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REPORT: NFL announces 2020 season contingency plans

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Will the season begin on time? How will the Super Bowl be affected?

Allegiant Stadium Under Construction Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The coronavirus has affected every single American on many levels. Millions are now unemployed because their job status suddenly shut down. Stimulus checks are slowly being sent out, but just how far with that go when folks are behind several months on their bills?

Major League Baseball and their farm system clubs still remains dormant. NASCAR has announced some plans, but even that is iffy. Professional golf and tennis also lay quiet.

It now appears fall sports may be either in a delay pattern or in jeopardy altogether. What are the answers at this point is anyone’s guess.

The NFL now has announced a contingency plan for the 2020 season. This plan has many parts: begin the season on time, start the season in October, push the playoffs and Super Bowl back, eliminate things such as bye weeks and the Pro Bowl, and finally - scrap the season altogether.

Schedules

The 2020 NFL team schedules come out on May 9. At this point, that will simply be on paper and is basically a hope and a prayer that the season will be played in its entirety. Not a single NFL fan wants to see a shortened season, but some games may be better than a wash.

The 1982 NFL season was shortened to nine games due to a player strike. The first two games were played, and then a 57-day player strike resulted in the cancellation of Weeks 3-9, with one of those division games rescheduled at the end of the schedule. For the shortened schedule, the NFL eliminated divisions and chose the top teams based on win-loss records. Then, 16 clubs made the playoffs instead of 10 including the 4-5-0 Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions. This marked the first time in NFL history that a club with a losing record had made the playoffs.

In that setup, Week 17 was used to house the rescheduled division game for each team. What changed next was the usual two weeks between the conference championships and the Super Bowl was removed to just a single week for preparations.

In 1987, a 24-day player strike also canceled what was assumed to be multiple games. Again, two games were played and then players went on strike. However, this time the owners hired replacement players which played three games before the normal players came back. The end result was that only one game was lost making a 15-game season.

The new 2020 schedule is still just 16 games and appears as a normal 17-week season beginning Thursday September 10 culminating with the Pro Bowl January 31 and the Super Bowl February 7. A 17-game season is set to kick off via the new CBA in 2021.

Various versions installed

One version has the season beginning October 11, five weeks into the season. The Super Bowl would be moved back three weeks thus enabling two of the five missed games to be rescheduled on the back end. A third game would be played during each team’s bye week against other bye week clubs. With this situation, that would entail teams not scheduled against each other to play one another in order to get in an extra game for a 14-game season. It is not clear which teams would be matched up as bye opponents, nor which franchise would host and would be determined when the need arises.

massachusetts coronavirus Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald

Another version has the two week break between the conference championships and the Super Bowl shut off to just one week. This would eliminate the Pro Bowl completely.

Yet another version has the Super Bowl in Tampa being played February 14. This would allow situations such as bye weeks and the two week hiatus after the conference championships to be utilized as schedule buffers in case a need arises for makeup games from cancellations.

All versions still have the Super Bowl played in the month of February, even if it is played on the final Sunday February 28. The issues with this scenario is that numerous other events schedule their plans away from Super Sunday in order to not compete for fans, a television audience and sponsors.

It is also important to keep the broadcast networks happy and within their own scheduling.

All scenarios have two things in mind: keep as close to the 16-game schedule as possible, and keep the Super Bowl in February.

Why announce a schedule at all?

With all the uncertainty involving COVID-19 and when life will get back to any form of normalcy, it is unclear why the league would even bother with a black-and-white schedule at this time.

Or, at all for that matter.

Currently, no team is selling season tickets, or any tickets actually. And after the schedule is announced, it is not like these franchises will be accepting any sort of ticket sales regardless of the opponent. Plus, sponsors aren’t being solicited either.

The bigger question will not be which game is the opener, but when will the opening game actually commence? How many actual games will the 2020 season hold? Will the season even be played at all?

With so many unknown aspects, why is the schedule even being announced?

Right now, it is governors of states which dictate when people’s lives will resume and when businesses - such as restaurants, movie theaters, thrift stores, bars, malls and sports leagues - will again be open for business. Is the NFL releasing the schedule in an effort to force these governors to re-open their states?

Many state governors, such as Gavin Newsome of California and New York’s Andrew Cuomo, have doubted that sports leagues will begin play any time soon. In a scenario that every state is open for business except for these two, would that mean the Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers would all have to find temporary new homes for 2020? What if other hard-hit states such as New Jersey, Massachusetts, Louisiana and Florida decide to remain closed? The nomad list just added seven more clubs.

Is the NFL looking at other stadiums in cities such as San Antonio, Memphis, Birmingham, Salt Lake City and Portland? Should they be?

What this coronavirus epidemic has shown us as Americans is that you cannot foretell what will happen weeks in advance much less months.

If there is a silver lining in these stormy times, sports leagues such as the NBA, MLB, NHL, Premier League and the XFL had minutes to prepare for tornadoes, whereas the NFL has had a hurricane approaching with ample time for contingency plans.

Poll

Do you think the NFL will play this year?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    Yes - full 16-game season
    (393 votes)
  • 46%
    Yes - but only a partial season
    (493 votes)
  • 15%
    No - the epidemic will not allow it
    (164 votes)
1050 votes total Vote Now