Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 15 Picks

Week 15 (December 20):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: 10-2 v. 4-8. Massively lopsided.
  • Likely protections: Broncos-Steelers (CBS, confirmed) and Panthers-Giants or Bears-Vikings (FOX).
  • Other possible games mentioned on last week’s Watch and their records: Texans (6-6)-Colts (6-6), Panthers (12-0)-Giants (5-7), Packers (8-4)-Raiders (5-7), Bills (6-6)-Original Americans (5-6), Bears (5-7)-Vikings (8-4).
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: A win over the Cowboys would put the Bills game on par with Texans-Colts and at least put in some doubt as to the best option. The question is whether it would win a tiebreaker.
  • Analysis: Panthers-Giants or Packers-Raiders would max the Giants or Packers out on primetime appearances with potential Week 17 division title games looming, and as much as the NFL would prefer avoiding simultaneous Bay Area home games, right now the Giants’ game is the one that looks less likely – and what would make it really unlikely is an Indian win that puts their game against the Bills in that much better position. With Bears-Vikings lopsided and involving a 5-7 team, that leaves only the potential or actual battles of 6-6 teams. Texans-Colts would put the Texans on SNF in consecutive weeks (with neither being pre-scheduled) but it’s a pivotal clash in the AFC South while the Bills have no buzz whatsoever, and despite potentially leading their division and that division being the NFC East I’m not sure their opponents have much of any either.
  • Final prediction: Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts.

11 thoughts on “Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 15 Picks

  1. Since the Redskins would still be in first in the NFC East on tiebreakers no matter what happens Monday night, I think they will go for Bills-Redskins since the Redskins are the only NFC East team that can be flexed more than once. The combination of even at 5-8 (when the game is played) the Redskins in contention for the NFC East coupled with Rex Ryan and a chance to flex him into SNF is why I think they will do that. Also not sure the NFL wants to flex the Texans two straight weeks.

    Two things that might keep Bengals-49ers on SNF is the Bay Area situation and the fact the Bengals, Broncos and Pats are currently in a three-way scramble to avoid the #3 seed.

    As noted elsewhere, unless the NFL is willing to pay the University of Minnesota whatever they wanted for a flex of Bears-Vikings to SNF (as that violates the Vikings lease on TCF Stadium), the NFL can’t flex that game.

  2. Failed to note there is a precedent NBC and the NFL could use to force a flex of Bears-Vikings even though it violates the Vikings’ lease at TCF Bank Stadium:

    In 2011, LSU-Alabama was supposed to be an afternoon game on CBS, but CBS wanted the game moved to prime time even though that not only violated their contract with the SEC (as CBS had already used its one allotted SEC Prime Time game for 2011), but the SEC’s contract with ESPN (as ESPN has otherwise the right to whatever game (excluding whatever CBS takes for prime time). CBS got the game moved to prime time anyway and that set a precedent NBC and the NFL could use to force a flex of Bears-Vikings to SNF and there would be nothing the University of Minnesota could do about it no matter what their lease says.

    This I know about because it’s the same precedent Comcast (NBC’s parent) could have used this past October 30-31 for the Breeders’ Cup where they could have actually forced Keeneland (which hosted the event) to install lights so NBC could have the BC telecast go to 11:00 PM ET (I posted several blogs on this after the BC, the last of which is at: and has links to three earlier blogs on this. NBC could use that precedent from 2011 to force Santa Anita (which hosts the Breeders’ Cup in 2016) and/or Del Mar (which hosts in 2017) to install lights so NBC can have the BC telecast go to 11:00 PM ET.

    While this year’s BC telecast on NBC was up 53% from a year earlier, it was going to be up no matter what because of American Pharoah (Horse Racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years) being in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Most of that rating, however, seems to have been those 50 and older who do not matter to advertisers as I believe 18-49 was likely flat or up only slightly, especially given many under 30 have grown up with championship events being at night (the last such truly daytime event in any of the “big four” pro sports was Game 1 of the 1991 NBA Finals) and as I have seen often find most to not being important.

    With lights, Keeneland could not only have had the BC run to 11:00 PM ET, but it also could have been one week later, away from the World Series on FOX. While that BC would have been opposite LSU-Alabama on CBS, that rating to me would have been up closer to 160% (or triple what it was) if not more, and even more so with 18-49. This would have been even more true if American Pharoah’s BC Classic had gone off around 10:40 PM ET on Nov. 7, less than an hour before Donald Trump hosted Saturday Night Live, which drew NINE MILLION VIEWERS to NBC that night for its highest rating since January 7, 2012 when it followed an NFL Playoff Doubleheader. You would think in that scenario the BC would have picked up people planning to tune in anyway to see SNL that night if so.

    Anyway, that was really to note the precedent and how NBC can do it if they really wanted to.

  3. What I meant was, many under 30 I have found to think of championship events in the afternoon as irrelevant because they have grown up with such being at night in the “big four” pro sports.

  4. If I recall, Vikings home games can’t be flexed to SNF *while classes are in session*. Now take a look at the date. If the University of Minnesota is holding classes on the Monday less than a week before Christmas, that’s their problem. Not that it matters because I really don’t see a way that Bears-Vikings is a better option than either of the 6-6 games unless you’re going for a purely cynical big-market ploy.

    I guess I wouldn’t be *totally* surprised by a Bills-Hunters flex, but it would still make me shake my head. I would be astounded if Bengals-Niners kept its spot because you really would think the NFL would have already learned by now it needs to consider EVERY game in the late flex period to be flexible, and it’s not even as though Bengals-Niners was that unthinkable a flex candidate before the season started.

  5. Morgan – you forgot to mention one other Week 15 flex possibility that jumped onto the radar after Sunday’s results – Cardinals/Eagles. Yes, the Eagles are still only 5-7 and the Cardinals are a relatively low profile team, but the Eagles are still in contention for the NFC East and (amazingly) control their own destiny right now – they win their final 4 games, they are NFC East champs. (I realize that is unlikely.) Meanwhile, the Cardinals are a very good and fairly entertaining 10-2 team and a legitimate Super Bowl contender, at least in my eyes. Both teams also are eligible to receive a Week 15 NBC SNF game and still be flexed in to NBC SNF in Week 17.

    I have a hard time believing the NFL will want to flex the Bills/Redskins game. Both teams are decent, but it is an interconference game between two teams that have generally not been good in recent years (Bills no playoff appearances and only two winning seasons since 1999, Redskins only 3 playoff appearances since 1999 and 10 or more losses 5 of the last 6 years). The Bills are also in a small market and the Redskins in a transient market, which in combination with both teams’ mostly mediocre or poor play in recent seasons reduces the size of their fanbases. Having said the above, I agree that Bills/Redskins becomes a strong candidate if the Redskins beat the Cowboys tonight.

    My assessment, assuming Panthers/Giants has been protected (as per discussion on the forum):

    1) Texans/Colts (not nearly as much a lock as it was before the Week 13 Sunday games)
    2) Bills/Redskins
    3) Cardinals/Eagles
    4) Packers/Raiders (due to dual Raiders/49ers season ticket holder concerns about concurrent Raiders and 49ers home games)

    1) Texans/Colts
    2) Cardinals/Eagles (arguably 1a in this scenario)
    3) Bills/Redskins
    4) Packers/Raiders

    One other thought – I think Sunday’s games really threw a wrinkle into the flex possibilities. Had the Bears beaten the 49ers at home as expected, I think Bears (6-6)/Vikings (8-4) would have been the flex choice, especially with the Vikings’ tough road game at Arizona this coming Thursday making it fairly likely Minnesota will drop to 8-5. The Packers/Raiders game would have been a much stronger possibility had the Raiders beaten the Chiefs at home (assuming the NFL didn’t want to save the Packers’ flex option for their Week 17 home game against Minnesota). Finally, the Texans’ and especially the Colts’ losses yesterday make that game less attractive than it was coming into the day, especially considering the Colts and Texans will have appeared on NBC SNF in the previous two weeks and a national audience will have seen the Colts get crushed 45-10 on SNF. (Ironically, the Patriots/Texans SNF game next week has become more attractive than when it was announced, due to the Patriots’ two losses dropping them into a tie for the AFC lead with Cincinnati and Denver.)

  6. Morgan:

    I agree Bears-Vikings was unlikely anyway, however, in the case of Minnesota, it would not surprise me if they were still in Finals on the Monday before Christmas. Where I am, Universities have gone as late as December 22 with Finals (which are considered as Classes in session in many instances, and even on occasion Dec. 23), so that’s why I believe it was noted Bears-Vikings could not be flexed (though as noted, precedents set elsewhere could even declare such clauses invalid based on what happened in 2011 with LSU-Alabama).

    And just to note, Chip is right on the Eagles, who can be flexed in twice. The Eagles-Lions Thankgiving game was on FOX, so that game does NOT count towards the six-national TV game limit. NBC can flex Cardinals-Eagles in Week 15 (last chance for NBC to flex in the Cardinals) AND Eagles-Giants in Week 17.

  7. It’s been reported on that the Bengals-Niners game has been flexed out for Cardinals-Eagles.

  8. One mistake I made in Comment #5 above – the Cardinals/Eagles flex DOES max out the Eagles’ prime-time appearances. They played twice previously on NBC (at CAR, at DAL), twice on ESPN (at ATL, vs NYG), and still have an NFL Network game (vs WAS) on Saturday 12/26.

  9. I’m guessing the NFL is assuming the NFC will either be between all four teams or expect the Giants and Eagles to fade and if Redskins-Cowboys is for the NFC East that will be the Sunday night game.

  10. I went back and checked my Week 5 post before even reading these comments to make sure Walt hadn’t miscounted, because I look strictly at the individual SNF, MNF, and TNF schedules when making that list, and confirmed his count only to find this was a case of two wrongs making a right. Sigh.

    Without even knowing Fox’s protection, this may be the single worst actual flex we’ve seen in the nine years we’ve known the tentative games. Apparently when you have a chance to max out a team with a Week 17 candidate game by putting on a 10-2 v. 5-7 game when the tentative is 10-2 v. 4-8, you have to do it.

  11. Morgan – let’s be honest here. If the Week 17 Eagles/Giants game is by far the best flex candidate after Week 16, the NFL will break its own rules and flex that game into NBC SNF. I mean, they’ve already had the Giants and Jets playing at the same time once and possibly twice prior to Week 17, and have now allowed the 49ers and Raiders to play AT HOME at essentially the same time, so it is pretty clear the NFL’s TV rules aren’t nearly as sacrosanct as they were even 5 years ago.

    BTW, that 2013 Bears/Eagles flex was done to give CBS an attractive late doubleheader game (the Patriots/Ravens game scheduled for NBC SNF; CBS didn’t have an appropriate late DH game otherwise), and not because Bears/Eagles was a better matchup than Patriots/Ravens; it wasn’t. (As it turned out, both games ended up being blowouts anyway.) I don’t think it is a coincidence the NFL changed its rules on flexes and introduced cross-flexing the very next season; had cross-flexing been in place in 2013 the NFL would have kept Patriots/Ravens on NBC and cross-flexed Bears/Eagles to the late DH slot on CBS.

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