The Chicago Bears and New York Giants, both emerging after early-season runs as legitimate NFC title contenders, will meet at night on Nov. 12 at Giants Stadium in the first-ever "flex" scheduling game in NFL history, the league announced Tuesday.
The matchup underscores the league's ability to do what has for years been routine in college football -- move the start times of key games to television prime time.
The Bears are 6-0, with a ferocious defense and a shot at coming into the Nov. 12 game 8-0. Chicago plays its next two games at Soldier Field, against San Francisco this week, Miami next. Through those first six games, the Bears' defense has given up but five touchdowns.
The Giants, meantime, after a 36-22 defeat of the Cowboys Monday night at Dallas, have surged to 4-2, with games at home this week against Tampa Bay, next week against Houston. Tiki Barber, with 647 yards, is the NFL's leading rusher. Over their past three games, the Giants' defense has given up only 39 points.
Sunday Night Football analyst John Madden said: "I'm a big believer in the sound of a football game -- Giants-Bears, New York-Chicago -- this is one of those games that just sounds like a football game. This is an old-time NFL game with real tradition and now it looks like a great game with the Bears undefeated and the Giants in first place in the toughest division in football."
The flexible-scheduling plan runs from Weeks 10 to 15 and in Week 17 of the league's schedule. Only games originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon are eligible for a swing to Sunday night; the flex plan does not apply to games on Thursday, Saturday or on Monday nights.
During Weeks 10-15, league rules call for 12 days of advance notice to move a start time to Sunday night. During Week 17, the decision to move a game-time start can be cut to six days -- the league has said the idea is to aim for a night game with playoff implications.
The league has also said CBS and Fox can protect a total of five games in the seven weeks of flex scheduling -- but not more than one game in any week.
The move to implement a flex plan in the 2006 season follows a study the league conducted last year involving mock flex scheduling; it was run by an eight-person committee made up of team executives, one from each division. Television executives and NFL broadcasting officials also took part.