The Patriots’ first tilt of the season against the New York Jets on Nov. 27 will not be featured on “Sunday Night Football,” as originally scheduled. Instead, the AFC East rivals will fill the 4:25 p.m. kickoff slot on CBS.
The Denver Broncos’ matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs will fill NBC’s prime-time slot on Nov. 27. Had the Patriots-Jets game not been flexed out of prime time, it would have been New England’s second time on “Sunday Night Football” in three weeks.
The Patriots-Broncos matchup on Dec. 18 would seem a candidate to be flexed into prime time, but league rules will prevent that from happening.
No more than three teams are permitted to play six prime-time games from Weeks 1-16, with every other team limited to a maximum of five.
The Broncos already have played four games in prime time (versus the Panthers, Chargers, Texans, and Raiders). With this change, Denver now has two more scheduled, both against Kansas City. The second is on Christmas night.
There is a loophole, but it won’t affect the Patriots-Broncos game. The maximum-of-six rule is lifted for Week 17, with every team eligible for flexing on the last week of the regular season in order to give the effect of play-in games in tight divisional races. Even if rules did allow the Broncos to play a seventh game in prime time before Week 17, it would have been highly unlikely that CBS, which has AFC broadcast rights, would permit the game with the Patriots to be flexed out.
Flex rules allow Fox and CBS to protect one game each in five of six weeks beginning with Week 11. No games can be protected in Week 17.
The networks have not revealed which games they have protected yet, but the Patriots-Broncos game lines up to be the most appealing matchup of Week 15, and thus one CBS would choose to retain.
The Patriots have played in prime time three times this season: Sept. 11 at Arizona, Sept. 22 at home against Houston, and this past Sunday night at home against Seattle.
Of the Patriots’ seven remaining games, three are in the 4:25 p.m. slot: Nov. 20 in San Francisco, Nov. 27 in New York, and the Denver game.
One is on “Monday Night Football,” Dec. 12 at home against Baltimore.
Three are at 1 p.m.: Dec. 4 at home against Los Angeles, Dec. 24 at home against New York, and Jan. 1 in Miami.
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Many words have been spent on the reasons for the NFL’s sagging Nielsen ratings this season.
But the Patriots-Seahawks matchup on NBC Sunday night found one way to boost the ratings to great heights for at least one game: Broadcast a compelling, back-and-forth game between high-quality teams that goes down to the finish.
The formula won’t always be that simple or easy to execute. But NBC has to be thrilled with the ratings outcome for the Seahawks’ 31-24 victory over the Patriots on “Sunday Night Football.”
According to the network, the game drew a 14.3 overnight rating and a 23 share nationally, its best Week 10 “Sunday Night Football” ratings since a Patriots-Jets matchup in 2011 (14.5/23). Sunday’s game was up 13 percent from the ratings for last season’s Week 10 SNF, a Cardinals-Seahawks game (12.6/21).
In Boston, Sunday’s game earned a 34.9 rating and 54 share. Seattle was the top market (48.2/70), while Providence (26.6/40) was third.