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):
- Selected game: Philadelphia @ Dallas.
Week 14 (December 9):
- Tentative game: Detroit @ Green Bay
- Prospects: 4-6 v. 7-3. The Lions briefly looked to have escaped their mediocre start, but right now this game looks awfully lopsided.
- Likely protections: Bears-Vikings or Cardinals-Seahawks if anything, more likely the former (FOX) and Chargers-Steelers (CBS).
- Other possible games: Bears-Vikings is the only game involving two teams above .500 on Sunday. Saints-Giants and Cowboys-Bengals are options, but they might not sweep the NFL off its feet.
- Analysis: If Bears-Vikings is protected, Lions-Packers might well keep its spot by default. The Vikings-Bears half of that rivalry is this week, so even if Bears-Vikings turns out to be unprotected, a Lions win means an 8-3 v. 6-5 game probably isn’t going to overcome the tentative game bias when Lions-Packers would either be only a game worse or a game more lopsided, and I’m not sure a 7-4 v. 7-4 game could overcome the tentative game bias either. So if the Lions win on Thanksgiving, they’re probably keeping their spot, but if they lose things could get a lot more interesting, but the .500 teams absolutely have to win unless Bears-Vikings turns out to be unprotected.
Week 15 (December 16):
- Tentative game: San Francisco @ New England
- Prospects: 7-2-1 v. 7-3, 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 and Bucs-Saints are dark horses.
Week 16 (December 23):
- Tentative game: San Diego @ NY Jets
- Prospects: 4-6 v. 4-6. 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 surefire flex, but with the Vikings’ slide 49ers-Seahawks might be a better option than Vikings-Texans, which is now looking very lopsided. Bengals-Steelers is a dark horse if it’s unprotected.
Week 17 (December 30):
|WILD CARD||WAITING IN
THE WINGS (4-6)
|3 teams at 4-6|
|WILD CARD||WAITING IN
THE WINGS (4-6)
- Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
- Possible games: Jets-Bills, Ravens-Bengals, Bears-Lions, Packers-Vikings, Bucs-Falcons, Texans-Colts, Dolphins-Patriots, Cowboys-Redskins, Cardinals-49ers.