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Seahawks-Chiefs stays on primetime despite potential lack of stakes

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NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Seattle Seahawks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I want to see the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs on primetime in Week 16, as they’ve been scheduled to play, so please at least temporarily park your pitchfork as I say the following statement: the NFL opted not to flex the game out of Sunday Night Football in two weeks but factually speaking, the game might not have any stakes when it comes to the 2018 postseason.

Yes, it could be the most exciting matchup of the week.

Yes, it could go a long ways towards each of these teams proving their salt right now.

Patrick Mahomes. Russell Wilson. Yes.

I’m just speaking from a place of facts: It’s possible that the game won’t mean anything as far as the playoff seedings go, which is not what the NFL is typically looking for when it comes to these end of season primetime games, which is why they started giving themselves the option to flex in the first place. Stakes do matter and while this game does feature the AFC’s best team and an NFC team that has myriad great storylines, it just might fall flat in terms of who wins and who loses. Especially if the Seahawks win on Monday night.

Seattle hosts the Minnesota Vikings on Monday, and a win all but assures them of a playoff spot; 538 has it at 99+% thanks to all their competition losing this week and of late. If they beat the Vikings, it also gives them a considerable lead over Minnesota, who’d remain in the six seed. This virtually locks the Seahawks in as the five seed and it’s almost certain that after their Week 15 game against the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle won’t be playing for anything over their final two weeks.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs have a two-game lead for the AFC’s 1 seed with three games left to go. They have a difficult game next week: they host the LA Chargers. A loss would give the Chargers hope of winning the AFC West and taking the one-seed, but a win by Kansas City would give them the division title and at least a two-game lead over the New England Patriots and Houston Texans with two games to go; the Chiefs have a better conference record that neither team could catch up to though, so KC would also lock in the 1-seed.

A win at home against the Chargers next week should give the Chiefs all they need. A loss by the Pats or Texans also obviously gives them what they need to some degree. And both teams still have Week 16 games before KC does, so it’s possible that if there is still some doubt headed into the day, it could be gone by the night.

Unless Los Angeles does win, and then of course, the stakes are back on for at least the Chiefs.

Right now the NFL is banking on the fact that:

  • There isn’t a better game that they are allowed to flex into that spot. Ravens at Chargers? Steelers at Saints? There might have also been protections on those games but they also don’t provide a ton more intrigue.
  • These teams may not fill the intrigue gap but they do fill out talentwise: Mahomes, Wilson, Tyreek Hill, Tyler Lockett, Justin Houston, Bobby Wagner, Travis Kelce, Doug Baldwin, and so on. The best offense. A retooling defense that was once great. Seattle’s offense vs a notably weak KC defense that featured a 100+ point primetime game earlier this season. Even if the stakes are non-existent, neither coach is likely to bench starters. Not until the second half at least. If you do have evidence against this, please post in the comments.
  • Off field storylines that likely gain publicity.
  • Maybe the Chiefs will lose to the Chargers. Maybe the Seahawks will lose to the Vikings. Neither is totally improbable.

For now though we do know that Seattle keeps its home primetime game, which I do think is good for business. And as all know, the NFL is certainly a business first.