Week 11 (November 17):
- Tentative game: Chicago @ LA Rams
- Prospects: 3-4 v. 5-3. The Eagles are a good team, but the Bears are now on a four-game losing streak after starting 3-1, raising the prospect of a team in freefall and making this game very vulnerable.
- Likely protections: Patriots-Eagles (CBS) and Cowboys-Lions (FOX).
- Other possible games mentioned on last week’s Watch and their records: Texans (6-3)-Ravens (6-2), Jaguars (4-5)-Colts (5-3).
- Impact of Monday Night Football: None.
- Analysis: I figured even in a best-case scenario it would be difficult for the league to get away from the #2 and #3 media markets in favor of two teams with much less name value, but the scenario I laid out as representing that best case happened, including what may be regarded as a coming-out party for Lamar Jackson that puts the Ravens in the conference title discussion. If this were the early days of flex scheduling where “play your way into primetime” was still a plausible organizing principle I’d absolutely pull the trigger on a flex. I continue to wonder, though, if the Texans bring enough buzz for this to be worth a flex, especially without J.J. Watt. Notably, Texans-Ravens would probably get decent distribution as the early game of CBS’ doubleheader with only three other CBS games in the time slot and the Jets and Cowboys playing on the road on Fox, whereas Bears-Rams would have to either be a 4:05 Fox game or take two big markets away from Patriots-Eagles on CBS. On that note, Jets-Trumps was the game announced as being crossflexed to Fox last week, freeing up two big markets, including one that normally sees as many Ravens games as possible, to receive Texans-Ravens, while also foreclosing them from receiving what might otherwise have been Fox’s lead singleheader game in Cowboys-Lions. I know I said in last week’s post that the lack of a “final” Week 11 schedule opened the door to further changes, but I’m not sure you announce that crossflex at that time if you’re planning on punting Texans-Ravens to primetime anyway and leaving neutral markets to get, what, Jaguars-Colts? Bills-Dolphins? I wouldn’t be too surprised by a flex (there’s a reason I don’t try too hard to predict afternoon schedule changes in this feature), but I would still expect the Bird and the Beard, not Al and Cris, to set up shop in Baltimore in two weeks.
- Final prediction: Chicago Bears @ Los Angeles Rams (no change).