NFL lockout: five reasons Super Bowl could be last pro football of 2011

Reality is about to hit football fans hard. Owners and players must agree to a new collective bargaining agreement by March 4, or the owners will lock out the players. Here are the five sticking points to be overcome to avoid the NFL's first lockout since 1987.

2. An 18-game schedule

David J. Phillip/AP
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been an advocate for a new, 18-game schedule.

One potential solution to the revenue-sharing problem is to expand the season from 16 to 18 regular-season games, replacing two preseason exhibitions with the real thing. This would make the overall revenue pot larger, meaning owners could cut players' share of the revenue, yet players would not see a significant dip in pay.

But players chafe at the idea of having to play more without getting a raise. They argue that starters see far more playing time in regular season games, and that the intensity level is also much higher, increasing the risk of injury. Some owners have also privately shared worries about the risks to their primary investment, players.

"There's almost no downside to the fans, but I think there's a tremendous downside for the league and the union," says Mike Cramer, a sports-business expert at the University of Texas, Austin. "They're playing with fire by going to two more games."

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