NFL Labor Deal Will Get Done in Early March

By Todd L. Frank  |   Friday, February 18, 2011  |  Comments( 0 )

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The post-Super Bowl doldrums are upon us, as football season is now as far away as it gets. The prospect of a lockout potentially pushing that back further makes this year’s football-withdrawal depression that much worse.

Fear not, because I think a new NFL labor deal will get done around the first week of March. Despite the posturing and doom-and-gloom predictions of gridlock into the summer, I think this multi-billion-dollar industry will find away to keep the wheels moving. The players and owners will all cry that they gave up too much and then claim victory out of the other side of their mouths depending on how they want to spin certain issues.

We can analyze that after the deal is done. For now, I’m simply predicting that they will continue this little dance, this theater they are presenting as some critical showdown. And they will swoop in and appear to save all of us by avoiding the prospect of “no football.” Maybe it gets done close to midnight between March 3 and 4, maybe it goes until March 7. But a deal will get done, and we’ll get on with a semi-normal offseason.

So will a new deal include the much-discussed move to 18 games? I don’t know, I hope not, but if it does they wouldn’t implement it until at least the 2012 season.

They should go to 17 games, but I doubt that will happen. As I argued in a column last year:

The owners and TV networks (aka The Powers That Be) really want more games, more product, more money. Sure, the players wouldn’t mind more money, but they aren’t so psyched to risk their health more than they already do. The 18-game plan (plus two pre-season games) has the same 20-game total as the current 16-4 format. By going to 17 while still only playing two exhibitons, 17 + 2 = 19. So the owners can appear to be compromising with players by “reducing” from 20 “games” to only 19. But I think we all know that an extra Sunday of real games that count is worth at least as much as two half-assed pre-season games that few attend in person or watch on TV.

So what to do with an odd number of games? Well the league seems quite interested in playing games in places like London and Mexico City. When they do that, one of those teams essentially loses one home game. With a 17-game schedule, every team in the league would still have eight home games and eight road games, plus one neutral site game.

Neutral-site games don’t all have to be in foreign countries (though this offers more opportunities assuming the league wants to continue them). Imagine if large college venues hosted regional rivalries? You’re telling me a Pittsburgh vs. Philly game at Penn State (in the exact center of Pennsylvania) wouldn’t be great? How ‘bout 49ers-Chargers at the Rose Bowl? Even without a regional attachment, something like Patriots-Cowboys at Notre Dame would be good for ratings and ticket sales.

The other interesting twist to a 17-game season would be two bye weeks for each team. So the owners would still get to add two weeks of football ratings/money to the regular season, but the players would only have to play one extra game.
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