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NFL could cancel Weeks 2 and 4 without losing any divisional games

NFL And Players Resume Court Ordered Mediation

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 15: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (C), NFL owners Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers (L) and Robert Kraft of the Patriots leave court ordered mediation at the U.S. Courthouse on April 15, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mediation was ordered after a hearing on an antitrust lawsuit filed by NFL players against the NFL owners when labor talks between the two broke down last month. (Photo by Hannah Foslien /Getty Images)

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Another day, another interesting nugget about the newly released NFL schedule, once again showing that the league office planned the 2011 season with the possibility of canceling some early games in mind.

Yesterday the story was that the first three weeks of the season could easily be postponed and made up later, thanks to the scheduling of every team’s bye weeks, and the schedule for the weeks before and after the Super Bowl.

Today it’s another story along the same lines: Adam Schefter of ESPN points out that there are no divisional games in either Week Two or Week Four of the regular season. Furthermore, the 16 teams that are at home Week Two are the same 16 teams on the road Week Four.

What that means is that if Week Two and Week Four were completely scrapped, the NFL could still keep every divisional game, and still make sure every team got an equal number of home and road games (seven each, instead of eight each). So if the lockout extends into October and the NFL shortens the season to 14 games, the two weeks of regular-season games canceled wouldn’t necessarily be Weeks One and Two. It would probably be Weeks Two and Four.

Although it’s not clear what, exactly, the NFL would do if the lockout extends beyond the start of the regular season, it is clear that the NFL built a few different possibilities for canceling or postponing games into this year’s schedule. The Elias Sports Bureau says there has never been a week without a divisional game since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, but this year there will be two, done to provide the NFL with some flexibility if the labor situation goes from bad to worse.