The NFL schedule has been anything but ordinary this season. Due to the coronavirus, the league has had to adjust its schedule numerous times. Games had to be played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which is not common in the typical NFL season.
There will be another rarity in terms of the NFL schedule. On Christmas, the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints will take the field in a critical matchup. It’s not the teams or them playing on a holiday that makes this game a rarity. The specific day they are playing on is what will make NFL history.
Playing on a Friday is very rare in the NFL
The Vikings and Saints will take the field at 4:30 p.m. ET on Christmas day, which is a Friday. For the first time in over a decade, an NFL game is taking place on a Friday, per CBS Sports. The last time this happened was in 2009, where the Chargers routed the Titans 42-17.
The reason why NFL games don’t take place on Fridays is that the league doesn’t want to interfere with high school sports. Many high school sports (primarily football) take place on Friday. With Christmas being on a Friday this year, the NFL didn’t have to worry about stepping on the feet of high school athletics.
Putting the rarity of Friday NFL games in perspective, 10 games have been played on that day since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, per the CBS report. This matchup between the Vikings and Saints makes it the fifth time a Friday game will be played since 1993. Playing on Friday is scarce in the NFL, but playing on Christmas day isn’t.
It isn’t tradition like the NBA, but the NFL has been pretty active playing on Christmas day. Since 2010, there have been six games played on Christmas. This Vikings and Saints matchup will be the 20th time the NFL has played on Christmas in over 30 years. The Vikings played the first-ever regular-season Christmas game back in 1989.
Have the Saints or Vikings played an NFL game on Friday before?
Believe it or not, both the Saints and Vikings have some history playing games on a Friday. The Vikings will be playing in their third Friday game, tying the Rams for the most in league history. They are 1-1 currently in their Friday night matchups, losing to the Green Bay Packers in 2004 and beating the Washington Football Team (then called the Redskins) in 1993. If the Vikings win, they would have the sole distinction of being the only team with a winning record in Friday games.
The Saints will be playing their second Friday game. The only other time New Orleans played on Friday was in 1999 against the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys beat the Saints 31-24, so New Orleans is trying to get the Friday record back to .500. Outside of their history with Friday games, this game is important for both franchises.
The Vikings are sitting at 6-8 and on the outside of the playoff race. Coming into this contest on a two-game losing streak, it’s do or die time for Minnesota. Even though their playoff chances took a significant hit last week after losing to the Chicago Bears, they still have a shot. With a loss against the Saints, those playoff aspirations would be gone entirely. That wouldn’t sit well with the team or fans after what has been a disappointing season.
New Orleans needs this game to keep pace with the Packers for the No. 1 seed. Green Bay has a challenging game against the Titans, where their run defense will be tested with Derrick Henry coming at them. Drew Brees needs to perform well after a lackluster performance in his first game back from a rib injury.
The NFL gives fans the gift of a weekend full of football
The NFL must’ve been in the holiday spirit when creating the schedule. With there being a Friday game, Week 16 will provide fans with four straight days of football. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday all have games scheduled. That doesn’t often happen in an NFL season. This is perhaps the best time of year to have four days straight of football because it’s the holidays.
Unlike other seasons where many of the league’s top teams are resting and preparing for the playoffs around this time, there are crucial matchups across the board. Adding that seventh playoff team has made the final weeks of the season more intense than before. The upper echelon teams are battling for the one seed, which is the only seed that will have a bye week in the new playoff format. Other teams are fighting for a playoff berth while trying to obtain the highest seed possible.
Having four days of football is exciting, but having those four days during the weekend is even better. The NFL seemed to take advantage of Christmas being on Friday, using that opportunity to input an enticing NFC matchup on that day. History will be made when the Vikings and Saints battle on the gridiron on Friday, an appetizer to what will be a four-day football feast.