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The NFL is skipping ‘Sunday Night Football’ in Week 17 so it can keep the schedule fair

The goal is to ensure competitive balance.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

There’s never Monday Night Football in the last week of the NFL season. This year, the NFL won’t hold a Sunday night game in Week 17, either. Every contest will happen in either the 1 p.m. or 4:25 p.m. ET time slot, a league spokesman said Sunday.

The NFL’s senior vice president of broadcasting, Howard Katz, said the move came from a “competitive standpoint and a fan perspective” and was “the most fair thing to do.”

In the past, the league has spotlighted a huge matchup on Sunday Night Football to close the regular season. Games that have fit into that slot have often been de facto division championship games, where the winner moves to the playoffs and the loser’s season ends. There’s no matchup quite that simple this year, however. Instead, there are a bunch of teams jockeying for position with other teams that they’re not playing.

This is a rare thing, though. Sunday night finales to the regular season are a thing.

The NFL’s doing the right thing here, as much as it’s a shame not to have a marquee way to close the season in primetime. The way the NFL’s set the schedule, the bulk of the teams whose Week 17 results’ affect each other are playing at the same time. That means every potentially meaningful game will stay that way through at least kickoff.

It wouldn’t have been much fun, for instance, for the Bills to play the Dolphins in primetime. As it stands, Buffalo has at least a chance to grab an AFC wild card spot. Because the Bills will play at the same time as the other three teams in contention for those spots, it’s certain that the game will still have potential relevance when it starts.

This was the right thing to do. It’ll make more games more fun.

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