How does New Year's Eve in Baltimore sound?
For the Miami Dolphins, it looms as a possibility based on the NFL's flex scheduling rules and the Dolphins' marquee matchup against the Ravens, though recent developments perhaps have diminished the likelihood of it happening.
The Dolphins currently are scheduled to have one national television appearance in their remaining six games, but the possibility of that number changing does exist and it's that Week 17 game at Baltimore that sticks out.
BALTIMORE GAME AND THE FLEX OPTION
The NFL's flex-scheduling rules for 2023 preclude certain late-season games from being changed — such as Thanksgiving night and Christmas night — but that doesn't apply to Dec. 31.
The current game scheduled for that night is Green Bay at Minnesota, which has become a better matchup of late after the Packers' upset victory at Detroit on Thanksgiving and because of the tight NFC playoff standings and its potential wild-card implications.
Looking at the rest of the Sunday schedule for that week, Cincinnati at Kansas City stands out, but it's currently scheduled as the national doubleheader game on CBS and that network might exercise its right to protect and keep that game (networks now are allowed to protect one game per week from being flexed away from them).
Now, Joe Burrow's season-ending injury changed the outlook and clearly diminished the appeal of that game, particularly if the Bengals can't stay in playoff contention with Jake Browning as their new quarterback. But the Chiefs are a massive draw and their loss against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night suggests they'll need to win this game if they hope to once again claim the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
Look at the rest of that Week 17 slate on that Sunday, and that Miami-Baltimore game absolutely jumps out for several reasons — Tua, Tyreek, Lamar Jackson, current AFC division leaders and, of course, what happened last season when the teams met in Baltimore in Week 2 and the Dolphins rallied from a 35-14 deficit to win a shootout, 42-38.
The truth is the Dolphins-Ravens matchup is more appealing at this time and might have just as much impact on the AFC playoff race, so it could be that CBS decides to give up a Patrick Mahomes (painful as that might be) and make MIA-BAL the national doubleheader game at 4:25 p.m. ET. But there's certainly no guarantee that will happen.
Per the NFL, any changes to Sunday night games from Weeks 14-17 will be made no later than six days prior to the game. In other words, it could be as late as Christmas Day that the Dolphins find out their game at Baltimore won't be at 1 p.m., as currently scheduled, but instead at 4:25 or 8:20 p.m.
TENNESSEE GAME STAYS PUT
While there was no official announcement, the Dolphins' Monday night game against the Tennessee Titans in Week 14 will not be switched, as the deadline to flex either of the two Monday night games that week has passed.
In a change from previous schedules when the only Monday night doubleheaders came early in the season, TEN-MIA will be played at the same time Dec. 11 (8:15 p.m. ET) as Green Bay at New York Giants.
The Dolphins-Titans game will air on ESPN, with the Packers-Giants game on ABC.
Despite new rules in place to flex out unappealing late-season Monday night matchups, there hasn't been one change as of yet.
Any decision by the NFL to switch a Monday night game between Weeks 12-17 will be made 12 days in advance in consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC and ESPN, so the deadline was Wednesday.
THE THURSDAY ANGLE
Along with Monday Night Football, the Thursday night games from Weeks 13-17 are subject to flex scheduling, though with two important stipulations:
First, no more than two of those five games could be swapped out;
Second, the flex scheduling decision will be made no later than 28 days before the game.
The four remaining Thursday night games that are subject to flexing:
Week 14 — New England at Pittsburgh: The deadline for that game also has passed with no action, so that game also will stay put, as one would expect because the Steelers are a massive national draw.
Week 15 — L.A. Chargers at Las Vegas: The deadline to swap out that game also has passed and it's also staying as is.
Week 16 — New Orleans at L.A. Rams: This is not a game with great national appeal, but the deadline to flex it passed and it's staying put.
Week 17 — N.Y. Jets at Cleveland: There's something about the New York market that will always make it difficult to remove the Jets or Giants from prime time. The deadline for a flex decision here is Thursday and the possibility of having Aaron Rodgers in the lineup — however farfetched it might seem — combined with the New York TV market might make it a slam dunk it doesn't get flexed either.
THE REST OF THE DOLPHINS SCHEDULE AND TELEVISION
Here's the rundown of the Dolphins' final eight games from a television perspective and when it's currently scheduled:
Week 13 — at Washington, Dec. 3, 1 p.m. ET — The Sunday night game is Kansas City at Green Bay and the Monday night game is Cincinnati at Jacksonville, and those stayed put.
Week 14 — vs. Tennessee, at Miami, Monday, Dec. 11, 8:15 p.m. ET — See above section.
Week 15 — vs. N.Y. Jets at Miami, Sunday, Dec. 17, 1 p.m. ET — This is the weekend with the five TBD games, though the Dolphins are not involved in those this season. The Sunday night game is a great one with Baltimore at Jacksonville, though the Monday nighter is a dud with Kansas City at New England. But, again, will the NFL really remove the Chiefs from a prime-time appearance, no matter how bad the Patriots get? The Jets-Dolphins game could have had broad national appeal had the Jets remained competitive, but the Black Friday matchup kind of took care of that notion.
Week 16 — vs. Dallas, Sunday, Dec. 24, 4:25 p.m. ET — The Sunday night matchup of New England at Denver is a dud, even with the Broncos' remarkable turnaround, but it's locked in on the schedule and won't get moved. Regardless, FOX wouldn't let go of this Cowboys-Dolphins game, either for Thursday or Sunday night and the Christmas Day games (Monday, Dec. 25 are locked in).
Week 17 — at Baltimore, Sunday, Dec. 31, 1 p.m. ET — See above section.
Week 18 — vs. Buffalo, Saturday, Jan. 6 or Sunday, Jan. 7, time TBD — All 16 games are scheduled for now as TBD, as the NFL will announce the Saturday games (there were two last year), Sunday afternoon and the one Sunday night game no later than six days earlier (or Dec. 31). This had the makings all along of a marquee game, but it could be that the Dolphins already will have clinched the AFC East title by then and Buffalo actually might be out of playoff contention. But it's also right now one of only three matchups where each opponents currently has a record of .500 or better (the others are Pittsburgh at Baltimore and Minnesota at Detroit).