With Hurricane Irma looming, NFL will have a decision to make on Dolphins-Bucs game

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We still don’t know whether Hurricane Irma will impact the U.S. East Coast, but that prospect is becoming increasingly likely with each model run. Here’s the latest message from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As you can see, South Florida residents should be at least a little wary.

Irma’s track and timing could impact not only millions of South Florida residents, but also Sunday’s NFL regular season opener between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the host Miami Dolphins.

Both teams, it should be noted, have bye weeks in Week 11, which on the surface would mean it would be easy to simply postpone the game. But both the league and the players’ union would be loath to have the teams play 16 straight weeks without a bye, so moving the game — either the date (to earlier in the week), the location or both — would be the preferred option.

Ideally, the Dolphins hope to keep the game at Hard Rock Stadium, but if that’s not an option and neither is either moving the game up to Thursday, Friday or Saturday or moving it back a few days, then it probably would have to be played at a neutral site (one would think the Dolphins would not want to simply move the game to Tampa, which may be less in Irma’s path). Some options:

Orlando: Camping World Stadium does not have any events scheduled this week, according to its website.

Jacksonville: The Jaguars open the season in Houston.

New Orleans: The Saints are on the road in Minnesota for their opener on Monday night.

Atlanta would be an ideal option on paper as the Falcons open the season in Chicago, but Mercedes-Benz Stadium hosts an MLS game featuring Atlanta United FC on Sunday afternoon.

As noted by the Miami Herald, the Dolphins have moved games to different days of the week in anticipation of a hurricane: A 2004 game against the Titans was played on a Saturday because of Hurricane Ivan, and a 2005 game against the Chiefs was moved to a Friday because of Hurricane Wilma. There are a number of issues at play, including whether the 1,000-plus game-day employees and police can make the switch if the game will be moved.

Dolphins Coach Adam Gase seems unconcerned.

We’ve requested comment from the NFL about whether contingency plans are being drawn up, and will update this post if we hear back.

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