During prime time, you can’t miss a game between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. These two teams have a slim chance of winning their division, and moving the game to prime time may help their chances. But what is the real reason for bumping some games to prime time? It’s not as easy as it seems, but there are several reasons. Here are some of them:
The NFL allows six games each season on prime time. But no team is allowed to play more than six times on prime time. No team can play on Sunday night on NBC, with the exception of Week 17. So, a game between Houston and Baltimore, for example, is more likely to be a prime time game than an AFC wild-card battle. But there are still plenty of other reasons why some games get bumped to prime time.
One reason is bloat. Historically, games started at 4 p.m. and lasted until the hour was over. But since 1998, kickoff times were moved up to 4:15 p.m. so that television viewers could get a two-minute commercial break before the game started. This year, some games kickoff as late as 4:25 p.m. ET. This is more than a few minutes longer than last year.
Another reason for extending the regular season is the playoffs. If the playoffs were longer, the Super Bowl would fall on Presidents’ Day weekend. Tom Brady will be playing in the first round. And it won’t be long before the 17-game regular season becomes quaint. After all, the NFL playoffs build to a crescendo on Sunday nights. The Eagles, Bills, and Cincinnati Bengals are all in the playoffs, but the Browns and Ravens were mercifully thrown out.