The NFL is set to release its schedule for the 2020 season on Thursday night with fans and players excited to see the full 16-game season. While the 2020 schedule might look normal, though, one significant change could reflect the league’s contingency plans for the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the NFL is confident the 2020 season will start on time in September, the league has discussed contingency plans all offseason to account for the ongoing health crisis. In fact, the 2020 schedule might reflect one of those fallback plans and hint at a delayed season.
According to NBC Sports’ Peter King, in an interview with The Rich Eisen Show, the NFL could use a portable schedule early in the regular season. A portable schedule would have non-conference at the start of the season with divisional games and interconference games later in the year.
The Athletic’s Lindsay Jones reported on Wednesday that the expectation from teams is a majority of there schedule will be backloaded with division and conference games to account for a potential delayed season.
By putting non-conference games at the start of the NFL season, the league would have the flexibility to postpone the season by a month potentially. NFL executives have already discussed and are open to pushing Week 1 into October, if it’s required for safety during the pandemic or if it allows for fans to attend games.
A portable schedule would let the NFL eliminate the non-conference games or move them to January if the league decided on a 16-game schedule that starts in October. In either case, the NFL would keep the conference games that are crucial for deciding playoff spots.
For now, the NFL will continue to hope for a full 2020 season without any delays. Given the unprecedented times we are in, though, the NFL is clearly prepared for things to get worse before they get better.