Dolphins’ Week 14 road game vs. Chargers flexed to ‘Sunday Night Football’ slot

Al Diaz/adiaz@miamiherald.com

The NFL has flexed the Dolphins’ Week 14 road game against the Los Angeles Chargers to NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” slot, adding another prime-time game to Miami’s schedule.

The league on Tuesday night announced the Dec. 11 matchup will replace the previously scheduled Chiefs-Broncos game. Kickoff is set for 8:20 pm at Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, California. It’s the first time the Dolphins have been flexed into the “Sunday Night Football” slot since flex scheduling began in 2006.

The decision to move the Dolphins into the prime-time stage is a nod to the ascending appeal of Miami, which is 8-3, in first place in the AFC East and the AFC’s No. 2 seed. Miami is on track to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Behind a breakout season from third-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, first-year head coach Mike McDaniel and wide receiver Tyreek Hill, the Dolphins have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL.

The game will be the second head-to-head matchup between Tagovailoa and Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, the No. 5 and No. 6 overall picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, respectively. The two signal-callers have been compared frequently since entering the league. Herbert won AP Offensive Rookie of the Year honors and set many passing records in his first two seasons, while Tagovailoa struggled at times. But with an improved supporting cast and offensive scheme, Tagovailoa currently leads the NFL in passer rating and is one of the favorites to win this year’s Most Valuable Player Award. The Dolphins won the last meeting with the Chargers, a 29-21 victory on Nov. 15, 2020, at Hard Rock Stadium.

The Chargers are 6-5 and in second place in the AFC West. Los Angeles is the ninth seed in the AFC but one game out of the third and final wild-card spot.

The Chargers game is the second of three consecutive road matchups for the Dolphins in December, following a meeting with the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. The stretch of road games concludes with a trip to Buffalo to face the Bills in a matchup that could also be placed on the prime-time stage. The game is one of five matchups that are eligible for a Saturday triple-header. The other two will be moved to Sunday afternoon. Each game is also permitted to be moved to the Sunday night slot, currently occupied by Patriots-Raiders.

The Dolphins have played in two prime-time games this season. They lost a Week 4 road game against the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-15, on “Thursday Night Football.” It was Miami’s first loss after a 3-0 start. Tagovailoa left the game with a concussion and was sidelined for the next two weeks.

Tagovailoa made his return for a Week 7 home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on “Sunday Night Football. The Dolphins won, 16-10, and it started Miami’s current five-game winning streak. The Dolphins are 8-1 with Tagovailoa as a starter this season.

Miami will also host the Green Bay Packers on Christmas in a stand-alone game.

Flex scheduling begins Sunday of Week 5 and is in effect through Week 18. Up to two games may be flexed into Sunday night between Weeks 5-10 and only Sunday afternoon games can be moved into the Sunday night slot. The announcement must come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:25 p.m. ET.