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 even with the bit about the early flexes, 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 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • 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 starting Week 11, 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. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • 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; nine teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Giants, Cowboys, Packers, and Eagles don’t have games in the main flex period, and of those only the Giants don’t have games in the early flex period. 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 22):

  • Selected game: Cincinnati @ Arizona.

Week 12 (November 29):

  • Selected game: New England @ Denver.

Week 13 (December 6):

  • Selected game: Indianapolis @ Pittsburgh.

Week 14 (December 13):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 5-5 v. 3-7. Not looking good.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bengals (CBS, confirmed) and Cowboys-Packers or Falcons-Panthers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: The Cowboys suck and are pressed for primetime appearances, so if Falcons-Panthers is protected (admittedly extremely unlikely given Fox’s track record, even though both teams were unbeaten when protections came in) the best available games, aside from heavily-lopsided Patriots-Texans, involve teams at 4-6: Bills-Eagles, Colts-Jaguars, Raiders-Broncos, Racial Slurs-Bears, Saints-Bucs.
  • Analysis: With the Falcons on a three-game losing streak, even if Falcons-Panthers is unprotected it’s not clear it actually has that much of an edge over Patriots-Texans; right now it’s just a Falcons game over the Texans better, and if both games are, say, 10-1 v. 6-5, I think the Tom Brady star power factor (as well as J.J. Watt to a lesser degree) wins out. Other than those games, I think there might actually be a slim chance of this game keeping its spot; a Baltimore win next week would put them potentially only a game worse than even the best-case scenario for the 4-6 teams, and even only two games worse than the Falcons if the Falcons lose. Realistically none of the games involving 4-6 teams, with the possible exception of Raiders-Broncos, offer enough buzz to overcome both the tentative game bias and the buzz either Falcons-Panthers or Patriots-Texans offer. Worth mentioning: if the NFL isn’t locked into Packers-Raiders as the only alternative to the tentative next week (and there’s reason to think they may not be), either the Texans or Panthers could be moved to Sunday night next week.

Week 15 (December 20):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: 8-2 v. 3-7. Massively lopsided.
  • Likely protections: Broncos-Steelers (CBS, confirmed) and Panthers-Giants or Bears-Vikings (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Texans-Colts is a key showdown for the AFC South, even if the two teams are both 5-5. Panthers-Giants is very lopsided at 10-0 v. 5-5, but the unbeaten factor can’t be discounted. I also must mention the continued possibility that the NFL would still give the edge to Packers-Raiders if it’s reasonably competitive with other options, even if it is lopsided with the Raiders at 4-6 at the moment.

Week 16 (December 27):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 6-4 v. 3-7. One of the NFL’s better rivalries, but not in the best shape right now.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Jets (CBS) and Packers-Cardinals or Panthers-Falcons (FOX).
  • Other possible games: As with the week with the first Panthers-Falcons matchup, Fox’s unprotected game is far and away ahead of any other contenders, with Giants-Vikings in second.

Week 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
56-4 4-6
5-5 4-6
65-5 4-6
5-5 3-7
6-4 5-5
2 tied at 5-5
NFC Playoff Picture
2 tied at 4-6
5-5 5-5
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Jets-Bills, Saints-Falcons, Jaguars-Texans, Raiders-Chiefs, Eagles-Giants, Vikings-Packers, Seahawks-Cardinals.

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

  1. If the NFL is being more flexible about having both New York teams play at the same time (excluding games against each other where that is obvious), then I suspect elected officials in New York already pressured the NFL to do that so viewers in New York were not always stuck with the Jets and Giants (something I remember very well growing up in Manhattan).


    Week 14: If the Texans beat the Saints this week (very winnable) to get to 6-5, Patriots-Texans is almost certain to be the Sunday Night game that week. It’s likely the only chance the NFL has to flex the Pats into SNF given they may have everything wrapped up by the time meetings with the Jets and Dolphins in Weeks 16-17 come around and the Texans are likely in the race for both the AFC South and now the second AFC Wild Card (Chiefs currently have the second AFC Wild Card at 5-5). I don’t see ANY NFC East team other than the Redskins (who can be flexed in more than once) being flexed in before Week 17.

    Week 15: Since it looks like the NFL is being more flexible on schedules than before, if the Colts and Texans are tied or within a game of each other when the decision has to be made, then this is the frontrunner to give the Texans possibly a second straight flex into SNF. If the Bills are still in Wild Card contention (at 7-5 or 6-6) AND the Redskins remain in NFC East contention when the decision has to be made, then that could be what gets moved (Skins are only team as noted that can be flexed more than once to SNF from NFC East.

    Week 16: Unless the Eagles are totally out of contention for the NFC East by the time the decision has to be made, I don’t see Giants-Vikings being flexed into SNF. As noted last week, Packers-Cardinals, even if not protected by FOX may not be able to be flexed anyway due to Fiesta Bowl officials needing to get U. of Phoenix stadium ready for their game that kicks off at 11:00 AM local time on New Year’s Day. Quite possible Steelers-Ravens stays because there may wind up not being a better option as of when this was written (Panthers-Falcons could be meaningless to the Panthers by the time that game took place other than for the Panthers trying to get to 15-0).

    Week 17: Since only the Redskins can be flexed from the NFC East before this week (and in their case three times) without maxing out national TV games, it’s almost certain the NFL will save any flex of the Cowboys, Eagles or Giants for the final week in case either Eagles-Giants or Redskins-Cowboys is for the NFC East. If either of those games is for such it will almost certainly be the finale. If there is a clear-cut situation where either of Jets-Bills, Jaguars-Texans or Raiders-Chiefs is for the second AFC Wild Card, any of those games could be flexed. If Vikings-Packers is for the NFC North and there are no other single-game deciding options available if it would likely be flexed.

  2. This is the first that that has happened this season and it’s specifically so the NFL can bring in three games into New York. This included waiving the normal blackout rules where a home team’s game can’t having another game airing opposite it.

  3. Jets and Giants are both due to play concurrent 1 PM ET games in both Weeks 16 and 17 this season, but one per week of these future games could be flexed to either 4:15ish PM ET games or SNF

  4. I would say NE-Hou is a virtual lock for Dec. 13 now. Since CBS is losing a game, you probably should move Sea-Balt to CBS at 1pm to make up for it and Washington can then see both Washington and Baltimore (Baltimore will lose the Washington game).

  5. I actually think Washington/Chicago has a chance, in Week 14, to move to an additional 4:25 PM ET game on FOX — NFC East lead for the Reds, Bears heating up in the Wild Card chase, and the Packers cooling off and the Cowboys going nowhere now with Romo done (Packers/Cowboys is the week 14 4:25 PM ET FOX Doubleheader game)

    This also fixes having Baltimore and Washington playing in the same TV window (which is allowed, since they are considered separate media markets, but still not preferred).

  6. And to add to that, if the Bills and Redskins win next week, I suspect Bills-Redskins becomes your Week 15 Sunday nighter since the Redskins are the only NFC East team that can be flexed before Week 17 and not be maxxed out.

    Possible four of the last five Redskins games are in prime time (next week against the Cowboys and the Saturday night Week 16 rematch with the Eagles already are).

  7. Wow. The NFL is keep 11! 11! Early/1 PM ET games for Week 14, not flexing any of those early games to an additional 4:05/4:25 slot.

    Granted, that does leave Cowboys/Packers pretty much a National TV game on FOX (minus Denver market, with a Broncos home CBS 4:05 ET game), but with both of those teams heading downward, would have thought either Bears/’Skins or Panthers/Falcons would be bumped to 4:25 – guess not!

    Red Zone is gonna be working the Octobox quite a bit! May need a Decabox!

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