The NFL has decided not to flex the New England Patriots week 17 game against the Miami Dolphins to the 4:00 PM EST time slot and it’s the best decision for quality football. While the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans have nothing to play for, the remaining four AFC playoff teams will have to play to the final whistle.
The Patriots will need to win early to ensure they have homefield advantage in the 2016 playoffs. If the NFL moved the game to the later slot, perhaps the Denver Broncos would run up an early lead on the Oakland Raiders, allowing the Patriots to rest in the second half.
Additionally, the Dolphins will only play hard if they have a chance of winning the #5 seed. If the Kansas City Chiefs are blowing out the Chargers early, then the Dolphins won’t have a chance for the #5 seed and might as well rest their starters for wild card weekend.
By keeping the Patriots-Dolphins game in the early slot, the NFL saves everyone the trouble of dealing with a rescheduled game, but also keeps the Patriots and Dolphins in the dark about their AFC West counterparts.
The results of the 1:00 PM EST game shouldn’t impact the Raiders and Chiefs, either, because both teams are still competing to win the AFC West. Even if the Patriots win and the Raiders don’t have a chance at the #1 seed, a Raiders win still secures the #2 seed and a first round bye; a loss could doom Oakland to the #5 seed.
And the Chiefs are competing because they really want to win the AFC West and receive that first round bye.
The NFL made the right choice to keep the Patriots game in the early time slot.