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Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Saints finale could be headed for prime time

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

If the New Orleans Saints are going to have a perfect regular season, there’s a growing chance they’ll have to wait several hours longer.

Multiple sources around the NFC South and the NFL say there is a strong chance the Saints’ final regular-season game, which is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start in Carolina, could be “flexed’’ to a Sunday night game, which will be the final game of the season for the entire NFL because there is no Monday night game that week.

Currently, the Giants and Redskins are scheduled for the Sunday night time slot. But the sources say the league is looking strongly at putting the Saints in prime time, if they remain undefeated. The league rules about flexing allow a six-day window for changing the final game. Some exploration into the logistics into a change already has been done. In other weeks, decisions about flexing a game must be made at least 12 days out.

The exception for Week 17 means the league could wait to see if the Saints make it to 15-0 before making a decision.

It’s all very logical the league would put the Saints and the Panthers into the Sunday night slot, if the Saints have a shot at a perfect season. It’s always tough to take a team from the New York market out of prime time and the game could have playoff implications for the Giants. But the Redskins, who also come from a big market, have been a disappointment and aren’t likely to contribute to a big audience.

For those interested, here is the official NFL policy on flexible scheduling:

The NFL will utilize flexible scheduling in Weeks 11-17. In those weeks, the schedule will list the games tentatively scheduled for Sunday night on NBC Sports. Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game will be moved to an afternoon start time. Flexible scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights. A flexible scheduling move will be announced at least 12 days before the game. For Week 17, the move may be announced six days before the game. Flexible scheduling will ensure quality matchups on Sunday night in those weeks and give surprise teams a chance to play their way onto primetime.