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AN EXPANDING SEASON?

Think the NFL season is long enough? Don't be surprised if it gets longer.

When the NFL owners met last week in St. Petersburg, much of the talk was about extending the regular season from its 16-game schedule to 17 or maybe even 18 games.

The whole idea is still percolating.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told the Washington Post, "We still have a lot more work to do on the analysis of whether this is something we want to pursue. We certainly are going to continue to evaluate it. Eventually, we're going to have to decide strategically: Is it a part of a proposal we want to put to the players? Is it a proposal we want to put to our media partners?"

And talk has surfaced about adding some sort of exhibition game in the spring, but that seems pie-in-the-sky talk for now.

A look at some of the ways the NFL could break down its season:

Current format

Most teams play four exhibition games then the 16 regular-season games. Some say four preseason games are too many, and, most of the time, the regulars don't play even though teams still charge fans the same amount to watch the game. Four preseason games increase the chances of key players getting hurt in meaningless games, but you can bet that players on the bubble want all the games they can get. Not that their voices matter.

A 17-game season

Add a regular-season game, take away a preseason game. The obvious problem of a 17-game season is it's an odd number of games, meaning teams can't play the same number of home games as away games. The solution is to play neutral-site games. "You can use the 17th to go to different markets and things like that," Steelers chairman Dan Rooney said.

So imagine the Bucs playing the Seahawks in Oklahoma City or the Jets playing the Chargers in San Antonio, Texas. The question is, are there enough non-NFL markets out there to host all these games? A thought: Los Angeles doesn't have a team, so why not play a game every week there?

An 18-game season

Add two regular-season games and take away two preseason games. Veteran players would love it because that's two fewer preseason games. Fans would love it because they wouldn't have to dish out dough for two games that don't count. Of course, the networks would love it because that means two more regular-season NFL games, and NFL regular-season games are monsters in the TV ratings. The guess is this will, ultimately, be the plan the NFL goes with. When? The answer remains to be seen. But our guess? Within the next three to five years.

Frequent flyers

Today, the Chargers begin what QBPhilip Riverscalls the team's "World Tour." That's not an exaggeration. After playing the Bills in Buffalo, the Chargers will fly across the Atlantic Ocean for a game against the Saints on Oct. 26 at London's Wembley Stadium. The 11-day trip will span 11,235 miles - or, about 5,000 more miles than the Browns will travel this year, including the preseason. All this after the Chargers played at Miami. For October, the Chargers will have traveled 15,771 miles.

Good news, bad news

The Colts visit Green Bay today. The good news: The Colts haven't lost in October since 2004 - a streak of 13 straight wins. The bad news: coach Tony Dungy, right, has never won at Lambeau Field. He's 0-7, including with the Bucs. As a bad sports announcer would say: "Something's gotta give."

Deal or no deal

Chiefs TETony Gonzalez, 32, seems to have calmed down after not being traded before last week's deadline. He will remain with Kansas City instead of being sent to a contender, as he had hoped. Still, Gonzalez wonders if the Chiefs were asking too much. Team president Carl Peterson wouldn't disclose what offers he received but did say no team had "come close" to a decent offer.

Information from the Associated Press and the Colorado Springs Gazette was used in this report.

He said it

"It's becoming more and more flag football, two-hand touch. We've really lost the essence of what real American football is about. They're not really concerned about safety, because people have been doing this for ... quite a few decades."

Steelers four-time Pro Bowl S Troy Polamalu, left, talking about the increasing number of fines around the NFL for hits

Number of the day

7Passing yards needed by Saints QB Drew Brees to reach 2,000 for the season. Brees is on pace to break Dan Marino'srecord of 5,084 yards.

Dot ... dot ... dot

Bears return sensation Devin Hester has no touchdown returns in five games. Five games. Big deal, eh? Actually, for Hester, it is. It's the longest drought of his career. A possible reason? The former Miami standout has been battling various injuries. ... The Redskins have gone 309 regular-season pass attempts without an interception. QB Jason Campbell's streak is a franchise-record 201. ... The Patriots are averaging 17.8 points per game. This after setting a single-season record last year by averaging 36.8 points.

Super scenario

Our picks, as of now, of which two teams will be playing in Super Bowl XLIII on Feb. 1 in Tampa.

Titans vs. Giants

The Titans didn't play last week, which means they didn't lose. That means they remain the league's only undefeated team at 5-0, and they should go to 6-0 today at Kansas City. Meanwhile, the heavyweights in the NFC seem vulnerable all of a sudden. The Giants, Cowboys and Redskins all lost last week. We pick the Giants for no particular reason.

Talking the talk

Denver QBJay Cutler, left, isn't shy about his abilities. In a recent interview with the Sporting News, Cutler was asked who had a stronger arm - him or Broncos legend John Elway, who had one of the strongest arms in NFL history. Cutler was blunt, saying he had "a stronger arm than John, hands down." He even said he'd "bet on it against anybody's in the league." To be fair, Elway didn't argue Cutler's claim. Meanwhile, Cutler said he didn't mean to brag, but he wasn't lying either. "We were joking around and stuff, sitting around, but I'm not going to take it back," Cutler said. "I'm going to say that I do. I'm confident in my arm. And so that's how it's going to go."

Up next:THE POLL

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