The NFL Needs to Just Add a Week 18 Already

Ravens / Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers has been postponed again. No, not the postponement that pushed the game from Thanksgiving to Sunday. Nor the postponement that moved the game from Sunday to Tuesday. No, I'm talking about the most recent postponement. Announced this afternoon, the Ravens and Steelers will now play ... on Wednesday night. Probably. Who really knows at this point?

Over the weekend as news of more positive tests in Baltimore rolled in and a new outbreak in Pittsburgh broke out, it became clear that the NFL's contingency plans may be put to the test. After the third postponement of this one game (and news that Ravens players might have refused to play if forced to take the field with no practice time and positive results still popping up), it's starting to get absurd.

Why doesn't the NFL just add a Week 18? Nobody would lose any money, as far as we know. NBC was slated to broadcast Ravens-Steelers on Thanksgiving, and nothing will be able to replace the revenue and viewer count of that particular holiday. But if it's the only game on during a Week 18? The numbers will be better than if it got shoehorned into Sunday's early afternoon slot, as was originally planned.

It's also sheer hubris to assume this is a one-off scenario. There are still five more weeks of football left to play. This isn't even the first time an outbreak has caused a game to get moved this season. Why not announce a Week 18 now, and if any team's competitive integrity is compromised, just move the game to Week 18? There is not a single good reason to not do this. The money is the same, everybody would finish with the same record, and the games that have to be postponed will probably be of a higher quality than what Wednesday will likely be: a battle between backups. The players will be far more comfortable playing. No legitimate downside can be seen.

Yes, it's no guarantee that any team who has to could be able to play a Week 18 game. An outbreak can happen at any time, as we have all come to learn. But it's better than forcing the game to go on in a timely manner simply for the sake of sticking to what's normal. It's ridiculous. I don't know why the NFL is so reluctant to turn to a plan they themselves created for a scenario exactly like this, but they need to stop dragging their feet and announce a Week 18 already.