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Week 17 flex decision could get interesting

For the first six weeks of the “flex” portion of the schedule, the games eligible for shifting to the 8:30 p.m. ET time slot are subject to the ability of CBS and FOX to protect one game each per week, with a maximum of five.

For Week 17, no games may be protected -- and no game is designated in advance as the tentative choice for prime-time placement.

If the Colts beat the Jets on Sunday, Indy at Buffalo would be an obvious option for Sunday night on NBC, since the Colts would be going for a 16-0 regular season. But the game would have no impact on the playoff picture, and there’s no guarantee that the Colts will use their starters through the point at which the outcome no longer is in doubt (which could come as early as the midpoint of the second quarter).

Eagles at Cowboys is the most attractive game with playoff implications, depending on whether the Cowboys need a win in order to get into the postseason -- and whether the Eagles need a win to nail down a bye. Both of those questions could depend on whether the Giants beat the Vikings earlier in the day.

And that’s one of the biggest problems with picking the right prime-time game in Week 17. A game that looks compelling when considering the 16-game Sunday schedule collectively could be meaningless when played after the other 15 games have finished.

The decision will come no later than Tuesday, December 29 -- after the Week 16 games have finished. If the Colts beat the Jets, the simplest decision would be to give Indy a national audience for the last game of what could be the second perfect regular-season mark in three seasons. And absent a clear “win and you’re in, lose and you’re out” game involving a team from a large market and/or with a national following, Colts-Bills may be the only game guaranteed to attract significant interest.