The NFL has canceled the final Sunday night football game of the season.
Next Sunday’s game had two disadvantages: The games all had a likelihood of being dull by the time Sunday night rolled around. And this coming Sunday is New Year’s Eve, a day when historically few Americans watch television.
The last time the NFL held a Sunday night football game on New Year’s Eve was in 2007, when the Chicago Bears hosted the Green Bay Packers. It was quarterback Brett Favre’s last game with the Packers (and widely expected to be his last game ever). Still, only 13.4 million people watched that game, about a quarter fewer than the average Sunday Night Football game that season.
Since the last Sunday night football game also happens to be the final game of the season, the NFL tries to schedule a game that will definitely have playoff implications for one or both of the teams playing. (A team that already made the playoffs might sit their starters, leading to an exceptionally boring game.)
This season, there were no such games that met the NFL’s criteria on the final week’s schedule. The NFL, which hadn’t yet announced which teams would play Sunday night, would have either scheduled a game that had a chance of being a snooze or a game that already had no playoff implications at all.
Instead, there will be seven games scheduled for 1 p.m. and an unusually high nine games scheduled for 4:25 p.m. kickoffs. There won’t be an 8:30 p.m. game this year.
“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. windows,” said Howard Katz, the NFL’s broadcasting chief, in a prepared statement.
All of Sunday’s games will be broadcast on CBS or Fox. NBC won’t have a game this coming week, and NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy declined to comment about whether the network would be compensated for the lost broadcast. Unlike other weeks of the season, the NFL has the sole discretion about the scheduling of the final Sunday night game of the year.
2017 has been a tough year for the NFL. The ratings for this NFL’s season are down 9% from last year.