In just the second time in the last three years, NBC has waited until the latest possible time to exchange a previously scheduled game on “Sunday Night Football” for a more competitive one.
And in both of these instances, it’s the San Diego Chargers that end up getting burned.
They’re used to this, though.
On Monday, the NFL announced that the Chargers’ Week 16 road contest with the New York Jets on December 23 will be flexed out of primetime, with NBC opting for a divisional tilt between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks. As a result, the Chargers/Jets game is jettisoned to CBS with a 1 PM (ET) start time, while a New York Giants/Baltimore Ravens game that had been scheduled for 1 PM on that day will shift to 4:25 PM, replacing 49ers/Seahawks as “America’s Game Of The Week” on that day.
With Fox protecting three consecutive Giants broadcasts this month, I’m sure Joe Buck wouldn’t want it any other way.
Sure, the Jets and Chargers both won their recent games, both on the road – but after realizing that an Arizona Cardinals defense that allowed nearly 60 points to the Seahawks had allowed just a single touchdown to the Jets the previous week – and mind you, not even to a quarterback named Sanchez or Tebow – NBC decided it would be in the best interest of America to not show the Chargers/Jets game in Week 16, a game that pits a lame-duck head coach with an all-around lame team.
There had been speculation that NBC would flex out the Chargers/Jets game as early as WFAN’s “Boomer and Carton” morning show. Co-host Craig Carton argued that with the Jets being embarrassed on Thanksgiving night by the New England Patriots, they don’t deserve any further national television exposure. (By the way, the Jets’ next game in Week 15 will be in primetime, on the road against the Tennessee Titans.)
And so, these two teams will, as The Big Lead points out, play a 1 PM game in New Jersey for the second consecutive year (the Jets won that Week 7 game, 27-21).
This will be the first and only time this year that a scheduled NBC game will be discarded back to a regional affair. Of course, there will be a final “Sunday Night Football” broadcast in Week 17, with the teams to be determined based on playoff implications stemming from the scheduled games that week, which will all be played on December 30.
The last time NBC waited as long as possible for flexing out a regularly scheduled game was in 2010, also in Week 16, with the Chargers/Bengals game fed back to CBS in favor of a Minnesota Vikings/Philadelphia Eagles game, one that would be played on the night of Tuesday, December 28, 2010, due to severe weather conditions in Philadelphia (incidentally, the Vikings’ own home stadium would be impacted by heavy snow that year, as well).
NBC also made one flex move last year in Week 13, and once again, it was an AFC/NFC tradeoff, with a Colts/Patriots contest (remember, this is the year Peyton Manning missed the entire season) switched for a Detroit Lions/New Orleans Saints matchup. As a reuslt of this arrangement, it actually sent a Denver Broncos road game in Minnesota from CBS to Fox (you may recall this was back in the thick of Tebowmania, when one Tim Tebow was playing for Denver).
With the Week 16 (2012) flex move, this means the 49ers will now have to play two back-to-back Sunday night games, and both of them on the road, as they travel to Foxboro to play the Patriots in Week 15 on NBC before proceeding to the Pacific Northwest the following week. This actually is not the first time a team was in such a position due to flex scheduling: In Week 16 of the 2007 season, the Washington Redskins’ road contest with the Vikings was flexed into primetime in lieu of a 49ers home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; the Redskins would also play the New York Giants in what used to be The Meadowlands the preceding week.
Speaking of the Patriots, the Chargers now join them as having been involved in the most games flexed out of primetime. A Chargers/Buccaneers game in Week 16 of the 2008 season also flexed out for a Carolina Panthers/New York Giants tilt – which put the Giants on “SNF” for two weeks in a row (they played in Dallas the previous week).
So there will be at least one previously scheduled primetime game on NBC flexed into an earlier window for the sixth year in a row, including only one game for four consecutive years. In the “SNF” debut season of 2006, in which flex scheduling was first eligible, no games were flexed at all.
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s nine games flexed out of Sunday night in a six-year span – with the Chargers making up for one-third of those games (as well as the Patriots).
Of course, there could have been two games flexed this season: they chose to keep a Philadelphia Eagles/Dallas Cowboys contest in primetime, despite their losing records coming into the game.
The San Diego Chargers and New York Jets, with their losing records? Not so much.