The NFL announced Wednesday that the Patriots-Broncos game on Dec. 18 will not be switched to an 8:20 p.m. kickoff and will instead remain at 4:15 p.m.
According to multiple reports, NBC -- which has the right to request schedule changes 12 days in advance over the latter stage of the season -- wanted to switch from its scheduled Ravens-Chargers game to the Pats-Broncos for its showcase Sunday night telecast. But CBS, which holds the rights to the game, resisted and, per NFL rules, CBS and FOX can deny one NBC request per week (up to a maximum of six per year) to switch one of their scheduled games to Sunday night.
It was also believed the Patriots themselves -- or at least those in the football operations end -- did not want the game switched, as the travel home from Denver in the overnight hours on Monday would basically wipe out a day of meetings during a short week. (The Pats play Miami on Saturday, Dec. 24.)
Tim Tebow vs. Tom BradyBill Belichick is suddenly a marquee matchup, given Denver's recent resurgence, which is why NBC wanted the game.
When flexible scheduling was implemented by the NFL and its broadcast partners in 2006, the agreement was that the announcement on any changes to the original schedule would be made "at least 12 days before the game."This is the pertinent paragraph from the original flex-scheduling announcement:
The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET. The wrangling carried it to 11 days before the game. The Denver Post reported Tuesday that Patriots' owner Robert Kraft was lobbying to keep the game at 4:15 p.m. and on CBS. That report led to speculation that Kraft was keeping CBS' interest foremost because a business relationship beyond the NFL exists (CBS Scene is a restaurant at Patriot Place). That led to counter-speculation that Kraft was interested in serving his team's best football interests so that they wouldn't fly out of Denver at 2 a.m. EST on Monday morning with a game five days later against the Dolphins on Christmas Eve. That scuttlebutt during the midday on Tuesday seemed to prompt an announcement by the NFL Tuesday night which read:
"Due to NFL Committee Meetings in New York today, the Week 15 flexible schedule announcement will be released tomorrow (Wednesday, December 7). All of the clubs under consideration to have Week 15 games flexed have informed our office that they are interested in the strongest schedule for our fans and network partners."
In any case, the deed is done and the Patriots-Broncos will be only highlights to some of the country.