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Week 17 flex decision will come by Monday night

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Since 2006, the league has been using a flexible schedule on Sunday nights to ensure that a competitive and interesting game always will occupy the prime-time slot.  In most weeks of flex scheduling, the decision comes at least 12 days before the games are played.  For Week 17, the decision usually is made after the full Week 16 slate of games has been played, and it’s unveiled no later than six days before the final Sunday.

Unlike all other weeks of flexible scheduling, no game has even tentatively been placed in the 8:20 p.m. ET time slot.  Instead, all games have a 1:00 p.m. or 12:00 p.m. local time kickoff (for three games due to start at 4:15 p.m. ET, it’s a 1:15 p.m. local start), and the NFL will choose one of those 16 games to be the final act of the regular season, since no Monday night game is played in Week 17.

The goal every year becomes finding a game with clear playoff implications that can’t be resolved based on the outcomes of games played earlier in the day.  And that’s not always an easy thing to do.

Last year, only the Seahawks and Rams provided a clear-cut pre-playoff game, with the winner capturing the NFC West and the loser being bounced from the postseason field — regardless of the final score of any other game played that day.

This year, a game with obvious playoff implications regardless of what happens elsewhere could be hard to find.  Here’s a quick glance at the potential relevance of each game.

Redskins at Eagles:  Since Philly’s shot at winning the NFC East would hinge (if it survives Week 16) on the Giants beating the Cowboys, this game could be irrelevant.

Lions at Packers:  Green Bay’s clinching of the top seed, if they don’t have it after this weekend, would come if the 49ers lose to the Rams in Week 17.  Also, losses by other teams would deliver a Detroit playoff berth, if Detroit doesn’t clinch it this weekend.  Then again, whether the Packers have the No. 1 or No. 2 seed really isn’t that big of a deal in the grander scheme of things.

Ravens at Bengals:  Depending on the Week 16 games, this game could have implications for the AFC North title, the No. 2 seed, and the final wild-card berth.  But those implications could become irrelevant based on the other games played in Week 17, which makes this game less attractive for prime time.

Jets at Dolphins:  Again, Week 16 will provide more clarity.  With the Jets and Bengals each 8-6, however, it’s unlikely that the Jets will have a clear win-and-in, lose-and-leave scenario that would apply regardless of what the Bengals do against the Ravens.

Panthers at Saints:  New Orleans could be playing for the No. 2 seed and/or the NFC South crown, but those could be decided via losses earlier in the day by the Falcons or the 49ers.

Buccaneers at Falcons:  If the Falcons still haven’t clinched a playoff berth after Monday night, losses by others could deliver the spot earlier in the day on January 1.

49ers at Rams:  San Fran is jockeying for the No. 2 or No. 1 seed, which if still relevant after Week 16 could be completely irrelevant before 8:20 p.m. ET in Week 17.

Bills at Patriots:  The Pats are playing for the top seed, but the outcomes of the Steelers and Ravens games could strip this one of any remaining relevance.

Colts at Jaguars:  It’s very highly unlikely that the league would want to showcase the “Suck for Luck” finale.  In 2008, for example, the NFL had no interest in televising in prime time the Lions’ date with 0-16 destiny.

Titans at Texans:  Houston has an outside shot at a bye, but it will depend on the Steelers and Ravens games from earlier in the day.

Bears at Vikings:  This one would be attractive in prime time only for anyone who stayed up too late and drank too much on New Year’s Eve and doesn’t want to miss anything important.

Cowboys at Giants:  If the Giants beat the Jets on Saturday, the NFC East likely will hinge on this game, with the loser most likely being done.  It could be one of the best candidates for the prime-time slot, based on the clarity provided by Week 16.

Steelers at Browns:  Um, no.

Chiefs at Broncos:  The Broncos definitely will win the AFC West by beating the Chiefs.  The only problem is that the Broncos could nail it down before 8:20 p.m. ET on January 1, making the game irrelevant.

Seahawks at Cardinals:  It could be one of the best games of the day.  But it very likely will have zero relevance to the postseason.

Chargers at Raiders:  With the Broncos able to win the division by beating the Chiefs, there’s no reason to hold this one — unless somehow it would present a clear-cut win-and-in for a wild-card berth for one of the two teams.

And so, for now, it appears that the best candidates are Cowboys-Giants and Chiefs-Broncos.  We’ll know more by Monday night.

In the end, there’s a chance that the NFL will simply have to assume a calculated risk that one or more of the outcomes earlier in the day will screw up the New Year’s Night party on NBC.

UPDATE 10:04 a.m. ET:  For those of you who have asked via Twitter or otherwise, CBS and FOX cannot protect games in Week 17.  But, as we all learned a few weeks ago, the failure or inability to protect a game doesn’t mean they won’t try.

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37 Responses to “Week 17 flex decision will come by Monday night”
  1. fcmlefty1 says: Dec 23, 2011 9:41 AM

    They’ll hedge thier bet by taking the Cowboys-Giants game if it comes down to trying to “guess” on a game. Even if it doesn’t end up having huge playoff implications, it’ll still garner ratings simply because of the two teams involved.

  2. shackdelrio says: Dec 23, 2011 9:41 AM

    It is going to be Cowboys-Giants. And the NFL and NBC will be prancing around their NYC offices Monday night.

  3. mrplow3 says: Dec 23, 2011 9:42 AM

    Cowboys Giants is the clear winner to me.

    Even if they end up not playing for the NFC East title it still features a good rivalry of two decent teams that always play each other well.

  4. jjackwagon says: Dec 23, 2011 9:42 AM

    The Broncos definitely will win the AFC West by beating the Chiefs

    Yeah kind of like “The Packers will definitely beat the Chiefs.”

    It’s why they play the game Mikey.

  5. ottomanismydog says: Dec 23, 2011 9:44 AM

    you know the NFL is in a weird state when one of the top bloggers says – “um, no” to Steelers Browns (historically one the best rivalries in NFL until 1999) and that “one of the best games” is between Seattle and Arizona.

  6. chillmodedlb says: Dec 23, 2011 9:45 AM

    I agree that the Cowboys and Giants is the most likely choice. I doubt very much that the Ravens at Bengals would even be considered. Generally, a game with only 40,000 people in the stands doesn’t make for good TV. See: all bowl games before at least late December

  7. cincyhokie says: Dec 23, 2011 9:46 AM

    Depending on how the AFCW plays out this weekend, you’d have to think the Chiefs-Broncos is a lock. Tebowmania for the playoffs? Would NBC show the Cowboys-Giants for the second time in a few weeks?

    BTW, as crappy as the AFCW has been this year, it’s really turned out to be interesting to follow as the playoffs approach.

  8. astrosfan75956 says: Dec 23, 2011 9:59 AM

    It sure as heck better be Dallas@NYG!

  9. bleed4philly says: Dec 23, 2011 10:00 AM

    Not saying I want this to happen but it will be either cowboys-giants or chiefs-broncos, the win-and-in game will get it, so far all four teams playing are still alive. That of course might change this weekend. Happy holidays everyone!

  10. Mr. Wright 212 says: Dec 23, 2011 10:05 AM

    Let’s face it, it won’t be OAK vs. KC and the NFL knows it can have one final ratings grab by having DAL vs. NYG.

  11. cincyhokie says: Dec 23, 2011 10:05 AM

    chillmodedlb says:
    Dec 23, 2011 9:45 AM
    “I agree that the Cowboys and Giants is the most likely choice. I doubt very much that the Ravens at Bengals would even be considered. Generally, a game with only 40,000 people in the stands doesn’t make for good TV. See: all bowl games before at least late December.”

    True, but if the game gets flexed to a nationally televised game it will sell out or come close. I’m going anyway. There’s no way I’m missing that game.

  12. Mike Florio says: Dec 23, 2011 10:08 AM

    @jjackwagon . . . .

    It’s not a prediction. If the Broncos beat the Chiefs, they definitely win the AFC West.

  13. Mr. Wright 212 says: Dec 23, 2011 10:08 AM

    *OAK vs. SD.

  14. orangeflh says: Dec 23, 2011 10:11 AM

    jjackwagon says:
    Dec 23, 2011 9:42 AM

    The Broncos definitely will win the AFC West by beating the Chiefs

    Yeah kind of like “The Packers will definitely beat the Chiefs.”

    It’s why they play the game Mikey.
    ““““““““““““““““““““
    I think what he meant to say was “The Broncos definitely will win the AFC West if they beat the Chiefs. The only problem is that the Broncos could nail it down before 8:20 p.m. ET on January 1, making the game irrelevant.”

    What he wrote can mean the same thing as I have above, or it can mean what you saw (and what I saw the first time I read it).

    If the Chiefs play like they played against my Packers, I think Denver’s in a heap o’ trouble.

  15. jcusa514 says: Dec 23, 2011 10:29 AM

    please, no more NFC East games!!!

  16. jbaxt says: Dec 23, 2011 10:36 AM

    @ Mr. Wright 212

    Let’s face it, it won’t be OAK vs. KC and the NFL knows it can have one final ratings grab by having DAL vs. NYG.

    It can’t be Oakland and KC, they play this week.

  17. 2difshoe says: Dec 23, 2011 10:37 AM

    Do Bears fans a favor and black out the Packers – Bears game Sunday night only in Chicago !

    This is going to get ugly !!!

    Signed,

    Bear Fan

  18. patsfandave says: Dec 23, 2011 10:40 AM

    We all know it. No matter who they put on we will watch. Last nights game is proof. Texans at Colts, and I was excited to be home in time for it. The end of the game was fascinating for playoff, AND draft implications, and was fun to watch. With no meaning, I STILL would have watched the game.

  19. RomosRibs says: Dec 23, 2011 11:58 AM

    WE ALL will be watching the REFS during the Jets/Gs game AND The Cowboys/Eags game.

    Very carefully.

  20. anonymouslyanonymouscommentor says: Dec 23, 2011 12:38 PM

    If the Eagles and Jets win this week, Dallas/NY would be a terrible Sunday night match-up as the Giants will be playing for nothing if the Eagles beat the Redskins that day. Would also really suck for the Eagles, as they need the Giants to play that game thinking they have a chance.

  21. bigredtuna says: Dec 23, 2011 1:00 PM

    I agree. Giants-Cowboys would be a disgrace if Philadelphia is still alive after week 16. Commissioner Goddell should schedule NYG/Dallas and Philadelphia/Washington at the same time for the intergrity of the game. Ratings should not drive this choice.

  22. richc111 says: Dec 23, 2011 1:01 PM

    Of course it will be Dallas and NYG. Dallas has only been on Prime time 6 times this year so far. Let’s see 17 weeks in the schedule, that means our weekly dose of Dallas is coming. They haven’t been on prime time in over a week! Also, I would like to ask, does the NFL have some kind of contract with Jerry Jones that they have to show him 7 times a game. Some owners never make it on the screen once. But Jerry makes it every 1st down it seems like. Hey ! TD Cowboys take the lead with 2 minutes left, What does Jones have to say about that. Opps other team just scored to take the lead, cut back to Jones, we want to see what he is doing now. Better idea, why don’t you just use picture in picture and have him up there the whole game!

  23. rohlo says: Dec 23, 2011 1:04 PM

    kc vs denver could be interesting becuase you have orton going up against the broncos and crennel is running the kc defense and he will try to do the same thing his former boss in new england did last week to tebow(same philiosophy being from the patriot tree)..it will hinge on the san diego/oak game if the chargers can continue their december magic in detroit sunday! wgich would make the SD/OAK game a pivitol one if the chiefs can stop the donks as ell!

  24. rohlo says: Dec 23, 2011 1:07 PM

    dont know if anyone noticed this..few years back when denver collapsed down the road and chargers won division at 8-8..during that streak the broncos lost to the bills.. they lost last week opening the door for SD and they play buffalo this week which i think could be a winnable game for buffalo cause denver hasnt been dominate in wins in fact they have had to come back in all of the tebow wins which shows that they dont play a full 4 qtr game. the det/SD game is gonna be a shootout because i dont think detroits secondary being beat up is gonna match up well with the chargers suddenly healthy wr’s!!

  25. commandercornpone says: Dec 23, 2011 1:10 PM

    of course they will pick dal/nyg. even if the nyg players lay all the way down to get rid of coughlin.

    sea/az will be a good match no matter what.

  26. sparky151 says: Dec 23, 2011 1:24 PM

    Isn’t NYG-Dallas ineligible for primetime, both due to being a rematch of a prior primetime game and due to the limit of 6 primetime appearances for any team and Dallas already has 6 this season?

  27. trollhammer20 says: Dec 23, 2011 1:25 PM

    Seahawks at Cardinals: It could be one of the best games of the day. But it very likely will have zero relevance to the postseason
    _______________________________

    If Detroit loses to the Chargers and Packers, and both of these teams win this weekend, then this game would be for the final playoff spot.

    So, yes, it’s unlikely, but it is possible.

    Figure if Dallas and New York get things sorted this weekend, and the other three necessary games (Det.-SD, AZ-Cincy, and Seattle-SF) go the right way, then this will be the matchup on Sunday night, even though a Detroit win over Green Bay would effectively make the game irrelevant to everything but draft order.

  28. briang123 says: Dec 23, 2011 1:26 PM

    anonymouslyanonymouscommentor says: Dec 23, 2011 12:38 PM

    If the Eagles and Jets win this week, Dallas/NY would be a terrible Sunday night match-up as the Giants will be playing for nothing if the Eagles beat the Redskins that day. Would also really suck for the Eagles, as they need the Giants to play that game thinking they have a chance.
    ______________________________________________

    Actually, that is not correct. The Giants would be playing to knock out the Cowboys from the playoffs. Recall how they played all out in 2008 against the Patriots with nothing to play for. I have no doubt they’d play all out to eliminate the Cowboys. Sure, they aren’t really interested in helping the Eagles either, but given the choice of laying down and letting the Cowboys in, or playing all out to sink the Cowboys with them, I know what Coughlin and the Giants will choose.

  29. westclaims says: Dec 23, 2011 1:38 PM

    Without question it will be the Cowboys-Giants game. The league has to get the Cowboys on as much as possible as we all know. ESPECIALLY in the holiday season.

    However, it will be great for them to lose to the Giants on national television.

  30. Chris Fiorentino says: Dec 23, 2011 1:43 PM

    If the Giants win tomorrow, NBC will immediately announce it will be the Dallas/Giants “loser goes home game” to get flexed. Do you really think they would put DEN/KC on over an NFC East Game with two of the biggest draws in the NFL fighting over the NFC East? I highly doubt it.

  31. anonymouslyanonymouscommentor says: Dec 23, 2011 2:01 PM

    briang123 says: Dec 23, 2011 1:26 PM

    anonymouslyanonymouscommentor says: Dec 23, 2011 12:38 PM

    If the Eagles and Jets win this week, Dallas/NY would be a terrible Sunday night match-up as the Giants will be playing for nothing if the Eagles beat the Redskins that day. Would also really suck for the Eagles, as they need the Giants to play that game thinking they have a chance.
    ______________________________________________

    Actually, that is not correct. The Giants would be playing to knock out the Cowboys from the playoffs. Recall how they played all out in 2008 against the Patriots with nothing to play for. I have no doubt they’d play all out to eliminate the Cowboys. Sure, they aren’t really interested in helping the Eagles either, but given the choice of laying down and letting the Cowboys in, or playing all out to sink the Cowboys with them, I know what Coughlin and the Giants will choose.

    ——————————————-

    I think it is safe to say that they will play a lot harder when fighting for a playoff spot than simply playing a game that, either way, will eliminate one rival and put another into the post-season.

  32. raiders757 says: Dec 23, 2011 2:22 PM

    It’s laughable to think the Donks have locked anything up at all. The TeBlows can just as easily blow their last two games and fade away into the sunset. Any given Sunday folks.

  33. xphase says: Dec 23, 2011 2:45 PM

    There is no way the NFL will move the Cowboys-Giants game to SNF when they were already on 2 weeks ago. Fox will definitely fight for that game to be moved to 4:15 where it would do a huge rating.

  34. xphase says: Dec 23, 2011 2:52 PM

    There is no way Giants-Cowboys will be on SNF after they were on 2 weeks ago. Fox will fight to keep it and I’m sure it will be move to 4:15 and do a huge rating.

  35. huejackson says: Dec 23, 2011 8:49 PM

    Im telling all of you right now, the Raiders Chargers game will be the gane of the week, that game will be for the WEST. Broncos will lose against Bills and Orton is going to light up the Broncos the final week..
    Raiders are winning out and will be WEST Champs

  36. morganwick says: Dec 24, 2011 9:36 PM

    “Isn’t NYG-Dallas ineligible for primetime, both due to being a rematch of a prior primetime game and due to the limit of 6 primetime appearances for any team and Dallas already has 6 this season?”

    Wrong on both counts. CBS and Fox clearly don’t think being a rematch of another primetime game is prohibitive, since they’ve protected plenty of such games in the past, and I only counted five Cowboys primetime games. No team is ever scheduled for six before the season, and the only game to be flexed into primetime was Lions-Saints.

  37. Mr. Wright 212 says: Dec 25, 2011 12:11 AM

    FINALLY no more “scenarios where the Eagles can still (back into) make the playoffs”. AND WE DID IT.

    Now let’s finish Romo off and end these clowns’ season IN GIANTS STADIUM next week.

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