The NFL will finally play its third Thanksgiving game between the Baltimore Ravens and the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers on Wednesday at 3:40 pm ET. Six days late. For only the third time in history, the NFL scheduled a game on Wednesday because of a coronavirus outbreak within the Baltimore Ravens who put 21 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
The NFL originally scheduled the Ravens and Steelers to play a primetime nightcap to complete a Thanksgiving tripleheader. Last Wednesday, on the day before Thanksgiving, the NFL postponed that game and rescheduled it for Sunday after the Ravens reported an outbreak.
On Thanksgiving, word got out that quarterback Lamar Jackson tested positive for coronavirus and went on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
When more Ravens tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, the NFL moved the game to Tuesday evening. Over the weekend, the Steelers added running back James Conner to their reserve/COVID-19 list. Pittsburgh had a lone, isolated incident.
Over the weekend, the positive tests continued for Baltimore. Tight End Mark Andrews, the team’s top receiver, went on the COVID list.
As of Monday morning, both teams were expected to play on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. The added drama included snow in the forecast for Tuesday morning.
On Monday afternoon, the NFL pushed back the matchup until Wednesday afternoon.
“These decisions were made out of an abundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel and in consultation with medical experts,” said the NFL in a statement.
Of course, the Wednesday game will impact the future schedule for both teams.
🏈Ravens-Steelers, Wednesday at 3:40 p.m. ET.
🏈Steelers-Washington, next Monday at 5 p.m. ET.
🏈Ravens-Cowboys next Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 8:05 p.m. ET.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 30, 2020
It’s Not Show Friends, It’s Show Business
So, why is there a 3:40 pm ET kick off. NBC? Because the producers of the original Thursday Night Football Thanksgiving telecast will be airing the annual lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City on Wednesday evening in primetime. Alas, with a juicy primetime slot taken, NBC’s broadcast schedule could only accommodate the game in a slot with a 3:40 pm start time.
If you ever need a reminder that pro football is really just a TV show, well, there you have it.
Since the NFL is essentially a TV show, it adheres to one of the golden rules of show biz … no matter what the obstacles or problems, the show must go on.
So, Wednesday it is.
This Ravens/Steelers game that keeps getting rescheduled sounds like a comedy with John Candy and Steve Martin, where two guys scheduled to be home from Thanksgiving end up on a delayed trip home that turns into a wild and wacky adventure where they finally arrive home six days later.
Missed the Boat with Week 18
The NFL took a hardline approach and refused to alter their set date for the Super Bowl, scheduled for Feb. 7, 2021. The NFL is stubborn that way, unlike the MLB, NBA, and NHL. The other major sports leagues adjusted their seasons on the fly in the wake of the pandemic. Both the NBA and NHL restarted in a bubble, while the MLB hosted its postseason in a bubble. As a result, the winning team in the NHL didn’t hoist the Stanley Cup until late September. The NBA didn’t crown a champion until October when the LA Lakers defeated the Miami Heat.
The NFL should have pushed the Super Bowl back several weeks until the end of February. That way, they could have added a flex week in the middle of the season to play any games that were postponed in the first two months. A delayed Super Bowl could have allowed a Week 18 in which the league played postponed games before the start of the playoffs.
The NFL is a TV show, and they’re hellbent on making sure their huge ratings draw and advertising bonanza runs on the date they originally scheduled.
The NFL hasn’t canceled any games this season, but this is the closest they’ve gotten. Wednesday is the last possible day to play the Ravens/Steelers game before Week 12 turns into Week 13 on Thursday.
In case you’re wondering, the 10-0 Pittsburgh Steelers are -10.5 favorites to beat Baltimore and keep their perfect season alive.