NFL Explains Moving Patriots Game To Late Window, Keeping Texans In Early Slot
There is a "fun theory" that Patriots Owner Robert Kraft might have "pulled a few strings to make sure the Texans played before the Patriots so his team would have a better sense of what it was playing for before taking the field" Sunday, but NFL Dir of Corporate Communications Dan Masonson said that there is "nothing to it," according to Chad Finn of the BOSTON GLOBE. The Patriots will play the Dolphins at 4:25pm ET Sunday after the Cowboys-Redskins game was flexed to NBC's "SNF." The Pats and the Texans are still battling for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but the Texans-Colts game is scheduled for 1:00pm. Masonson said that the decision "wasn’t about prioritizing the Patriots or Texans, and certainly not about giving one of them a small tactical advantage." It was to "ensure that the Broncos-Chiefs game, also slated for 4:25 p.m. and not a candidate to be flexed because of its Mountain Time kickoff, matters as much as possible." Masonson in an e-mail wrote, “The games are scheduled sequentially to have the most impact on the playoff race/seeding. The Patriots are playing at 4:25 p.m. because that’s when the Broncos are playing. (Even if the Texans win), both teams are playing for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.” Finn writes, "In other words, the league is emphasizing the drama of having three teams scrambling to lock up the two first-round byes over everything else." Had the Patriots "remained at 1 p.m. and lost to the Dolphins, the Texans and Broncos would be locked in as the top two seeds, with the order dependent on the outcome of their games" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/28).
WAITING ALL WEEK: In California, Jim Carlisle writes since "SNF" made its debut on NBC in '06, the NFL has "spoiled it as if it were an only child." The league has "given NBC all the prime-time perks and privileges it never gave ABC when it had 'Monday Night Football.'" The NFL "makes sure NBC has a dynamite matchup each week." The net has to "be very happy with the arrangement it has with the NFL." Fox and CBS are "generally happy too, but right around Christmastime each year, they often do some teeth-gnashing about their situation" (VENTURA COUNTY STAR, 12/28).