This past week had two stories that, when considered together, was quite amusing. Patriots' owner talked about having a team based in London, and the commissioner talked about having a team relocate to Los Angeles. The thought of having a team in London with no team in L.A. would make the NFL look bad on many levels.
The commissioner's statement implied he was expecting a team to re-locate as opposed to expanding the number of teams, and the fact that he published guidelines implies he wants this to happen. The guidelines also stated that any LA stadium built would need to support two teams.
That's a whole lot of teams being talked about - whether expansion or relocation. I'm personally not a fan of relocating teams - cities grow attached to teams and players regardless of the attendance, the most common reason used to justify relocation.
There is an interesting compromise to the LA issue without having a team relocate. This grand compromise attempts to solve several other current NFL issues - the desire to play more international games, expand the schedule to eighteen games, schedule fairness, improve player safety and develop a large presence in the LA media market.
Some teams have their bye week early in the season while other teams have their bye week later in the year. Most teams would prefer their bye week to be late in the season to allow players time to rest and recover before making a push for the playoffs. Teams used to complain about Detroit and Dallas getting to play a Thanksgiving game every year, benefiting from extra time off late in the season.
The bye week could be implemented by having one week of games played over two weekends - this way every team gets extra time at the same time - as close to fair as possible.
The perfect time for this bye concept is Thanksgiving week. From the Saturday before Thanksgiving to the Monday after, there are ten days in which the league could schedule the sixteen games of a typical weekend. Nearly every game could have a prime TV time slot, no overlapping games, while giving teams extra time off. This ten-day period would be an enormous media event when you consider many football fans take vacation during this week - having time to watch more games than normal.
The desire to expand the brand beyond 32 cities seems to be a goal of the league - playing games in Toronto and London among others. The league also seems intent on relocating a team to Los Angeles - disappointing an existing city.
The proposed eighteen game schedule could be used to expand into other cities by having each team play their two extra games on a neutral site. You can play games in international cities like London, Toronto, Mexico City and major domestic cities without an NFL team like San Antonio, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles.
Teams could pick a partner city to develop as a secondary market - Buffalo/Toronto, Seattle/Vancouver, New England/London, Houston/San Antonio, Dallas/Mexico City, Washington/Montreal, Denver/Salt Lake City, etc.
In fact, Los Angeles could be a special situation. Since Hollywood provides an increase in awareness for any product, have the new stadium host each team in the league during the season - which would be sixteen games (each team once) during the year as opposed to the nine home games that a single Los Angeles team would host. These games could be played on Saturday night to give the game more attention like the Sunday and Monday night games.
The final issue of player safety with playing two more games each year can be addressed by limiting each player to sixteen games. This would allow a player to be on the active roster in eight of the first nine games, and eight of the last nine games. Players would experience the same sixteen games worth of hits they do now, but spread over nineteen weeks. With eighteen games, roughly six players would be inactive each game with a roster size of 54 players.
A side effect of this rule is the built-in player development aspect - star players will be inactive for two games by rule - giving opportunities to other players to develop. The most recent example of this benefit was the week Aaron Rogers was replaced by his backup, Matt Flynn. Flynn had an incredible game and was signed by Seattle in the off-season largely based on his performance in that game. Opportunities like this have a positive impact on the quality of play in the NFL.