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 in 2006 and 2011, 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; six teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the 49ers 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 17):
- Selected game: Kansas City @ Denver.
Week 12 (November 24):
- Selected game: Denver @ New England.
Week 13 (December 1):
- Tentative game: NY Giants @ Washington
- Prospects: 3-6 v. 3-6. The name value and NFC East tire fire helps, but these are the worse two teams in the division.
- Protected games: Broncos-Chiefs (CBS) and Bears-Vikings (FOX).
- Other possible games: Thanksgiving weekend, paucity of good games; Cardinals-Eagles is the only game that doesn’t involve a team with a losing record. Titans-Colts, Dolphins-Jets, and Bengals-Chargers become options if you look at 4-5 teams.
- Analysis: None of these games offer much in the way of starpower, and none of them are so much better as to overcome the tentative game bias. Even discounting lopsidedness and name value, is 6-3 v. 4-5 really that much better than 3-6 v. 3-6? That’s not to say this game won’t get flexed out, but if both of its participants win this week there’s no way this game isn’t keeping its spot, it might be able to keep its spot with just one team winning, and the 4-5 teams need to win regardless. Still, you have to at least look at a 6-4 v. 5-5 game, as Bengals-Chargers would be (and as Titans-Colts could be even with a Colts loss), if the alternative is 3-7 v. 3-7.
Week 14 (December 8):
- Tentative game: Atlanta @ Green Bay
- Prospects: 2-7 v. 5-4. Doesn’t look good.
- Protected games: Colts-Bengals (CBS) and Seahawks-49ers (FOX).
- Other possible games: Panthers-Saints is looking very strong to give Cam Newton his first NBC game with only one game separating the two for the NFC South crown, and Lions-Eagles is also a dark horse.
Week 15 (December 15):
- Tentative game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
- Prospects: If I told you before the season that this game would be 6-4 v. 3-6 after Week 9, and you didn’t have the bye week schedule on hand, would you have ever guessed that the Steelers would be the 3-6 team?
- Protected games: Packers-Cowboys (FOX) and Patriots-Dolphins (CBS).
- Other possible games: Jets-Panthers is the only game not involving a team below .500.
Week 16 (December 22):
- Tentative game: New England @ Baltimore
- Prospects: 7-2 v. 4-5; pretty lopsided, but the name value could still save it if it weren’t for the strong alternatives, and the Ravens might be climbing back into this thing.
- Protected games: Broncos-Texans (CBS) and Cowboys-Indians (FOX).
- Other possible games: Very surprised CBS chose to protect Broncos-Texans, a game involving a team that was 2-3 and in a tailspin at the time (and hasn’t won since), instead of Colts-Chiefs, two teams now leading their respective divisions and with three losses between them. Perhaps CBS had its eye more on getting Pats-Ravens back. But Colts-Chiefs will have to compete with the Saints-Panthers rematch, and Cardinals-Seahawks and Bears-Eagles are waiting in the wings.
Week 17 (December 29):
|WILD CARD||WAITING IN
|2 tied at 4-5||4-5|
|WILD CARD||WAITING IN
THE WINGS (5-5)
|2 tied at 5-4|
- Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
- Possible games: Eagles-Cowboys (the odds-on favorite), Packers-Bears, Jets-Dolphins, 49ers-Cardinals, Rams-Seahawks.