Week 14 (December 13):
- Tentative game: Seattle @ Baltimore
- Prospects: 6-5 v. 3-7. Not looking good.
- Likely protections: Steelers-Bengals (CBS, confirmed) and Cowboys-Packers or Falcons-Panthers (FOX).
- Other possible games mentioned on Monday’s Watch and their records: Falcons (6-5)-Panthers (11-0), Patriots (10-1)-Texans (6-5), Bills (5-6)-Eagles (4-7), Colts (6-5)-Jaguars (4-7), Raiders (5-6)-Broncos (9-2), Washington (5-6)-Bears (5-6), Saints (4-7)-Bucs (5-6).
- Impact of Monday Night Football: A Ravens win gives Seahawks-Ravens a decent, though not overwhelming, chance of keeping its spot, with only a two-game gap and the Ravens with an outside shot at a wild card; a loss probably makes a flex certain, assuming the decision hasn’t already come down by game time. In any case I’ve already seen a tweet indicating the decision’s already been made to flex it out.
- Analysis: Despite the long list of games above I felt Falcons-Panthers and Patriots-Texans were really the only options, and both are massively lopsided; even considering that, Racial Slurs-Bears and Raiders-Broncos are the only two of the remaining games that avoided involving a 4-7 team, and only the latter even comes close to overcoming the tentative game bias and is still a game worse on both sides than Patriots-Texans. This would be much easier if both undefeated teams lost or won, or even if the Panthers were the unbeaten that lost; as it stands the league would have to determine whether to go for Patriots-Texans’ name value and less lopsided nature or Falcons-Panthers’ unbeaten team. Factors to keep in mind: Fox has the doubleheader this week, so the NFL would prefer to take a game from CBS and give it a national audience, and the Panthers-Falcons return match has much less competition to be flexed in Week 16. On the other hand, Texans-Colts seems like a more likely choice to be flexed in next week than a lopsided Panthers-Giants matchup that would leave the Giants maxed out on primetime appearances with Giants-Vikings Week 16 and Eagles-Giants Week 17 both potential flex possibilities. Still, that hasn’t stopped the NFL before, so it hardly outweighs the factors in Patriots-Texans’ favor. Still, I make this prediction with the caveat that if Falcons-Panthers isn’t protected this week but is protected Week 16 (which, note, is also a Fox doubleheader week), I would be far from surprised to see it picked this week, and I’m not sure I agree with not waiting for MNF to see if the Ravens win if the NFL can wait. Even then, though, the name value might still give the edge to…
- Final prediction: New England Patriots @ Houston Texans.
- Actual selection: New England Patriots @ Houston Texans (matches prediction).