The Seattle Seahawks need the Carolina Panthers to win (or tie) against the Atlanta Falcons next week in order to have a chance to make the playoffs. An Atlanta win ends Seattle’s season, no matter what the Seahawks do against the Arizona Cardinals.
With this scenario came the very legitimate concern that the Panthers could potentially have nothing to play for, as a New Orleans Saints win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would clinch the NFC South, and lock Carolina into the #5 seed. The NFL is aware of this, so in the finalized Week 17 schedule, Panthers-Falcons, Saints-Buccaneers, and Cardinals-Seahawks will all be 1:25 PM PT kickoffs.
Of importance on a wider scale, this year’s playoff scenarios mean that there will NOT be a Sunday Night Football game to cap off the regular season.
“We felt that both from a competitive standpoint and from a fan perspective, the most fair thing to do is to schedule all Week 17 games in either the 1 p.m. or 4:25 p.m. ET windows,” said NFL Senior Vice President of Broadcasting Howard Katz in a press release. “This ensures that we do not have a matchup on Sunday Night Football on New Year’s Eve that because of earlier results has no playoff implications for one or both of the competing teams.”
Carolina at Atlanta and New Orleans at Tampa Bay were scheduled for 10 AM, but have been flexed to the late slot. Also flexed to 1:25 PM PT are the Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans, and the Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins. The Ravens, Titans, Bills, and Los Angeles Chargers are all battling for the two wild card spots.
This is tremendous news for the Seahawks, as Carolina can still win the NFC South with a victory in Atlanta and a Saints loss to the Buccaneers, who nearly pulled off upsets over both the Falcons and Panthers in the last two weeks. Now, if the Saints just obliterate the Bucs in the 1st half and the Panthers see it on the scoreboard... well then that’s a problem, but it’s a lot better than the Panthers and Falcons playing after the Saints-Buccaneers game ends.
The full NFL schedule is as follows:
Buckle up, ‘Hawks fans! There is going to be a whole lot of scoreboard watching on New Year’s Eve.