NFL owners on Monday approved a change to the league’s flex scheduling procedure that could affect the New England Patriots.
For the first time, the NFL will be allowed to shift games into and out of its primetime “Thursday Night Football” timeslot during a select late-season window. Thursday games in Weeks 13-17 will be flex-eligible, with participating teams receiving at least 28 days of advance notice.
The Patriots are scheduled to visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on “TNF” in Week 14, meaning that game could be bumped to Sunday afternoon if the league wants to replace it with a more desirable matchup. New England and Pittsburgh both finished below .500 and missed the playoffs last season.
Only two total Thursday flexes are allowed per season, and individual teams cannot play on Thursday night more than twice.
New England owner Robert Kraft evidently was on board with Monday’s resolution, as the Patriots were not among the eight teams that reportedly voted against the change. Those were the New York Giants, New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Las Vegas Raiders, Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals and Steelers, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The NFL needed at least 24 votes to approve the new rule and received exactly 24.
The change, which surely will be unpopular with many players and coaches, was made “on a trial basis” and “will be in effect for the 2023 season only,” unless no Thursday games are flexed, in which case it will “remain in effect for the 2024 season.”
The Patriots are scheduled to play four primetime games this season: one on Thursday night, two on Sunday night (Week 2 versus Miami; Week 16 at Denver) and one on Monday night (Week 15 versus Kansas City).