The final week of the NFL season is almost always one of the wildest weeks of the year, and that usually happens for two reasons: For one, it’s the only week of the regular season where every team plays on the same day; and two, it’s the week where the race for the final few playoff spots (and final seeding) will finally come to an end.
To make things fair during the final week of the season, the NFL waits as long as possible before announcing the kickoff times in Week 17. The league finally announced the start times for each game on Sunday night, and many teams that were previously scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. ET — like the Steelers, Cowboys and Titans — will now be kicking off at 4:25 p.m. ET.
Based on the new kickoff times for Sunday, it’s looking like we’re going to get a wild finish to the NFL season.
The 1 p.m. ET slot is being given to teams that have either clinched a spot in the playoffs or teams that have already been eliminated. For instance, the Chiefs and Patriots are battling it out for the second seed in the AFC, which is important because it comes with a bye. To prevent one team from possibly resting its starters, the teams will kick off at the same time on Sunday (1 p.m. ET).
In past years, you could have had a scenario where the Chiefs kicked off at 1 p.m. ET and the Patriots kicked off at 4:25 p.m. ET. In that instance, if the Chiefs kicked off first and lost, the Patriots could simply rest their starters in the later game. The NFL wants to prevent situations like that, which is why the league waits so long to announce the kickoff times.
After the early games, things should get kind of crazy in the 4:25 p.m. ET window and that’s because there will be two playoff spots up for grabs. With five spots already clinched in the AFC, the Titans, Steelers and Raiders will be battling it out for the final spot, and they’ll all be kicking off at 4:25 p.m. ET.
Out of that group, the Titans have the easiest path to the playoffs — all they have to do is win and they’re in. For a look at all the playoff scenarios that will be on the table for Sunday,.
In the NFC, the only playoff spot still up for grabs is the NFC East title. Due to that fact, the Cowboys and Eagles have both been flexed to 4:25 p.m. ET so that they’re kicking off at the same time. If the Eagles beat the Giants, they’ll be headed to the playoffs, but if they lose and the Cowboys win, then Dallas will be headed to the postseason.
1 p.m. ET
4:25 p.m ET
8:20 p.m. ET
49ers at Seahawks (NBC)