Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 11

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):

  • Selected game: NY Giants @ Washington.

Week 14 (December 8):

  • Tentative game: Atlanta @ Green Bay
  • Prospects: 2-8 v. 5-5. Ouch.
  • Protected games: Colts-Bengals (CBS) and Seahawks-49ers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Lions-Eagles is becoming interesting, but when one team already has five losses, it can’t compete with…
  • Analysis: It’s Panthers-Saints. It’s Cam Newton v. Drew Brees. It’s a team I’ve been fascinated by ever since they rode the league’s most exciting offense Newton’s rookie season to a 6-10 record, making it inevitable they would go defense with their first-round pick in the draft, only to have Luke Kuechly’s Defensive Rookie of the Year season ruined by Newton’s sophomore slump, but now are in prime position to make the playoffs and could take the lead in the division with a win. It’s Riverboat Ron v. Bountygate Sean. It’s Carrie Underwood blandly singing “Panthers and the Saints, a division showdown” (seriously, “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night” is no “Are You Ready for some Football”, but at least Faith Hill didn’t seem like she was going through the motions singing the lines that were written for someone else and actually seemed like she wasn’t completely incongruous singing about football even though Underwood has dated Tony Romo in the past). And perhaps most importantly, it’s a battle between two teams with as many losses between them as the Eagles have by themselves with the division lead on the line. What could keep this game from being flexed in is that other Panthers games could also be flexed in each of the next two weeks, including the return match of this game, so the existence of Lions-Eagles as a safety valve may cause the NFL to hold off for now, but that would be more likely if CBS had protected Colts-Chiefs in two weeks instead of Broncos-Texans, and even then I still wouldn’t pick against this game.
  • Final prediction: Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints.

Week 15 (December 15):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: The Steelers’ 4-6 record now has them tied for second in the division, while the Bengals aren’t looking quite so strong as they were. If the Steelers keep winning, this game may yet keep its spot, especially given the lack of other options.
  • Protected games: Packers-Cowboys (FOX) and Patriots-Dolphins (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Jets-Panthers is the only game not involving a team below .500 (there’s a comment on the Last-Minute Remarks post telling me to look out for Seahawks-Giants if the Giants keep winning, but not only would that require the Seahawks to lose as well to keep from being horribly lopsided, it would also require the Steelers to lose more to overcome the tentative game bias).

Week 16 (December 22):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 7-3 v. 4-6; pretty lopsided, but the name value could still save it if it weren’t for the strong alternatives, and the Ravens are very much alive in the playoff hunt (then again, every AFC team that’s not the Texans – more on them in a bit – and Jags are).
  • Protected games: Broncos-Texans (CBS) and Cowboys-Indians (FOX).
  • Other possible games: CBS’ decision to protect Broncos-Texans over Colts-Chiefs was questionable at the time since the Texans definitely had the worst record of the four at 2-3 and seemed to be in a tailspin; now it seems to have given the Texans the kiss of death, as they haven’t won since and the Colts and Chiefs have half as many losses between them as the Texans have themselves. 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):

AFC Playoff Picture
59-1 4-6
3 tied at 4-6 4-6
65-5 4-6
2 tied at 5-5 4-6
5-5 4-6
4-6 4-6
NFC Playoff Picture
7-3 6-4
2 tied at 6-4 5-5
  • 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.

5 thoughts on “Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 11

  1. While I agree with what you said in the other post about the problems with flexing out one FOX game for another, as noted in the other thread, the real problem was this:

    Had the NFL flexed in Cardinals-Eagles and moved Giants-Redskins back to FOX, because of I believe stadium/local issues in Landover, MD (where FedEx Field is and NOT because of Dolphins-Jets already being at 1:00 on CBS), FOX would have been stuck with Bears-Vikings and Bucs-Panthers as its only 1:00 PM games since the Redskins game would have had to have been at 4:05 (not sure on this, but I believe the NFL is not allowed to move a Redskins game that was not originally scheduled for 1:00 PM to that slot).

    Another problems was neither of the 4:05 PM games could be moved to 1:00. Rams-49ers we know why of course, the real problem was that Falcons-Bills (in Toronto) is airing nationally in Canada and can’t be moved I believe because of the NFL’s deal with Canadian television that requires games played in Toronto (and I would assume anywhere else in Canada) to be at 4:05 PM. That would have meant FOX would have had three 4:05 PM games in a time slot where as the “singleheader” network, FOX could only air games at that time to no more than 50% of the country I believe to protect CBS. If FOX had been able to move Falcons-Bills to 1:00 PM, then the NFL would have likely flexed Cardinals-Eagles to SNF and FOX would have been able to air Giants-Redskins at 4:05 to the maximum amount of the country possible by broadcast rules (excluding St. Louis and the Bay Area of course).

    As for your predictions: For Week 14 Panthers-Saints is a no-brainer and I suspect FOX will have the rare instance of a 1:00 PM game being its main game with Lions-Eagles since FOX already has three 4:25 PM games (Seahawks-49ers being the main of those) and the possibly of Falcons-Packers also being at 4:25 if flexed out.

    For Week 15, if the Jets win their next two and are 7-5 when the decision has to be made, Jets-Panthers then becomes a lock as NBC I’m sure would love having the Rex Ryan circus back on SNF (and had the Dolphins not had their issues and the Jets not played horribly in Buffalo last week, their Week 13 game might have been flexed in to replace Giants-Redskins).

    Week 16: Saints-Panthers rematch would likely be SNF, especially if Panthers win the first game. If both Saints game and the Jets game make it to SNF, it would make the Panthers the first team ever to be flexed into SNF three times and first team ever to appear on SNF in three consecutive weeks.

    Week 17: Right now, Eagles-Cowboys is a lock for that slot, however, I have the Eagles running the table and finishing 11-5, and that game could simply be for playoff seeding. If that happens, who knows what will be that SNF game.

  2. Isn’t that exactly what you said on the other post? By that logic, Giants-DC Daceys couldn’t have been flexed out at all unless it was for Rams-49ers, because all the problems you identify would still have been in place.

    I really don’t think the NFL wants to put the same team on SNF three consecutive weeks, and I really REALLY don’t think they want to piss off Fox by putting both halves of a divisional matchup on NBC if they can avoid it.

  3. True Morgan:

    You’re right, unless it was Rams-49ers, it might have been very difficult to flex out Redskins-Giants with the sticking point being Falcons-Bills having to be at 4:05 due to the situation with Canadian television. This is something I’m sure will be addressed after this season with it made clear to Canadian TV officials that if the NFL needs that game in Toronto (which I believe runs two more years for the Bills) to be at 1:00 because of the needs of FOX and/or CBS that can and will creep up as it did in this case. It simply was an unintended consequence of the Bills having one game per season in Toronto in the flex period and that game having to be at 4:05. Until now, that game was never a sticking point.

    I suspect the new flex rules next season will remedy something like this so it doesn’t happen again.

  4. One other note:

    Under normal circumstances I would agree about one team on SNF three weeks in a row and teeing off FOX, however, Week 16 is a singleheader week for FOX and if the second Saints-Panthers game is for the NFC South title, I think NBC gets it since Bears-Eagles likely would still be a very attractive main game for FOX with the Eagles going for the NFC East title and the Bears going for a Wild Card and/or the NFC North title.

    Looks like it’s down to those two games because I doubt CBS would want to give up Colts-Chiefs. That would BTW mean the Eagles would very likely be on SNF the final two weeks of the regular season if that happened.

  5. What CBS wants doesn’t, or at least shouldn’t, matter, especially when Colts-Chiefs was a more logical protection even at the time.

    Honestly, I think as much as anything the fact Fox has the singleheader Week 16 is an argument for putting Lions-Eagles in this week and “saving” Saints-Panthers for Week 16.

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