By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — From September through January, the National Football League owns Sundays, Mondays, and even Thursdays. Might the world’s most ambitious sports league soon add Saturdays, too?
That may indeed be in the cards for 2020, as reports indicate that the power-five conferences are in the process of waving the white flag on trying to hold a collegiate football season in the midst of a pandemic that does not seem to be going away any time soon.
DP was told an hour ago that the Big 10 and Pac 12 will cancel their football seasons tomorrow… The ACC and the Big 12 are on the fence.. And the SEC is trying to get teams to join them for a season.
— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) August 10, 2020
With big-time college football currently hanging by a thread, the NFL is course prepared to pounce on an opportunity.
According to several national NFL reporters, the league would quickly look to move some games to Saturdays, if college football is ultimately canceled.
The NFL is watching what unfolds with college with interest. They remain highly intrigued by the Saturday television real estate with the potential absence of college.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) August 10, 2020
If college football doesn't happen this fall, look for the NFL to fill the Saturday vacancies https://t.co/6XIiZuc9q7
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) August 8, 2020
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) August 10, 2020
NFL GM tells me he believes it’s a forgone conclusion the NFL will play regularly on Saturdays if no CFB.
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) August 10, 2020
Expounding upon that concept, the NFL could easily slide three games from Sunday to Saturday each week, with nationally televised games in the 1 p.m. hour, the 4 p.m. hour, and the 8 p.m. hour.
If the NFL were to move, say, two or three games per week from Sunday to Saturday, it will obviously impact the national TV ratings. But it also might uniquely affect the Patriots, too.
Back when the NFL made the 2020 schedule, Tom Brady was gone, and the Patriots were looking at a Jarrett Stidham-Brian Hoyer quarterbacking tandem for the upcoming season. The merits of that duo from a football standpoint could be debated, but from a TV ratings standpoint, it didn’t quite move the needle.
Still, the Patriots were assigned to five prime-time games: Two Monday night games, two Sunday night games, and a Thursday night game.
Now that Cam Newton — a true ratings machine, compared to the other Patriots QBs — is set to be under center for New England, it’s within reason to expect a few of those Sunday 1 p.m. kickoffs to slide over to a national window on a Saturday. Some candidates for such a move include:
WEEK 1: vs. Miami, Sunday, Sept. 13, 1 p.m.
WEEK 3: vs. Las Vegas, Sunday, Sept. 27, 1 p.m.
WEEK 8: at Buffalo, Sunday, Nov. 1, 1 p.m.
WEEK 11: at Houston, Sunday, Nov. 22, 1 p.m.
Likewise, the addition of a Saturday window would likely give Patriots fans more of an opportunity to keep an eye on ol’ Tommy Boy, if their hearts desired to do so. (And why would they not?) While the original schedule included only two Buccaneers games taking place at the same time as Patriots games, at least one of those two conflicts could easily be cleared up by some Saturday football.
The Bucs’ Week 15 game at Atlanta — scheduled for a Sunday at 1 p.m. — would seemingly qualify as a possible choice for the NFL to slide into a Saturday window. The Bucs’ other conflict with a Patriots game is scheduled for Week 17, though a Pats-Jets game that week is an unlikely candidate, while the Bucs will be playing the Falcons. It’s possible that one of the Bucs-Falcons game gets slid to a Saturday, but probably not both.
Of course, all of this imaginary rescheduling is contingent on the NFL being able to pull off a football season during the COVID-19 pandemic. The apples-to-apples sports comparison for the NFL would be MLB, because neither league has players, coaches and staff living inside of a bubble. MLB’s results thus far have been fairly terrible, with the Marlins and Cardinals already being severely affected by outbreaks. Some stricter guidelines and rules may allow for MLB to get through its season, but the first few weeks have shown that doing so will be a white-knuckle ride.
The NFL is off to a slightly better start. Though dozens of players were placed on the COVID-19 reserve list when camps opened around the country, they’ve slowly been coming off that list. And by all accounts coming out of team buildings, the protocols and precautions being followed have led to most everyone feeling safe while at work in NFL facilities.
That trend has led to some positivity growing with regard to the NFL season actually taking place, beginning in early September. And though football fans are sure to miss their collegiate games, the NFL should be considered ready, willing and able to help fill the gap for viewers around the country.