NFL flexes Week 17’s Saints-Panthers game to a later time slot

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Well that’s odd. The NFL announced Monday that it has rescheduled next week’s game between the New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers at the Caesars Superdome into a more prominent time slot, moving kickoff from 1 p.m. ET/Noon CT to 4:25 p.m. ET/3:25 p.m. CT. It will still be broadcast on FOX on Jan. 2.

In its place in the early window, the NFL opted to move the Los Angeles Rams’ road matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. It’s a strange decision given the playoff implications that game carries for both conferences, with eight other contests kicking off at the same time across the league. There will be just other four games going on when the Saints and Panthers tilt, so the decision to put two teams already eliminated from their division race into a more prominent time slot is peculiar.

Maybe the interest here focuses on how desperate the Saints may be for a win. They’re going into their Monday night game with the Miami Dolphins as home underdogs, missing almost two dozen players to COVID protocols while a game and a half away from the seventh seed. A loss to Miami would make New Orleans’ final two regular season games must-win affairs. Still, it already feels like every game is in can’t-lose territory at this point in the season.

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Saints lose Kwon Alexander, several practice squad players to COVID protocol