Why Ravens-Steelers in Week 18 was more complicated than it seemed originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
As the Ravens and the league worked to find out which day they would set their Week 12 game for, rumors swirled about a potential Week 18 at the league’s disposal.
If added, the Ravens-Steelers game would’ve been postponed to Week 18 after the regular season was scheduled to conclude, which would give the Ravens time to get their outbreak under control. But as is with most scheduling issues in the COVID-world of the NFL, it’s not as simple as it seems.
Reportedly, a Week 18 scenario was not in the cards for the league for a variety of reasons as it pondered what to do with the Ravens' matchup this week.
From a competitive advantage standpoint, it would cause a logistical nightmare for teams in the short and long term. For example, if the Ravens-Steelers matchup were to be postponed to a created Week 18, both teams would’ve been awarded essentially a second bye week in the season, which in December, would’ve been especially valuable.
The long-term would present similar issues. If no other games needed to be postponed due to COVID-19 related issues, or even if a handful were, there would be the interesting case of some teams playing in Week 18 and some not.
The last week of the regular season, Week 17, is currently constructed to have all divisional matchups. Should games be suspended, that would be thrown in jeopardy. Then there’s the issue of a bye week at the end of the season, where non-playoff teams would have their season extended by a week, and playoff teams that aren’t set to play in Week 18 would get a “bye” that they didn’t earn.
If the Ravens-Steelers matchup had been moved to and the Steelers earn a playoff bye, they would have a Week 17 game, a Week 18 game, then a bye week entering the playoffs. The problem is, every playoff team not scheduled for a Week 18 matchup would have a bye at that point as well, mitigating any advantage the Steelers had.
Or, if the Chiefs earn the AFC’s top spot and lone bye in the playoffs without a Week 18 game, they would have two weeks off before their AFC Divisional matchup, an especially long layoff.
It’s been floated by some that the league could make Week 17 a mandatory bye week for teams that do not have a Week 18 matchup, but that would likely only work if there are multiple matchups that need to be played in an added week. Additionally, a team in contention getting a bye week entering its most important game of the season would provide even more logistical headaches.
If there is a Week 18, all three weeks of the playoffs would need to be moved back to accommodate for the extended regular season. The issue then becomes to either take away the bye week before the Super Bowl, or simply push the Super Bowl — the league’s marquee event on the calendar — back a week.
There are situations that may force the league's hand on a Week 18. But until they have to, it's a risky card to play.
It should be no surprise that the league was hesitant to pull the trigger on a Week 18 matchup for the Ravens and Steelers. Because once that card is played, it cannot be revoked.