Category Archives: Sports

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 13

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was originally written with the 2007 season in mind and has been only iteratively and incompletely edited since then, hence why at one point it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will 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.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5; I’m assuming protections were due in Week 4 again this year, and the above notwithstanding, Week 10 is part of the main flex period this year, as it was in 2006 and 2011. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC, although starting this year Week 17 is exempt from team appearance limits. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; nine teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Texans don’t have games in the main flex period, though they don’t have any early-flex games left either. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 5 post.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Selected game: Tampa Bay @ Dallas.

Week 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (6-6)
SOUTH
46-6
59-3
2 teams at 6-6
NORTH
37-5
68-4
7-5
EAST
210-2
7-5
7-5 7-5
WEST
110-2
9-3
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (5-7)
SOUTH
47-5
58-4
7-5
NORTH
38-4
67-5
2 teams at 6-6
WEST
28-3-1
6-5-1
5-6-1 6-6
EAST
111-1
6-6
8-4 5-6-1
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Saints-Falcons, Giants-Swamp, Texans-Titans, Panthers-Bucs, Jaguars-Colts, Packers-Lions, Patriots-Dolphins, Cowboys-Eagles, Raiders-Broncos, Chiefs-Chargers.
  • Preliminary analysis: Typically, since the advent of the all-division-matchups-Week-17 era, I come up with arbitrary percentage chances of each game and analyses of the situations that might reward each game in my Week 14 post, then lay out the exact Week 16 outcomes that would put a specific game into SNF in my Week 15 post. But because there’s no primetime flex scheduling in Week 16 this year, this would be a short post if I didn’t say anything here, so here’s a sneak preview of next week’s post. The NFC East is strong enough that teams might end up playing for seeding at best, although the Bucs’ resurgence is making the game in the nation’s capital potentially more interesting. But if that game doesn’t work out, the AFC South is the likeliest candidate to produce the SNF game, much to NBC’s chagrin. Raiders-Broncos and Packers-Lions could end up becoming division title games (or games with a wild-card spot on the line), but the home teams would need to make up two-game deficits, an intermediary team (the Chiefs or Vikings) would need to become irrelevant, and the loser, ideally, would need to be eliminated from wild-card contention (requiring an absolute collapse on the part of the Raiders and huge rallies by the Dolphins and/or Steelers and Ravens). See here for why the NFC South games, Jaguars-Colts, and Chiefs-Chargers are options, and why there’s a very slight chance Patriots-Dolphins or Cowboys-Eagles could be the pick even if the road teams have already clinched their respective divisions, depending on how tiebreakers work out for the home teams.

Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 15 Picks

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
  • Prospects: 7-5 v. 4-7-1. 7-5 is good enough for a tie for the AFC North lead at the moment, the Steelers are a name team, and the Bengals won, but this would still be very questionable.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Broncos (CBS) and Eagles-Ravens (FOX).
  • Other possible games mentioned on last week’s Watch and their records: Lions (8-4)-Giants (8-4), Bucs (7-5)-Cowboys (11-1), Titans (6-6)-Chiefs (9-3), Colts (5-6)-Vikings (6-6), Raiders (10-2)-Chargers (5-7).
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: The Colts probably need to win to give Colts-Vikings a chance, but given the competition it might not make much of a difference.
  • Analysis: Shortly after last week’s post went up, I read this article that indicated that, in fact, neither Lions-Giants nor Bucs-Cowboys was protected – though in its original version it seemed to forget that Week 17 is not bound by appearance limits anymore, which coupled with how matter-of-factly it stated those non-protections, given the lack of any word of what the protections are to this point (it’s not even confirmed what Fox did protect this week, if anything), make me wonder whether the author actually knew what the protections were or made assumptions based on something else (my site maybe?). Clearly, though, if the author felt those appearance limits were the main obstacle to flexing either game in, as opposed to how many of those appearances would be strung together in a row, then if he was privy to any inside information then neither game can be ruled out, in which case they’re really the only two options; Titans-Chiefs is a skosh less lopsided than Bucs-Cowboys but is worse in both teams’ records and averages out to a worse pair of records than Lions-Giants. My inclination is that Lions-Giants has the edge, not only because it’s less lopsided, but because for some unfathomable reason the NFL thought it was a good idea to schedule a Jets home game for Saturday night and a Giants home game the following Sunday early afternoon, giving the Metlife Stadium grounds crew *maybe* 12-13 hours to turn around the field; moving Lions-Giants to Sunday night would not only give the grounds crew more time to turn around the field, but as pointed out in the comments here, would ease the logistical pressures on NBC as their crew for the Jets game could stay in place for the Giants game. (The league could move Lions-Giants to late afternoon, but unless it’s crossflexed to CBS’ doubleheader it would effectively be an admission that the league goofed up when putting together the schedule to begin with.) The flipside, besides the ratings gold the Cowboys always are, continues to be my concern about scheduling Giants home night games on consecutive December Sundays, especially since, as pointed out in the comments here and alluded to in the above article, many older Giants fans continue to stay away from night games on the perception that they would have to wander into a wretched hive of scum and villainy. (Also, since the article’s concern about appearance limits was that either NFC East game could be picked Week 17, it’s worth noting that while both the Cowboys and Giants are in primetime Week 16, only the Giants are on NBC and would have their streak of NBC appearances extended by a Week 17 move.)
  • Final prediction: Detroit Lions @ New York Giants.
  • Actual selection: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Dallas Cowboys. And seeing a reference to that selection was what reminded me I needed to write this post. Oops. Good thing I’d already been thinking about it since reading that article and the comments on the last post. For the record, Lions-Giants is staying put at 1 PM on Fox.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 12

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was originally written with the 2007 season in mind and has been only iteratively and incompletely edited since then, hence why at one point it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will 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.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5; I’m assuming protections were due in Week 4 again this year, and the above notwithstanding, Week 10 is part of the main flex period this year, as it was in 2006 and 2011. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC, although starting this year Week 17 is exempt from team appearance limits. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; nine teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Texans don’t have games in the main flex period, though they don’t have any early-flex games left either. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 5 post.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 10 (November 13):

  • Selected game: Seattle @ New England.

Week 11 (November 20):

  • Selected game: Green Bay @ Washington.

Week 12 (November 27):

  • Selected game: Kansas City @ Denver.

Week 13 (December 4):

  • Selected game: Carolina @ Seattle.

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Selected game: Dallas @ NY Giants.

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
  • Prospects: 6-5 v. 3-7-1. 6-5 is good enough for a tie for the AFC North lead at the moment, and the Steelers are a name team, but putting a 3-7-1 non-name team on Sunday night this late in the season is very questionable.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Broncos (CBS) and Eagles-Ravens (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Lions-Giants is the prohibitive favorite at 7-4 v. 8-3; the question is whether the NFL would be willing to have the Giants at home on Sunday night in consecutive weeks (plus Giants-Eagles the following Thursday), especially in December. Bucs-Cowboys is a bit lopsided, but what the Bucs just did to the Seahawks suggests it might be closer than records indicate, while Titans-Chiefs is reasonably strong but pits two non-name teams. Colts-Vikings and Raiders-Chargers are dark horses.
  • Analysis: The worst Lions-Giants could do is 7-5 v. 8-4, while Bucs-Cowboys could make it to 7-5 v. 10-2 – still concerningly lopsided, but it would be intriguing enough the league would at least consider it… if a) it didn’t put the Cowboys on NBC three straight weeks and b) Fox allowed them to pry the game out of their cold dead hands, protections aside. Meanwhile the Titans are on bye so Titans-Chiefs could be either 6-6 v. 9-3 (too lopsided) or 6-6 v. 8-4 (probably not beating Lions-Giants), and if that’s not good enough Colts-Vikings’ best-case scenario, 6-6 v. 7-5, certainly isn’t (and Raiders-Chargers is too lopsided to even consider). But considering the likelihood the NFL doesn’t want to flex in Lions-Giants for whatever reason, their real problem is that, given their lack of name value, I’m not sure either game would be able to overcome the tentative game bias; if it weren’t protected Eagles-Ravens might do better at 6-6 v. 7-5, but if either team loses it becomes a lot more questionable. If the NFL does flex to a game that doesn’t involve an NFC East team it’ll be a sign that they really don’t want to see more headlines about bad primetime ratings, or bad non-Cowboys ratings in general, created by bad games.

Week 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (5-6)
SOUTH
46-5
58-3
6-6
NORTH
36-5
67-4
6-5
WEST
29-2
7-4
8-3 6-5
EAST
19-2
6-5
7-4 6-6
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (5-6)
SOUTH
47-4
58-3
6-5
NORTH
37-4
66-4-1
6-5 4-6-1
WEST
27-3-1
6-5
4-6-1 6-5
EAST
110-1
8-3
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Giants-Swamp, Texans-Titans, Patriots-Dolphins, Raiders-Broncos.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 11

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was originally written with the 2007 season in mind and has been only iteratively and incompletely edited since then, hence why at one point it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will 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.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5; I’m assuming protections were due in Week 4 again this year, and the above notwithstanding, Week 10 is part of the main flex period this year, as it was in 2006 and 2011. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC, although starting this year Week 17 is exempt from team appearance limits. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; nine teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Texans don’t have games in the main flex period, though they don’t have any early-flex games left either. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 5 post.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 10 (November 13):

  • Selected game: Seattle @ New England.

Week 11 (November 20):

  • Selected game: Green Bay @ Washington.

Week 12 (November 27):

  • Selected game: Kansas City @ Denver.

Week 13 (December 4):

  • Selected game: Carolina @ Seattle. Not entirely surprising, and not necessarily as bad as some commenters think.

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 9-1 v. 7-3, and the top two teams in the division, would be tough for any game to overcome the tentative game bias against, but when it’s an intra-NFC East matchup involving the Cowboys, nothing else has a chance.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bills if anything (CBS) and Seahawks-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Native Americans-Eagles was good enough I considered listing them as an option for the protection, and if it’s not protected Texans-Colts is the only other game involving a team above .500 facing a team at .500; Steelers-Bills pits two 5-5 teams against one another.
  • Analysis: I’m not even listing games involving teams slightly below .500, because when the best possible games involve .500 teams and the tentative is as good as it is, there’s no flexing it out no matter what the exact identity of the teams is. The best-case scenario is that the Giants (the lesser team in the tentative) fall a half-game behind the Cowboys’ opponents this Thanksgiving (the best possible team in any alternative), which would require them to lose to the lowly Browns. No thanks.
  • Final prediction: Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants (no change).

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
  • Prospects: 5-5 v. 3-6-1. 5-5 is good enough for a tie for the AFC North lead at the moment, and the Steelers are a name team, but it is still a very vulnerable game.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Broncos (CBS) and Eagles-Ravens (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Lions-Giants now sits at 6-4 v. 7-3, if the NFL is willing to give the Giants consecutive Sunday night home games in December. Bucs-Cowboys is a bit lopsided and Colts-Vikings might not be able to overcome the tentative game bias. Titans-Chiefs, Saints-Cardinals, and Raiders-Chargers are dark horses.

Week 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (5-5)
NORTH
45-5
57-3
5-5
SOUTH
36-4
67-3
5-5 5-6
EAST
28-2
6-4
6-4
WEST
18-2
2 teams at 7-3
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (5-5)
SOUTH
46-4
57-3
5-5
NORTH
36-4
66-3-1 4-5-1
6-4
WEST
27-2-1
6-4
4-5-1
EAST
19-1
7-3
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Saints-Falcons, Giants-Swamp, Texans-Titans, Patriots-Dolphins, Bears-Vikings, Cardinals-Rams, Raiders-Broncos.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 10

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was originally written with the 2007 season in mind and has been only iteratively and incompletely edited since then, hence why at one point it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will 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.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5; I’m assuming protections were due in Week 4 again this year, and the above notwithstanding, Week 10 is part of the main flex period this year, as it was in 2006 and 2011. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC, although starting this year Week 17 is exempt from team appearance limits. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; nine teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Texans don’t have games in the main flex period, though they don’t have any early-flex games left either. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 5 post.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 10 (November 13):

  • Selected game: Seattle @ New England.

Week 11 (November 20):

  • Selected game: Green Bay @ Washington.

Week 12 (November 27):

  • Selected game: Kansas City @ Denver. Well if that game wasn’t protected it would seem to be a no-brainer to flex in, but it’s a bit puzzling that it wasn’t protected (though I suppose CBS could have felt getting Pats-Jets back was worth potentially losing a strong Chiefs-Broncos matchup). Even more puzzling is that Patriots-Jets is now going to be the lead late doubleheader game on CBS (the second time the tentative game has moved to the lead late doubleheader slot, after another Patriots game moved to CBS in Week 16 of 2013), which would seem to defeat the point of flexing it out and makes me doubt that the NFL pulled another protection override (though it’s worth noting the Giants play in the early spot, and while the Jets and Giants have played at the same time several times in recent seasons, the NFL still wants to avoid it); were it not for Adam Schefter tweeting the full list of protections in 2014, I would be starting to doubt the protections work even remotely the way they did before the most recent TV deal. NBC’s Sam Flood seemed to possibly prefer keeping Pats-Jets, which suggests this was as much about propping up CBS as anything else, but again there seems to be little point to simply switching the two main Sunday games. The NFL seems to have gone even further into panic mode regarding the primetime ratings than I thought, and it’s not even necessarily clear that SNF will benefit more. The tentative game bias may actually be weaker than it used to be despite the TNF factor.

Week 13 (December 4):

  • Tentative game: Carolina @ Seattle
  • Prospects: 3-6 v. 6-2-1. Just got a little more lopsided than it already was.
  • Likely protections: Texans-Packers (CBS) and Rams-Patriots, Giants-Steelers, or Eagles-Bengals (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Chiefs-Falcons is definitely the strongest option; even if I’m wrong about CBS’ protection, which just got a lot more likely, the Packers’ struggles mean that Texans-Packers isn’t that strong and may not be that much better than the tentative. Dolphins-Ravens is also reasonably strong, while Racial Slurs-Cardinals at least pits a .500 team against a team above that mark. Lions-Saints, Rams-Patriots, Eagles-Bengals, Giants-Steelers, and Bills-Raiders are dark horses.
  • Analysis: Before the Week 12 flex came in I would have said Chiefs-Falcons was nearly a mortal lock to be flexed in. If it’s not protected it would still seem to be the obvious choice but it would put the Chiefs on SNF on consecutive weeks when neither game was the tentative beforehand, which I’m not sure has ever happened when Week 17 wasn’t involved (which makes that flex all the more puzzling, but the NFL has rarely been one for looking ahead when it comes to its flexes). Best-case scenario for Dolphins-Ravens is 6-4 v. 6-4 while the Falcons are on bye so the worst-case for Chiefs-Falcons is 7-3 v. 6-4. On the flip side, if Texans-Packers stands at 6-4 v. 5-5 it could either clearly lose to Dolphins-Ravens, or clearly beat it if it’s 5-5 v. 5-5, which could also keep Dolphins-Ravens pretty close to Racial Slurs-Cardinals if I’m right about the protection but the NFL doesn’t want to flex Chiefs-Falcons in anyway. So if I’m right about the protections this is a fairly easy choice no matter what else happens, but if Chiefs-Falcons is protected or the NFL doesn’t want to flex the Chiefs in in consecutive weeks, I would need to hold off and make a last-minute remarks post on Monday. Check my Tweeter on Sunday night and Monday afternoon, but in the meantime:
  • Final prediction: Kansas City Chiefs @ Atlanta Falcons.

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 8-1 v. 6-3, and the top two teams in the division, would be tough for any game to overcome the tentative game bias against, but when it’s an intra-NFC East matchup involving the Cowboys, nothing else has a chance.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bills if anything (CBS) and Seahawks-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Native Americans-Eagles was good enough I considered listing them as an option for the protection, and if it’s not protected it’s the only game involving nothing but teams above .500. Broncos-Titans and Cardinals-Dolphins aren’t far behind. Texans-Colts and Falcons-Rams are dark horses, while Steelers-Bills and Saints-Bucs are very long shots.

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
  • Prospects: 4-5 v. 3-5-1. The Steelers’ four-game losing streak may be putting this game in serious jeopardy of being flexed out (not that the Bengals aren’t bringing the game down on their own), especially with the wild-card cut line currently at 7-3, but it’s still really only mediocre. Still, this is another situation where the NFL’s finger might be on the Primetime Ratings Panic Button.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Broncos (CBS) and Eagles-Ravens (FOX).
  • Other possible games: While the Giants barely escaped the Bengals at home, it still put their game against the Lions at 5-4 v. 6-3, so if the teams keep moving in these directions Lions-Giants might be able to overcome the tentative game bias. Titans-Chiefs is a bit lopsided, but if the gap closes don’t count it out either. Saints-Cardinals, Colts-Vikings, and Bucs-Cowboys are all dark horses.

Week 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS
NORTH
45-4
57-2 5-4
4-5 5-5
SOUTH
36-3
67-3 4-5
5-5 4-5
WEST
27-2
4-5
7-2
EAST
17-2
5-4
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (4-5)
NORTH
45-4
56-3
5-4
SOUTH
36-4
65-3-1
2 teams at 4-5
WEST
26-2-1
5-4
4-4-1 5-4
EAST
18-1
4-4-1
6-3
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Saints-Falcons, Giants-Swamp, Texans-Titans, Packers-Lions, Patriots-Dolphins, Bears-Vikings, Cowboys-Eagles, Cardinals-Rams, Raiders-Broncos, Chiefs-Chargers, Seahawks-49ers.

Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 12 Picks

Week 12 (November 27):

  • Tentative game: New England @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: 7-2 v. 3-7. Very lopsided, but could be hard pressed to lose its spot under the circumstances.
  • Likely protections: Chiefs-Broncos (CBS) and Cardinals-Falcons, Rams-Saints, Seahawks-Bucs, or nothing (FOX).
  • Other possible games mentioned on last week’s Watch and their records: Cardinals (4-4-1)-Falcons (6-4), Bengals (3-4-1)-Ravens (5-4), Seahawks (6-2-1)-Bucs (4-5), Rams (4-5)-Saints (4-5), Panthers (3-6)-Raiders (7-2).
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: The Bengals have a chance to put a second 4-4-1 team in the conversation.
  • Analysis: Other than the Pats’ loss, the exact scenario I laid out that would have made the flex situation particularly interesting happened. Thanksgiving Weekend typically means a paucity of good options because of all the games, including the Cowboys, bumped to Thanksgiving day (and this year the Colts are the only team across the Thanksgiving and Monday Night games below .500), and I’ve heard it suggested that NBC doesn’t want its plans for travel from the Thanksgiving night site to the following Sunday night site to be changed on less than two weeks’ notice, but with their half of the TNF package they’d have to do that pretty much every week of the main flex period anyway, and I would imagine the league might be desperate to do anything to stem off the constant “collapsing ratings” headlines. Neither Cardinals-Falcons nor Bengals-Ravens have any stars on the level of Tom Brady, nor do they bring the same caliber of market, but there is some evidence that people are turning away from lousy primetime games as much as anything else, and the league might be reticent to put a game that looks like such a mismatch and whose main promise might be a repeat of the Butt Fumble on its main primetime package if it has viable alternatives. Of course, as Seahawks-Cardinals proved, even evenly-matched but mediocre teams can have a lousy game, and I still wouldn’t be surprised if Patriots-Jets keeps its spot, but a flex is a very real possibility, and for the moment I’m going to say that under most circumstances in the past, the NFL would definitely pull the trigger here (and indeed I wouldn’t be surprised if Seahawks-Bucs was the pick).
  • Final prediction: Arizona Cardinals @ Atlanta Falcons (if unprotected), Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens (if Cardinals-Falcons is protected and the Bengals win Monday night), New England Patriots @ New York Jets (no change) (if Cardinals-Falcons is protected and the Giants win Monday night).

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 9

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was originally written with the 2007 season in mind and has been only iteratively and incompletely edited since then, hence why at one point it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will 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.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5; I’m assuming protections were due in Week 4 again this year, and the above notwithstanding, Week 10 is part of the main flex period this year, as it was in 2006 and 2011. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC, although starting this year Week 17 is exempt from team appearance limits. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; nine teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Texans don’t have games in the main flex period, though they don’t have any early-flex games left either. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 5 post.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 10 (November 13):

  • Selected game: Seattle @ New England.

Week 11 (November 20):

  • Selected game: Green Bay @ Washington (presumably).

Week 12 (November 27):

  • Tentative game: New England @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: 7-1 v. 3-6. Very lopsided, but could be hard pressed to lose its spot under the circumstances.
  • Likely protections: Chiefs-Broncos (CBS) and Cardinals-Falcons, Rams-Saints, Seahawks-Bucs, or nothing (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving Weekend, paucity of good games, and this year seems to have gotten unusually lucky in terms of good teams on Thanksgiving and Monday night (across those four games only the Colts are below .500). With Chiefs-Broncos likely protected, no games involve only teams at or above .500, with Cardinals-Falcons and Bengals-Ravens the most viable alternatives, followed by Seahawks-Bucs and Rams-Saints. Panthers-Raiders is probably too lopsided to be relevant.
  • Analysis: The Bengals play on Monday night, so that may be hard to assess, but things could get interesting if the Cardinals win to get to 4-4-1, the Falcons lose to get to 6-4, Patriots-Jets gets even more lopsided, and Cardinals-Falcons wasn’t protected. I’ve heard it suggested that NBC doesn’t want its plans for travel from the Thanksgiving night site to the following Sunday night site to be changed on less than two weeks’ notice, but with their half of the TNF package they’d have to do that pretty much every week of the main flex period anyway, and I would imagine the league might be desperate to do anything to stem off the constant “collapsing ratings” headlines. Neither Cardinals-Falcons nor Bengals-Ravens have any stars on the level of Tom Brady, nor do they bring the same caliber of market, but there is some evidence that people are turning away from lousy primetime games as much as anything else, and the league might be reticent to put a game that looks like such a mismatch and whose main promise might be a repeat of the Butt Fumble on its main primetime package if it has viable alternatives. Of course, as Seahawks-Cardinals proved, even evenly-matched but mediocre teams can have a lousy game, and no matter what odds are Patriots-Jets keeps its spot, but I would consider a flex to be a very real possibility here if any of the below-.500 teams win.

Week 13 (December 4):

  • Tentative game: Carolina @ Seattle
  • Prospects: 3-5 v. 5-2-1. Still not in great shape, but not as lopsided as it used to be and the Panthers aren’t looking as terrible as they used to be.
  • Likely protections: Texans-Packers (CBS) and Rams-Patriots, Giants-Steelers, or Eagles-Bengals (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Chiefs-Falcons is definitely the strongest option, assuming I’m not wrong about CBS’ protection. Lions-Saints, Eagles-Bengals, Dolphins-Ravens, Giants-Steelers, Racial Slurs-Cardinals, and Bills-Raiders are dark horses.

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 7-1 v. 5-3, and the top two teams in the division, would be tough for any game to overcome the tentative game bias against, but when it’s an intra-NFC East matchup involving the Cowboys, nothing else has a chance.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bills if anything (CBS) and Seahawks-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Native Americans-Eagles was good enough I considered listing them as an option for the protection, and if I’m right about the protections it’s the only game involving nothing but teams at or above .500. Steelers-Bills, Broncos-Titans, Texans-Colts, and Cardinals-Dolphins are all dark horses.

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
  • Prospects: 4-4 v. 3-4-1. Not great, and without the sort of brand value that would insulate it from a flex, but not terrible, and potentially for the AFC North lead.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Broncos (CBS) and Eagles-Ravens (FOX).
  • Other possible games: The good news for this game is that Lions-Giants is the only game involving only teams above .500, and it’s not really that much better. Titans-Chiefs, Saints-Cardinals, Colts-Vikings, and Raiders-Chargers are all dark horses.

Week 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS
NORTH
44-4
56-2 4-4
4-4 4-4
SOUTH
34-4
66-3 4-5
2 teams at 4-5 4-5
WEST
27-2
4-5
6-2 4-5
EAST
17-1
4-4
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS
NORTH
45-3
55-3 3-4-1
5-4 3-5
SOUTH
36-3
64-3-1 3-5
4-4 3-5
WEST
25-2-1
5-4
3-4-1 4-4
EAST
17-1
4-4
5-3 4-4
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Saints-Falcons, Giants-Politicians, Texans-Titans, Packers-Lions, Cardinals-Rams, Raiders-Broncos, Seahawks-49ers.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 8

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was originally written with the 2007 season in mind and has been only iteratively and incompletely edited since then, hence why at one point it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will 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.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5; I’m assuming protections were due in Week 4 again this year, and the above notwithstanding, Week 10 is part of the main flex period this year, as it was in 2006 and 2011. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC, although starting this year Week 17 is exempt from team appearance limits. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; nine teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Texans don’t have games in the main flex period, though they don’t have any early-flex games left either. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 5 post.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 10 (November 13):

  • Selected game: Seattle @ New England (presumably).

Week 11 (November 20):

  • Tentative game: Green Bay @ Washington
  • Prospects: 4-3 v. 4-3-1, beatable but strong enough to fend off most challenges.
  • Likely protections: Ravens-Cowboys or Eagles-Seahawks (CBS) and probably Cardinals-Vikings if anything (FOX).
  • Other possible games: If Eagles-Seahawks is protected, the only available games involve teams at 3-4 or 3-4-1 at best: Bucs-Chiefs, Ravens-Cowboys, and Cardinals-Vikings (which might itself be protected), with Bills-Bengals being 4-4 v. 3-4 and Dolphins-Rams a matchup of 3-4 teams.
  • Analysis: Needless to say, none of those games are overcoming the tentative game bias (and audience-attracting ability of the Packers and Wall-Builders) even if the Packers fall to .500 (Washington’s bye is this week) and the 3-4 team climbs up to .500. That leaves Eagles-Seahawks, which stands at 4-3 v. 4-2-1 and would be the Seahawks’ second consecutive week on SNF. The best-case scenario would be 5-3 v. 5-2-1 with the tentative sitting at 4-4 v. 4-3-1, which gives a clear edge, but again probably not enough to overcome the tentative game bias and name value of the teams, especially since the whole reason Eagles-Seahawks is CBS’ game to protect to begin with is because it’s already slated as the late game of their doubleheader.
  • Final prediction: Green Bay Packers @ Washington Wall-Builders (no change).

Week 12 (November 27):

  • Tentative game: New England @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: 7-1 v. 3-5. Very lopsided, but could be hard pressed to lose its spot under the circumstances.
  • Likely protections: Chiefs-Broncos (CBS) and Cardinals-Falcons, Rams-Saints, Seahawks-Bucs, or nothing (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving Weekend, paucity of good games, and this year seems to have gotten unusually lucky in terms of good teams on Thanksgiving and Monday night (across those four games only the Colts are below .500). With Chiefs-Broncos likely protected, no games involve only teams at or above .500, with Cardinals-Falcons and Seahawks-Bucs the most viable dark horses and Bengals-Ravens and Rams-Saints matchups of teams at 3-4 or 3-4-1.

Week 13 (December 4):

  • Tentative game: Carolina @ Seattle
  • Prospects: 2-5 v. 4-2-1; relative upsets this weekend made it less lopsided, but it’s still not in good shape.
  • Likely protections: Texans-Packers (CBS) and Rams-Patriots, Giants-Steelers, or Eagles-Bengals (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Chiefs-Falcons and (if unprotected) Giants-Steelers are the strongest options, with Bills-Raiders close behind. Rams-Patriots, Eagles-Bengals, and Racial Slurs-Cardinals are the most viable dark horses, followed by Lions-Saints and Bills-Raiders; Dolphins-Ravens is hanging on by a thread.

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 6-1 v. 4-3 would be tough for any game to overcome the tentative game bias against, but when it’s an intra-NFC East matchup involving the Cowboys, nothing else has a chance.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bills if anything (CBS) and Seahawks-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Native Americans-Eagles is good enough I considered listing them as an option for the protection, and if I’m right about the protections it’s the only game involving nothing but teams above .500. Broncos-Titans is the most viable dark horse (unless Steelers-Bills is unprotected), followed by Falcons-Rams, then Saints-Bucs and Cardinals-Dolphins.

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
  • Prospects: 4-3 v. 3-4-1. Not great, and without the sort of brand value that would insulate it from a flex, but not terrible, and potentially for the AFC North lead.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Broncos (CBS) and Eagles-Ravens (FOX).
  • Other possible games: The good news for this game is that no game involves only teams above .500, with Titans-Chiefs and Lions-Giants being the biggest threats. Bucs-Cowboys could be an interesting dark horse, with Saints-Cardinals the only other game even to stick to teams at 3-4, 3-4-1, or above (and there are a LOT of teams at that mark).

Week 17 (January 3):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 7

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was originally written with the 2007 season in mind and has been only iteratively and incompletely edited since then, hence why at one point it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will 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.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5; I’m assuming protections were due in Week 4 again this year, and the above notwithstanding, Week 10 is part of the main flex period this year, as it was in 2006 and 2011. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC, although starting this year Week 17 is exempt from team appearance limits. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; nine teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Texans don’t have games in the main flex period, though they don’t have any early-flex games left either. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 5 post.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 10 (November 13):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ New England
  • Prospects: 4-1-1 v. 6-1. A bit lopsided in the win column, but these two teams are tied for the fewest losses in the league.
  • Likely protections: Broncos-Saints but probably nothing (CBS) and Cowboys-Steelers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Falcons-Eagles and Vikings-Skraelings would be strong contenders against a weaker tentative (with Packers-Titans a dark horse)…
  • Analysis: …but both involve three-loss teams. A Seahawks loss and a Falcons win or a win by the other Washington would result in a comparison between 4-2-1 v. 5-3, which may not obviously go one way or the other, but 6-2 would still have the edge over 5-2, and 6-1 v. 5-3 would still be a skosh lopsided, before even getting to the tentative game bias.
  • Final prediction: Seattle Seahawks @ New England Patriots (no change).

Week 11 (November 20):

  • Tentative game: Green Bay @ Washington
  • Prospects: 4-2 v. 4-3, beatable but strong enough to fend off most challenges.
  • Likely protections: Ravens-Cowboys or Eagles-Seahawks (CBS) and probably Cardinals-Vikings if anything (FOX).
  • Other possible games: If Eagles-Seahawks is protected, Bucs-Chiefs and Cardinals-Vikings are the only games involving teams at or above .500, and the latter might be protected as well. Ravens-Cowboys is a dark horse if unprotected, as is Bills-Bengals; Titans-Colts and Dolphins-Rams are games between 3-4 teams.

Week 12 (November 27):

  • Tentative game: New England @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: 6-1 v. 2-5. Very lopsided, but could be hard pressed to lose its spot under the circumstances.
  • Likely protections: Chiefs-Broncos (CBS) and Cardinals-Falcons, Rams-Saints, Seahawks-Bucs, or nothing (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving Weekend, paucity of good games, and this year seems to have gotten unusually lucky in terms of good teams on Thanksgiving and Monday night (across those four games only the Colts are below .500). With Chiefs-Broncos likely protected, no games involve teams above .500, with Cardinals-Falcons and Seahawks-Bucs involving teams at that mark and Chargers-Texans as a viable dark horse.

Week 13 (December 4):

  • Tentative game: Carolina @ Seattle
  • Prospects: 1-5 v. 4-1-1, with the Panthers’ struggles making this unfortunately lopsided.
  • Likely protections: Texans-Packers (CBS) and Rams-Patriots, Giants-Steelers, or Eagles-Bengals (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Chiefs-Falcons and Bills-Raiders are reasonably strong contenders, as is Giants-Steelers if it’s unprotected, with Racial Slurs-Cardinals waiting in the wings. Rams-Patriots and Eagles-Bengals are dark horses, followed by Bucs-Chargers.

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 5-1 v. 4-3 would be tough for any game to overcome the tentative game bias against, but when it’s an intra-NFC East matchup involving the Cowboys, nothing else has a chance.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bills if anything (CBS) and Seahawks-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Native Americans-Eagles is good enough I considered listing them as an option for the protection, and if I’m right about the protections it’s the only game involving nothing but teams above .500. Broncos-Titans, Falcons-Rams, and Texans-Colts are dark horses with Cardinals-Dolphins further back.

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
  • Prospects: 4-3 v. 3-4. Not great, and without the sort of brand value that would insulate it from a flex, but not terrible, and potentially for the AFC North lead.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Broncos (CBS) and Eagles-Ravens (FOX).
  • Other possible games: The good news for this game is that Lions-Giants is the only game involving two teams above .500, and 4-3 v. 4-3 probably isn’t overcoming the tentative game bias and greater potential playoff implications (though a lot depends on Ben Roethlisberger’s health and how the Steelers play without him). Bucs-Cowboys might actually be more interesting if it weren’t lopsided. Titans-Chiefs, Colts-Vikings, and Raiders-Chargers are potential dark horses.

Week 17 (January 3):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 6

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was originally written with the 2007 season in mind and has been only iteratively and incompletely edited since then, hence why at one point it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will 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.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5; I’m assuming protections were due in Week 4 again this year, and the above notwithstanding, Week 10 is part of the main flex period this year, as it was in 2006 and 2011. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC, although starting this year Week 17 is exempt from team appearance limits. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; nine teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Texans don’t have games in the main flex period, though they don’t have any early-flex games left either. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 5 post.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 10 (November 13):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ New England
  • Prospects: 4-1 v. 5-1, which is nearly impossible to beat.
  • Likely protections: Broncos-Saints but probably nothing (CBS) and Cowboys-Steelers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Falcons-Eagles would be a strong contender against a weaker tentative (and might have been protected if the Cowboys were facing a weaker opponent), as would Vikings-Skraelings. Packers-Titans is too mediocre to be relevant, and Texans-Jaguars and Broncos-Saints are 4-2 v. 2-3 matchups that would need a lot to go their way under the best of circumstances.

Week 11 (November 20):

  • Tentative game: Green Bay @ Washington
  • Prospects: 3-2 v. 4-2, not quite as hard to beat as Seahawks-Patriots, but pretty strong.
  • Likely protections: Ravens-Cowboys or Eagles-Seahawks (CBS) and probably Cardinals-Vikings if anything (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Besides CBS’ unprotected game (and Cardinals-Vikings if it’s unprotected), the only other options involve teams below .500, with Bucs-Chiefs and Jaguars-Lions being the most viable.

Week 12 (November 27):

  • Tentative game: New England @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: 5-1 v. 1-5. Very lopsided, but could be hard pressed to lose its spot under the circumstances.
  • Likely protections: Chiefs-Broncos (CBS) and Cardinals-Falcons, Rams-Saints, Seahawks-Bucs, or nothing (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving Weekend, paucity of good games, and this year seems to have gotten unusually lucky in terms of good teams on Thanksgiving and Monday night (across those four games only the Colts are below .500), although Cardinals-Falcons is looking like a potentially viable alternative. Basically, whichever games Fox didn’t protect are joined by Jaguars-Bills as at least dark horses.

Week 13 (December 4):

  • Tentative game: Carolina @ Seattle
  • Prospects: 1-5 v. 4-1, with the Panthers’ struggles making this unfortunately lopsided.
  • Likely protections: Texans-Packers (CBS) and Rams-Patriots, Giants-Steelers, or Eagles-Bengals (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Chiefs-Falcons and Bills-Raiders are reasonably strong contenders, along with whichever game(s) are unprotected between Rams-Patriots and Giants-Steelers (I think the former is most likely), as well as Racial Slurs-Cardinals. Lions-Saints and Broncos-Jaguars are emerging as dark horses.

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 5-1 v. 3-3 would be tough for any game to overcome the tentative game bias against, but when it’s an intra-NFC East matchup involving the Cowboys, nothing else has a chance.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bills if anything (CBS) and Seahawks-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Native Americans-Eagles is good enough I considered listing them as an option for the protection, while Falcons-Rams and Broncos-Titans would also be very viable options against a more vulnerable tentative. Vikings-Jaguars is a dark horse, and Saints-Bucs is even darker.

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
  • Prospects: 4-2 v. 2-4. Not great, and without the sort of brand value that would insulate it from a flex, but not terrible.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Broncos (CBS) and Eagles-Ravens (FOX).
  • Other possible games: The good news for this game is that Titans-Chiefs and Lions-Giants are the only games that don’t involve teams under .500, and Lions-Giants, which has the better name value, pits two .500 teams. That’s not overcoming the tentative game bias. Bucs-Cowboys, Jaguars-Texans, or Saints-Cardinals could be dark horses if the road teams could climb above .500.

Week 17 (January 3):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.