Since 2006, the NFL has given themselves the option to flex the Sunday Night game in Week 17 to provide the best possible match-up -- a match-up where both teams have something to play for, rather than having one or both teams simply playing out the string. This year, for the first time, they've taken the option to NOT flex a game to the Sunday Night slot -- there will be no Sunday Night Football in Week 17.
"We felt that both from a competitive standpoint and from a fan perspective, the most fair thing to do is to schedule all Week 17 games in either the 1 p.m. or 4:25 p.m. ET windows," said NFL Senior Vice President of Broadcasting Howard Katz. "This ensures that we do not have a matchup on Sunday Night Football on New Year's Eve that because of earlier results has no playoff implications for one or both of the competing teams."
Indeed, as it stands, only two Week 17 games have both teams still in contention for the playoffs AND not yet certain on their final seeding -- Jacksonville @ Tennessee and Carolina @ Atlanta, making them the two logical Sunday Night flexes. However, Jacksonville will be locked into the AFC's third seed if Pittsburgh wins on Christmas Day, while Carolina will be locked into the fifth seed if the Saints win on New Years Eve. In other words, there is no game that is guaranteed to matter for both teams as Game No. 256.
This will be the first consecutive regular season Sundays without a primetime game since October 15-22, 1995. It's been a long time, folks.
They have moved some games around to make sure everything's as competitively balanced as possible, so here's your Week 17 schedule:
Green Bay at Detroit (1 p.m., FOX)
Houston at Indianapolis (1 p.m., CBS)
Chicago at Minnesota (1 p.m., FOX)
New York Jets at New England (1 p.m., CBS)
Washington at New York Giants (1 p.m., FOX)
Dallas at Philadelphia (1 p.m., FOX)
Cleveland at Pittsburgh (1 p.m., CBS)
Carolina at Atlanta (4:25 p.m., FOX)
Cincinnati at Baltimore (4:25 p.m., CBS)
Kansas City at Denver (4:25 p.m., CBS)
Oakland at Los Angeles Chargers (4:25 p.m., CBS)
San Francisco at Los Angeles Rams (4:25 p.m., FOX)
Buffalo at Miami (4:25 p.m., CBS)
Arizona at Seattle (4:25 p.m., FOX)
New Orleans at Tampa Bay (4:25 p.m., FOX)
Jacksonville at Tennessee (4:25 p.m., CBS)