NFL footballs in a circle

With the conclusion of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens game Wednesday afternoon, the NFL finally put the longest week in its history to rest. 

A week that began with two Thanksgiving blowouts finished with an oddly close divisional matchup that saw the Steelers offense and defense outlast a Ravens lineup thinned by a COVID-19 outbreak. 

The game originally scheduled to take place Thanksgiving evening was initially pushed back to Tuesday before being rescheduled a day later. On game day, the Ravens had 17 players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list and called up 10 players from its practice squad.

Last year’s MVP Lamar Jackson was unavailable after he tested positive Thanksgiving evening, leaving the Ravens in a peculiar situation. The team called on Robert Griffin III to fill Jackson's shoes, which proved to be too much for the one-time Pro-Bowler.

Griffin III was eventually replaced in the fourth quarter for Penn State product Trace McSourley who threw the team's lone touchdown to Marquise “Hollywood” Brown late in the game to bring the Ravens within striking distance. 

Starting a second- or third-string quarterback has become common this season with injuries plaguing signal callers. While COVID-19 can’t inherently be blamed for the amount of injuries this season, it's definitely worth questioning whether or not players had enough time to get in shape without a preseason this year. 

After Sunday’s Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints game where practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton was signed into the active roster to play quarterback, it became clear that at some point this season, the NFL’s competitive integrity has to be called into question. 

The entire Broncos quarterback room was forced to quarantine after they were deemed high-risk COVID-19 close contacts. This was the result of not wearing masks and coming into contact with Jeff Driskel, who tested positive. 

This was the fault of the Broncos and there is no denying that. While it's unlikely the result would have changed had the team fielded an actual quarterback, it’s still hard to understand why the game wasn’t pushed back in a similar fashion to the Ravens-Steelers game. 

It’s not as simple as just punishing Denver for its mistake other teams were affected by the result of this contest. Had the Saints remarkably lost to a healthy Broncos lineup, it would have eased the pressure on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who now trail the Saints by two wins in the contested NFC South. 

When sporting events eventually return to Orange Coast College and the Orange Empire Conference, issues such as this should be solved. Leaving teams in a position where they are expected to lose regardless of how they play is a bad look. 

Solutions to keep players safe, eliminate injuries, and protect the integrity of competition will be necessary to see a successful season come to fruition. 

Without them, we could fall into a state of limbo regarding how to complete the season.

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