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):
- Selected game: Detroit @ Green Bay.
Week 15 (December 16):
- Selected game: San Francisco @ New England. If you thought last year’s early flexing-out of Colts-Patriots was weird, how about an early keeping of a game? Especially a game that isn’t even the best unprotected game of the week, with Broncos-Ravens almost certainly unprotected? But it’s hard to see any game overcoming the tentative game bias against an 8-3 v. 8-2-1 battle of division leaders; even if Broncos-Ravens had gone to 10-2 v. 9-3, and 49ers-Patriots had gone to 8-4 v. 8-3-1, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising that the NFL would stick with the tentative, as both games would still be matchups of division leaders. The real surprise is that Broncos-Ravens hasn’t been moved to the anchor spot of CBS’ doubleheader, especially given the Peyton Manning factor; it’s kind of hard to sell Steelers-Cowboys at this point by comparison, despite it being one of only two trips to Cowboys Stadium the Tiffany Network will be able to take all year, and being two teams with larger, more committed fanbases.
Week 16 (December 23):
- Tentative game: San Diego @ NY Jets
- Prospects: 4-7 v. 4-7. After the debacle Thanksgiving night, do you really think NBC wants to go back to the Jets’ circus again? Only God (through His prophet Tebow) can save this game now.
- Likely protections: Giants-Ravens (FOX) and Bengals-Steelers if anything (CBS).
- Other possible games: Should prevent this from being a whole no-flex season, but with the Vikings’ slide 49ers-Seahawks might be a better option than Vikings-Texans, which is now looking very lopsided. Bengals-Steelers is also an option if it’s unprotected, and keep an eye on Saints-Cowboys.
Week 17 (December 30):
|WILD CARD||WAITING IN
THE WINGS (4-7)
|2 tied at 6-5||5-6|
|WILD CARD||WAITING IN
|2 tied at 5-6||5-6|
- 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, Seahawks-Rams.