The NFL used its flex scheduling powers Monday to spare the nation a prime-time game involving the Jets to cap off Thanksgiving weekend.
On the surface, it was a no-brainer to move the Chiefs (currently 7-2) and Broncos (7-3) to “Sunday Night Football” and the Patriots (7-2) and Jets (3-7) to a late-afternoon slot. Still, the league and NBC do not take the decision to move the Patriots out of prime time (regardless of the opponent) lightly.
Shortly after receiving news of the flex, NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood said, “Well, you look at the records of the two teams we’re covering: Arguably one or both could be in the AFC Championship Game and they’re playing each other. If you’re making the decision, I think you’d want to have that on your air.
“The Patriots are a powerful brand and great organization that knows how to win and knows how to attract eyeballs. But sometimes you have to make a decision and the league obviously made a decision here based on what they thought would be in the best interests of the fans.”
It certainly is in the best interests of Jets ticket-holders. Traditionally, fans who attend games in person abhor night games, especially late in the season.
Unlike in other sports, the size of the New York market is not a relevant factor here.
Flood said in hockey, another sport NBC carries, “The New York Rangers are one level of ratings and the Devils and Islanders are a second level of ratings, no matter how great they are. The Devils were winning Stanley Cups and the Rangers were not [but the Rangers were the bigger draw]. It’s just a reality of different teams.”
It is possible, of course, that the Jets and Patriots could play an entertaining game. Or not.
“Who knows?” Flood said. “We had the Butt Fumble Game on Thanksgiving [of 2012] that didn’t draw a big audience because it was over by the end of the first quarter.”
The Patriots led the Jets 35-3 at halftime and won, 49-19.