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Report: Obscure broadcast contract term drove Week 16 flex decision

AFC Championship - Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots Getty Images

Tuesday’s decision to replace the Week 16 Sunday night game between the Patriots and Ravens with a showdown between the Bears and Eagles surprised many.

And for good reason.  The Ravens are chasing the No. 6 seed, the Patriots are chasing the No. 1 seed while trying to hold off the Bengals for the No. 2 seed, and the two teams have met in the last two AFC title games.  (That said, Bears-Eagles has significant playoff implications, too.)

So why did the NFL swap the games?  According to John Ourand of SportsBusiness Journal, the league made the decision in part to have maximum flexibility for the regular-season finale in Week 17.

The current broadcast contracts (which expire this year) require that the gap between games pilfered from CBS and FOX for Sunday night be no more than three.  If Pats-Ravens hadn’t been flexed, the gap would have been at three, with CBS losing 25 and FOX losing 22.  Without taking a game from FOX for Week 16, only FOX could have lost a game for Week 17.  Now, both networks are in play for Week 17.

The goal for the league (and it’s always an NFL decision, not an NBC decision) when selecting the prime-time game in Week 17 is to identify a game that has playoff implications unaffected by any of the outcomes in the other 15 games.  That becomes easiest when two teams are squaring off for a division title, with the winner securing a playoff spot and the loser earning a trip home.

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21 Responses to “Report: Obscure broadcast contract term drove Week 16 flex decision”
  1. zam0854 says: Dec 11, 2013 1:53 PM

    Baltimore makes me chuckle…have fun defending Matthew Stafford and his big brother Calvin.

    Detriot wins 28-17

  2. minilb says: Dec 11, 2013 1:58 PM

    Week 17 flex will be Chicago and GB. They’ll be play for the NFC North Title.

  3. bhindenemylines says: Dec 11, 2013 2:00 PM

    Zamo,

    I not a fan of any of the team affected, but if Philly can handle Stafford & Johnson then Baltimore can too.

  4. sjayski says: Dec 11, 2013 2:00 PM

    Eagles vs. Cowboys week 17 flex? Not sure if the NFL would allow a team to play back to back SNF games.

  5. briangraydon says: Dec 11, 2013 2:04 PM

    This way we can see who in the NFC North has the privilege of getting destroyed in the wild card round.

  6. armadaservices says: Dec 11, 2013 2:05 PM

    Or Dallas-Philly. If they come in tied they play for the NFC East Title and loser probably goes home as well.

  7. missingsock215 says: Dec 11, 2013 2:05 PM

    No Joe Buck and Aikman. That’s a good thing. Go Birds!

  8. southpaw2k says: Dec 11, 2013 2:06 PM

    Yeah, that’s about as convoluted an explanation as there could be.

    Everything I had read online seemed to indicate the league flexed Patriots/Ravens as a favor to CBS, since they had flexed the Chiefs/Broncos game into prime time a few weeks ago. CBS had blocked it in order to keep the game, but the rumor indicated the league made a trade off with CBS in order to still flex the game to Sunday night. Chiefs/Broncos was still flexed, and then CBS would get back another AFC game previously set for Sunday night. Patriots/Ravens was clearly the most attractive, so they took that in return. It was the most logical explanation for the switch, not this crazy loophole.

  9. beardinals says: Dec 11, 2013 2:09 PM

    And yet they decided NOT to flex Cardinals @ Eagles 2 weeks ago!?!?!

  10. tvtom4 says: Dec 11, 2013 2:14 PM

    sjayski says:
    Dec 11, 2013 2:00 PM

    Eagles vs. Cowboys week 17 flex? Not sure if the NFL would allow a team to play back to back SNF games.
    ————————–
    They would. NFL is looking for a game with playoff implications; not whether a team played Sunday night the previous week. Besides – SF played 2 consecutive SNF games last year: @ New England followed by @ Seattle.

  11. baltimoresnativeson says: Dec 11, 2013 2:14 PM

    If Ravens beat Lions this week and Bengals lose to Pats,

    the week 17 flex will be Ravens @ Bengals.

  12. dcowboy77 says: Dec 11, 2013 2:19 PM

    They didnt flex phi/arz cause if nyg wouldve won week before (when decision had to be in) they wouldve been in it still + 2 huge tv markets.

  13. theblender22 says: Dec 11, 2013 2:19 PM

    Eagles vs. Cowboys week 17 flex? Not sure if the NFL would allow a team to play back to back SNF games.
    ————————–
    They would. NFL is looking for a game with playoff implications; not whether a team played Sunday night the previous week. Besides – SF played 2 consecutive SNF games last year: @ New England followed by @ Seattle.
    —————–

    Denver did this year, vs Chiefs/@ Patriots

  14. southpaw2k says: Dec 11, 2013 2:20 PM

    baltimoresnativeson says:
    Dec 11, 2013 2:14 PM
    If Ravens beat Lions this week and Bengals lose to Pats,

    the week 17 flex will be Ravens @ Bengals.

    ————————————————–

    You mean if the Bengals lose to the Steelers? Bengals already played and beat the Patriots earlier this season.

  15. johnnyb1976 says: Dec 11, 2013 2:26 PM

    @baltimoreravensnation

    Bengals beat the pats back in week 5, ratbirds won’t be flexed to week 17 because they will lose their next 2 and simply be playing for 8-8 week 17

  16. floridaslonechargersfan says: Dec 11, 2013 2:28 PM

    For those wondering if the NFL will allow back-to-back Sunday night games the answer is yes. The Patriots played the Bills in Week 11 of 2007 on SNF (winning 56-10) and then played the Eagles in Week 12 of 2007 (winning 31-28).

  17. threeifbyair says: Dec 11, 2013 2:32 PM

    Eagles vs. Cowboys week 17 flex? Not sure if the NFL would allow a team to play back to back SNF games.
    ————————–
    The Broncos already did, this season (vs. Chiefs and Pats).

    But I agree that although the ostensible reason was to gain flexibility for Week 17 (and I assume the gap has to be _not_ more than three), it’s more of a quid-pro-quo for Broncos-Chiefs. Especially as it’s pretty much guaranteed that they’ll schedule an NFC game for Week 17: all Week 17 games are divisional and there are no divisional fights going on in the AFC. (Maybe just possibly Jets-Dolphins, but the stars would really have to align to make that a win-and-in game.)

  18. jgedgar70 says: Dec 11, 2013 2:57 PM

    Would love to see my Panthers get a redemption game NBC, but no worries. We’ll just destroy the NFC East/North winner on their turf in the wild ard round on NBC. Unless we’re playing Philly, which would be a tougher matchup. I’m quite confident we would destroy Dallas, Chicago or Detroit.

  19. 6ball says: Dec 11, 2013 3:36 PM

    .

    The New England @ Baltimore game is a very attractive game for AFC fans. The Ravens have been lying in the weeds all season and the Patriots inventory of smoke and mirrors is depleted.

    .

  20. Iain says: Dec 11, 2013 3:58 PM

    Jets – Dolphins could be flexed if it’s win and in for both teams. That happens if Jets win in Carolina and at home to Cleveland with the Ravens dropping games to Detroit and New England (assuming San Diego drop one and the Bills don’t beat the Dolphins).

  21. haterade999 says: Dec 13, 2013 10:28 AM

    Ratbirds, huh?

    You must be scared.

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