A higher than normal level of uncertainty surrounding so many teams’ playoff positioning moved the NFL to make a rather unusual scheduling decision.
For the first time since 1977, the league’s regular season slate will not end with a prime-time game. Per a Christmas Eve announcement from the league office, there will be no Sunday night game in Week 17, a decision made to ensure that all games with postseason implications that could have an effect on one another are played at the same times.
Said NFL senior vice president of broadcasting Howard Katz in the announcement: “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. 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.”
Left unsaid is the fact that a game played at night on New Year’s Eve probably won’t draw well from a television ratings perspective. But it’s tough to argue that, for example, flexing both NFC South games to the 4:25 p.m Eastern time window won’t make for a compelling few hours. The New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers are all in flux regarding their positioning for the playoffs (with the Falcons not even guaranteed to make it).
Three AFC games with potential ramifications — Cincinnati at Baltimore, Buffalo at Miami and Jacksonville at Tennessee — were also moved to that late time slot, joining the Los Angeles Chargers-Oakland Raiders contest, which could send L.A. to the playoffs with a win and some help.
The complete list of playoff scenarios for Week 17 is below.
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