Believe it or not, the NFL may have not had the purest of intentions when they devised the 2011 NFL schedule. Don't tell anyone, but I think they set it up to give them more power as the lockout progresses. And as a result it may also cost the Raiders what looks to be one of their more favorable matchups.
The schedule was designed to allow the lockout to push the schedule back three weeks yet still get in the full 16 games. The first two weeks are no-brainers. They simply eliminate the week off before the Super Bowl, and then push the Super Bowl back a week—they have everything in Indy booked for a week beyond the scheduled date.
This is where they got creative. They made sure that all matchups in Week 3 featured teams with the same bye week, and that essentially gives the NFL a flex week—the only consequence would be teams lose their bye week.
I have to admit this is a fairly ingenious move by the owners. Should the lockout progress into the season the pressure is going to be squarely on the player's to get a deal done. The players will be missing out on paychecks while they are faced with extra costs, like paying for their own medical insurance, and the owners will be able to go three weeks before they start losing a noticeable amount from their bottom line. And that is a three week head start for the side that has more money to begin with.
Should the lockout extend beyond the three week window they are going to have to start cutting games. The first to go will be Weeks 2 and 4. There are no division games scheduled for those weeks. For those of you keeping score at home the Raiders play at Buffalo in Week 2 and host New England in Week 4.
And that means the Raiders would miss out on playing a young Buffalo team dealing with a shortened off-season while implementing a new system, and then miss out on what would undoubtedly be such a brutal humiliation of the Patriots that Giselle would leave Tom Brady for Al Davis. Here are the games that would be the first to go for the other AFC West teams.
Denver Vs. Cincinnati
Kansas City @ Detroit
San Diego @ New England
Denver: @ Green Bay
Kansas City @ Minnesota
San Diego Vs. Miami
I say Kansas City and San Diego are tied for the biggest negative impact should these two weeks be stricken from existence. While the Chiefs would benefit in that they lose two road games, those are also two of the weaker teams on their schedule. San Diego would suffer as they are notorious slow starters, and the shorter the season the higher the percentage of that schedule that would fall under their slow start phase.
Denver would gain the most as they would only be facing 14 losses instead of 16.