To be honest, I'm a Packers fan, so I've enjoyed all of the talk about the playoffs for that reason alone (The Packers are currently participating and hopefully continue after Sunday's game). However, there is another reason that I'm happy for all of the postseason discussion-less focus on the impending (in some people's opinions) NFL lock out.
Call me an optimist, but I don't buy the notion that players in the NFL (nor the union that represents them) will halt the gravy train that is the number one professional sport in America.
Here are three reasons (in no particular order):
Going out on top doesn't happen in sports - While Jerry Seinfeld insisted the reason Seinfeld didn't air for a tenth season, despite NBC offering him the keys to the network, is because it's best to go out on top. The NFL and its players will not feel the same way. Look at a guy like Brett Favre—he chased the opportunity to go out on top with three different teams.
How'd that end up?
2007 - game ending interception against the New York Giants in the NFC Championship.
2008 - didn't make the playoffs with the Jets.
Will there be an NFL lockout in 2011?
2009 - game ending interception against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship.
2010 - record consecutive start streak snapped and subsequent [third] retirement. I don't see the NFL owners (despite labor demands) closing the doors and opting to lose any potential revenue.
Season extension is negotiable - At first, it seemed that extending the regular season to 18 games was a pipe dream, but now with the mention of dropping a preseason game (or two) in order to add a regular season game (or two), the notion is moving toward rational for both sides. However, expanding the field for the playoffs is something that should be considered very carefully. Currently, six teams from each conference seems fair—12 of 32 teams qualify for postseason play. If the field is expanded by two more teams from each side, that means half of the league qualifies for the postseason, and it begins to look more like the shenanigans we see around bowl season in the college game (.500 teams play in bowls), the only difference being that a true champion would be crowned via the single elimination tournament.
The reason this cheapens the game, for me, is because now teams that have things locked up a week or two before the season ends with the current system and rest players, would begin resting players even earlier with more teams in the mix and an even safer playoff spot secured.
Strikes will be a tough sell to fans - Not to get overly political, but given the meek economy of the last four years, NFL fans (and the general public) will have a more difficult time than in economic prosperity dealing with millionaires unhappy with their boss. Draw whatever parallels you like, but it's pretty tough to tell a guy making $30,000-$50,000 per game that you're not happy that your boss is requiring you to play an extra game without adding to [the average NFL player's salary in 2009] your $770,000 for the year...just sayin'.
These are just three reasons I don't think a strike/lockout will occur. It takes too long to come back to prominence after a strike—look at Major League Baseball—still working on filling up stadiums/building the fan base up, then steroids hit.
The National Hockey League might as well not even play for the 10,000 people that watch it, and their strike didn't even result in the players getting what they wanted. The average college graduate makes more than a bench player in the NHL.
I'm not saying there is no chance an NFL lockout will happen, but I am saying it would be woo of the league and its players (and the people representing the players) to think long and hard about walking off the job.