It’s rare for games at Arrowhead to be played in the late afternoon slot, but here’s the NFL’s reasoning:
As we know, if the Chiefs defeat the Raiders, they will win the AFC West and enter the postseason with the number one seed, which gives them home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
However, if the Chiefs lose this game, that opens the door for the Los Angeles Chargers — who will play the Denver Broncos at Mile High at 3:25 — to win the AFC West and the number one seed. With a Chiefs loss to the Raiders, all the Chargers have to do is beat the Broncos, and they wrap it up.
So by flexing the game, the NFL is ensuring that both of these games will be competitive. If the Chiefs were to win their game at noon, the Chargers-Broncos game at 3:25 would become meaningless. This way, both games will be meaningful until the final whistle.
Furthermore, it ensures that both games will have a wide national audience. That’s good for ratings — and whether we like it or not, television ratings are the essential ingredient that drives the NFL’s economic model.
Since we brought up the playoff scenarios... one other thing:
If both the Chiefs and Chargers lose, the playoff seeding will be determined by the results of the Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans game, and the New York Jets at New England Patriots game. Both of these games will be in the books before the Chiefs and Chargers kick off at 3:25.
With losses by the Chiefs and Chargers:
- If the Jaguars and Jets win, the Chiefs would get the one seed.
- If the Texans and Jets win or the Jaguars and Patriots win, the Chiefs would get the two seed.
- If the Texans and Patriots win, the Chiefs would almost certainly get the three seed.