The upcoming NFL season is just a few months away, with the 2020 schedule set to be released this week. While the NFL remains optimistic for a full 16-game season, plans are already being discussed that would alter the schedule significantly.
The NFL has already explored playing games without fans in attendance this season, but league executives and teams are now debating far greater precautions that would shake up the 2020 NFL season.
NFL could delay 2020 season to save money
The NFL wants to provide normalcy during a difficult time for sports fans and a full season starting on time would help accomplish that. However, the increasing risk of games being played without fans in attendance could dramatically hurt the league’s revenue.
Even if a full 16-game season is played with each team playing eight home games, the economic hit from playing in empty stadiums would be staggering. Such a move would be in the interest of safety, but it could also cost each team $100 million and that would hurt players with tens of millions taken off the salary cap in future years.
League officials have also discussed moving the start of the regular season back by more than a month. As MMQB’s Albert Breer reported on Monday, that move could be more appealing to team owners and players if a delay allowed for fans to be brought back into the stadium.
Teams would save tens of millions in potential lost revenue if the NFL delayed the start of the season into October or November. The league could find a point where fans could attend games, even if in lesser numbers, a move that would keep the NFL from taking a massive revenue hit that would be passed on to the players.
Of course, delaying the season would also require pushing back Super Bowl LV.
Super Bowl LV could be played in March?
If the NFL moves Week 1 of the 2020 season into October, eliminating bye weeks to account for missed time and a shortened season, it could also reschedule Super Bowl LIV.
Set to be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, the NFL can move its biggest event back to a later date. While the NFL would likely want to avoid playing Super Bowl LIV after the 2021 league year begins in mid-March, it could have the game played in early March.
As of now, these remain discussions within the league as everyone hopes plans don’t need to be changed. Given the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the risk of a second wave hitting in the fall, the NFL is clearly preparing for all scenarios.