Why the Eagles Got Effed When the Jets and Bengals Got Flexed

Lou DiPietroAnalyst IDecember 30, 2009

HOUSTON - NOVEMBER 09: A red challenge flag during a game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on November 9, 2008 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The answer to the titular query is quite simple: Eagles versus Cowboys is—and at 8:20 pm Sunday still will be—the most important game of the week.

Oh, so you want reasons?


I’ve heard the arguments. And I will concede that Jets versus Bengals very well could be a huge game.

It might also not be as big as you think.

First of all, look at what you have in Eagles-Cowboys: A game that at worst will determine the NFC East Champion and at best could also be for the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

The Eagles control their own destiny for the No. 2 seed, and hold the tiebreaker against Minnesota. Should Minnesota lose, a Dallas victory could also earn them the first-round bye, as it would come down to a strength of victory tiebreaker (or lower).

Does it get any bigger than that? I think not.

But as for arguments against it, there are many.

You can say that in most weeks, FOX and CBS can choose games to protect from flexing…but not in Week 17.

You can say that there’s a contractual provision requiring NBC to flex an equal number of FOX and CBS games by the end of their contract, and they’re a few up on the FOX side. But that contract runs out in 2013, giving them four more seasons to “balance.” Plus, they could’ve picked a lot better matchup (one out of the AFC, perhaps), than that Dallas-Washington snoozer.

You can also say that Dallas was on last week and Eagles-Cowboys was already a SNF game in Week Nine. Both true, but I again refer to the previous poor choice of Dallas versus Washington, and also say that the flex option was inserted to give fans the best possible games, not assuage feelings.

To that point, you can also say that the Jets and Bengals haven’t had a SNF game yet, while both Philly and Dallas have had three. True…but the Saints haven’t been on SNF at all, and the Packers, Patriots, and Chargers all have one appearance apiece.

That’s all moot.

What you can’t say, however, is that Jets versus Bengals will even have meaning for both teams come Sunday night.

The Jets, of course, can earn a playoff berth if they win regardless of what happens around them.

However, while the Bengals have clinched the AFC North, they’re fighting for either the No. 3 or No. 4 seed. If they tie the Patriots, the tiebreaker will come down to strength of victory.

If the Patriots defeat Houston, the Bengals will have to win to tie them at 11-5. Then, it will all depend on how the remaining games of the week work out to see how that goes.

As of now, the Patriots have a (four or five)-game edge; counting next week’s games as wins (thus giving the Jets an 8-8 record), the current marks are 73-89 for the teams the Pats have defeated versus (68-98 or 69-97) for teams the Bengals have beaten.

So, if even half of seven non-common teams the Patriots have beaten (those being Buffalo, Miami, Atlanta, Tennessee, Tampa, Carolina, or Jacksonville) somehow win, the Pats will have that tiebreaker in the bag, meaning Cincinnati will be playing for nothing.

That means that what you have is a lame-duck team playing one that just beat one last week.

Instead of a game that will be for the division and could be for the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

At least I’ll be able to watch the big game in the New York metro area, as it was flexed to 4:15 so it will be opposite the Giants.

Too bad the entire country won’t get to share in my joy; I’m sure those fans who get to watch Chicago vs. Detroit will have a blast.