Don’t say the NFL never did the New England Patriots any favors.
(Cue Deflategate rants in 3… 2… 1…)
The NFL on Tuesday announced it’s flexing the Cincinnati Bengals vs. Kansas City Chiefs Week 7 game from a 1 p.m. ET start to “Sunday Night Football.” The game will replace the Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers matchup, which seemingly has lost some luster in the wake of Jimmy Garoppolo’s season-ending ACL injury.
It’s probably fair to say the Patriots are pleased with the NFL’s decision.
New England is in the midst of a brutal stretch of primetime games: Detroit Lions on “SNF” in Week 3; Indianapolis Colts on “Thursday Night Football” in Week 5; Chiefs on “SNF” in Week 6; Buffalo Bills on “Monday Night Football” in Week 8; Green Bay Packers on “SNF” in Week 9.
For those keeping score at home, that’s five primetime games in 7 weeks.
Which brings us back to Week 7.
The Patriots are on the road facing the Chicago Bears, a young team on the rise that boasts a fearsome defense. The game now has substantial intrigue and likely was a candidate to be flexed to the “SNF” spot.
Had that happened, Bill Belichick would’ve been tasked with preparing his team for six primetime games in seven weeks, including five straight.
Of course, non-Patriots fans will say something akin to, “boo-hoo, try having a team that never gets a primetime game” — and that’s understandable. Primetime games are exciting for fans, and the fact that New Englanders have the fortune of looking forward to so many surely is enviable to many fan bases.
But there is such thing as too many primetime games, especially for players and coaches. Outside of the extended break following “TNF” games, primetime matchups lead to short weeks, which in turn give players less time to recover and coaches less time to prepare. Traveling home after a late night also is no picnic despite what fans think.
Plus, generally speaking, primetime games are more intense and tougher to win — although coaches probably love that aspect.
Consider this: New England’s remaining strength of schedule ranks 29th in the league. Given the stretch of primetime games we just listed, as well as the always difficult AFC East road games and a Week 13 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings, does anyone really believe the Patriots have the third-easiest remaining schedule?
Of course not. And a Sunday night matchup at Soldier Field against a tough Bears defense wouldn’t have made things any easier. So, all things considered, Belichick and Co. caught a huge break.
So, too, did New Englanders, who — between the Patriots’ schedule and the Boston Red Sox’s playoff run — probably are fed up with going to bed after midnight.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images