Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 10

Note: This week’s post does not include the results of the Thursday night game.

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, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • 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 last year as well as the first year of flexible scheduling, 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.
  • In the past, three teams could 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. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; eight teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Broncos and Bears don’t have at least one game that can be flexed out. 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 11 (November 18):

  • Selected game: Baltimore @ Pittsburgh.

Week 12 (November 25):

  • Selected game: Green Bay @ NY Giants.

Week 13 (December 2):

  • Tentative game: Philadelphia @ Dallas
  • Prospects: Very iffy at 4-5 v. 3-6 (and the Giants starting to pull away with the division); would even the NFC East factor overcome such mediocre teams?
  • Likely protections: 49ers-Rams or Vikings-Packers (FOX) and Steelers-Ravens (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Vikings-Packers and Seahawks-Bears would both be strong contenders, with Bucs-Broncos starting to sneak up. Pats-Dolphins and Colts-Lions have outside shots still, or at least did before the Dolphins lost.
  • Analysis: Two years ago, against all logic, the NFL kept a tentative with a 3-8 Cowboys team, prompting this rant about how the tentative game bias can be so extreme as to render flex scheduling nearly worthless. This is a better Dallas team and a win over the lowly Browns would get them to 5-5, only a game behind the current last wild card at 6-4. As such, even with an Eagle loss to make it semi-lopsided and mediocre at best at 5-5 v. 3-7, a Dallas win would pretty much guarantee this game keeps its spot; it would hardly be the worst tentative the NFL has kept. If the Cowboys lose, the best pair of records standing against a tentative where 4-6 is the best record would probably be Seahawks-Bears at 6-4 v. 8-2 or 7-3, with Vikings-Packers possibly matching it and Bucs-Broncos having an outside shot of doing the same. Yet it’s entirely possible that of that group, only Vikings-Packers has even an outside shot of challenging the tentative; the Seahawks and Bucs aren’t enough of name teams. Will the NFL bite the bullet and keep a game with both teams below .500 solely because of its name value? Everyone hopes they don’t have to find out.

Week 14 (December 9):

  • Tentative game: Detroit @ Green Bay
  • Prospects: 4-5 v. 6-3. The Lions have largely escaped their mediocre start, but they are hardly the draw they were when they were the beneficiary of the Manning-injury-ruined Colts-Pats game last year.
  • Likely protections: Bears-Vikings or Cardinals-Seahawks if anything, more likely the former (FOX) and Chargers-Steelers (CBS).
  • Other possible games: At this point, Lions-Packers may keep its spot by default if nothing else; right now Bears-Vikings is the only game involving two teams above .500 on Sunday. The Dolphins are fading, so Dolphins-49ers might be out, and the Cardinals are fading, so Cardinals-Seahawks might be out. On the other hand, Saints-Giants is becoming a dark horse, one Giants loss off from having the same pair of records as the tentative, but could it build a substantial enough lead before the time comes?

Week 15 (December 16):

  • Tentative game: San Francisco @ New England
  • Prospects: 6-2-1 v. 6-3, a battle of division leaders; hard to see this one losing its spot against any competition.
  • Likely protections: Broncos-Ravens (probably not), Colts-Texans, Steelers-Cowboys, or nothing (CBS) and Giants-Falcons (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Broncos-Ravens, Colts-Texans, Packers-Bears (or if it’s protected, Giants-Falcons), a tentative much worse than this would probably be doomed. Steelers-Cowboys is a dark horse, and Bucs-Saints is darker still.

Week 16 (December 23):

  • Tentative game: San Diego @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: 4-5 v. 3-6. This game can only keep its spot if Tim Tebow is the Jets’ starting quarterback by this point.
  • Likely protections: Giants-Ravens (FOX) and Bengals-Steelers if anything (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Looking like the only real flex candidate, specifically with Vikings-Texans, though 49ers-Seahawks is also an option and Bengals-Steelers and Bears-Cardinals are outside possibilities.

Week 17 (December 30):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (4-5)
WEST
46-3
56-3
4-5
EAST
36-3
66-3
4-5
NORTH
27-2
6-3
SOUTH
18-1
6-3
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (4-5)
EAST
46-4
56-3
4-5
WEST
36-2-1
66-4
6-4
NORTH
27-2
6-4
6-3 5-4
SOUTH
18-1
5-4
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Ravens-Bengals, Bears-Lions, Packers-Vikings, Bucs-Falcons, Texans-Colts, Dolphins-Patriots, Cardinals-49ers.

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