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An NFL compromise

February 14, 2011 - Jim Anderson
The NFL has been playing a 16-game regular season since 1978.

The league now wants an 18-game season, which would generate an estimated $500 million in additional revenues.

The players union opposes the expansion, citing an increased risk for injuries. It’s one of the sticking points in negotiations for a new labor agreement.

In exchange for the regular season expansion, the NFL would eliminate two preseason games, reducing that tedious schedule from four games to two.

As to how it might be settled, my first thought is this:

As long as the Packers keep winning Super Bowls, who cares ...

Anyway, a number of compromises have been floated. One of them comes from agent Don Yee, who proposes an 18-game schedule along with a new rule that prohibits any player from appearing in more than 16 games.

That could certainly be interesting. For one thing, it would ensure that Brett Favre’s consecutive starts record would technically stand forever.

A drawback is that Bears fans paying to see Jay Cutler might instead get Caleb Hanie. OK, so, that’s not the best example. I’m sure you can envision the kinks.

Another idea is to add an extra bye week, without expanding the total number of games. That strategy would expand the TV schedule by a week.

Good for players, but not so appealing for fans. Two weekends in the fall without Packers games? Sorry, the lawn rake isn’t that lonesome. Most importantly, the boost in revenues would be modest.

The most likely solution is a simpler compromise — eliminating one preseason game and adding an extra regular season game.

Still, I’ve been thinking. In lieu of an extra regular season game, why not expand the playoffs by a week?

Here’s how it could work:

In each conference, the four division champs would have a bye the first week, while eight wild-card teams in each conference would square off.

After the wild-card round, eight teams would remain in each conference for three weeks of playoffs to determine the Super Bowl berths. That’s pretty close to what exists now.

The drawback to an extra playoff week, of course, is that a mere four teams in each conference would fail to qualify for the postseason. (Currently, 10 teams in each eight conference are left out.) But so what?

There could be other incentives to make the regular season standings vital. For instance, schedule the 7th- and 8th wild-cards for Monday night games to determine who plays the conference’s No. 1-seed after a short week.

In other words, the Lions and Vikings would bash heads while the Packers polish their rings.

Sorry, just a thought.



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