With the Super Bowl fast approaching and the hype surrounding the shootout to come, it's hard to imagine the NFL struggling to retain its integrity.
The truth remains, though, that the league's owners and players are still marching towards a potential lockout at the end of the 2010 season.
On Monday, the NFL Players Association won in an arbitration against the collective NFL owners under Special Master Stephen Burbank.
The decision prevented the owners from dismantling the supplemental revenue sharing pool (SRS) in 2010, as planned. The pool, valued at $220 million, all but solidifies that 2010 will be an uncapped year with no limitations on team spending.
The league and the NFLPA are currently in a race to establish their positions in the wake of the disassembling of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that was established in 2006 between the two parties. The agreement states that any changes to the SRS must be approved by the union, something the NFLPA isn't willing to do.
"We find no explicit distinction between capped and uncapped years or between capped years in The Final League Year", Burbank wrote. Without a distinction between the two seasons, the league's hands remain tied.
This is a clear victory for both the players and the NFLPA, but it only serves as a precursor for what is to come, a lockout in the 2011 season.
If the league and its players don't reach a new CBA by March 5, the end of the 2010 season could spell serious trouble for the NFL.
This black cloud over the league has stemmed from the agreement made in 2006 that caused the salary cap to significantly increase from $80 million in 2005 to $102 million the following year. In 2009, the cap had risen all the way to $128 million.
Due to the incurring economic strain on the league, the owners have slowly watched their profit margins shrink and are now demanding a lower percentage of profit sharing and a limit on salary engagements to young, unproven players.
The league truly flexed their industry muscles when they hired outside source Bob Batterman, a giant in mega-corporate council representation. Batterman belongs to Proskauer Rose, a law firm that oversees all four of the major sports leagues in the US.
Batterman's focus is on the NFL and the NHL. His involvement with the league comes as an omen for what may come, perhaps a repeat of the NHL's lockout during the 2004-05 season, a move that Batterman himself oversaw.
As a quick note, a lockout occurs when management (the league) attempts to prevent its players from operating under current conditions, usually unfavorable to the party performing the lockout.
If and when the players decide that those conditions are grievous, they can then opt to go on strike, an act that will certainly plummet the league and its players into a deeper struggle over revenue sharing and salary conditions.
If no agreement is reached before March 5, we can be almost certain that we, the fans, may very well have to do without a 2011 season or, at least, do without the players we love and know so well.
But all of this is pure speculation, nothing more than a look at the possibilities at their gravest. For now, all we can do is enjoy the NFL's greatest week of football and marvel at two of the league's best quarterbacks duking it out on the greatest stage in television.
As for the league itself, circle March 5 on your calendar and hope for the best, friends.
For more information on the end of the CBA and it's effects on the 2010 offseason, click here.