The San Francisco 49ers have waited seven months to avenge their Super Bowl loss. The defending NFC champions may have to wait a bit longer as California wildfires have ravaged the Bay Area, affecting the air quality in the region and potentially Sunday's NFC West showdown between the 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals. The Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams, who are scheduled to play on Sunday Night Football in Week 1, could also affected by the air quality in the area.
The NFL is planning to play both games as scheduled as of Saturday night but continues to monitor the situation, per Pro Football Talk. The decision to potentially postpone the game is tricky, as Pro Football Talk pointed out the actual numbers on the official Air Quality Index website haven't been meshing with the forecast.
"For example, Inglewood's current reading grossly exceeds the forecast for Saturday of 87," Mike Florio wrote. "And there's no forecast yet available for Sunday, which seems ominous given the current number."
Those actual measurements are far above the estimates, which means both the Cardinals-49ers and Cowboys-Rams games could be in jeopardy if this is the situation Sunday. Rams head coach Sean McVay reiterated Friday the Cowboys-Rams game will be played, despite the AQI playing a factor.
"We did check that out and things are looking good," McVay said. "So, we'll be in good shape. That shouldn't be an issue for us."
Obviously still foggy at Levi’s Stadium right now. For what it’s worth, air quality index via AirNow app is at 171. Of course, #49ers and league have different measurements. But regardless, if number stays below 200 as it is now, game will go off as planned... pic.twitter.com/Rf5ZDPC1hg— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) September 13, 2020
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was also asked about the potential of the game being postponed or being moved to an alternate site, perhaps shifting the Week 1 tilt to Arizona and rescheduling the Week 16 game to San Francisco. Shanahan was nonchalant regarding the weather conditions, and hasn't been in contact with the NFL regarding a potential contingency plan.
"I'm not sure. I try not to worry about things I'm not involved in," Shanahan said. "So, I'm just trying to get our team ready to play this game. I'm sure that the NFL has had some discussions with other people, not any coaches, I don't think. Not [Arizona Cardinals head coach] Kliff [Kingsbury] or I. So, we're just getting ready for this game.
"If (the Air Quality Index) is at 200, I know that's when they'll decide whether we play or not, how to go forward with that, but I'm not really sure of the contingency plans. So, we'll just see what happens. Hopefully it won't get there. Hopefully it'll be safe, but we've got to see what the wind does."
If the 49ers and Cardinals do play, Tevin Coleman's status for the game is in question. Coleman has a sickle cell trait that makes him sensitive to air pollution and low oxygen levels, which caused him to miss practice Friday. If the AQI is over 150, Coleman's status for the game is up in the air -- but the decision is his whether he wants to play or not.
"I know when it is up to 150, that's when it can affect some people with different conditions. So, that's something that Tevin, it'll be a personal decision when he gets there. It's not just an automatic 'no,'" Shanahan said. "Similar to when you play in high altitude and stuff like that, it's not an automatic 'no.' That's stuff you've got to discuss with the doctor and be comfortable with, dealing with oxygen tanks and things there can help.
"But talking to Tevin, I've been through some situations with him before, dealing with things like playing in Denver and stuff. Tevin will do what's right for him, what's safe. I know he's going to want to play extremely hard and be out there. I know that it kills him not to be, but I also know Tevin will make the right decision. I know our doctors will help him with that."
The decision for the Cardinals-49ers and Cowboys-Rams games will come down to the wire, banking on a favorable forecast for Sunday. If the Air Quality Index doesn't decrease, the fates of these games being played Sunday are in serious doubt and contingency plans may have to be forwarded for each matchup.