Last Sunday the NFL announced that the upcoming match up between the New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers in Week 14 had been “flexed” to the Sunday Night Football slot. The Saints-Panthers match-up was originally slated for one of the afternoon slots while the prime time game was originally scheduled for an Atlanta Falcons–Green Bay Packers match-up at Green Bay. Both the Falcons and Packers were thought to be contenders for postseason play at the beginning of the season.
Atlanta, who thus far has had a rather disappointing season due to injuries and other woes, stands at 2-9 and was the first team to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs this season. Green Bay, meanwhile, has been without their star quarterback Aaron Rodgers since he suffered a broken collarbone in Week 9 against the Chicago Bears.
The NFL’s flex scheduling was implemented in 2006 and only pertains to Sunday time slots for weeks 10-15 and 17. According to the NFL website, flex scheduling was implemented in 2006 and:
“ensures quality matchups on Sunday night in those weeks and gave surprise teams a chance to play their way onto primetime.”
Basically, it is a method to help ensure the later season Sunday prime time games are competitive games between potential playoff teams for quality sake and for ratings. Not a bad idea, really. After all, the NFL is big business, and who would really want to tune in to a late season game on prime time between two teams that had four or five wins between them.
If this benefits anyone, it has to be New Orleans. Not only does it give the team a couple extra hours of rest and prep time after a short week, but the Saints are near impossible to beat at home during prime time. According to ESPN’s Mike Triplett, New Orleans has won an incredible 12 consecutive night prime time games at home, two of which have been this season.
This will arguably be the game of the season up to this point, and if Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles can come away with a win their chances of taking the NFC South title will greatly improve.