Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 12

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):

  • Selected game: New England @ Houston.

Week 15 (December 20):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: 9-2 v. 3-8. 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 at 6-5 v. 6-5. Panthers-Giants is very lopsided at 11-0 v. 5-6, 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 a bit lopsided at 7-4 v. 5-6. It would probably overcome Bills-Original Americans (5-6 v. 5-6) under any circumstances, at least, and probably also Bears-Vikings (5-6 v. 8-3) even though that game might have greater name value.
  • Analysis: Realistically Panthers-Giants isn’t an option; it would max the Giants out on primetime appearances when Eagles-Giants Week 17 could still be an NFC East division title game. That basically leaves Texans-Colts, which would involve flexing in the Texans two weeks in a row, against Packers-Raiders. My impression is that a Raiders loss would probably make Texans-Colts a mortal lock, but it’s very easy to see a scenario where the Texans and Colts both lose and the Raiders win, which would actually make Packers-Raiders indisputably the better option regardless of Bay Area television considerations. Even if just one of the Texans or Colts lose, it would either give Packers-Raiders the same pair of records or make it a Packers win better. On the other hand, picking Packers-Raiders would also max the Packers out on primetime appearances with a potential Vikings-Packers division title game looming Week 17, which might open things up for the other games with 5-6 teams. The AFC South showdown factor probably gives Texans-Colts the edge over Bills-Natives, but if it’s 6-6 v. 6-6 and Bears-Vikings is 6-6 v. 8-4 and unprotected, it might get the edge especially given the relative popularity, market size, and name value of the teams.

Week 16 (December 27):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 6-5 v. 4-7. One of the NFL’s better rivalries, but not in the best shape right now, although the Ravens are looking not-horrible enough the game could keep its spot if circumstances warrant.
  • 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 Bears-Bucs a dark horse.

Week 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (4-7)
SOUTH
46-5
56-5
6-5
WEST
39-2
66-5
6-5
NORTH
29-2
6-5
6-5 6-5
EAST
110-1
5-6
6-5 5-6
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (4-7)
EAST
45-6
57-4
5-6
NORTH
38-3
66-5
7-4
WEST
29-2
6-5
6-5 5-6
SOUTH
111-0
5-6
6-5 5-6
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Jets-Bills, Saints-Falcons, Jaguars-Texans, Raiders-Chiefs, Indians-Cowboys, Eagles-Giants, Vikings-Packers, Seahawks-Cardinals.

3 thoughts on “Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 12

  1. My views on the remaining three weeks:

    Week 15: Texans-Bills this week is going to go a long way as to deciding what the Sunday nighter is. If the Texans win, their game with the Colts is most likely to be flexed, giving the Texans consecutive flexes into SNF. If the Bills win AND the Redskins win at home Monday night against the Cowboys, then Bills-Redskins looks like the Sunday night game even if it’s two 6-6 (and possibly when played 6-7) teams because of the combination of Rex Ryan, the game mattering in the AFC Wild Card race and also mattering to the NFC East and by then even possibly the Wild Card if the Falcons lose again this week to fall to 6-6. If the Packers lose Thursday in Detroit and the Raiders win, especially if the Vikings also win then I see Packers-Raiders as the Sunday Night game since there is a good chance the Week 17 Vikings-Packers rematch is meaningless to the Vikes plus it’s the least amount of headaches for the NFL because of the Bay Area situation.

    NOTE: From what I’ve read, the NFL can’t flex Bears-Vikings due to the University of Minnesota still being in session, though if the NFL wanted it flexed badly enough I suspect they would pay the Univ. of Minn. whatever it took to make it happen.

    Week 16: Only see Giants-Vikings being flexed if the Eagles are completely out of contention for the NFC East. As noted last week, even if FOX didn’t protect Packers-Cardinals, that game may not be able to be flexed anyway due to having to get University of Phoenix stadium ready for the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day (11:00 AM local time start). Assuming Patriots-Jets was protected by CBS, it may be a situation where Steelers-Ravens is the best of a bad set of options and stays.

    Week 17: This is what I came up with using the playoff generator on Yahoo:

    https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/playoffscenario?algorithm=custom&12=04011440&13=00000400&14=55000415&15=00000410&16=00140111

    With that in mind, the most likely SNF finale is Raiders-Chiefs, which I have being for the last wild card. As the generator as I did it has the Lions running the table and finishing 9-7 to make the playoff and the Bears at 8-8, should the Bears win one more game and are 8-7 before that finale, that could also be the SNF finale.

  2. Goofed again! I meant my generator has the Bears at 7-9, so if they win one more and are 8-7 going into the season finale and that game is for a wild card spot, then Lions-Bears could be the SNF Finale.

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