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.
First, a postscript on the Week 16 selection of Bears-Eagles: apparently the NFL flexed out a perfectly passable and important Patriots-Ravens game for the same reason I adhered to a 22-20 rule for two years before being disproved at the end of the second year. In short, if the NFL didn’t make a CBS-to-Fox flex it wouldn’t be able to flex in a CBS game Week 17. Of course flexing in Lions-Eagles Week 14 and Panthers-Saints this week would have achieved the same goal without making the Week 17 flex more dramatic than it had to be, all for the sake of preserving a CBS-Fox balance that, as it turned out, might not even have been relevant if the NFL hadn’t flexed in Bears-Eagles!
Week 17 (December 29):
|WILD CARD||WAITING IN
THE WINGS (6-8)
|WILD CARD||WAITING IN
THE WINGS (7-6-1)
- Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
- Possible games: Eagles-Cowboys, Packers-Bears, Ravens-Bengals. (The Jets lost and Miami won, so Jets-Dolphins is out, and the 49ers winning this past week, holding the tiebreaker, and playing on Monday night keeps 49ers-Cardinals from being an option.)
- Eagles-Cowboys will be selected if: The Cowboys win OR the Packers lose AND the Bengals win AND the Ravens lose AND the Bears beat the Eagles. The NFL could have flexed this game in if the Cowboys and Eagles both lost, but no-o-o-o.
- Packers-Bears will be selected if: The Packers win OR the Lions lose AND the Cowboys lose AND the Bengals win AND the Ravens lose AND the Eagles beat the Bears. Thanks to the NFC North trying to out-mediocre the NFC East in recent weeks, this game has a real chance to pull the semi-upset, especially if Aaron Rodgers comes back. I’m cracking open the possibility that if it comes down to Eagles-Cowboys or Packers-Bears, the NFL could make the selection contingent on the Bears-Eagles game and have Bob Costas ready to announce it on the postgame.
- Ravens-Bengals will be selected if: The Cowboys lose AND the Packers lose AND the Bengals lose AND the Dolphins win AND the Ravens lose. That this game ends up determining the AFC North crown is highly likely, as it would only require the Bengals to lose or the Ravens to win, and that would at least allow this game to serve as the NFL’s ace in the hole if Eagles-Cowboys and Packers-Bears are both contingent on the Bears-Eagles result… but if the loser can still pick up the wild card, the NFL may shy away, especially since this game is far less attractive than the perpetual train wreck known as the Dallas Cowboys or the Packers-Bears rivalry, and especially if this just determines home field advantage for a rematch the following week. (In other words, if the Colts lose the NFL is definitely not picking this game in any scenario other than the above.) All told, this week could end up saying a lot about how much the NFL places on being able to announce the Week 17 game at halftime of SNF (or alternatively over whether the NFL favors NBC or Fox more and which game is seen as more attractive), and a lot could depend on how much the NFL can wait to pick one game or the other without having too many ripple effects on the afternoon schedule. There’s an off chance, if things break just right, the NFL just picks Eagles-Cowboys and runs the risk of it being irrelevant (which is still better than being half-relevant).