Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 9

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):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Denver
  • Final prediction (made last week): New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos.

Week 13 (December 6):

  • Tentative game: Indianapolis @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: 4-5 v. 5-4, 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, Panthers-Saints, and Seahawks-Vikings all pit teams above .500 against teams at .500, so none of them are really much better.

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 is lopsided and doesn’t even have the unbeaten factor on its side anymore. On the other hand, the Cowboys are kind of pressed for primetime appearances. Bills-Eagles is a battle of .500 teams.

Week 15 (December 20):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: 8-0 v. 3-6. 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 8-0 v. 5-4; Packers-Raiders is a bit better at 6-2 v. 4-4, as is Cardinals-Eagles (the former would certainly give the NFL the least amount of heartburn regarding scheduling two Bay Area home games).

Week 16 (December 27):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 5-4 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 in second and Rams-Seahawks as a dark horse.

Week 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
5-3 4-4
NFC Playoff Picture
56-2 4-5
4-4 3-5
66-3 3-5
6-2 3-5
2 tied at 4-4 4-4
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Jets-Bills, Saints-Falcons, Raiders-Chiefs, Eagles-Giants, Vikings-Packers, Seahawks-Cardinals.

7 thoughts on “Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 9

  1. My thoughts after Week 9:

    Weeks 12 & 13 will stay as they are for what should be obvious reasons.

    Week 14: Given the Bay Area TV situation in Week 15 coupled with the Cowboys possibly being completely out of it by the time this takes place, I don’t see NBC wanting that game. If the Raiders win at least two of their next three (vs. the Vikings at home, and then two winnable road games in Detroit and Tennessee), it’s quite possible this will be the first of back-to-back flexes for the Raiders to SNF given their brand name and the fact Raiders-Broncos has been a huge rivalry in the past. Falcons-Panthers could also be flexed in given even with the Falcons faltering, they still currently hold the second WC and the Panthers could very easily be 11-0 when that decision has to be made.

    Week 15: The ONLY realistic flex here is Packers-Raiders for reasons I went into in detail last week. As long as the Raiders are in contention by then, that likely is the flex unless the 49ers suddenly are in Wild Card contention at 5-6 when this has to be made (and if the Vikings falter, the 49ers do have the tiebreaker with them).

    Week 16: With it looking like at this point Eagles-Giants the following week will be for the NFC East, I don’t see Giants-Vikings as a possibility. If the Steelers are still in Wild Card contention when the decision has to be made, then this may very well stay, especially since I think FOX would protect either Giants-Vikings or Packers-Cardinals. It’s possible Packers-Cardinals can’t be flexed into SNF anyway due to having to get University of Phoenix Stadium ready for the Fiesta Bowl that takes place at 11:00 AM local time (1:00 PM ET) in New Year’s Day.

    Week 17: Sticking to my prediction that if Eagles-Giants is for the NFC East (which it is looking like as of now), that WILL be the Sunday night finale (and if it’s guaranteed to be for such even before the Eagles host the Redskins the night after Christmas, then it could be flexed to Week 17 before the Week 16 games take place). That, however, assumes there are NO monkey wrenches thrown into the final week of the season, however.

    As noted last week, the Cardinals’ home field, University of Phoenix Stadium is the site of the College Football National Championship Game on Monday, January 11. I would presume the entire weekend of January 9-10 would be needed to have everything in place for that game, especially since unlike in the NFL, you likely will have fans of the two schools in that game arriving as early as Friday 1/8, and in some cases in RVs looking to use the parking lots for three days.

    As things stand, the Cardinals if the season were over would be the #3 seed in the NFC, meaning they would host an NFC Wild Card playoff game that weekend. IF CFB Playoff officials insist on having that Saturday and Sunday to have everything in order for the Championship on Monday 1/11, then the NFL may have to have the Cardinals play their Wild Card game on FRIDAY, January 8 (and if so, most likely that being ESPN/ABC’s playoff game since ESPN would be there anyway for the CFB Championship). If the NFL were forced to have that playoff game on Friday, it could result in the Cardinals’ final regular season playoff game (at home against the Seahawks) and that of ANY potential first-round playoff opponents to SATURDAY, January 2 (which may have been why the CFB Semi-Final playoff games, the Orange and Cotton Bowls are being played on New Year’s Eve, a Thursday instead of the more logical Saturday 1/2). While I’m sure the NFL made provisions for this and worked deals out ahead of time to avoid such a scenario, if the CFB Playoff committee insists on a Wild Card game being played Friday 1/8 so the stadium can be readied to their liking for the Championship Game Monday 1/11, then I think the NFL may be forced to kowtow here not to upset elected officials in areas where college football is actually bigger than the NFL.

  2. One thing to add following the Thursday night game:

    If Jets-Bills is for EITHER an AFC Wild Card berth OR the #5 seed (which this time is likely huge given whom the #5 and #6 seeds play in Round 1), that could be flexed into SNF.

  3. Do FOX and CBS have protection options in week 17? I thought NBC got their pick of the litter in the last week only? Thanks, you do a great job with the site.

  4. Chad:

    As noted, there are NO protection options the final week of the year. That was done away with after the first year in 2006, when FOX and CBS had them but such options caused NBC to have a meaningless game for their finale. After that, the protections were done away with.

  5. Honestly, I think if it’s truly necessary for the NFL to let the CFP get University of Phoenix Stadium ready over the course of the entire weekend, they may just have the Cardinals play their game at Arizona State’s stadium. In any case, though, then and now the Cardinals hold the conference games tiebreaker over the Vikings, so the NFL is likely just crossing their fingers and hoping the Cardinals hold on to the first-round bye spot.

  6. Morgan:

    I would agree, and there is a lot of football still to be played (and the Cardinals host BOTH the Vikings and Packers that will go a long way to determining who is the #2 seed given the Panthers barring a complete collapse will be the #1 seed). I would think the NFL is hoping at this point the Cardinals are the #2 seed and clearly that following their game with the Packers on Dec. 27 (i.e.: Beat both the Vikings and Packers so they would have the tiebreaker on whoever wins the NFC North) as that would avoid any potential issues.

    It would not be as big a deal if the Cardinals had to play a playoff game at Sun Devil Stadium as that WAS their home from 1988-2005 as they would likely be able to accommodate everyone. I would think the NFL would avoid that at all costs and will have learned from last year (and earlier this year when they proposed a Monday night playoff game if they expand the Wild Card round to six games) that this is one case where even if you are the 800-pound gorilla of sports, you can’t flex your muscles. There are some parts of the country where college football is actually bigger than the NFL (as is NASCAR) and the NFL may not want to risk PO’ing members of the House and Senate in parts of the country where that is the case by altering plans of the CFB Playoff Committee and it potentially affecting their championship. Hopefully, this was all worked out ahead of time.

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