The NFL may finally get its wish of the Super Bowl being played on Presidents’ Day weekend.
Given the grand upheaval of the US sports calendar due the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the league may need to alter its 2020 schedule and it could ultimately opt to shift its year-to-year slate.
Off-season workout programs are currently in jeopardy of being canceled, and there are some in the football community that believe the regular season itself could be postponed.
“I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football,” said ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said on ESPN Radio last week. “I’ll be so surprised if that happens. Just because from what I understand, people that I listen to, you’re 12-18 months from a [COVID-19] vaccine. I don’t know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don’t know how you can do it with the optics of it.
“As much as I hate to say it, I think we’re scratching the surface of where this thing’s gonna go.”
NFL monitoring the NBA schedule shift
In the next few weeks and months the NBA will be laying the groundwork for how major pro sports proceed in a world scarred by coronavirus fears.
The league is toying with the idea of a postseason tournament being played at one central location – possibly without fans – and with players being tested before each game.
All signs point to the NBA ultimately shifting its league schedule permanently as well. There were rumblings even before the pandemic that commissioner Adam Silver was kicking around the idea of starting the season on Christmas Day and then having the postseason go into the months of July or August. The idea behind it is that the NBA would be able to garner higher TV ratings at the start of the season by avoiding the brunt of the NFL regular season and the MLB postseason. On the back end, the league would have little TV competition during the summer months – opening the door for monster ratings.
Eliminating the Super Bowl hangover
The NFL has also been looking at shifting its league schedule around in recent years, albeit not as dramatically as the NBA.
Pushing the Super Bowl back two weeks would get the Big Game on Presidents’ Day weekend. With many workers in the US off that Monday, it would allow for the NFL to market the Super Bowl as a holiday more than it already does, and potentially push the start time to the event to primetime (the Super Bowl currently kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time each year).
Plus, fans wouldn’t have to worry about that Monday morning hangover at the office.
17-game regular season will shift schedule
The NFL is also moving to a 17-game regular season schedule as soon as the 2021 season. This will obviously add an extra football weekend to the calendar.
Another proposal that was not part of the recent CBA is the notion of two bye weeks for teams during the regular season. The Players’ Union would surely be in favor of that – giving players more rest – and the league would likely not push back.
When the 17-game regular season slate starts, teams will also receive a “bye week” after the third and final preseason game.
Of note, the NFL gave teams two bye weeks during the 1993 season, only to go back to the single regular season bye in 1994.
Labor Day weekend start to season unlikely
The NFL is unlikely to start its regular season on Labor Day weekend like it did from 1991-2000, and in many seasons prior to 1991. Low TV ratings – with many fans squeezing in one last weekend of summer – were the reason the NFL permanently shifted to a post-Labor Day start 20 years ago.