Week 12 (November 27):
- Tentative game: New England @ NY Jets
- Prospects: 7-2 v. 3-7. Very lopsided, but could be hard pressed to lose its spot under the circumstances.
- Likely protections: Chiefs-Broncos (CBS) and Cardinals-Falcons, Rams-Saints, Seahawks-Bucs, or nothing (FOX).
- Other possible games mentioned on last week’s Watch and their records: Cardinals (4-4-1)-Falcons (6-4), Bengals (3-4-1)-Ravens (5-4), Seahawks (6-2-1)-Bucs (4-5), Rams (4-5)-Saints (4-5), Panthers (3-6)-Raiders (7-2).
- Impact of Monday Night Football: The Bengals have a chance to put a second 4-4-1 team in the conversation.
- Analysis: Other than the Pats’ loss, the exact scenario I laid out that would have made the flex situation particularly interesting happened. Thanksgiving Weekend typically means a paucity of good options because of all the games, including the Cowboys, bumped to Thanksgiving day (and this year the Colts are the only team across the Thanksgiving and Monday Night games below .500), and I’ve heard it suggested that NBC doesn’t want its plans for travel from the Thanksgiving night site to the following Sunday night site to be changed on less than two weeks’ notice, but with their half of the TNF package they’d have to do that pretty much every week of the main flex period anyway, and I would imagine the league might be desperate to do anything to stem off the constant “collapsing ratings” headlines. Neither Cardinals-Falcons nor Bengals-Ravens have any stars on the level of Tom Brady, nor do they bring the same caliber of market, but there is some evidence that people are turning away from lousy primetime games as much as anything else, and the league might be reticent to put a game that looks like such a mismatch and whose main promise might be a repeat of the Butt Fumble on its main primetime package if it has viable alternatives. Of course, as Seahawks-Cardinals proved, even evenly-matched but mediocre teams can have a lousy game, and I still wouldn’t be surprised if Patriots-Jets keeps its spot, but a flex is a very real possibility, and for the moment I’m going to say that under most circumstances in the past, the NFL would definitely pull the trigger here (and indeed I wouldn’t be surprised if Seahawks-Bucs was the pick).
- Final prediction: Arizona Cardinals @ Atlanta Falcons (if unprotected), Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens (if Cardinals-Falcons is protected and the Bengals win Monday night), New England Patriots @ New York Jets (no change) (if Cardinals-Falcons is protected and the Giants win Monday night).