As the teams head down the stretch in the second half of the season, one key factor will be how many players will be sidelined after testing positive for Covid.
The Cowboys were hit this week and have to live with consequences.
The Cowboys will go into Sunday’s game against the Chiefs without Amari Cooper, who wasn’t vaxxed and tested positive for Covid. It will probably mean he’ll also miss the Thanksgiving Day game against the Raiders.
Although some vaxxed players have also tested positive, it is totally irresponsible for players not to get vaxxed.
The good news for the Cowboys is that the game isn’t that important for them except in the battle for the first-round bye. They have a four-game lead in the loss column over the other three games in their division. The other three teams have all lost six games.
The Cowboys are one of the three two-loss teams in the NFC along with 8-2 Arizona and Green Bay. If they lose their third game, they could fall a game behind those two teams in the loss column. Arizona plays Seattle and Green Bay plays Minnesota.
The game, though, is critical for the Chiefs, who have struggled this year but looked like they were back last week when they routed the Raiders. Now they have to show it wasn’t a mirage. They lead their division at 6-4. But Chargers and Raiders are 5-4 and Denver is 5-5 so they have no margin for error.
Another team to watch is defending champion Tampa Bay, which has lost its last two games sandwiched around a bye to fall to 6-3, although they still lead their division.
They should stay on top Monday night since they have what happens to be an easy game against the 3-6 Giants, but they can’t afford an upset.
In the AFC, Tennessee is the only team in the division with just two losses at 8-2 and is in the lead for the battle for the top seed. But they face a tough task against 5-4 New Orleans.
Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Buffalo are all a game behind at 6-3 while the Patriots are 7-4 after their Thursday night win over the Raiders and the Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders and Bengals also have four in losses. There is no clear favorite in the AFC, especially since Tennessee will play the rest of the regular season without Derrick Henry.
Baltimore figures to beat Chicago and the Bills are expected to beat the Jets while Pittsburgh has a tough Sunday night game against the Chargers in the Sunday night game.
Another factor to watch is whether underdogs will continue to pull off upsets the way they did the last two weeks when nine teams who were in first place or tied for first lost to teams at .500 or below.