For the second time this season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been flexed into the NFL's late window slate of games.
It happened earlier this year when the Detroit Lions came to town for a game that was billed at the time as a potential playoff preview between two first-place teams. We all know what happened after that, but the move was a huge endorsement of the Bucs when it was originally made.
After all, the Bucs were expected to tank this year, but were in a position to be flexed as part of a very meaingful and important game.
This time around it seems the Bucs are getting flexed for different reasons.
NFL flexes Bucs-Panthers Week 13 game to the late window...but why?
On Tuesday the NFL announced a schedule change, revealing that the Buccaneers-Panthers game in Week 13 had been flexed into the late window of the CBS broadcast schedule. The move involves taking the Broncos-Texans game out of the 4:05pm ET slot and bumping it up to the early slate of games.
It was a bit of a puzzling decision considering the neither the Bucs nor Panthers are very good and there won't be anything meaningful on the line.
While the NFL didn't explain the thought process behind the scheduled flex, there does seem to be a good for making the swap.
One theory floating around involves the Eagles-49ers game that is scheduled to be played at 4:25pm ET on FOX. It's a matchup between two of the best teams in the league and could end up having massive ramifications on the playoff picture depending on the outcome. Philly is fighting to secure the No. 1 seed, but there's a chance a win by the Niners ends up giving them an edge in the final standings.
Meanwhile, both the Broncos and Texans have been spicy as of late, each winning ripping off winning streaks that have dragged them back into the AFC Playoff Picture. Houston hasn't lost a game since beating the Bucs back in Week 9 while the Broncos have won five straight games since beating the Chiefs back in October.
It's possible that the NFL doesn't want any distractions from the 49ers-Eagles game, and is moving a game that might be better than initially thought out of the way. Bumping the Broncos-Texans to the early window means whatever happens won't take attention away from the league's marquee late-window matchup, which is actually a pretty massive slight against the Bucs and Panthers.
All of that is speculation, and the NFL probably won't give an explaination for why the move was made. What we do know is that the Bucs have now been flexed twice this year for two wildly different reasons.