It's payback time in the NFL.

Games are now 60-minute brawls. Pure lawlessness. The Earps and cowboys settling a feud now seems OK.

Scab referees have lost control. Players don't fear officials and sure don't respect them. The NFL is challenging the WWE for toughest man contests. Even refs are at risk with officials caught in the center of Monday's Atlanta-Denver brawl.

Who would have guessed regular officials would be universally welcomed back? It's like cheering cops for writing parking tickets to get people to stop hogging spaces -- it just feels weird.

The NFL needs to settle the contract dispute with the referees association now. Owners are showing total disregard for their product by allowing amateurs to officiate. If they think this won't have a negative financial impact, just wait a few weeks when fans lose faith and stop watching.

Fans don't care whether the lockout is about a pension, pay or perks. They just know one year after owners beat the players in a lockout, the billionaires are greedily looking for more money.

The NFL has no quality control over these officials. A side judge who didn't hide his allegiance to the Saints nearly officiated New Orleans' game. On Sunday morning, ESPN contacted the league about the ref's fandom, and the official was pulled just hours before the game. One player claimed an official urged him to play better because the latter was on his fantasy team. A field judge who worked the Seattle-Arizona game was paid by the Seahawks for working practices over the past three years.

Officials are obviously influenced and intimidated by players. They don't know the rules and are overwhelmed by the national spotlight. None have any business officiating games, much less all of them doing so together.

Notice the second week's games were longer? They averaged 3:11, eight minutes longer than the openers. Ten of 16 games were longer than 3:10. Washington went 3:42 against New Orleans on Sept. 9 and 3:17 vs. St. Louis on Sunday. Officials need time to decide, confer and confirm calls.

Owners didn't even try scabs last year before settling the player lockout during training camp. They learned it wasn't worth it after the 1982 and 1987 strikes, though the Redskins won the Super Bowl both years so the practice is fondly remembered in Washington.

So why is it now OK to run games with scab officials? People who should never come near a field are looking like dolts while failing to do their jobs. NFL owners are enduring it because in the end the public still watches the games.

But every time TV replays show Redskins linebacker London Fletcher hit while on the ground or defenseless tight end Fred Davis KO'd without penalty, fans feel cheated.

Sometimes the NFL doesn't deserve its popularity when disrespecting the game and fans. Like right now. There is a resolution to this standoff. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell needs to find it immediately or be replaced himself.

Now that's one replacement official fans might cheer.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.