An easy way to sum up the current labor situation in the NFL between the league owners and the players is “two steps forward and one step back”. The two sides continued to meet this week in an effort to come to some kind of level of understanding on the major issues involved in the dispute. Both sides will readily agree that some progress has been made, however they are equally quick to point out that an actual agreement is still a ways off.

The deadline for reaching an agreement before any serious disruption to the 2011 NFL season is generally believed to be mid-July. If both sides can iron something out by then, there would still be enough time to sign free-agents, open training camps on time, and play a full exhibition season. If this whole mess drags on past that, then all bets are off as both sides may then just stay entrenched in their position and try and force the situation at the expense of the fans, who actually foot the bill for this league.

With close to $9 billion on the table you would have to think that cooler heads will prevail and an agreement will be reached over the next few weeks. Once that day finally comes, there will be 32 teams scrambling to hit the ground running to make up for lost time. The ones that can adjust the quickest will have the clear edge heading into the regular season. This situation offers a tremendous opportunity for wagering on the early games of the season as the odds makers will have a difficult time assigning a point value to which teams benefitted from the work stoppage and which teams may have taken a huge step backwards because of it.

Public perception will also drive the opening day lines as people will form their own opinions about which teams were the winners and losers in this whole mess. A team’s starting quarterback will obviously be the most scrutinized position on the field as there are a number of franchises that are currently in limbo as to who will lineup behind center when the games finally get underway. This whole situation will only be heightened if a good portion of the preseason falls by the wayside.

Most sportsbooks have already listed point spreads and total lines for all 16 games scheduled for Week 1, but there could be some major shifts in the lines depending upon what happens between now and then. It would well worth your effort to start handicapping the games now based on the information that you have, and then make your adjustments after all the teams get back to work.

Look for teams that have a veteran roster and are less likely to have to rely on its draft picks or any potential free agent acquisitions to make a major impact right from the start. Make note of the teams that stand to lose a couple of key players through free agency and will have to rely on unprepared players to take their place. Finally, keep a close eye on the starting quarterback position as it could have a major impact on the outcome of the early games.