Thanksgiving is over and now we enter the business end of the NFL season. There still may be plenty of football left to play before we head into the post-season but thoughts of next year have started for some teams and the NFL.
Two topics that will most likely come up in league meetings is the expansion of both the play-offs and the game internationally. With another three games set at Wembley in 2015, and talks surfacing of a possible franchise in 2020, expansion is not a distinct impossibility.
However, the chances of expanding the league looks like it won't happen, at least for a long time. For a number purists out there the league is set perfectly of eight divisions of four in two conferences. But what if we did have an expansion? How would it work? How many teams would be needed to make it work? What cities would be awarded a franchise?
Firstly it has been suggested that two teams would be added to bring the league to 34. An even number in total yes, but it wouldn't seem fair for one division in each conference to have an extra team. The two cities that have been mentioned most are Los Angeles and London, so they would be shoe-ins if expansion would go beyond just two teams.
Many pundits, fans and league officials have their opinion and how this could happen and it will be debated long and hard. I suggested an idea recently to a friend that, as far as I can see, has not been mentioned. The likeliness of this coming to fruition is doubtful just because of the sheer size of it, but what if the following happened.
A total of eight teams would be added. Yes eight. One for each division. This would solve the problem of odd numbered divisions and keeps the league at an even number (eight divisions of five, 20 teams in each conference, 40 overall).
The league would not only enjoy the benefits of more revenue generated from these new markets but it would also add more reason to expand the play-offs.
Now to the teams. Finding eight cities to host an NFL team was tough. Some of them may not be able to attract a fan base for a pro football team. Listed below are those teams and the division they would be in.
Columbus - AFC North - Another Ohio team who already host an MLS club. Was one of the last teams I picked ahead of Alabama and Portland, who I left out due to them being very college football orientated.
Hawaii - NFC West - As much as the Pro Bowl has its problems it is not Hawaii's fault. The facilities and fans are there to hold a team. If the league wants to expand to places outside of the states it stretch to the furthest part of America. A part from travel a lot of teams would like an away trip to Honolulu.
Las Vegas - AFC West - Many sports have tried and failed to establish a team in Vegas but it would be fun to see an NFL team there. What wouldn't be so fun are headlines of late night gambling from players and team members.
London - NFC East - (Spoiler) The first of three non-American sports teams featured. Being placed in this division would be very exciting but also very tough on a new team. Seeing the some of the most storied franchises play at Wembley each year would sell tickets, but a winning team may take a little while longer. A team in London is coming, we just don't know when or how.
Mexico City - NFC South - The first international series game was played at the Azteca (calling this team the Aztecs seems almost too obvious but it will be the first suggestion). It would help tap into the Spanish speaking market and fit in nicely to a diverse NFC South.
St Louis - NFC North - St Louis already have a team I hear you say. Well the Rams have moved back home to LA. St Louis get their third team, despite being a baseball town. Sling them in the NFC North and start a rivalry with the Bears like the old Cardinals had before the Chicago Cardinals moved to St Louis.
San Antonio - AFC South - This Texas city has long been mentioned as a possible candidate for an NFL team. The Saints were mentioned as a team that could have relocated there when they were struggling, as have the Raiders recently when Mark Davis visited for 'non-footballing reasons'. San Antonio v Houston match ups could create a bigger rivalry than any of the other AFC South teams have with each other.
Toronto - AFC East - To end we head to Canada. They have hosted CFL teams and the Buffalo Bills so they could do it. Start a rivalry with the Bills and Patriots and keep them outside for more chance of divisional battles in the snow. Although this seems like an obvious destination, current laws in place mean the NFL cannot have a team in Canada. Spoil sports.
Of course this is all hypothetical. A fun scenario I pondered one day. I would be interested to know your thoughts and any other suggestions of how the league could, or should, expand and where to.Suggest a correction