Props to Bill Smith, who broke a long streak of mailbag messages unworthy of a mailbag, better yet a singular post.
Here’s what he wrote:
The NFL usually releases the schedule in April. If the lockout is still ongoing do you think they will backload with division and conference games in case some games early are missed? Or do you think they have 2 schedules ready to go (normal/abbreviated)? That has to be one that makes the blog, yes???
A league official says the schedule will be released in April as usual and an official with an AFC South team said his frachise expects it as usual.
It’s a full project to get that ready, and I suspect any abbreviated plans won’t happen until after that. If it appears they could be necessary, then the league’s scheduling department might work on some contingencies -- but how much can it do without knowing how many weeks will be missed?
I do think it would be smart for the league to steer clear of marquee games early on -- if the first few weeks are chopped off, it would be easier to pick it up as it is. But it could still be re-scrambled.
I would expect a shortened season would want to include a full divisional schedule as the expense of other games.
If you chop two games, it's easiest to take away the two same-conference opponets determined by last season's finish.
If you chop four it's easiest to scratch off the four against a full AFC division (for us, the AFC North in 2011) or the four against a full NFC division (for us, the NFC South in 2011).
For your reference, here are the opponents of the four teams of the AFC South.