The NFL needs to switch to a bubble to preserve the season; here’s how they can make that happen.
Major League Baseball has seen numerous outbreaks since they started the season. There have even been rumors that Rob Manfred was going to cancel the season. The problem that has been prominent in the MLB and will inevitably be a problem in the NFL is that they both lack a bubble league. The NBA has chosen to finish their season in Orlando, allowing the players to be safe and not exposed, likewise, the NHL has chosen two “hub” cities where the players can be isolated and finish their season. Both the NHL and NBA have experienced incredible success and the only thing that hasn’t been positive from the leagues have been the test results (both leagues have been reporting negative test results within the bubble).
When Rob Manfred was asked in an interview why he didn’t try a bubble or a “hub” city for the MLB, he noted that the league has too many players and employees to contain in one or even two cities. The same problems that the MLB is currently experiencing, the NFL will inevitably experience. Many NFL players already see the risk of playing this season as they are choosing to opt-out of the upcoming season. With the recurring problem the MLB is experiencing with regards to the safety of their players, expect more NFL players to opt-out. The upcoming NFL season is in jeopardy and if the league doesn’t think of a form of a bubble or “hub” cities, the season will be at a greater risk of happening. The NFL needs to consider more safety precautions as the season is less than a month away. One of the precautions that can save the season would be moving games to a bubble of sorts and having the players isolated in a safe manner.
The difficulty of the NFL moving into one location is significantly greater than any other league. The NFL employs more people throughout a season than any other league and it would be impossible to have all the teams in one location. No city or theme park can hold the entire NFL. At the same time, the league needs to consider playing in some form of a bubble, so what should they do? And how can the NFL save their upcoming season and give the American people their favorite sport come this fall?
The first part of solving this issue would have to do with tearing up the previous schedule. It would also tear up the previous divisions and force teams into four subdivisions. Like the MLB, the NFL has to consider travel and location of their teams. The MLB recreated their schedule to have the teams only play their division and a division that is in their region (AL East plays NL East), limiting travel and helping with player safety. The NFL should first consider having all the teams in similar regions play each other, this doesn’t mean having teams play their own division. The first thing the NFL would need to do would be to realign divisions which would ultimately give us four big divisions.
My division realignment would look like this:
East division; Patriots, Jets, Bills, Giants, Eagles, Washington, Ravens, Panthers
South division; Falcons, Jaguars, Dolphins, Buccaneers, Saints, Cowboys, Texans, Titans
North division; Packers, Lions, Bears, Vikings, Steelers, Browns, Bengals, Colts
West division; Seahawks, 49ers, Raiders, Chargers, Rams, Cardinals, Broncos, Chiefs
This would allow for teams to have limited travel (except for the Titans and Chiefs) and if the NFL would choose to play their season in “hub” cities, they can choose one city per region and have all the teams in that region play in those cities. The teams would only play the opponents in their own division in two round robins (each team can get a home and road game or two games in their hub city vs each divisional opponent). Once again, this would give the NFL numerous advantages, the ability to contain teams in regions would allow the NFL to create health or testing centers, something that would become even more effective the NFL would play in four cities. With this realignment each team would only have 14 games on their schedule instead of 16 or 17, the MLB has shown the mess that can arise when a team has an outbreak and the cancellation of games can create a long end to the season. The NFL would be able to have a 14 game season and thus give room for teams to have additional bye weeks in case they aren’t able to play. The playoffs would allow the top records (whether this means allowing 8 teams or 12 teams) into the playoffs and the best records would have a “home field” advantage.
I know this might sound like a crazy pitch. I also know that the league will likely continue in their usual manner. At the same time, the league has to be cognizant of what is happening in the MLB, the players clearly are and that is partially why they are opting out of the upcoming season. Our entire nation wants to see football return. We have the other three sports but frankly, they are no match for the beautiful game of football. I would go as far as to say that we need football back, it is a part of us in a way that other sports aren’t. The NFL should strongly consider a bubble of some kind, the idea of four “hub” cities might be in the best interest of the league.