First, apologies for last week’s Flex Schedule Watch not being posted on Bleacher Report. Suffice to say, it’s a long story and my Twitter followers got the gist of it.
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 written with the 2007 season in mind):
- Begins Sunday of Week 11
- In effect during Weeks 11-17
- 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 8:20 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 8:20 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 4:15 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, and could not protect any games Week 17 in 2007. Unless I find out otherwise, I’m assuming that’s still the case this year, especially with no tentative game listed Week 17. When looking up info on what the protected games might be, I found out that games were protected after Week FIVE this year, and presumably in some of the previous years. Previously all I knew was that games were protected after Week 4 the first year of flexible scheduling.
- 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. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 5 post.
- A rule that may have come to light late last year but that, given its restrictiveness and lateness in coming to light, I’m having trouble accepting, is that the balance of primetime games taken from FOX and CBS can’t go beyond 22-20 one way or the other. The current tally is FOX 17, CBS 21; with tentative games, the tally is FOX 20, CBS 21.
Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:
Week 11 (November 22):
- Selected game: Philadelphia @ Chicago.
Week 12 (November 29):
- Selected game: Pittsburgh @ Baltimore.
Week 13 (December 6):
- Selected game: Minnesota @ Arizona.
Week 14 (December 13):
- Selected game: Philadelphia @ NY Giants.
Week 15 (December 20):
- Selected game: Minnesota @ Carolina. See here for why a game involving two small markets that’s this lopsided was kept.
Week 16 (December 27)
- Tentative game: Dallas @ Washington
- Prospects: Lopsided at 8-4 v. 3-9, but it is the NFL’s biggest rivalry so never count out its chances of keeping the spot.
- Protected games: Ravens-Steelers (CBS).
- Other possible games: Broncos-Eagles, at 8-4 v. 8-4, and Jags-Patriots, at 7-5 v. 7-5.
- Analysis: Normally we would expect Broncos-Eagles to be the favorite with Jags-Patriots involving a team too obscure in the Jags even if things break down right. Two things work against it: First, Cowboys-Redskins is still the NFL’s biggest rivalry. Second, picking Broncos-Ravens moves from a Fox game to a CBS game, for the penultimate week of the season, which could force the selection of a Fox game Week 17. Right now, Fox has the better games anyway, but Week 17 is so dependent on circumstances it’s unpredictable even after Week 15. But the killer could be the Eagles becoming maxed out on NBC appearances, preventing NBC from getting a potentially very valuable Fox game Week 17: Cowboys-Eagles.
- Final prediction: Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins (no change).
Week 17 (January 3 Playoff Positioning Watch):
- AFC East: Patriots lead, Dolphins and Jets a game back, Bills another two back. New England plays Houston, the Jets play Cincinnati, and Miami plays Pittsburgh.
- AFC North: Bengals lead, Ravens and Steelers three games back. The Bengals play the Jets, while the Steelers play the Dolphins and Baltimore plays Oakland. Browns out.
- AFC South: Colts clinched.
- AFC West: Chargers lead, Broncos a game back, Chiefs and Raiders out. The Broncos play the Chiefs while the Chargers play the Redskins.
- AFC Wild Card: If the season ended today, the Broncos and Jags (who play the Browns) would get the nod, with the Dolphins, Jets, Ravens, and Steelers a game back. The Titans and Texans are waiting in the wings; the Titans play the Seahawks. Bengals-Jets and Texans-Patriots the main AFC contenders, though Dolphins-Steelers is appealing as well.
- NFC East: Cowboys and Eagles tied for lead, Giants a game back, Redskins out. Cowboys and Eagles play each other, while the Giants play the Vikings.
- NFC North: Vikings lead by 2 games over Packers. The Vikings play the Giants while the Packers play the Cardinals.
- NFC South: Saints clinched.
- NFC West: Cardinals lead by 3 over 49ers and Seahawks. Arizona plays Green Bay, while the Niners play the Rams and the Seahawks play the Titans.
- NFC Wild Card: The Packers and Cowboys-Eagles loser would get the nod if the season ended today, with the Giants a game back and the Falcons, who play the Bucs, waiting in the wings. The NFC definitely has the better games with Cowboys-Eagles, Giants-Vikings, and possibly Packers-Cardinals, but the NFL showed last year they’re more concerned with making sure the game has playoff implications no matter what happens when we get to primetime, so we’ll see how the rest of the season plays out.