What do the best games of Week 15 of the NFL regular season have in common? A good chance you might not be able to see them.
Between two undefeated teams playing on the NFL Network (Colts vs. Jaguars on Thursday and Cowboys vs. Saints on Saturday) and some bad luck on national TV telecasts, Week 15 is shaping up to be more about what isn't on TV rather than what is.
The uproar over fans with certain cable packages not getting the NFL Network is old news. The league had to cave a few years ago and show the Patriots' quest for an undefeated season on a simulcast with FOX and CBS. There will be no such gesture this time, meaning a number of fans will be unable to watch two of the biggest stories of the decade over the next four days.
Sunday isn't shaping up to be much better. FOX's national telecast will pit the Steelers and Packers at Lambeau Field, a game which figured to be major three weeks ago before the bottom fell out of Pittsburgh's season. Theoretically, Ben Roethlisberger(notes) and Co. are still alive for a playoff berth. But tiebreakers and the simple fact that they're not a good football team right now dispute that notion.
The Cincinnati-San Diego game will air at the same time on CBS, but won't be beamed to a national audience because it's FOX's weekend for such broadcasts. The network protected that game for an NBC flexing despite this, meaning only people in those two markets, plus D.C. and pockets of Detroit and North Carolina will see it.
FOX also reportedly protected Steelers-Packers (the game was actually moved from a 1 p.m. kickoff), leaving NBC with a bum Minnesota-Carolina Sunday nighter. (You know what that means: More Brett Favre(notes).)
Monday night features the Giants visiting Washington, which is fairly compelling because of the storied rivalry and New York trying to keep its season alive, but it's not exactly a clash of the titans.
It's a stroke of bad luck for the NFL. Such things are all about good fortune. It's impossible to schedule games seven months beforehand that will be of interest and even if you could, the biggest teams wouldn't stand to be used as television tools. (The Patriots are fine playing the Bills this weekend, thank you very much.) Week 16 will thankfully bring some better games. And, on the bright side, the playoffs are just three weeks away.