At a time when signs of real optimism finally are beginning to emerge regarding a labor deal that would allow the season to start on time, Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal reports that the NFL is planning for a season that would be as short as eight games.
An eight-game season would begin in late November, with a whopping five weeks allowed for free agency, training camps, and maybe a single preseason game. This would require a deal to be reached in October.
In 1982, the NFL played only nine games due to a strike, and no one ever questions the legitimacy of the Redskins’ Super Bowl trophy. That year, the NFL set up a 16-team tournament, with only 12 teams not making it to the postseason. In each conference, one 4-5 team landed in the No. 8 spot, nudging out two other 4-5 franchises in each conference. (The two 4-5 teams — Detroit and Cleveland — lost in the first round.)
Still, one less game feels less legitimate. Several 4-4-or-worse teams undoubtedly would qualify for the playoffs. And while in 1982 the 8-1 Redskins and 7-2 Dolphins advanced to the championship game after the strike wiped out seven games in the middle of the season, there’s a chance that a 3-5 team could get hot and win the whole thing, which would could move the asterisk from the NFLPA to Super Bowl XLVI.
With the league able to play the Indianapolis Super Bowl as late as February 12 and thus the conference title games on February 5, the regular season could end on January 15, which would allow an eight-game season to begin on Thanksgiving weekend, possibly with the Lions and Cowboys kicking off the season in their traditional fourth-Thursday-in-November spot and the first full Sunday landing on November 27.
Though Kaplan reports that the league is looking at five weeks of prep time, we’ve previously heard that the absolute minimum is three weeks, which would put the drop-dead date on which all of us would tell the league and the players to drop dead in early November.