On Tuesday we learned that the Week 16 Eagles-Bears game would be flexed to Sunday Night Football on NBC. The fact that the Eagles and Bears were being moved to primetime was not a surprise. Chicago is the 3rd biggest TV market in the NFL, while the Eagles are 4th. Both teams are right in the thick of the playoff race, and the Eagles are the hottest team in the NFL guided by a young QB who is having a historic season.
What was a little surprising, however, was that the Eagles-Bears game replaced another game featuring two teams in the playoff hunt. Originally, the Sunday night game was Patriots-Ravens. Not only are the Patriots and Ravens still relevant, they're the two teams that played in the AFC Championship Game last season.
According to the Sports Business Daily, the Eagles and Bears were flexed to Sunday night Week 16 out of necessity for more flexibility in Week 17:
Sources said the NFL made the move to stay in line with a rule written in its broadcast contracts prohibiting the league from taking too many primetime games from CBS or Fox each season. The rule says that the difference in the number of games taken from CBS and Fox cannot be more than three games. If the NFL did not make a Week 16 move, it would have taken 25 games from CBS and 22 from Fox for its primetime packages this season on NBC, ESPN and NFL Network. That is important because the NFL would not have been able to take a CBS matchup for the season finale, when the "SNF" game is the season's final matchup and should have playoff implications. With the change, 24 primetime games come from CBS and 23 come from Fox, giving the NFL access to the entire slate of Week 17 games from which to choose.
While the Eagles are certainly getting more national recognition lately, and deservedly so, there were other factors at play in their move to primetime.