Five bold predictions for football in 2019

Star running back Le'Veon Bell. (Keith Srakocic/AP)

The last 365 days in football has been full of politics, protests, pending lawsuits and prolific passing. The next year in football will have some off-field decisions that impact the future of the sport on field for years to come, especially around its most important position — quarterback.

Here are my bold predictions for what will transpire in football on both sides of the border in 2019.

1. The Canadian quarterback will be factored into the CFL ratio rules
This is something that has been debated for a long time. Right now, there is no incentive for a CFL team to carry a Canadian at quarterback because the import/non-import ratio doesn’t apply to the three quarterbacks on the game-day roster.

Don’t be surprised if that changes.

The CFL and CFLPA are negotiating a new CBA this off-season, which gives both sides a chance to address the issue. And Randy Ambrosie has already indicated to me that he’s in favour of the change. That said, ironing out what it looks like and what the other implications may be will be key.

For a long time, the issue was availability. But that’s not the case anymore. Brandon Bridge is in the league and holding his own. The Toronto Argonauts just signed Noah Picton to a three-year deal. Hugo Richard, Michael O’Connor, Chris Merchant, Adam Sinagra and Tre Ford are all current U Sports QBs who could fight for a roster spot once their collegiate eligibility elapses.

2. The NFL’s anthem policy will be there is no anthem policy
Remember in 2018 when NFL owners tried to force players to stand or stay in the locker room? That didn’t play well with the public or the players. Even the man they were trying to appease, Donald Trump, wasn’t happy with that resolution as in his mind it wasn’t strong enough.

So, before the season they decided to walk it back pending further review. Then a funny thing happened: People began to concentrate on the great games and not the anthem protests (which are still happening, by the way). In this case, no news is good news. The NFL will finally learn that if they want this issue to go away, they should stop shining a light on it and allow it to run its course.

3. More NFL players will hold out
I’m not sure Le’Veon Bell’s hold-out was successful. He gave up over $14 million dollars, didn’t garner much public sympathy and his team rushed the ball just fine with a player who costs a fraction of the price.

However, he still had a better 2018 season than Earl Thomas. Thomas held out of training camp, then finally reported in the hopes of being traded to a team that was willing to rip up his contract and pay him fair market value. He was arguably the best safety in football when he was on the field, but he broke his leg in the process and now his future value is greatly diminished.

Bell, meanwhile, will still cash in and become the highest-paid running back in the league this off-season. As NFL players are becoming more emboldened, more will follow Bell’s lead and make sure they get to their big contract before the age of 30, even if it means protecting themselves by playing fewer snaps in the lead-up to it.

4. A helmet hit on a quarterback will become a match penalty
Is this aggressive? Yes. Will it be controversial? Yes. Will it happen? Yes. I think the desire to protect QBs in both the CFL and NFL is so strong that the pro leagues will follow the NCAA’s lead and make dangerous hits on signal callers an automatic ejection.

This in many ways is a business decision. First, it helps the league’s legal case to set the groundwork that they take player safety seriously. But, more importantly, it helps the product as they know games are better and more intriguing when starting quarterbacks are healthy and on the field.

5. The NCAA playoff will expand to eight teams
The College Football Playoff killed the bowl game. Which is exactly why the playoff system will expand.

Look at the types of institutions that find themselves on the bubble this year: Ohio State, Michigan, Georgia. These are big programs with powerful presidents and athletic directors who want a slice of the pie and a chance at a title. And you could make a plausible argument that each could win the title if in the playoffs.

And at the end of the day, more playoff games means more games that matter during prime TV real estate over the holidays.

The Power Five conference commissioners are going to meet on the morning of the championship game to discuss. Like it or not, it’s going to happen because it makes too much sense and has the potential to make too much money.

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