Well, Chiefs fans, we are now just three months away from the start of the 2011 NFL season. Unless, of course, we’re not.
As the owners and players await their fate in court and seem no closer to sitting down to talk, we start to face the real possibility that this little tiff may ultimately ruin more than just our offseason. And as Patrick reported yesterday, the league already has some not-so-top-secret plans for a much shorter regular season, should it come to that:
The reports are that the proposed eight-game season could start in late November. The Chiefs open the third week of November by taking on the Patriots in New England. They then have vs. Steelers, @Bears, @Jets, vs. Packers, vs. Raiders, and @Broncos. That would be seven (brutal) games. It would include four road games and three home games. My guess is that the NFL would add one more game to the end of the year. I’m not sure how the other schedules for other teams work out, but it would make sense for the eighth game to be at Arrowhead vs. the Chargers. This would mean the Chiefs would play the division once, plus five out-of-division opponents.
This is just one scenario.
Indeed. Well, it just so happens that I was able to get a hold of a few random pages of the NFL’s lockout contingency manual. Here are a few more scenarios, each more nightmarish than the last…
Scenario #3: The 15-game schedule.
At first, this may seem like the least radical or painful of the proposed shortened schedules. After all, each team will only lose one game. Yet, there is a catch: whichever game you, personally, have your heart set on—it could be the one home game to which you have tickets, the one game you are making a special trip to come into town or go on the road to see, or simply the one game you’ve had circled as the best matchup of the season—that’s the game that gets canceled.
Scenario #7: The preseason schedule.
In a cynical ploy to mislead, the NFL will lift the lockout in early August and allow the preseason games to go ahead as planned, but will mark Labor Day by reinstating the stoppage and concluding the 2011 season before it technically begins. The owners will claim this proves once and for all that the preseason is not “meaningless,” and will declare a World Champion based on third-stringers’ stats.
Scenario #13: The prime-time schedule.
A split decision* by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals results in an unprecedented “partial” lifting of the lockout; it may only be enforced during daylight hours. Therefore, only Sunday Night, Monday Night, and, alas, Thursday Night NFL Network games will be played.
*Yes, on a three-judge panel. Ugly.
Scenario #18: The one-game (regular-season) schedule.
In the event the labor situation is not settled this calendar year and the 2011 season cannot therefore begin until the first Sunday of 2012, every team will play one regular-season game against its most hated rival.
In the interest of fairness, each team will be the home team for one half of the game. This is to be interpreted literally—the first half of each game will be played at one team’s stadium, followed by a seven-hour halftime, during which all players and personnel will travel to the other team’s stadium.* The team with the better 2010 regular-season record will host the second half. As in a playoff situation, no game shall finish in a tie, meaning that as many 15-minute, sudden-death overtimes shall be played as are necessary to determine a winner. However, after the first overtime, should the game remain tied, there will be a seven-hour interval granted before each subsequent overtime to allow for travel back to the visiting team’s stadium as needed.
*This may seem like an excessive amount of time for some games, given that certain rivals—such as the Steelers and Ravens, or the Giants and Eagles—play in cities that are separated by a short flight or even modest drive. However, allowance must be made for teams, such as the Chiefs and Raiders, with longer flying times, or teams with official airlines such as United** and Delta, in which cases delays, cancellations, and just bad service in general must be assumed.
**In 2004, United officially changed its slogan from “Fly the friendly skies” to “Hey! Why don’t you go f*@k yourselves!”
The 16 teams that finish 1-0, thereby tying for the best record in the league, qualify for a playoff. As no one really wants to take the time to devise a process for breaking a 16-way tie, the teams will be seeded alphabetically.
Scenario #26: The one-game (and one game only) schedule.
All 32 teams will participate at the same time. Yes, offense(s) and defense(s)…and special teams. And back-ups. In other words, the entire 53-man roster of each team. That would be a total of 1,696 NFL players on the field at once in Lucas Oil Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday. All official rules, including “too many men on the field” (duh) and the prohibition on helmet-to-helmet hits, are suspended,* as are all local, state, and federal assault and murder laws. The entire field will be enclosed in a cage guarded by armed security personnel to assure that no player leaves before the outcome is decided. The team represented by the lone survivor will posthumously be crowned Super Bowl XLVI Champions.
*Only the tuck rule will remain in effect.
Anyone not willing or able to pony up the minimum $15,000 face-value ticket price will only be able to catch the game on Pay-Per-View for $150, from which $1 of each sale will go to the NFL’s “88 Plan” for former NFL players stricken with football-induced/exacerbated dementia. The other $149 will go directly to the owners. After being locked out for all 16 games of the regular season and three rounds of the playoffs, the NFLPA will consider this “victory with honor.”
Those are, of course, only a few of the scenarios that—hey, who knows?—could play out. But one thing is for certain: if the NFL does shorten its season, this is going to be a long year.