Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

25 Dec 2017

No Sunday Night Football Week 17

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)

Posted by: Bryan Knowles on 25 Dec 2017

15 comments, Last at 28 Dec 2017, 3:22am by The Ninjalectual


by Alternator :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 2:50am

I'd have just flexed Jags at Titans, since at worst it's a division game with win-and-in for the underdog, but if the NFL hates money then they can miss the slot.

by Jerry :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 7:56am

I'm guessing that New Year's Eve has a lot to do with this. With no obviously attractive matchup, NBC probably prefers to go with the Carson Daly Times Square show.

by BJR :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 6:15am

I automatically assumed this was the reason when I first saw the headline. There have been plenty of occasions in the past when earlier results have at least risked rendering a late game meaningless for one playoff-bound team; I can't imagine the NFL has only gained a conscience about it now.

by coboney :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 10:03am

If they are saying that from a competitive standpoint late games are a disadvantage to teams -is the NFL admitting its willing ot damage its product for money?

And if playing late on Sunday harms it - what does say playing late on a Thursday do

by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 10:20am

Not really related, here. They're saying a late game in Week 17 is an issue because a team would get unfair information -- the Panthers or Jaguars would know, ahead of time, how hard they'd need to try in the last game of the year, while the Saints or Steelers would not get the benefit of that information. It's the same reason the last World Cup games in a group are played simultaneously; to make sure everyone battling for the same spot is playing on an equal playing field, knowledge-wise.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 11:38am

The Seahawks really need the Panthers to play to win. But if the Saints win before the Panthers' game starts, they have no incentive to play anybody, as they'll be locked into the #5 seed.

On the other side, the combinations for the #6 spot are very complicated. The Titans are in a win-and-in situation. The real kicker here is that the Jags are likely the #3 seed, while the Titans would be playing for the #6 seed. The competition for this seed (Bills, Chargers, Ravens), could fear that the Jaguars, feeling that the Titans would be an easier playoff opponent than one of them, would intentionally throw the game to Tennessee. There's one scenario whereby losing to the Titans would let the Jaguars face the Bills, make the Titans the #5 seed, and would eliminate the Ravens. (IMHO, the Jags would be well-advised to pick the Bills over the Ravens.)

But most likely the Jags would have nothing to play for, would sit their best players, and the game would be unattractive. Also, Jacksonville vs. Tennessee is not going to draw a national audience in any case.

by Cythammer :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 2:26pm

How strange, I would never have even thought this would be a possibility. I'm kind of amazed that whatever contract NBC has with the NFL even allows this. You wouldn't think they would be willing to give up one of their games for which they are paying so much. I wish what they had done is allowed NBC to broadcast a game, but in an earlier time slot. So NBC would basically get to do Sunday Night Football, but at 4:25.

What's almost as weird is actually having MORE games going on during the late afternoon slot than early. I can't remember a time when that was the case.

by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 3:18pm

That is strange. It's usually a bit heavily balanced in Week 17 (9 early, 6 late in 2016), but it's rare for the late afternoon slot to be the busy one.

As far as I can tell from a quick Google search, this is a first.

by BearDown103 :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 1:56pm

What about Week 15 of 2009? Two additional games were move to the late slots because of weather.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 4:06pm

I'd like it if they started all the games on Sunday at 2:00 PM Eastern on the last weekend. I realize this is 11:00 AM on the west coast, but plenty of college games start that early. This way all the last weekend games are at the same time. Maybe a completely meaningless game like this weekend's Browns@Bears could be flexed into Saturday for football junkies.

by Jerry :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 1:50am

NBC may be willing to give up the Sunday night game, but I can't imagine CBS or Fox is willing to give up the doubleheader.

by dbt :: Wed, 12/27/2017 - 11:11pm

Flexing to night games is a reasonable thing to do with fans with tickets and possibly travel plans, but changing days would be a shit move. (Granted, saving Bears / Browns fans from seeing that game would have been a favor, but you know what I mean).

by andrew :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 5:56pm

If the Vikings had played after any of the games that could have locked into the #2 seed they would likely have started Bridgewater. As is they will not risk an even outside chance (which would require Tampa beating New Orleans, Carolina beating Atlanta and the Niners beating the Rams and stay with Keenum. (If Tampa had hung on vs Panthers they would have been doing that assuming Philly beats Oakland tonight).

I guess that would have been an unfair edge though.

by BearDown103 :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 1:54pm

How about Patriots and Jets for SNF? Pats will still be fighting for home field advantage assuming the Steelers beat the Browns (has to be at least 90% likely).

by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 12/28/2017 - 3:22am

I already can't think of any year where the NFL botched their TV schedule so badly. ..AND THEY KEEP MAKING IT WORSE!