As should at this point be no surprise, it is being reported that the NFL is putting together team schedules for the 2020 season that can be adjusted if need be based on the circumstances dictated by the Covid-19 pandemic. In other words, if they have to shorten the season, they are designing the schedules in such a way that they can do so while retaining some competitive balance.
Under normal circumstances, the league would already be releasing the schedules right about now, if they haven’t already been released. However, it’s been long reported that the schedule will not come out until the second week of May. We now know, as was suspected, that they are using that time to create this more complicated and adjustable schedule.
The NFL is moving forward working under the assumption that they will, in some form or fashion, be able to play a 16-game schedule, as they would be expected to do. But if conditions around the country—and it has to be around the country, not in select areas, unless they all play in one stadium or something like that—dictate that they cannot begin playing for another two or four weeks, or whatever it may be, they could truncate the season.
Some means of doing this would be to assure that the early portions of the schedule evenly rotate between home and away games, so if you remove two games at a time, no team will have to play on the road more than others.
This might also mean assuring that schedules are backloaded with divisional and intraconference games. They may even consider strength of schedule here, in trying to make sure that one team doesn’t lose two games that are expected to be easy while another loses two that are expected to be difficult.
Suffice it to say that creating a schedule that can be reduced and doing so in a way that stresses competitive balance concerns is a very complicated process. There are already videos and articles going into the details about how complicated the scheduling process already is. Now imagine adding all of these other wrinkles on top of what already exists.
The schedule is supposed to be revealed on May 8 or 9. Once it comes out, it should be pretty obvious whether or not they’re all structured in a way that suggests it would be a simple process to truncate the season, if necessary, and I strongly suspect that will be the case. It is the only logical approach to take, given the current uncertainty, in my opinion.