Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Fantasy Football: What the updated NFL COVID return-to-play protocols mean for Week 17

Fantasy Football: What the updated NFL COVID return-to-play protocols mean for Week 17

Fantasy football championships could turn on the NFL’s new COVID protocols.

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COVID has played a significant role in the way this NFL season has unfolded, and that has been especially true of late, with over 400 players having tested positive for COVID-19 in the month of December alone. That has, obviously, played a huge part in how the Fantasy playoffs have played out, with big names like Austin Ekeler, Dalvin Cook, and Travis Kelce among dozens of players who have missed time due to the league’s COVID protocols.

But those protocols are changing just in time for Week 17, and it could mean many of the players currently on the COVID list as of Tuesday will be cleared in time to play Sunday. In keeping with updated guidance from the CDC, the NFL and NFLPA announced Tuesday an update to the COVID protocols that will allow even unvaccinated players to return to play within five days of a positive test being taken.

That is the most significant change, because it means players like Carson Wentz, Mike Williams, Cole Beasley, Darius Leonard, and Quenton Nelson (among others) could be allowed to play in Week 17 when they wouldn’t have under the previous protocols. The new protocols allow for any player who tests positive to return five days after a positive test, regardless of vaccination status, assuming they are no longer reporting symptoms and are at least 24 hours removed from having a fever.

What that means for this week is, any player who tests positive Tuesday or earlier this week will at least have a chance to be cleared by Sunday. If a player is added to the COVID list Wednesday or later and they are vaccinated, they can still test out prior to the five-day isolation period ending; however, unvaccinated players do have to wait the minimum five days, so anyone added Wednesday or later who isn’t vaccinated will miss Sunday’s games. It doesn’t mean every player on the COVID list as of Tuesday will be able to play this week, but it makes it much, much more likely. 

That’s a significant change for the Fantasy playoffs, obviously, though we can’t yet say for sure which players will be cleared by Sunday. Players who are added to the COVID list Wednesday will likely still miss Sunday’s games, but the following players on the COVID list have a better chance of playing this week than we thought: 

That also means that potential waiver-wire targets for Week 17 like Josh Palmer or Isaiah McKenzie look quite a bit less valuable. They may still end up being difference makers this week if the players ahead of them on the depth chart aren’t cleared, so don’t cancel your claims just yet, but they are less likely to make that hoped-for impact.

This is going to remain an ongoing and fluid situation, so you’ll want to subscribe to the Fantasy Football Today Newsletter to get the latest news sent right to your inbox, and make sure you’re subscribed to the FFT podcast for our team of analyst’s reactions to all of the news you need to know about. We also have a COVID tracker on CBSSports.com that is updated each day with the latest additions and removals from the list, so that’s another valuable resource.

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