Eagles

Fans could be in stands when Eagles face Browns in Week 10

Eagles

The NFL's COVID-19-impacted regular season has plenty of question marks, and a huge one is whether fans will be able to watch games in stadiums.

Earlier this summer, Philadelphia officials seemed to intone that, while it's a "fluid situation", it's unlikely Eagles fans will be in Lincoln Financial Field this fall. Earlier this week they doubled down, at least for the start of the season.

But that doesn't mean all games across the league will be played in empty stadiums - including some Eagles road games.

Cleveland Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam told reporters Sunday that they've been in extensive talks with Gov. Mike DeWine's office, as well as the city of Cleveland, and seemed to be encouraged that a reduced number of fans could be in the stands when the Browns play at home this year.

That would include the Eagles' Week 10 matchup with the Browns on Nov. 22.

Here's what Jimmy Haslam said, specifically:

There's been a task force of Ohio State, pro baseball - I don't know if pro basketball's involved - and pro football, working closely with the governor's office, the last eight to ten weeks. We've also been working closely with the city of Cleveland, and I think both of those have gone well. We've put a lot of time, effort, and resources into ensuring that, if we did have, quote, 20% of fans, it could be a safe experience and we'd feel good about that opportunity. Obviously, that final decision is up to the governor, but we're ready and excited to go.

 

Haslam putting quotation marks around the 20% figure feels, at least to me, like he's purposely citing a number that has been brought up in his conversations with DeWine's office and the city of Cleveland. It's a very specific number.

For reference, 20% of FirstEnergy Stadium's max capacity would be 13,579 fans.

We're still a ways away from that game - and, frankly, still four weeks away from the start of the NFL's regular season - but it would be fascinating to see fans in the stands for some games, but not others.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones also said earlier this month that he wants to have fans at home games, which would of course impact the Eagles.

The conundrum that seems to arise is a question of competitive equality. A home game with fans gives way more of a homefield advantage than a home game in an empty stadium. Is it fair for some teams to have fans, just because their state is in a better situation in terms of COVID-19 cases? 

The opposing argument can be made, of course, that home games already have location-based advantages, like teams who thrive in cold weather environments hosting teams from warm weather environments. Figuring out where to draw the line could be tricky.

Which means we might see some teams flex an extra-impactful home field advantage this year - possibly against the Eagles.