For the last six decades, one of the biggest keys to the National Football League's success has been competitive balance.

Pete Rozelle convinced team owners to agree to revenue sharing so that a team in Green Bay, Wisconsin, can compete evenly each year with a squad from New York or Los Angeles. A level playing field is why the schedule makers churn through thousands of 256-game scenarios before landing on a single one.

It's why Roger Goodell decided in March that all scout travel would be grounded, that physicals had to be paused and that all pre-draft meetings would become virtual. In the NFL, all 32 teams must have the same shot at success.

As the NFL is hurrying to figure out safety protocols during a once-in-a-century global pandemic, another issue looms as both the NFL and NFLPA try to agree to terms: what happens when competitive balance gets thrown out of whack?

There are some inequities that NFL teams, players and fans have long dealt with. West Coast teams have to adjust their body clocks to East Coast time more frequently. Broncos players get eight home games in an environment that can't be duplicated by a road team. Another team may wind up playing three teams who are coming off byes.

But in the end, all 16 teams play 16 games in a 17-week season. Unlike college football, the path to the playoffs is entirely objective. Every player in the league knows what it takes to keep playing into January.

The coronavirus threatens this ideal. Any number of plausible scenarios could wipe out a large enough portion of a team late enough in the week to trigger a forfeit. If just one domino falls, its impact could be felt into the postseason.

Take, for example, the hypothetical that NFLPA president and Browns center J.C. Tretter laid out last week.

"If the center tests positive on a Friday, and there's a quarantine period for all of his close contacts," Tretter started, "... well, if I just came from practice where I've been in a huddle with all my offensive teammates, been doing individual drills with all my linemen, then blocking the defensive linemen and linebackers all afternoon, aren't we talking about 35 guys being close contacts with me? And if they're all in quarantine for the next couple days, what does Sunday's game look like? You don't have enough bodies to put on the field to play."

In theory, all it would take is just one game to be canceled for competitive balance to be thrown off. The NFC West figures to be one of the most competitive divisions in football this season. If the Seahawks' Week 10 game against the Rams is canceled due to one of the teams not having enough healthy players, you could wind up with NFC West standings that look like this:

San Francisco 12-4
Seattle 11-4
Los Angeles 10-5
Arizona 9-7

Yes, you could take the win percentages of the teams and decide the division as such. But in this scenario, had Seattle beaten the 49ers twice, that Week 10 win against L.A. would have made the Seahawks the division champs and possibly given them the No. 1 overall seed and first-round bye. Instead, a wild-card headache would ensue across the NFC.

Not only is there inequity viewing the scenario through this lens, but what about the other side? Four days after this canceled game, the Seahawks and Cardinals meet in Thursday Night Football. The Seahawks would be coming off what is ostensibly their second bye (after Week 6) of the season while the Cardinals would travel to Seattle to play their third game in 11 days.

And again, that's just if one game out of 256 is missed.

What happens if one team misses two or three games? Would it be fair for the No. 2 seed in the playoffs that played all 16 games to host the seventh seed that played 13?

A league source told me these issues were presented in league circles more than a month ago but tabled for more pressing matters. Understandable, but some of those matters are now being resolved.

The testing protocols for training camp were just ironed out. There will be no preseason games this year. Next on the league's to-do list are player opt-out clauses and negotiating the 2021 salary cap.

With more than seven weeks until the start of the regular season, figuring out how to smooth any competitive imbalances isn't necessary right now. But sooner than later, the NFL will need to map out a fair and equitable way to have a 2020 season should those potholes present themselves.