The Titans had three players and five non-player personnel test positive for COVID-19 Tuesday morning and are shutting down their team facility and suspending all in-person activities, the team announced. They had another play test positive Wednesday and their game against the Steelers in Week 4 has been postponed, with the hope it can be played either Monday or Tuesday, though neither has been confirmed at this point.
Their Week 3 opponent, the Vikings, are also suspending in-person team activities while undergoing testing, though they are expected to return to their facility Thursday in preparation of Sunday's game against the Texans.
This is an unprecedented situation for the NFL, so the truth is, we just don't know what to expect yet as far as the impact for Fantasy. At the very least, you should be preparing for the very real risk of playing without the Titans and Steelers in Week 4 — additional positive tests later in the week could make playing even Monday or Tuesday untenable, and there could still be new developments after lineups lock Sunday, given how fluid this situation is.
Here's what we know as this story continues to develop:
- The Titans had their first in-season positive test over the weekend when a coach was placed in the protocol Saturday morning, and since there has been spread to nine other people in the organization that we know of.
- According to ESPN, the tests have been confirmed positive — there was a scare in training camp over false positives, but that apparently isn't the case here. The players involved are reportedly asymptomatic at this time.
- Long snapper Beau Brinkley, defensive lineman Beau Brinkley, and practice squad tight end Tommy Hudson were placed on the COVID-19/Reserve list Tuesday. Even if a player is asymptomatic, the NFL's return-to-play policy requires 10 days to have past since the initial positive test, or five days if the player has two consecutive negative tests separated by at least 24 hours.
- Sunday's game has been postponed by the NFL, with the current plan to play Monday or possibly Tuesday.
- Derrick Henry, Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith, Ryan Tannehill, Ben Roethlisberger, James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and the rest should all be viewed as risks to miss this week given the threat of postponement, which means finding replacements will be necessary. At this point, you should head into Sunday under the assumption they won't play, and avoid having any of them in your lineup if you can — easier said than done, obviously. But as the last game of the week, any last-minute positive test or additional postponement would leave you without a replacement.
- This is the first real test of the NFL's COVID policy, and it also threatens to put the Vikings-Texans game in question, though as of yet their have not been any reports of cross-team spread from their game Sunday and that game seems to be in much less question.
- According to ESPN, the Titans might be shutting down their facility until Saturday, with no players or coaches allowed in the building.
- If the game does not get played this week, it would be treated like a bye in CBS Fantasy leagues, with the game being made up later in the season. The Titans are on bye in Week 7; the Steelers in Week 8. That means a postponement beyond this week would require some juggling of the schedule at some point, which is why the NFL is seemingly so adamant about playing Monday or Tuesday.
- Players on the COVID/Reserve list are eligible for IR in CBS Fantasy leagues, but players not on the list who have a game postponed are not. Talk to your league mates and commissioner to see if you want to make a special exception for your league this week, or simply treat it like a bye week.
- One option I am considering with the leagues I commissioner of is to allowing managers to start a player from an earlier game and designate them as their Titans/Steelers replacement — if the game gets played Monday or Tuesday, as commissioner, I will place the Titans or Steelers player in their lineup, regardless of how the "replacement" player played that week.
That's pretty much everything we know right know, though there is obviously more we need to learn. We'll get more details in the coming hours, but this is obviously a developing situation. In MLB, the Cardinals missed 16 days of action following an outbreak, while the Marlins sat out eight straight days following theirs. Both teams saw significant outbreaks that affected around half of the roster at least, however, and that may not end up being the case here. But you should be prepared for the possibility of something similar here.
We'll be updating this as more information comes in, because this is obviously still a developing story with significant Fantasy implications for Week 4 and potentially beyond.
So who should you start and sit this week? And which surprising quarterback could lead you to victory? Visit SportsLine now to get Week 4 rankings for every position, plus see which QB is going to come out of nowhere to crack the top 10, all from the model that out-performed experts big-time last season.