The NFL had a decision to make regarding the Week 17 prime-time game. The league knew that Rams-Chargers had to exit prime-time on NBC. The question what which game to replace it with?
Eyebrows were raised when the league decided to flex Steelers-Ravens. However, per a source with knowledge of the situation, CBS had protected Vikings-Packers — and Fox had protected Panthers-Buccaneers. That basically made the options Steelers-Ravens and Dolphins-Patriots.
While Dolphins-Patriots is an elimination game, both teams have struggled in recent weeks. The Dolphins, after an 8-3 start, have lost four in a row. The Patriots have lost four of five. And the prime-time crowd in Boston on New Year’s Day may not have been impressive, to say the least.
Steelers-Ravens is a rivalry that always brings excitement and intensity. The Steelers are trying to pull another late-season inside straight to the postseason — and to avoid the first ever losing season in coach Mike Tomlin’s time with the team. The Ravens are trying to stay within a game of the Bengals, setting up what would be a division-title game in Week 18 in Cincinnati. The stadium should be a-rockin’. Which helped convince the NFL to go a-knockin’.
The placement of Tua Tagovailoa in the concussion protocol makes the decision seem even more prudent, in hindsight. With or without Lamar Jackson (he has a good chance to play, returning from a knee injury), the Ravens will play the Steelers tough. Both of those teams always do.