Last week word leaked that the NFL was considering the idea of expanding its regular season to 18 games but also setting a maximum of 16 games played for players with safety in mind. As you’d expect when the idea of a drastic change like this goes public, reactions are mixed.
Some slam it as an asinine idea off the bat. Others like the sound of it and think it will add a new element of strategy. I lean more toward the asinine part than I do the interesting strategy, but that’s not to say there isn’t a strategy behind the NFL‘s thought process here.
I think the strategy in play by the NFL is to use this as a bargaining chip in the upcoming CBA negotiations. The league’s current deal with the player’s union expires after the 2020 season, and there will be a lot of negotiating on both sides. I’d wager that this proposal is a starting point with the intention of bargaining it down to an 18-week season with two bye weeks. In other words, the NFL will pull an “OK, we’ll table this idea if you back off this other [likely far more important] demand.”
But, then again, when it comes to the NFL, I’m extremely cynical of every decision it makes. Even more so when the 18-week season with two byes per team seems like such an obvious winner for all parties. The NFL and broadcast partners get an extra week of games, and players get an extra week to rest their bodies (and that extra bye could be very useful coming before Thursday games).
All lines are via William Hill.
1. Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians: Under 10.5
It’s not exactly a battle of Cy Young hopefuls as Cleveland’s Adam Plutko, and Detroit’s Daniel Norris are slated to toe the rubber, but even with that being the case, this total is a little too high. Neither of these offenses are very good, and the Indians are noticeably worse against lefties. Also, while neither of these pitchers gets a lot of strikeouts, neither walks many hitters either. The concern here is Plutko’s tendency to give up the long ball, but the only team with fewer home runs this year than Detroit is Miami.
2. Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs: Over 10
A much better pitching matchup here, as former Cy Young contender Kyle Hendricks goes against a guy who could show up on a few Cy Young ballots this season in Luis Castillo. So why the over? Well, first of all, Hendricks has not looked himself since coming off the IL. He’s lasted only a combined seven innings in his last two starts and has an ERA of 5.40. It’s a small sample size, but for somebody who is as reliant on location and command as Hendricks is, these results show what can happen to him when he doesn’t have it. Further complicating matters for both pitchers is that the wind will be blowing out directly to center in this game, and there are few parks in baseball affected by wind more than Wrigley Field. If it’s warm and the wind is blowing out, it’s a park that can feel very small.
3. Houston Astros at Los Angeles Angels: Angels +110
Brad Peacock was scheduled to come off the IL and start for the Astros but was a late scratch. In his place is Josh James, who has not started a game this season, though he did start three games for the Astros last September. Still, he’s not stretched out, so it’s hard to imagine him going long, meaning this could be a bullpen game for the Astros. That could be to Houston’s advantage, but in this spot on the road against an Angels offense that rarely strikes out and has been lighting it up since action resumed, I like the value on the Halos at home.