The word “likely” was inserted into that headline out of clinging, desperate, misguided optimism. When it comes to replacement officials, we’re sort of like the pimple-faced 16-year-old who screams in terror and calls his local Internet provider while watching Kate Upton cut her shirt in half, hoping against hope that his connection returns upon the 18th viewing.

But alas, it seems that for both those whose pubescent urges are uncontrollable and those who seek competent officiating in their NFL games, hope is fleeting, and fading. That’s odd, because I’ve never once concluded that those two groups would have something in common.

It’s now looking like the ongoing labor debacle between the NFL and its regular officials will go on, and on some more, and continue into the regular season. Barring a major last-minute turnaround in negotiations, scab refs — including one who once patrolled a field where the participants are about as clothed as Ms. Upton – will be officiating real NFL games that have meaning starting next Wednesday with the 2012 kickoff game between the Cowboys and Giants.

We know this because the league sent a memo to all 32 teams, stating it as a fact. Here’s the gut punch portion of said memo:

In light of the current state of negotiations, we will have replacement crews on the field when the regular season begins. The replacements have undergone extensive training and evaluation, and have shown steady improvement during the preseason. We will continue the training with each crew and they will work as much of the regular season as necessary. The replacement officials are dedicated and enthusiastic, have worked very hard to improve, and have persevered despite the attacks on their qualifications and performance. We are all grateful for their service to the NFL.

With one week remaining until football matters and therefore the various massive stumbles by the replacement refs will have severe consequences, this is likely (there’s that hopeful word again…is her shirt off yet?) posturing and a negotiating tactic by the league. It’s a move that attempts to establish leverage as the NFL Referee’s Association grapples and digs in on the core economic issues (read: pay) that separate the two sides.

But as Mike Freeman of CBS Sports notes, generally when sheriff Roger Goodell issues a league-wide notice regarding anything, he’s not screwing around.

Now, you probably think this is one of those newsy posts that need to be posted, the kind of fastball down the middle that I talked about a week ago when we were officially declared open for business in this here fantasy football shop. And mostly, it is, but there’s still a small fantasy football connection, and it’s a simple one.

Eventually, the longer these officials are in place, the odds of them doing something to derail your fantasy stud increase.

Some of my strongest fantasy memories are negative ones from plays that are utterly meaningless and inconsequential to everyone else. Soon, maybe a bad offensive pass interference call that takes a touchdown reception away from Calvin Johnson will be your nightmare.

That’s the fun part. We have no idea how the scabs will haunt you, but they’ve been pretty creative so far.