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The Weekly Kickoff with Geoff Schwartz: NFL Week 9

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Editor’s note: The Weekly Kickoff is a weekly column from the pen of former NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz. Check back every week for the latest edition.

Y’all… Eight weeks of the NFL are already down. Time flies when you’re having fun. Now, with nine weeks left in the regular season, I’m looking forward to these two things down the back stretch. 

Battle for the bye

With the new playoff format starting at the end of this season, seven teams make the playoffs, with only a single team getting the bye. The single bye is important because since 2012, there hasn’t been a team that’s reached the Super Bowl without that week off.

The bye is important for the obvious reasons. One, your body gets an extra week to rest. After 17 weeks of the season, getting a week to refresh your body and mind is critical and it’s extremely helpful. Having to win one less game to reach the Super Bowl makes your path easier to get to Tampa. In the past, home field was important, but with a season that hasn’t seen many fans that’s less crucial. However, weather is still a factor. It will play a factor in the NFC.

In the AFC, the battle appears to be between the Chiefs and Steelers for the 1 seed. The Steelers are currently undefeated, but I do not expect them to finish the season with a zero in the losses column. The Steelers still have another matchup with the Ravens and play the Colts and Bills, three games they can lose. Their offense still needs to improve and I could see them dropping a game or two.

On the other hand, the Chiefs will be heavy favorites in every game on their schedule outside of a trip to Tampa Bay. At the worst, Kansas City should finish 14-2, which means it would need Pittsburgh to drop two games for that bye. 

In the NFC, the battle for the top seed is more fierce. Seattle, Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Green Bay appear to be the contenders for the number one spot. The Bucs and Saints play this weekend, and if the Saints beat Tampa again, it will give them a firm tiebreaker against the Bucs.

This weekend is a must-win for Tompa Bay. The Seahawks are a stupid personal foul away from being undefeated. Their offense has been unstoppable and their defense keeps improving. But their division might be the toughest in the NFL so getting that one-seed will be work. The Packers are in a great spot, but they play the Titans and Colts still, plus have two games against the outstanding Bears defense. The NFC is the conference I’d watch down the stretch for some crazy action.

COVID-19

The NFL has handled COVID-19 to the best of its ability without a bubble and should be commended for that. But the league is in the midst of its biggest COVID-19 positive test this season. At press time, 13 teams have put 33 players on the COVID-19 list just this week. Now, not all of these players are COVID-19 positive, as some are added because of contact tracing or someone within their family is sick. Those players are able to get off the list quickly.

These numbers are manageable if NFL teams and personnel continue to follow protocols. While most have done that, we have seen the NFL clamp down with continued enforcement of its COVID-19 protocols. The NFL fined the Las Vegas Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers for failure to wear masks and follow the league’s rules. The NFL will continue to monitor how personnel are following the rules because it’s the only way to get the season in at this time.