When the NFL instituted flexible scheduling for Sunday Night Football, it was with the intention of getting the best game of the week on TV. If not the best in terms of competition, at least the best in terms of viewership. You'd think that would mean an awful lot of New York Jets on the screen over the next few weeks, but you'd be wrong.
They've already flexed the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens for Week 14, a wise choice, and the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys are already scheduled and not moving in Week 15. Week 16's game is San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Bucs, nothing much of interest there, but the Jets play at the woeful Seattle Seahawks that week while the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans square off in a tempting matchup. Week 17 has the Miami Dolphins visiting, which could have playoff implications on both sides, but there are several other games that fit the bill as well. The NFL normally makes the change 12 days ahead but only need to swap in a game six days in advance in Week 17.
The best chance would have been Sunday when the AFC West leaders from Denver come calling, but NBC is going with the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears. Surely John Madden would rather wax rhapsodic about Brett Favre than Gus Frerotte? Although the decision was made before they beat the Titans, the Jets still had more, ahem, flex appeal than either of the NFC North teams. As Bob Raissman writes in the Daily News, though, the Vikings-Bears game has meaning. It will go a long way toward deciding who wins that division which makes it hard for the league and the network to so nakedly chase ratings instead of a game with postseason implications.
That would make it exactly the first time in television history that import trumped an easy ratings win, but change has been quite the buzzword in 2008. It looks like NBC will miss out on one of the season's biggest stories unless the Jets make it to the Super Bowl.