Hurricane Irma was upgraded this morning to a category 5 storm, the most intense on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, meaning it has maximum sustained winds greater than 157 mph. There is, as always, a lot of uncertainty in its long-term forecast—but as of now, many models have it headed right for South Florida, to arrive on Sunday:
On Sunday at 1 p.m., just as Irma could be making landfall, the Dolphins are scheduled to host the Buccaneers in Miami. That is increasingly looking like a bad idea, and the NFL is weighing its options to either relocate the game, or play it at a different time. A decision could come as early as today.
The league has three options if the game must be moved or rescheduled.
1) Both the Bucs and the Dolphins have their bye week in November, in Week 11. But this is the least appealing option, as it would mean both teams would have to play in 16 consecutive weeks.
“What do you think? Nobody wants that,” said [Bucs coach Dirk] Koetter. “No one wants to play 16 straight. They’re not asking my opinion, but I’m sure they realize that.”
2) The game could be played on Sunday at a neutral site, somewhere far from the path of the storm. There’s precedent for this, even though it’s usually a last-ditch solution. In 2010, a severe snowstorm damaged the Metrodome, requiring that week’s Vikings-Giants game to be played in Detroit. In 2014, a snowstorm in Buffalo forced a Bills-Jets game to move to Detroit.
3) The most likely option, given that the league would prefer not to take away a home game from the Dolphins, is that the game could be played earlier this week—as early as Thursday or Friday evening, according to the Associated Press.
It’s happened before in Miami. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan forced the Dolphins’ Week 1 game against the Titans to be moved up 24 hours, to Saturday. In 2005 Hurricane Wilma required the NFL to move the Dolphins-Chiefs game from Sunday afternoon to Friday night.
According to the AP, if the game is moved to earlier in the week, that decision will have to be finalized today to have enough time to prepare.
The coaches say a few lost days of scouting shouldn’t be an issue on the field, as they’ve been prepping for their Week 1 opponents for weeks. The players say they’re up for anything.
“We know the situation, and people are talking about the game being moved,” Kenny Stills said. “All we can do is get prepared for this game, and when it comes, it comes. If they tell us to play tomorrow, we play tomorrow. I’m good with whatever they got.”
Hurricane Warnings have been issued in the Leeward Islands, Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, and Irma could hit the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, and the Bahamas later in the week. Florida Governor Rick Scott has already declared a state of emergency ahead of possibly major impacts next weekend.