The NFL kicks off its 2017-2018 season this weekend, generally a time of great rejoicing and binge drinking among fans—this year, though, Hurricane Irma could put a damper on the celebration.
Current projections for the storm show it potentially impacting Southern Florida on Sunday—the same day the Miami Dolphins are scheduled to play their home and season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
As of late Tuesday morning, there are no official plans to move or cancel the game, but both the league and teams are monitoring the storm. The Associated Press reports the NFL has considered moving the game up to Thursday or Friday if the chances of an Irma strike improve.
Calls to the NFL and Miami Dolphins were not immediately returned.
Moving the game to Tampa is a possibility, though that would likely be contingent on the storm’s path as well. (Playing in tropical storm force winds isn’t as bad as a hurricane, but is still far from optimal playing conditions.)
Both teams have a bye week in the season’s 11th week, but players have said they oppose pushing the game back, since they count on that time for rest and recovery.
Should the game have to be moved out of South Florida, neutral sites in the area include Jacksonville, Atlanta, and New Orleans. All three of those teams are playing away games this Sunday.
Beyond the impact to the Dolphins-Bucs game, a major hurricane event in the U.S. could drain viewership from opening weekend games. During natural disasters, ratings for The Weather Channel, as well as news networks, tend to escalate. Over the three-day period during the height of Harvey, The Weather Channel attracted over 37 million viewers.