Last season, the league opted to play three opening-round games Saturday and three Sunday. But it makes the move to a Monday night playoff game this season.
The NFL continues to tinker with its schedule. The league is playing its first 17-game regular season this year, with an accompanying reduction of the preseason from four to three games per team (plus an extra game for the two participants in the Hall of Fame Game).
The longer 2021 regular season pushed back the opening of the playoffs by a week, enabling the NFL to put a first-round game on Monday night without it conflicting with college football’s championship game, scheduled for Jan. 10. The switch likely will bolster TV ratings for the NFL, with a game in the more attractive Monday night viewership window instead of early Saturday afternoon.
The NFL said in its announcement Friday that it has not yet been determined which network will carry the Monday night playoff game. NBC and CBS will broadcast two games each during the first round of the postseason, while Fox and Disney-owned ABC/ESPN will carry one game each. The games are scheduled for 4:35 and 8:15 p.m. Eastern time on the Saturday of that weekend; 1:05, 4:40 and 8:15 p.m. Sunday; and 8:15 p.m. Monday.
The move will create a competitive issue, as the winner of the first-round Monday night game will have less time to prepare for its conference semifinal game the following weekend.