The new, alternate pro football league is in motion

Are you ready for some football? An odd question to be asking one week after the flop of a Super Bowl and eight months before the next pre-season NFL game will kick off. But American football is back as of yesterday and there’s a whole season of it in front of us. We’re talking about the new Alliance of American Football League, and they kicked off last night with the opening weekend continuing today. People have tried to start other football leagues to compete with the NFL before, without tremendous success, but this one looks like it might be more promising, particularly because they’re not trying to take down the NFL, but supplement it. (New York Post)

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.

I missed the launch of the league last night, but there are two games on tap today and I plan to catch one just to see how things look. (You can see the lineup of games here along with some background on the teams, coaches and key players.) The first problem I’ll have is figuring out who to root for. With only eight teams in the league so far and none of the eastern division franchises being from the northern part of the country, I don’t have a natural “home team.” I have spent a lot of time in Chattanooga, however, so I’m leaning toward the Memphis Express. Besides, they have former NY Jets player Christian Hackenberg at QB.

This league may present a number of possibilities beyond more sports entertainment for fans. Players who don’t make the cut in the NFL for some reason may be able to get picked up there and keep their careers going. Conversely, any new rising stars may get noticed playing in the AAF and find themselves being pitched offers by an NFL franchise later. The same goes for coaches. And that’s precisely how they are pitching themselves. Since they aren’t trying to compete with the NFL, they were able to get the NFL Network onboard to carry and promote their games.

Some of the rule changes will take some getting used to. They don’t have extra point attempts. Every touchdown is followed by a two-point conversion attempt. They also eliminated kickoffs, with each new drive starting on the team’s 25-yard line. Not sure how I feel about that one. Overtime rules are different and they handle officiating in a new way. Perhaps the biggest and strangest change comes in the removal and replacement of onside kicks. Check out this overly complicated rule.

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.

Somebody got a little crazy with the changes there, I’d say. But who knows? Maybe it will work out even better. I’m at least willing to give it a shot. And the biggest benefit of all? There is no New England Patriots franchise in the AAF.