The NFL announced late Sunday night that it has moved next Sunday’s Bills-at-Dolphins game from 1 to 4:25 p.m. and cancelled NBC’s Sunday night football game, which was supposed to be the final game of the regular season.
It will be the first time in 40 years (1977) that the NFL regular season will not culminate with a primetime broadcast. Many suspect that with the league experiencing a 9% rating dip this season, the front office wanted to avoid an epic television failure. Sunday night’s game was cancelled primarily because it is New Years Eve and viewership was expected to be very low.
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.
NFL stadium attendance continues to suffer as the backlash from players protesting the National Anthem extends into week 16. Football fans from across the country are sharing photos showing stadiums plagued by empty seats this Christmas weekend.
In a season plagued with lower ratings due to the national anthem protests, the league’s decision was not surprising.
The NFL has canceled the final Sunday night football game of the season. Don’t worry, no one was going to watch anyway.
— Michael Signora (@NFLfootballinfo) December 25, 2017