A three-game winning streak has brought meaningful December football to Tampa. Now the NFL is bringing that football to a wider audience.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Dec. 11 game against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium has been "flexed" to a 4:25 p.m. ET start; it was originally scheduled to kick off at 1:00 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast to a regional audience by Fox in the second half of its Sunday afternoon double-header.
The league uses flex scheduling during the last seven weeks of the season to ensure favorable matchups in all time slots. The Buccaneers' winning streak has improved the team's record to 6-5, a half-game behind Washington for the second wild card spot and a game behind Atlanta in the NFC South standings. At 5-6, the Saints are also still solidly in the playoff picture and their Week 14 trip to Tampa appears to be one of the most significant NFC matchups of that weekend.
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The most recent Buccaneers game to be flexed was last year's season finale at Carolina, though that was primarily to put the Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals in the same time slot as they fought for the NFC's top seed. Tampa Bay's 2013 season finale against New Orleans was also flexed for similar reasons. The last time the Buccaneers were flexed due to significant playoff implications of their own was down the stretch in 2010, when they had multiple games moved to a later time slot. The Bucs finished that season 10-6 but missed out on a playoff spot due to tiebreakers.