When the Eagles travel to Los Angeles to play the Rams in Week 14, it looks likely that the highly anticipated face-off between Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, last year’s top two draft picks, will end up in prime time.
The Eagles-Rams matchup is scheduled to air in the 4:25 p.m. block on Fox on Dec. 10. But according to a source with knowledge of the situation, Fox hasn’t protected the game, meaning it’s up for grabs that week thanks to the NFL’s flex scheduling.
Fox and CBS get to protect a certain number of games with the league office after Week 5. Over the last seven weeks of the season, the NFL can flex games it thinks will be more competitive with higher stakes into prime time and other national spots. At that point, the Eagles and Rams, who hold the two best records in the league, could very well be playing for home-field advantage in the NFC.
Right now, Week 14’s Sunday Night Football matchup is scheduled to be Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh. While Pittsburgh is having a good season and is a consistent television draw, Baltimore is floundering behind the poor play of Joe Flacco and not in serious contention in the AFC North.
Also in Week 14, Fox is scheduled to air a Cowboys-Giants in the 4:25 p.m. afternoon block. While Fox could decide to make the Eagles-Rams its national game, it’s unlikely it would shut out the Cowboys from a large national audience, especially against an NFC East rival (even if it’s the lowly Giants), making the NFL more likely to flex in Eagles-Rams to Sunday Night Football to get it more exposure.
Plus, the Rams have not played a prime-time game since returning to Los Angeles last season. Joe Furin, the general manager of the Coliseum, told the Los Angeles Times there are no restrictions on the stadium’s hosting a Sunday night game.
“From our perspective, we’re used to a flex schedule because of college,” Furin told the Times. “So we’ll be ready for whatever kickoff time is determined.”
The only real competition the Eagles would have for the prime-time spot would be the Vikings-Panthers matchup currently scheduled to air at 1 p.m. on CBS. Both teams have seven wins and are competing for division titles, and the NFL just flexed the Panthers’ Week 13 matchup against the red-hot Saints to 4:25 p.m. so it can garner more exposure. It’s unclear if CBS has protected that game from the flex.
A move into prime time in Week 14 would mean Sunday Night Football would air Eagles games in back-to-back weeks. Philadelphia is scheduled to play the Seahawks in Week 13 on Sunday Night Football in Seattle, and it’s unlikely the league would move that game out of prime time.
It’s also not uncommon for Sunday Night Football to have the same team in back-to-back weeks. Last year, the NFL flexed Tampa Bay-Dallas to prime time on Dec. 18 just a week after the Cowboys took on the Giants on Sunday night, Dec. 11. And in 2013, the Eagles were flexed into Sunday Night Football in Weeks 16 and 17 during Chip Kelly’s first season as head coach.
The NFL would have to make the final decision 12 days before the game, so we’ll know for sure by Tuesday, Nov. 28.