There is an antidote for your NFL withdrawal, and it isn’t a mock draft or loading up on old game film.
Starting Saturday, football is back, just six days after the Super Bowl. It’s the Alliance of American Football (AAF), an eight-team league founded by television producer/director Charlie Ebersol and longtime Colts and former Bill and Panthers executive Bill Polian.
Each team will play 10 games, and two teams from each division will advance to the playoffs. In Weeks 1 through 9, there will be two games each on Saturday and Sunday. Week 10 adds a Friday game before the regular season ends Sunday, April 14.
The playoffs will be held April 20 and 21, with the title game April 27.
There are many familiar names involved: coaches such as Steve Spurrier (Orlando Apollos), Mike Martz (San Diego Fleet) and Mike Singletary (Memphis Express), as well as NFL flameouts such as Trent Richardson, Denard Robinson, former Jet Christian Hackenberg and Will Hill.
Mike Vick, a four-time Pro Bowler with the Falcons and Eagles, will serve as a consultant for the Atlanta Legends.
Unlike the XFL, the AAF is positioning itself as a development league, not an alternative to the NFL.
“Because if you’re a player who wants to play in the NFL, another league comes along, you look at that league as an opportunity to show your skills off and get back in the big show,” Ebersol told SB Nation.
“The problem is, if they screw with the game, which all these people have done, you can’t get back in the NFL, because if you’re playing in the CFL or another league like that and [the] NFL’s looking at that game, it’s so wildly different.”
That’s not to say the AAF’s game is an exact copy of the NFL’s.
There are many different rules that illustrate that:
• There are no extra points — touchdowns will be followed by two-point conversion attempts — and no kickoffs. Every team will start at its own 25-yard-line.
• Also not allowed are onside kicks. If a team wants to get the ball back, it can attempt a fourth-and-12 play from its own 28. If converted, it keeps the ball. These plays are only allowed if a team is behind by 17 points or more, or in the final five minutes of a game.
• Games can end in a tie. Each team gets one possession in overtime, starting with a first-and-goal from the 10. Field goals aren’t allowed.
• The games will also be shorter. There will be no television timeouts and there will be a 35-second play clock, compared to the NFL’s 40 seconds.
• The officiating crew will include nine members. The ninth member is described as a “SkyJudge.” The official will be in the press box and has the power to correct errors during the game relating to player safety and pass interference in the final five minutes of the game.
CBS will air two games on Saturday regionally. The rest of the schedule will air on the NFL Network, CBS Sports Network and the Bleacher Report Live streaming service, with two games on TNT.
CBS also will broadcast the title game.