It’s not exactly the discovery of plutonium by accident. But Sunday night was an awakening for the NFL.
Ever since the NFL first started staging Saturday night wild-card and divisional-round playoff games, the possibility of shifting the Sunday schedule from 1:05 p.m. ET and 4:40 p.m. ET to 4:40 p.m. ET and 8:20 p.m. ET had been lingering. And then, with a shift of a single early Sunday game to prime-time necessitated by weather issues in Kansas City, the league apparently will be declaring “eureka!” and making the move permanent.
The league had resisted this in the past because it creates a competitive disadvantage where, as in the case of the Steelers, they traveled home late Sunday night and will travel again before Sunday’s game. Meanwhile, the Patriots played at home on Saturday, don’t have to travel at all, and get extra time to prepare, rest, etc. (And no matter what the Steelers have said or will say publicly, they were not happy about the shift in the starting time for Sunday’s game.)
The next question is whether the league will do the same thing on the Sunday night of the wild-card round. The possibility that a team playing on the first Sunday night of the playoffs would have to play on the following Saturday could be a factor, especially since the home game in the divisional round has 13 or 14 days between games.
The overriding factor continues to be (drum roll, please) money, and the NFL will make more of it if games are dropped into prime time on Sunday night. Also, the league will get even greater exposure from games played during windows that will be conducive to more people watching.
Which makes it odd that it took an experiment born of need to get the NFL to realize what had been hiding in plain sight for years.