The NFL announced Monday evening that this matchup was being flexed out of its originally scheduled 8:30 p.m. EST game time on NBC Sunday Night Football in favor of the Arizona Cardinals vs Philadelphia Eagles matchup. The Bengals and 49ers will now face off at 4:25 p.m. EST on CBS.
This is great news for the Bengals for a variety of reasons. It keeps them from playing in primetime in consecutive weeks as they get set for a monster showdown with the Denver Broncos in Week 16 on Monday Night Football. With the Bengals and Broncos tied at 10-2 right now, that game will definitely help determine one of the two first-round byes the top two teams get in the AFC playoffs. It may also decide who gets the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
This is also great for the Bengals players and coaches as they can get home earlier from their west coast trip for Christmas week before going back to another timezone again days later for their Denver trip. Giving those guys even just a few more hours to get home to their families is a big plus during the holidays.
And most importantly (sarcasm), we all get to watch the Bengals finish the game at a decent hour instead of close to midnight. The Bengals haven't exactly shown they've completely ridden themselves of their primetime demons either with a 1-2 mark under the bright lights this season. Their only two losses of the year both came in primetime.
The good news is, San Francisco is 4-8 and essentially out of the playoff picture; this should end up being one of the Bengals' most winnable games of 2015. It's looked almost certain for a while that the Bengals vs 49ers game would end up being flexed out of this spot due to San Francisco enduring a terrible season.
However, they've improved dramatically over the past month and are coming off a 26-20 overtime win over the Bears in Chicago. New starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert has made San Francisco far more dangerous than they were under Colin Kaepernick, a statement that would have sent you to the nut house from 2012-14.
Gabbert has gone 2-2 as a starter with one of those losses being by a 19-13 loss to the 10-2 Cardinals. Speaking of, those Cardinals will now head to a 5-7 Philadelphia team for the Sunday night tilt thanks in large part to the Eagles' massive upset of New England this past Sunday. Not only did that win put Cincinnati in the driver's seat for the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs, but it also got the Bengals out of an unnecessary primetime slot.
This by no means will be a cakewalk game for the Bengals like it once appeared it would be, but it's still a game they must win if they are to have any hope of earning a first-round bye in the playoffs. It's also a game sandwiched in between this coming week's matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the aforementioned Broncos game. If the Bengals lose one or both of those games, beating the 49ers becomes even more critical.