NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For Weeks 10-15, 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, hence why it contradicts the above – and the page it comes from, for that matter):
- 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 8:15 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 4:15 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 cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 the first year of flexible scheduling, but are now protected after Week 5; however, they are back to Week 4 this year, probably for the same reason as that first year: NBC hosting a Christmas night game and the other games being moved to Saturday.
- 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. At this writing, no team is completely tapped out at any measure; five teams have five primetime appearances each, but all of them have at least one game that can be flexed out. A list of all teams’ primetime appearances is in my first two posts for Weeks 4 and 5.
- Last year’s selection of primetime games was weighted rather heavily towards Fox games. This year, the selection currently leans CBS 22, FOX 20 (though if I miscounted one game it may be even). My guess is that the balance will continue to lean towards the AFC. Weeks 10, 12, 13, and 15 are all CBS games, while Weeks 11 and 14 are FOX.
Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:
Week 10 (November 13):
- Tentative game: New England @ NY Jets
- Prospects: 5-1 v. 4-3; this is becoming one of the hottest rivalries in the AFC, but who are the Jets? Still, this is now a battle of two teams with winning records, rare for tentatives this year.
- Protected games according to the506: Saints-Falcons (FOX).
- Other possible games: Giants-49ers (4-2 v. 5-1), Lions-Bears (5-2 v. 4-3), Texans-Bucs (4-3 v. 4-3), Steelers-Bengals (5-2 v. 4-2), Bills-Cowboys (4-2 v. 3-3).
- Analysis: Giants-Niners is the best game, but the Niners aren’t a name team, which could kill their ability to overcome the tentative game bias – 5-2 v. 6-1 is hard to pass up, but can it overcome a 5-2 v. 4-3 tentative? Steelers-Bengals may have even more to overcome, and Lions-Bears, while an attractive NFC North matchup, can’t do better than 6-2 v. 4-3, a half-game better than the worst Pats-Jets can do.
- Final prediction: New England Patriots @ New York Jets (no change).
Week 11 (November 20):
- Tentative game: Philadelphia @ NY Giants
- Prospects: 4-2 v. 2-4. If the not-so-Dream Team continues to be a nightmare, this has a pretty good chance to be flexed out, despite the NFC East factor.
- Protected games: Cowboys-Redskins (FOX) and Chargers-Bears (CBS).
- Other possible games: Bucs-Packers is good but lopsided, Bengals-Ravens features a team people don’t trust to be as good as 4-2, and Titans-Falcons has the worst of both worlds. Right now, the tentative is likely to stay put.
Week 12 (November 17):
- Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Kansas City
- Prospects: 5-2 v. 3-3. Time will tell if the Chiefs are about to rally from their disastrous start. It might not take much for this game to keep its spot.
- Protected games: Patriots-Eagles (CBS) and Bears-Raiders (FOX).
- Other possible games: Thanksgiving weekend, paucity of good games (Packers-Lions is an especially bad loss). Bills-Jets and Bucs-Titans are the only good options, with Bengals-Browns a dark horse and Broncos-Chargers possible based on Tim Tebow’s performance. After the protections, NBC isn’t left with very attractive matchups in terms of drawing power.
Week 13 (December 4):
- Tentative game: Indianapolis @ New England
- Prospects: It’s the Colts and the Patriots, the NFL’s biggest current rivalry! …What’s that? Peyton Manning’s injured and the Colts are 0-7 and got blown out 62-0 their last time on Sunday night, causing football to lose to another sport in the ratings for the first time in forever? Yeeeeah, this is getting flexed out unless Manning comes back before then, and even then this would have to be the very game he comes back, which probably won’t be known two weeks in advance.
- Protected games: Jets-Redskins (CBS) and Packers-Giants (FOX).
- Other possible games: Lions-Saints has the early lead; Bengals-Steelers, Falcons-Texans, and Chiefs-Bears are also options, and Ravens-Browns and Titans-Bills are dark horses.
Week 14 (December 11):
- Tentative game: NY Giants @ Dallas
- Prospects: NFC East clash, with both teams moderately good and the division lead potentially on the line. A flex isn’t out of the realm of possibility, but one or both teams would have to completely collapse and the other game would have to sweep the NFL off its feet. Combine that with a paucity of NFC road games, and no wonder Fox left this week unprotected.
- Protected games: Patriots-Redskins (CBS).
- Other possible games: Bills-Chargers, Raiders-Packers, Saints-Titans, Texans-Bengals. Chiefs-Jets is a dark horse, and Bears-Broncos could become an interloper if Tim Tebow does well.
Week 15 (December 18):
- Tentative game: Baltimore @ San Diego
- Prospects: Not NBC’s biggest-name late-season matchup, but possibly the best record-wise, a battle of 4-2 teams when no other tentative has more than one team better than 4-3. Good chance to keep its spot.
- Protected games: Jets-Eagles (CBS) and Redskins-Giants (FOX).
- Other possible games: Lions-Raiders. That’s it. Yeah, Packers-Chiefs is a dark horse, but I’d say Ravens-Chargers is keeping its spot.
Week 17 (January 1):
- Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.