It’s Week 15 of the NFL, the most magical week of the year, and everyone is either injured or has COVID

Welcome to Week 15 of the NFL, where playoff races are heating up and things are getting good. Let’s see what’s cooking over at ESPN.

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If that lineup doesn’t get you fired up for late-season games, has a similarly robust docket.

Image for article titled It’s Week 15 of the NFL, the most magical week of the year, and everyone is either injured or has COVID


It’s the most wonderful week of the calendar, and with so much joy in the NFL right now, let’s celebrate the happiest aspect of each of these stories (and skip the ones that repeat or are opinion pieces).

Urban Meyer gets fired

I know both these teams are competing for the worst record in the league but at least something is on the line. And, good news for Jags fans, Trevor Lawrence will make his debut after having that girl who looks like him take the snaps while he waited out Meyer’s tenure. Wait, that was Lawrence all along? Well perhaps he’ll play better now that the distraction that was his coach is gone and his opponent is the Texans.

Lions star TE Hockenson out for season

This is easy. Every Christmas story centers around returning home for the holidays, and TJ Hockensen is our proverbial “Tiny Tim” — but in this Christmas Carol, his ailment is going to heal. He survived the better part of a year of Lions football, and that counts as a successful season in Detroit.

Deceased WR Vincent Jackson had CTE

Is it a coincidence that the No. 3 story on ESPN had CTE in the headline, yet “CTE” was nowhere to be found on No, but it’s good ESPN is covering this story and is only a glorified mouthpiece for the league most of the time. Now, if they could just stop Adam Schefter from being a mouthpiece for alleged domestic abusers.

Frank Gore still hoping to ‘walk away with a ring’

What a warrior, what a player, what a competitor. It speaks to Gore’s toughness that he’s transitioned to boxing as a post-NFL venture. Going from getting hit in the head with a helmet on, to getting hit in the head without a helmet is commendable, and surely will have no long-term side effects — other than that ring. Am I right, Frank?

Lamar’s status going down to the wire

There’s no way the marquee matchup of the week — Lamar Jackson on one leg dueling it out with Aaron Rodgers on nine toes — doesn’t live up to the hype. Jackson has been improving as a passer, and now he can put it on display against fellow anti-vaxxer Rodgers. The good news for the league is both players already got COVID, so football-related injuries are the only barrier to them facing off.

Fins enter protocols; Waddle on COVID list

It’s time to see if Tua Tagovailoa can extend Miami’s win streak against the Jets without his deep threat. He hasn’t had an offensive line all season, so the degree of difficulty shouldn’t be too different. This also constitutes a break for the Jets, which is something that should be celebrated even if it comes in Week 15 when they’re 3-10.

WFT COVID list grows

Would you rather watch Tua take on the Jets by himself or the Washington Football Team’s practice team take on the Eagles? When you have an NFC East rivalry with the last wildcard spot on the line, and add Taylor Heinicke and Jalen Hurts or Gardner Minshew to the mix, you have to throw out the records, folks. Also, get those bets in before the sportsbooks take it off the slate, because the Eagles getting 9.5 against a team with the same record as them is ludicrous even with Dan Snyder suiting up at long snapper for the WFT.

Bears coordinators in protocols

It’s only your coordinators, Chicago fans, you still have Matt Nagy, and I know how much you love him and his children. There’s also a rumor going around that he’s going to have his son, the one who got jeered at his high school game, call the plays Monday against the Vikings so he can see what it feels like to get booed at a real NFL game. This is great on-the-job experience for when his son gets his own coordinator position due to nepotism like a real NFL coach’s son.

Hopkins has knee surgery, out for rest of regular season

Hey, at least he may return during the playoffs, and Kyler Murray is still playing, right? That wasn’t rhetorical, I’m actually asking if Murray is healthy? Maybe healthy is the right word. How about is he not injured to the point that he can play? Yes? There you go. Merry Christmas, to everyone.

Brady doling out NIL deals for new apparel line

Tom Brady started up a company to capitalize on the quarter-zip fad, something white guys have been wearing forever but, due to their history of terrible fashion choices, have never quite caught on — until now. I can only imagine the amount of women these college athletes will pull once they unleash the quarter-zip with that dashing TB12 logo.

What a magical time of year. Brady is handing out the white guy equivalent of Air Jordans to poor student athletes, the Jets are catching breaks, a tight end is going home for the holidays, the Eagles and WFT are competing for the playoffs, the Jaguars and Texans are competing for draft position, ESPN is covering CTE, Frank Gore doesn’t have CTE, and Kyler Murray is on the field.

It’s stories like those that will have you breaking out in song (or COVID), signing Christmas carols, burning yuletide logs(?), and settling down to watch an NFL slate that will put you to sleep with images of Taylor Heinicke and Gardner Minshew dancing in your heads and on your screens.

But wait, there’s more: Brand new, more stringent COVID protocols!

After COVID ripped its way through the NFL this week, forcing several teams to bench large chunks of their rosters, the league has announced that they will implement restrictive protocols through the end of Week 15 in an attempt to curb the current spread. Players and staff will be required to wear masks in all facilities regardless of vaccination status, meals and meetings won’t be in-person, and no visitors will be allowed while teams are traveling — most of which have been protocols limited to unvaccinated players until now.

The Lions, Rams, Browns, and Washington Football Team have been hugely impacted by the current situation, with significant percentages of their rosters being placed in COVID protocol, as well as the Browns’ head coach. The NFL isn’t the only major league that’s been affected — the NBA and NHL have had big outbreaks in the past couple of weeks, as well, but have just been rolling on through and taking the hit as best they can so far.

This response seems to come at the right time, if even a bit overdue, considering the number of players who are out with COVID at the moment. The league broke its own record for most positive tests in one day earlier this week with 37, and over 90 players are in COVID protocol right now — which seems to be reaching a point where teams may be looking at the possibility of canceling or postponing some games with such a skeletal roster available to play.

The intensive protocols will only remain in place until the conclusion of Week 15 games on Monday — and I’m no expert, but I’m not sure that four days of limited activity will be able to curb the raging outbreak we’ve been seeing this week. In the NFL’s statement, they wrote that they would continue to discuss modifications with the NFLPA, which could mean that certain protocols will be extended if the spread isn’t satisfactorily checked after this weekend.

The new protocols also make it easier for vaccinated and asymptomatic players to make a return to practice and games after receiving a positive test by examining the viral load and subsequent contagiousness of the player.

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