Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 8

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):

  • Tentative game: Kansas City @ San Diego
  • Prospects: 3-5 v. 2-6, in pretty bad shape.
  • Likely protections: Bengals-Cardinals or Colts-Falcons (CBS) and Packers-Vikings if anything (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Pretty much just CBS’ unprotected game, and even then Colts-Falcons is only redeemed for its lopsidedness and the Colts’ sucky record by the Colts leading the sucky AFC South regardless; Packers-Vikings would be on par with Bengals-Cardinals but more evenly matched and involving more attractive teams, but apparently the terms of the Vikings’ lease at M&T Bank Stadium mean the Vikings can’t host any primetime games when class is in session. (This also means this has a pretty good chance of being Fox’s unprotected week if they knew about this, although Cowboys-Dolphins might have been another option.)
  • Selected game: Cincinnati Bengals @ Arizona Cardinals.

Week 12 (November 29):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Denver
  • Prospects: Not a single loss between them, and possibly the last Brady-Manning showdown. No chance to lose its spot.
  • Likely protections: Giants-Washington if anything (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving Weekend, paucity of good games (I think it’s a mortal lock this is CBS’ unprotected week). I doubt it’s a coincidence the game you think is least likely to be flexed coming into the season is the one slated for this week. Vikings-Falcons is the best option, but both teams have two losses already, meaning they can only match the tentative at best. And if they can’t beat this game, Rams-Bengals, Steelers-Seahawks, and Saints-Texans sure can’t.
  • Final prediction: New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos.

Week 13 (December 6):

  • Tentative game: Indianapolis @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: 3-5 v. 4-4, a rather mediocre game but the Colts still lead the division despite being below .500.
  • Likely protections: Jets-Giants (CBS) and Eagles-Patriots (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Cardinals-Rams now pits two teams above .500 while Panthers-Saints and Seahawks-Vikings emerge as dark horses.

Week 14 (December 13):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 4-4 v. 2-6. Not looking good.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bengals (CBS, confirmed) and Cowboys-Packers or Falcons-Panthers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Either of Fox’s possible protected games would be very attractive, and there may not really be any other option; Raiders-Broncos pits an unbeaten against a better team than the Cowboys, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cowboys’ name value trumped that. On the other hand, the Cowboys are kind of pressed for primetime appearances. I only mention Patriots-Texans as the Texans are co-leaders of the sucky AFC South.

Week 15 (December 20):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: 6-0 v. 2-6. Massively lopsided.
  • Likely protections: Broncos-Steelers (CBS, confirmed) and Panthers-Giants or Bears-Vikings (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Panthers-Giants is a bit lopsided, sitting at 7-0 v. 4-4; Packers-Raiders is a bit better at 6-1 v. 4-3. But both are more appealing than the battle of sucky AFC South division leaders in Texans-Colts.

Week 16 (December 27):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 4-4 v. 2-6. 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 and Rams-Seahawks as dark horses.

Week 17 (January 3):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

4 thoughts on “Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 8

  1. Week 15 still presents the Bay Area TV problem if the Bengals/49ers is flexed out of SNF (unless Packers/Raiders is the game flexed into SNF, of course)

    The NFL would either have to “relax” the rule that typically does not allow both the 49ers and Raiders to play different home games during the same TV window (4:15ish ET window) or allow the “flexed out” Bengals/49ers to play in the Sunday Late Night Football 11:35 PM ET window that was introduced in Week 5 of 2013

    If Packers/Raiders is flexed in, does that not max out GB’s Primetime appearances? If so, don’t expect them to be flexed before Week 15, unless they are flexed out of SNF

    tbh Sunday Late Night Football works better than the silly Sunday Morning 9:30 AM ET London starts

  2. @joewashu… keep your eye on that Bengals/49ers game. That was the only official Bengals game on SNF’s schedule. CBS protected the entire series with Pittsburgh, and they’ve only just flexed into Cincy @ AZ. The Raiders game right now looks like the only place to go, unless they decide to keep it just to have the Bengals on their show.

  3. I don’t see a problem with Cin-SF on CBS and GB-Oak on FOX at the same time, it wouldn’t be that they both air on the same network at the same time. So you can’t watch both the 49ers and Raiders one week out of 17? They do have DVR’s.

  4. No surprise on the Week 11 flex other than the NFL didn’t even wait until next week to do it even though they could have. That one was obvious. As for the rest:

    Week 12: Will stay the same for obvious reasons.

    Week 13: Steelers are currently only a half-game out of both AFC Wild Cards (they are 4-4 while the Jets and Raiders are 4-3) while even if they are 3-7 when the decision has to be made, the Colts are almost guaranteed to be in the AFC South race to the end (as the winner of that division could very well be the first team to win a division at 6-10 or worse). This is almost certain to remain.

    Week 14: Likely flex now is still Falcons–Panthers, though the Falcons inexplicable loss to the Buccaneers at home makes them shaky even if they currently hold one of the two Wild Cards at 5-2. If the Falcons continue to falter and the Saints and Buccaneers continue to win and are in NFC Wild Card contention (say both are 6-5 after Week 12), Saints-Bucs could very well be the game flexed in. Another possibility if the Raiders remain in Wild Card contention (they currently have the first Wild Card) is Raiders-Broncos gets flexed to SNF (with Seahawks-Ravens cross-flexed to CBS to cover the 4:05 PM ET slot on CBS if the latter happens). Cowboys-Packers has little chance of being flexed even if not protected because each can only be flexed once.

    Week 15: The Bay Area TV problem is why Cowboys-Packers can’t be flexed in Week 14. As noted before, Packers-Raiders is the ONLY game that can replace Bengals-49ers without either waiving the normal rules forbidding another game airing opposite a home game (even though in this case, BOTH games would be home games). The NFL may not want to set the precedent of having the Raiders and 49ers playing home games simultaneously because that could create problems for the NFL, especially in New York because I’m sure then there would be pressure from elected officials in New York for the NFL to end the policy that bars another game airing opposite a home game (as New York gets fewer out-of-town games with the Jets and Giants having to be in separate windows and usually with one at home every week, arguing if the Jets and Giants played in different stadiums there would be more weeks where both would be at home). That I’m sure would be a consideration as the NFL likely doesn’t want to have to deal with elected officials in New York who would do such to try to win votes doing such.

    As noted previously, the only workarounds if a game other than Packers-Raiders is flexed to SNF are:

    1. Moving Bengals-49ers to an 11:35 PM ET/8:35 PM ET kickoff, perhaps put on the network that loses a game to SNF and airing nationally on that network after SNF that possibly because of this is moved up to an 8:10 PM ET kickoff for that week only.

    2. Switch the Saturday and Sunday night games, moving Jets-Cowboys to SNF and Bengals-49ers to the NFL Network slot that Saturday night. Such a flex would not count for the Jets or Cowboys against their limits I believe since this is already a national TV game.

    Week 15 is simply a real mess.

    Week 16: Assuming Patriots-Jets is protected by CBS and Packers-Raiders is flexed in for week 15, a lot of it will depend on where the Eagles are with the NFC East, as if the Eagles and Giants are within a game of each other after Week 14, I doubt Giants-Vikings gets flexed due to the NFL wanting to save the only flex the Giants have for Week 17 in case Eagles-Giants is for the NFC East and is guaranteed of that being the case regardless of what happens in the afternoon.. Packers-Cardinals would be out because the Packers can’t be flexed again (and FOX likely protects that anyway).

    Panthers- Falcons could be flexed in for the second time in three weeks, but again, with the Falcons faltering, this game might not matter as Carolina could very well have the NFC South and home field locked up by then (if they beat the Pack this Sunday, the Panthers will have a two game lead on everyone for the #1 seed in the NFC). Since the Steelers may still be in Wild Card contention in the AFC and the Ravens are a bitter rival, this could very well wind up staying unless the Steelers falter badly the next few weeks, though if the Cowboys are alive for the NFC East AND the Bills are in Wild Card contention, THAT could also be flexed for SNF, though there, if the Redskins are also in NFC East title contention and the Giants and Eagles both falter badly, the NFL may again want to save the Cowboys flex for Week 17.

    Week 17: I don’t see any NFC East team being flexed in before the final week because we have no idea of how this division is going to play out. Even at 2-5, the Cowboys are still very much in the NFC East race and Tony Romo will be back for the homestretch. It all may come down to who (if the NFC East isn’t clinched by then) who is alive for the NFC East when we get past Week 16 and if there are also wild card implications involving Eagles-Giants and/or Redskins-Cowboys.

    If Jets-Bills winds up being guaranteed to be for an AFC Wild Card spot, that game could be flexed in and the same holds true for Raiders-Chiefs oddly enough. Vikings-Packers if it’s for the NFC Central could also be a possibility.

    One possible monkey wrench in what goes in Week 17, however, is the fact if the Cardinals have to host a Wild Card Playoff game, that game can’t be on Sunday due to the College Football National Championship game being Monday, January 11. In fact, it’s possible they could have to play a Wild Card home game on Friday, January 8 due to having to get the field ready for the championship game and the CFB Playoff committee wanting at least 72 hours to have the field ready. That makes it possible the NFL could actually have to move Seahawks-Cardinals and any other games involving a potential playoff opponent for the Cardinals to Saturday, January 2 so if they have to play that WC game on Friday 1/8 the teams are NOT playing it on four days rest (I would think the NFL would have worked out this with the Cardinals and University of Phoenix Stadium Officials ahead of time, but you never know).

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