The NFL introduced the concept of cross-flexing games in 2014. It was meant to help "balance out the the television schedule, especially in a week where one network has all the most intriguing games."
Why was the Bengals-Browns game cross-flexed as opposed to other games? While there will never be a concrete answer, we can speculate on our own:
- CBS already had a Jets-Giants game at 1:00 PM ET. FOX has the double-header this week, so CBS probably wants to give this game as much exposure as possible.
- FOX didn't have an attractive slate of games at the 1:00 PM ET. By taking the Bengals-Browns game, they will be able to provide the game to markets like Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Those markets will likely be able to watch the Jets-Giants (CBS) and Bengals-Browns (FOX) games.
- Cleveland will not be able to watch the Jets-Giants game, though, because they host a home game during the same time slot. Teams that are at home do not get to see games at the same time slot on another affiliate.
The good news is that because both Cleveland and Cincinnati are involved in the game, all of Ohio should still get to watch the Browns play in Week 13 (although maybe that is more of a curse for fans these days).