In their effort to end the regular season in the midst of a global pandemic, the NFL played fast and loose with their schedule. So far, the league has been set back weeks, games have been postponed, and professional football was played on Tuesday for only the third time in NFL history.
Last week, the league continued to dance its way through the raindrops and postponed the Baltimore Ravens’ street game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which was originally scheduled for 20:20 ET on Thanksgiving Day and will now be played on Wednesday at 15:40 ET, three times.
If the collision of two NFL teams on a Wednesday is almost unprecedented – more on that later – so is the kick-off time. As flexible as the NFL has been with its schedule so far, it has not had much leeway when it comes to determining the kick-off time for the AFC North rivalry.
In fact, the NBC made the decision for the NFL when it informed the league that it wanted to broadcast the 88th Christmas tree ceremony at Rockefeller Center. NBC had the right to broadcast the game between the Steelers and the Ravens at prime time on Thanksgiving, and also owns the rights to the traditional Christmas extravaganza in New York City, which it has broadcast every year since 1997 on a Wednesday after Thanksgiving.
Although the ceremony is downsized due to the coronavirus compared to other years, it will still feature a variety of star performers, including Dolly Parton, the Goo Goo Dolls and Kelly Clarkson.
Since NBC considered the lighting of the Christmas party worthy of giving priority to the NFL, they have decided to include the latter in the afternoon break. In order to give the station what it deserves, NBC had to put its plans on hold for almost a full week. From its original Thanksgiving slot, the AFC North game was initially moved to Sunday afternoon after the Ravens experienced a COVID 19 outbreak. As Baltimore continued to report positive tests, the NFL moved the game to Tuesday night, only to find the decision met with fierce resistance from Ravens players.
The league finally agreed on Wednesday afternoon, which means that if the game goes as planned, it will be only the second time since 1950 that an NFL game is played on a Wednesday. The only exception was the first week of the 2012 season, when the Dallas Cowboys were scheduled to play the New York Giants on Thursday. However, the game was brought forward by one day to avoid clashing with President Barack Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Assembly.
If the Ravens and Steelers take the field on Wednesday without any further postponements, it will be the first time in NFL history that the league will play games all seven days of the week. In October, the Tennessee Titans and the Buffalo Bills played only their third Tuesday night game in NFL history after the league was forced to move the game from a Sunday to a Sunday because the Titans were affected by a coronavirus outbreak – the Ravens will also play on Tuesday when they host the Cowboys in week 13.
In addition to the usual games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday, the NFL has also scheduled games on Friday – when the New Orleans Saints will host the Minnesota Vikings on Christmas Day and Saturday – while the Detroit Lions will welcome the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Arizona Cardinals will welcome the San Francisco 49ers on December 26.