Austin Clark, quarterback coach Robby Brown, defensive line coach Marion Hobby, and offensive quality control coach Kolby Smith. Defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander also missed a game, but the only stater infected was defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who did not play in two games. The Dolphins finished 10-6, but out of the playoffs.
Tennessee reported its outbreak two days after the Vikings faced them at home. Receiver Adam Thielen was diagnosed, but the team remained relatively unimpacted. Nose tackle Michael Pierce opted out of the season due to asthma-related health concerns, and the Vikings were unable to stop the run, finishing 7-9 in the NFC North.
New England Patriots
The Patriots’ Week 4 matchup against the Chiefs was postponed after quarterback Cam Newton tested positive. New England’s game the following week against Denver was also postponed twice following positive tests by several players, including star cornerback Stephon Gilmore. With positive cases filtering in the clubhouse through the season, the Pats never quite got it going without Brady under center. They finished 7-9, second-to-last in the AFC East.
New Orleans Saints
Like the Raiders, the Saints had some pretty stiff fines, including a $500,000 excise from the league and the loss of a seventh-round draft pick for repeated protocol violations. Individual players who missed games included receiver Emmanuel Sanders and left tackle Terron Armstead and, on Week 17, their entire running backs corps. Head coach Sean Payton contracted the virus in the offseason. They host the Bears at 4:40 p.m. ET Sunday.
New York Giants
Five players tested positive during the season, starting with left guard Will Hernandez on Oct. 29. Hernandez missed two games. All of the Giants’ offensive linemen were eventually sidelined due to contact tracing, except right guard Kevin Zeitler, who had to isolate because of close contact. Despite being four games under .500, the Giants were a long-shot playoff-hopeful until the waning seconds of the Washington game on Sunday night. They finished 6-10, second in the NFC East.
New York Jets
The team’s best linebacker, C.J. Mosley opted out before the season. Tight end Ross Travis was among the few COVID-19 positives the Jets had during the regular season, so the pandemic can’t necessarily be blamed for the team’s abysmal 2-14 record.
The Eagles flew under the radar with COVID-19 cases this season, with no coaches or starters placed on the reserve list. Unfortunately, that was the lone bright spot in Philly, as the Eagles finished 4-11, last in the dismal NFC East.
The Steelers moved through the season relatively unscathed. The AFC North champions’ COVID-related headlines were made due to the three-time postponement of their game vs. Baltimore. Tight end Vance McDonald and running back James Conner headlined the players who were infected this year. The 12-4 Steelers face the Browns in the wild-card game on Sunday night.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers were kicked out of their facilities and stadium in December when Santa Clara County banned contact sports and practices. The defending NFC Champions finished last in the NFC West at 6-10.
Seattle ran the table as the only NFL team with no confirmed COVID-19 cases among its starters. Head coach Pete Carroll was among the strictest in the league in following protocols. “We feel very fortunate that we are where we are,” Carroll said in December. “So we’re in good shape right now, and hopefully we just keep it going. This is a one day at a time deal.” At 12-4, Seattle won the NFC West and will host the Rams at 4:40 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A single starter, defensive lineman William Gholston, spent time on the COVID-19 list and didn’t miss one game. “We’re very, very fortunate to have the facility and the weather that we can meet outside,” head coach Bruce Arians said in November. The Bucs were revitalized by Tom Brady’s play and finished 11-5, second in the NFC South. They will face the Washington Football Team in the wild card at 8:15 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Washington Football Team
Only a handful of players tested positive for COVID-19, but Washington made headlines when it released second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins the week before their final game for his repeated COVID-19-related violations. Backup quarterback Alex Smith, on the field 18 months after a life-threatening leg injury, helped lead the team to its first playoff berth since 2015. At 7-9, Washington joins the worst teams in NFL history to ever appear in the playoffs.