League Approves 16-Game Schedule

The Vikings learned Tuesday that they will have to play Baltimore after all, as the NFL announced that the league will make up the games postponed last weekend, but didn't eliminate the possibility of a full playoff slate.

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue did Tuesday what most of us thought he was going to do -- announce the return of the 16-week NFL schedule -- but followed that up with something we didn't expect.

In a release from Tagliabue's office, the NFL announced that the games wiped out last weekend will be made up Jan. 5-7 (emphasis on Jan. 7, since, as it stands, the Vikings would play Baltimore on Monday night, Jan. 7). However, Tagliabue failed to say that the playoff format is going to be changed.

The conventional wisdom was and remains that the league will eliminate two wild card positions from each conference to accommodate the change to the schedule, but the league insists it's looking at other options. However, barring moving the Super Bowl back a week, it doesn't seem possible.

One option is to have the wild card games played midweek following the regular season, in essence for wild card teams to play three games in eight days -- a huge disadvantage when they would face division champions a week later. A second is to try to convince conventions in New Orleans to change their dates, thus allowing the Super Bowl to move back -- a remote option at best.

A third option, which surfaced in print reports out of Tampa, is that the league might consider moving the Super Bowl out of New Orleans. While this would likely result in a huge lawsuit, VU is convinced that won't happen either and that the league will eventually settle on what they should have announced yesterday -- by going with a 16-week regular season, they'll have to modify to an eight-team playoff format.

* With the switch in the schedule, the Vikings will now play three of their final four games on the road.
* The Ravens game may not be locked into Monday, Jan. 7 after all. An asterisk accompanied the schedule saying that some games may be switched in time and date, meaning the Vikings and Ravens might play on Saturday, Jan. 5 -- especially if both teams appear playoff bound. It's assured that some games will be moved, since the NFL release said the games would be made up Jan. 5-7 and no games in Week Two were scheduled for Saturday, yet Saturday is included for the makeup games.

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