The NFL Must Protect the Cleveland Browns' Playoff Game at All Costs
The Cleveland Browns are the latest NFL team to face a COVID outbreak. The timing could not be worse for the Browns as they have a playoff game on Sunday night. They will be without their head coach Kevin Stefanski and their All-Pro guard Joel Bitonio. And if they face any further positive test results, they might have to move the game, or even worse - forfeit so that the rest of the playoffs will go on as scheduled.
You would think losing a primetime playoff game on Wild Card weekend would be a doomsday scenario for the NFL. Especially after football media spent the last few days patting the NFL on the back for not canceling a single game all season, even if it meant the Steelers, Cleveland's scheduled playoff opponent, did have to play three games in 11 days last month.
Would the NFL possibly move a playoff game to a Monday? Or maybe push the entire postseason back a week? What's fair has never really factored in, but I can tell you what's important:
The Cleveland Browns must have a playoff game.
The Browns are in the playoffs for the first time since 2002. They are looking for their first postseason win since Bill Belichick was their coach in 1994. To do so they will have to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers for the second time in two weeks. Cleveland hasn't beaten Pittsburgh twice in the same season since 1988. The only player on the Browns' roster who was alive when that happened was Case Keenum, who was not old enough to walk.
Basically, the Cleveland Browns being in the playoffs is like Halley's Comet. It comes around once a lifetime and if you miss it there is no guarantee you will ever get another chance to see it.
The NFL must do whatever they can to ensure the Browns get to play this game. Even if it is for nothing more than a heartbreaking or embarrassing loss to their most hated rival. It would still be worth it so that fifty years from now someone can tell a younger person that yeah, I was there. The Cleveland Browns made the playoffs and I saw it with my own two eyes.
And that younger person can look on in disbelief, shaking his or her head, and wonder why the f--k were they playing football during a pandemic?