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2011 NFL Lockout Issues: Matt Birk Counters 18-Game Schedule With Additional Playoff Teams

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One of the many issues in the NFL-NFLPA labor strife has been the owner's insistence on an 18-game regular season. While the revenue issues are what would be the impetus for a 2011 NFL Lockout, the 18-game schedule remains a serious thorn in this negotiation. The owners basic idea is to remove two preseason games and replace them with two regular season games. The owners insist it's not a big issue since the same number of games are being played. Of course, the two preseason games changed out are the two in which starters play the least amount.

Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk recently made his own suggestion for a potential compromise while appearing on KFAN in Minneapolis. He suggested adding two playoff teams to each conference, which would result in no byes and additional wildcard round matchups:

I would say maybe like something like a 16-game season and [eliminate two preseason games] and maybe expand the playoffs by two teams and eliminate the first-round bye for the one and two seeds. That would give you two more playoff games on TV that you could televise.

While I don't see this working out exactly as Birk suggests, it's an interesting idea nonetheless. I don't have the television revenue numbers so I don't know how much playoff games are worth versus regular season games. His suggestion would result in four more playoff games with two weeks of preseason games being eliminated. The owners plan results in 32 more regular season games and 32 less preseason games, which would be a net gain in revenue for the owners given playoff ad pricing among other things.

However, I wanted to at least look at the idea of the additional playoff games (not factoring in all the other stuff). What about something like this: Remove a week of preseason games and add the four playoff teams and those additional first round playoff games. The players big complaint about the schedule addition has been the idea that they are adding more serious physical contact while giving up money from the revenue pie. In this case, they would drop some games while the NFL adds more high impact revenue games. We can't do the math without the books, so that is one issue.

There is also the issue of rewarding the top seeds, unless people view home field as sufficient. Home field is a big deal, but obviously not quite on the level of a first round bye. There are plenty of hiccups to be figured out, but is it possible some additional playoff teams could be a sufficient compromise? Or do you have another alternative?