Finally, at long last, we are in the week in which the NFL is expected to release its 2020 regular season schedule. Under normal circumstances, this would have been released in the first half of April, but because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the uncertainty that it has created, the league has taken several extra steps to attempt to accommodate for unforeseen circumstances, allowing it to adapt according.
According to Jeremy Fowler, when the league does announce the schedule later this week, it is expected to be a full 17-week standard schedule, with spokesman Brian McCarthy stating clearly, “we plan to start on time”, which of course would be in the first weeks of September. The opener is expected to be on September 10.
Among the many contingency plans that the league has reportedly been evaluating is the potential of delaying the start of the season until the middle of October. Obviously, the potential for playing games with no fans in the stadium, and eliminating bye weeks, are among others.
Fowler writes, interestingly, that one plan the league is not on the table is the possibility, as has been reported as an option among other leagues, of playing a season in a centralized and controlled location. Both the MLB and NBA have reportedly has discussions of taking this approach, the former even entertaining the idea of a temporary divisional realignment.
Frankly, I do find it surprising that they would not have that as an option on the table. It’s not too far-clung a scenario to imagine that as the only realistic option, depending upon the course of events between now and September.
Obviously, it would be a lot to ask of the players involved to essentially confine themselves, presumably away from their family, for months at a time in order to preserve the sterile environment that would be necessary to allow games to be played among an uninfected or potentially immune populace.
Interestingly, Fowler did not note any other details about what the schedule would look like, other than that it is expected to be a 17-game schedule with a bye week. Ideas have been floated about that they might have interconference games played early in the season so that if the year had to be shortened, those would be the games to be removed.
Another logical suggestion has been that home and away games would be staggered every other week, at least for the early portions of the season, so that if they had to lop off two games at a time, there would be no question about competitive balance, every teams still with the same number of home games.
One thing I have a hard time imagining right now is the NFL playing games overseas. Frankly, the United Kingdom relative to its population isn’t doing much better than we are with this coronavirus, and they won’t want to be importing American athletes, I would think.