With the 49 states that currently don’t have sports wagering now able to launch it, the NFL’s word of choice is “integrity.” As sports wagering takes root, the NFL will have another go-to term.
Yes, the dormant push for an expanded regular season surely will return, as the NFL realizes that 256 regular-season games will be great for betting — and that 288 will be even greater.
The NFL dropped the issue, at least publicly, once it became clear more games couldn’t be reconciled with the heightened sensitivity to player health and safety. But the issue undoubtedly lingers, with the NFL likely hoping that it will come up organically and naturally as the league and the union begin to negotiate a new CBA in earnest.
Will the NFL Players Association ever go for it? Possibly, if it comes with more efforts to enhance player safety. Expanded rosters, for example, would help. And don’t rule out a possibility that first came up several years ago: A total of 18 regular-season games per team, with maximum participation of 16 games per player.
That would incorporate more layers and levels of strategy into the week-to-week marathon, with coaches adopting a suicide-pool mentality to determining the right time to rest key players. Of course, injuries will help make the decisions easier, with guys who would have missed at least two games anyway having the chance to make up the two games and get to 16. Players who are dinged up but otherwise would be able to play will be more likely to get a game off, especially during the annual short-week game.
However it plays out, the concept of a larger regular season hadn’t died before gambling became something that states could legalize. As that process happens, the urgency to capture two more weeks of TV, ticket, and gambling revenue will give both the league and the union an incentive to come up with a way to make it work.
Don’t be surprised if, by 2021 if not sooner, it does.