Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 15

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 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS
SOUTH
47-7
59-5 ALL OTHER TEAMS
ELIMINATED
6-8
WEST
310-4
69-5
9-5
NORTH
211-3
9-5
9-5
EAST
112-2
CLINCHED
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (7-7)
EAST
47-7
59-5
2 tied at 6-8
NORTH
310-4
69-5
9-5
WEST
212-2
CLINCHED
SOUTH
114-0
CLINCHED
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Vikings-Packers, Bucs-Panthers. The situation is actually quite simple, but this may be the biggest looming headache of the all-division-games era, certainly if the Panthers, Vikings, and Cardinals all lose and leave the NFL with no good options.
  • Vikings-Packers will be picked if: The Packers lose OR (the Vikings win AND the Panthers lose). In all likelihood, the NFL is going to have to settle for a division title game between two playoff-bound teams that may well determine home field for a rematch the following week. What makes this even more of a headache is that the Vikings play on Sunday night, so if the Packers win this game’s chances will be dependent on the Sunday night result… then again, if you believe one of my commenters a Packers win could force this game to be rescheduled to Saturday anyway, since that would keep open the possibility the Cardinals would have to host the Vikings the weekend of the college football national championship in their home stadium, and in any case that possibility would make the NFL somewhat reluctant to flex Vikings-Packers to primetime even without the CFP factor.
  • Bucs-Panthers will be picked if: The Panthers win AND the Packers win. This is a last resort play if Vikings-Packers weren’t an option, but honestly if Vikings-Packers weren’t such a ratings magnet I could see the NFL going with the game that’s meaningless for playoff purposes but totally meaningful for history in the absence of a true winner-in, loser-out game, and they may do so anyway if they’d prefer to schedule Vikings-Packers simultaneously with Cardinals-Seahawks (i.e., if the Packers have a shot to steal the first-round bye, although if it’s still a division title game it’s much better to have it go on later than the reverse).

38 thoughts on “Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 15

  1. The is one other possibility I could see being done to assure NBC gets a game with meaning for its finale depending on what happens this week:

    A deal is worked out between the NFL and NBC where NBC’s Sunday night finale is moved up to Saturday should for instance the Jets and Steelers both win on Sunday, with if so Jets-Bills becoming a Saturday night finale for NBC (since in that scenario the Jets would have to win to stay alive for the wild card) and no Sunday night game. I’m sure NBC and the NFL behind closed doors are weighing the possibilities given a meaningful Saturday night finale would draw higher ratings than a meaningless Sunday night finale, especially if the Panthers lose this week and the thought of 16-0 is no longer there.

    Also what will be interesting to see is what happens if the Packers beat the Cardinals on Sunday in Glendale. One reason I believe the College Football Playoff Semifinal games are on New Year’s Eve rather than Saturday, January 2 is the NFL needing to be able to move games up to Saturday 1/2 in the unlikely event of bad weather and in the case of the Cardinals, their being in a position where they could have to host a game on Wild Card weekend in the stadium hosting the CFB Championship on Monday 1/11.

    If the CFB Playoff Committee insists on having Saturday-Sunday 1/9-10 for getting U. of Phoenix Stadium ready to host the Championship Game (plus fans of the schools in that game arriving as early as the Friday before that game, some in RVs expecting to be able to use the parking lot at the game site the entire weekend), does the NFL risk the ire of the CFB Playoff Committee and also members of Congress and the US Senate, especially those in states where College Football is actually bigger than the NFL by insisting on having the Cardinals host a playoff game on Saturday 1/9 instead of Friday 1/8 like the CFB Playoff Committee would most certainly prefer? Given the NFL could potentially be risking its broadcast antitrust exemption by doing that (as some members of Congress would likely use that as a reason to look to revoking that exemption), that’s why I think it’s possible that Seahawks-Cardinals and Vikings-Packers both may have to be moved to Saturday 1/2 if the Pack beats the Vikings this weekend so if the Cardinals have to play a Wild Card playoff game at home on Friday 1/8, the Cards and their opponent are playing that on five rather than four days rest (and Disney, airing most likely that game on ESPN AND ABC in that scenario (ESPN’s playoff game will also be on ABC) I think would actually prefer that game to be in Friday prime time as opposed to late Saturday afternoon anyway).

    I’m sure the NFL wishes the Jaguars had beaten the Falcons on Sunday (and for the record, the Jags have NOT been eliminated, they can still win the AFC South at 7-9 if they win their last two, the Colts lose their last two and the Texans lose this week to the Titans) so at least there was the possibility of Jags-Texans bailing them out.

  2. I had the Texans winning the common games tiebreaker in that scenario, but I may have gotten mixed up in the process of assessing it.

  3. If the Jets beat the Patriots and one of the Steelers/Chiefs/Broncos lose this week. Then Jets are win and in, week 17 vs. the Bills – who are coached by Rex Ryan. Why would you move that game to Saturday night?

  4. Jim:

    The idea of going to Saturday is because it’s very possibly whatever game flexed into Sunday night will be meaningless (unless the Panthers are going for 16-0 and then Bucs-Panthers could be flexed into SNF on that account).

    The question is, would the NFL wait until the Monday night game to determine the Sunday night finale if all of the above happened? Yes if the Bengals beat the Broncos this week, then they Jets control their destiny regardless of the Chiefs and Steelers do so long as the Jets beat the Patriots.

    What the NFL could do is if the Jets, Chiefs and Steelers all win Sunday is make Jets-Bills the finale with it being on Saturday night if the Broncos beat the Bengals on Monday or Sunday night if the Bengals win Monday night, with the flex of day to best assure Jets-Bills being meaningful whenever it is played. The NFL really has limited options and this may be one case where being able to go with the Sunday night finale on Saturday might be beneficial to the league and NBC.

  5. Umm. I think the NFL moving to Saturday or Friday is very far fetched.
    NFL is KING.
    There is no way that would happen. No. way.

  6. Karl:

    The NFL may be king, but they also have limits.

    The NFL also wants MEANINGFUL games to be airing in prime time whenever possible because of the TV ratings and keeping TV partners happy. If moving the Sunday night finale to Saturday guarantees NBC of a meaningful game (and ergo, higher ratings), then that is what the NFL will do if they deem it necessary (of course, if the Panthers are going for 16-0, then their game with the Bucs, while technically meaningless likely would be the finale since that at least would capture the casual fan).

    As for the idea of the Cardinals having to play a Wild Card Playoff game on Friday 1/8 if they are the #3 seed, the College Football National Championship is one of the only cases where College Football trumps the NFL. There are members of Congress and the US Senate in states where college football is bigger than the NFL, and if the NFL tried to force a Saturday playoff game for the Cards even if it meant the CFB Playoff committee had one day less to turn around U. of Phoenix Stadium for the CFB Championship. those in Congress who would be PO’ed probably would retaliate by looking at the NFL’s broadcast antitrust exemption (that exemption is one reason ESPN’s playoff game will also be airing on ABC). That is why the NFL is likely praying the Cards take care of business this weekend against the Packers and wrap up the #2 seed.

  7. I would think Dallas-Washington would be an option. If Washington losses to Philly on Saturday and the Giants beat the Vikings, then Washington would have to win week 17 to make the playoffs since someone is going to win week 17’s Philly-NYG game.

  8. Mike:

    If the Eagles win out, they WIN the NFC East (they would be 4-2 vs. 3-3 in the division with the Redskins if that were the case). Only way the Giants can win the division is if the win their last two and the Redskins lose their last two.

  9. Morgan:

    Concerning if the Jags and Texans finish 7-9, they are tied on common opponents. Jags win the tiebreaker on conference record as long as the Colts don’t also finish 7-9 or better.

  10. John:

    I seriously doubt the NFL would flex Seahawks-Cards UNLESS it’s a situation where the NFL and NBC agree to shift the final Sunday night game to Saturday, which to me now is possible if that guarantees NBC a meaningful final game. If the Packers win this Saturday, Seahawks-Cards and Packers-Vikings in my opinion could have to be played on Saturday anyway if the College Football Playoff Committee insists on having the full weekend of January 9-10 to get U. of Phoenix Stadium (Cardinals home stadium) ready for the College Football National Championship Game (between the winners of Oklahoma-Clemson and Michigan State-Alabama) on Monday, January 11. The teams playing in that game likely will arrive in Phoenix no later than Friday 1/8 and likely would be expecting to use the field for that game. In addition, fans of the teams likely will be arriving on Friday 1/8 and some will as noted would be coming in RVs and would be expecting to use the parking lot the entire weekend all the way to Monday. That would force the Cardinals to play their Wild Card playoff game on Friday 1/8 and I doubt the NFL would the Cards and their opponents playing that game on four days rest )(hence, the regular season finales moved to Saturday 1/2).

    The NFL may be king, but as noted, this is one of the only times College Football trumps the NFL. The NFL could face seeing their broadcast antitrust exemption being revoked if they did not placate to the CFB Playoff Committee if the CFB Committee insists on having that Saturday and Sunday to get the stadium ready for their game that Monday. As noted, members of Congress and the US Senate, especially in states where College Football trumps the NFL likely would retaliate against the NFL by looking to have antitrust exemptions revoked unless they yielded and had the Cardinals play their game on Friday 1/8, especially given what is coming up a couple of days after the CFB Championship with the possible relocation of as many as two of the Rams, Raiders and Chargers to LA.

  11. John:

    The scenario is this:

    Cardinals lose their last two and Packers win their last two, the Packers at 12-4 would be the #2 seed on the tiebreaker of head-to-head. If the Cards beat the Packers today, this is moot because the Cards wrap up the #2 seed. If the Cards fall to the #3 seed by what’s noted above, THEN they would possibly have to play their Wild Card game on Friday 1/8 due to the CFB Championship game as noted. The POSSIBILITY of that is why if the Packers win today, their game with the Vikings AND the Seahawks-Cardinals game could both have to be moved to Saturday 1/2 (if a Wild Card game in Glendale has to be on Friday 1/8) because I seriously doubt the NFL would want teams playing a playoff game on four days rest.

  12. I would say right now Jets-Bills is the most likely to be flexed to Sunday night since that is the most likely game to be meaningful. I suspect that will be the game and the NFL and NBC might stick in a caveat where if the Bengals beat the Broncos tomorrow night, Jets-Bills is on Saturday instead of Sunday since then you run the risk of it being meaningless on Sunday. The last thing the NFL wants is Jets-Bills to be the SNF Finale, but because of a Steelers and/or a Broncos loss (or a Chiefs loss) the Jets having already clinched the Wild Card before they take the field, which is why I can see them choose that game but it be put on Saturday to assure it’s meaningful.

    Other possibility is Vikings-Packers if the Cardinals win today because then there is no chance of the game needing to be moved to Saturday.

  13. John:

    Looks like Vikings-Packers will be the Sunday night finale. The game tonight is only meaningful in that if the Vikings win tonight and the Seahawks lose against a Cardinals team that depending on when Bucs-Panthers is scheduled will have something to play for (Cards get the #1 seed if they win and Panthers lose next week) as the Vikings then would be the #5 seed if they lose next week.

    Some of the other scheduling thoughts, these assume Vikings-Packers will be the Sunday night finale:

    All meaningless games in the Eastern and Central Time Zones are at 1:00 PM ET. The NFL might also make Seahawks-Cardinals (in that case a rare 11:00 AM local time start) and Bucs-Panthers 1:00 PM ET starts so those games are simultaneous. Another possibility with Bucs-Panthers and Seahawks-Cardinals is to go back to the days when some teams were not allowed to play home games before 2:00 PM ET and have those games start then (since that would be Noon local time in Glendale if they did that).

    You likely are looking at Jets-Bills, Steelers-Browns, Chiefs-Raiders and Chargers-Broncos all at 4:25 PM, likely split up between CBS and FOX.

  14. This might be where the NFL perhaps does a “wheel” format instead of a straight DH by doing the following (again, assuming Vikings-Packers is the SNF Finale):

    As noted, all meaningless games (except Rams-49ers) start at 1:00 PM ET. You could possibly also have Jaguars-Texans and Titans-Colts at 1:00 since the Texans have all but officially clinched the AFC South.

    Bucs-Panthers and Seahawks-Cardinals (for the #1 seed in the NFC) start at 2:00 PM ET. Saints-Falcons could be slotted for 1:00 or 2:00 PM ET depending on whether or not that game has any potential meaning (since there may still be scenarios where the Falcons steal the second NFC WC at 9-7)

    Rams-49ers (only west coast game that is meaningless) starts at 3:00 PM ET (Noon PT).

    All other games (except Vikings-Packers) start in the late DH slot at 4:25 PM ET, maybe even pushed back to 4:35 PM ET. Doing this assures all viewers of seeing at worst the second half of a meaningful game in the late slot.

    Likely the best way for the NFL to do this.

  15. Can you please stop flooding this comment board with outlandish ideas and offering them up as likely or possible outcomes. There is no precedent for the NFL staggering start times every hour for games on Sunday afternoon. It is not a realistic option.

    Same with flexing a game to Saturday. That was never ever going to happen for a number of reasons, but you just kept responding to every post with the same thing like it was a likely scenario.

  16. Matt:

    We were dealing with quite a few situations:

    Until the Cards beat the Packers, there was the possibility of the Cards hosting a game on Wild Card weekend, that also is the weekend preceding the College Football National Championship. As much as the NFL is the 800-pound gorilla, if the NFL tried to force the CFB Playoff Committee to let them have U. Of Phoenix Stadium for a Saturday Wild Card game, the NFL could have been hearing from members of Congress and the US Senate who would have possibly told the NFL doing that could have cost them their broadcast antitrust exemption. Given quite a few members of both the House and Senate are from states where College Football is actually bigger than the NFL, the NFL could have been risking losing exemptions important to them over that, which was why if the Pack had beaten the Cards, the NFL, wanting to avoid teams playing a playoff game on four days rest could have been compelled to move Vikings-Packers and Cardinals-Seahawks to Saturday to accommodate having a Vikings or Seahawks-Packers playoff game on Friday to keep members of Congress and the US Senate off the NFL’s back, especially if the CFB Playoff Committee insisted on having the Cards stadium the entire weekend to get it ready for their championship on Monday (which has become the college football version of the Super Bowl).

    Also, until the Cards beat the Packers there was the possibility of Vikings-Packers being completely meaningless. Once that game was guaranteed to have meaning regardless of what happened in the afternoon, that became the logical Sunday Night game and eliminated any possibility of shifting the Sunday night finale to Saturday. As much as the NFL would NOT want to do that, NBC wants a MEANINGFUL finale that gets higher ratings and that takes priority, even if it means going to Saturday to do it. Unless the Panthers were going for 16-0 and until Packers-Vikings actually became meaningful, I would think Saturday night had to be kept open as an option (which, BTW to me is why the CFB Playoff Semifinals are on New Year’s Eve and NOT Saturday 1/2 when they should have been).

    As for staggering start times, that is not entirely unprecedented. Most people today don’t remember when the NFL routinely had games in Baltimore and outside the eastern time zone start at 2:00 PM ET even if the second halves of doubleheaders were at 4:00. That continued in Baltimore I believe until 1983 (the very last season the Colts were in Baltimore) when the NFL finally was allowed to have Colts games start at 1:00 PM on Sundays. That precedent could have been used to put together the kind of staggered schedule I would have to assure the meaningless games were in the 1:00 PM window with games like Bucs-Panthers and Seahawks-Cardinals at 2:00 (Noon in Arizona) that did have some meaning, Rams-49ers at 3:00 (Noon in Santa Clara) and the games that actually had meaning in the AFC airing at 4:25 with all games flexed evenly between FOX and CBS (in other words, the last week all games are subject to being aired on either network excluding those meaningless). The idea is to get the casual fan who drives the TV ratings to watch, and that’s why I would have used the staggered start times the final week to best assure the casual fan gets meaningful games early on Sunday evening in the east.

  17. I enjoy the analysis from the blogger, but the comments verge on hilarity. The multi-billion dollar NFL is not going to schedule games based on RVs, Congressmen, or the 1983 Baltimore scheduling protocol. I need to enjoy the posts and quit opening the comments.

  18. Matt:

    One of the reasons ESPN’s Wild Card Playoff telecast will also be on ABC this time is likely the NFL being told by elected officials they risked losing their broadcast antitrust exemption unless that were done. There are some elected officials who will look for any reason to try to take long-held exemptions away from the NFL, and what I noted could have PO’ed such to where they might very well have tried to. Lets just say the NFL breathed a massive sigh of relief when the Cardinals finally clinched the #2 seed on Sunday when they beat the Packers.

    Potential conflicts between the CFB Championship and the NFL Playoffs is something the NFL is going to have to continue to potentially deal with for at least four more years (as the home stadiums for the Bucs, Falcons, 49ers and Saints in that order host the next four CFB Championship games through 2020). The NFL already got blowback from some for even considering scheduling a Wild Card Playoff game on what currently is the night of the CFB Championship, as the NFL has already learned this is one of the only cases where college football trumps the NFL. It would not surprise me if the NFL seriously considers at some point moving the regular season back 1-2 weeks (if there is no expansion of the regular season to 18 games as some think will happen) to avoid a potential playoff/championship conflict even if it means for a year or two having only one week between the conference championship and Super Bowl. Especially with the potential fallout from the “Concussion” movie, the NFL is going to have to be more judicious on where and when it tries to flex its muscles, even as the 800-pound gorilla it still is.

  19. Speaking like someone who doesn’t understand there are those in Congress, especially those in states where College Football is bigger than the NFL who look at the NFL as the “big bully” who pushes around everyone. Many of them would in my opinion use the NFL preventing the CFB Playoff Committee from having an entire weekend to get the site of the CFB Championship game ready as they see fit as a reason to come after the 800-pound gorilla of sports, right or wrong. Add to that those who associate pro sports with gambling (especially some religious types) and think because College Football is “pure” it should get preference over the NFL in situations like this and the blowback from the NFL trying to flex their muscles is possibly a lot bigger than many who don’t follow college football realize.

    The NFL can’t keep taking hits forever. The NFL is going to have to be much more judicious in trying to flex its muscles as noted as there are many who resent what the NFL has become and will use any perceived wrongdoing by the NFL to knock it down. That’s the point I’ve been trying to get across that seems to go over the heads of those who don’t follow college football in particular.

  20. I notice Matt and Karl keep saying things like “this is absurd” or “this is stupid” without actually refuting what Walt says or what the “number of reasons” are Matt refers to in his first comment. What Walt says sounds far-fetched, but I’m not sure I have a solid argument against his reasoning or can come up with alternatives that don’t sound nearly as far-fetched, unless some of his assumptions or facts are just plain wrong or made-up; if you looked at my earlier comments on previous posts I raised the possibility of the Cardinals hosting a playoff game at Sun Devil Stadium, because that was the best solution I could come up with. (The Cowboys did host a playoff game one year within a couple days of the Cotton Bowl, but that wasn’t nearly as important.)

    I definitely don’t think the NFL is going to go around tinkering with when the season is played, though. Keep in mind, even college football fans think the CFP is run by idiots full of arrogance, as seen by the outcry over this year’s semifinals on New Year’s Eve. The CFP would have taken the brunt of the blame among ordinary Americans if it had forced the NFL to modify its Wild Card and/or Week 17 schedule, regardless of whether it had the same effect on the politicians. ESPN and the NFL will pressure the CFP to move the championship to Tuesday-Friday before the NFL starts playing with their season to accommodate it; the current Monday scheduling is pretty arbitrary as it is.

  21. Morgan:

    As you said, the CFP is likely run by idiots if they really were that arrogant and put the playoff games on New Year’s Eve because they didn’t want to upset The Tournament of Roses Committee by forcing them to move the Rose Bowl off its traditional slot either to New Year’s Eve or say a 6:30 PM local time (9:30 PM ET) kickoff on New Year’s Night. Myself and others do think the Rose Bowl likely insisted on keeping its time slot, especially since many people involved with that game are older, likely hell-bent on keeping traditions in place and as I remember were extremely upset the two times (January 2002 and ’06) that the Rose Bowl was the national championship game and was played at 5:20 PM local time on January 3-4 instead of its traditional slot.

    On the surface the next logical move for this year would have been to move the games to January 2 so they were NOT on New Year’s Eve, something ESPN actually requested but the CFP refused to do. That suggests to me the NFL may have privately told the CFP they needed all stadiums available on Saturday 1/2 in the unlikely event a game had to be moved up from Sunday 1/3 due to weather or other unforeseeable issues. That could have gone further to where the CFP could have been told if they did not honor this and something happened that caused a postponement of a game to where the integrity of the postseason is either compromised or has to be pushed back a week, the NFL would retaliate by intentionally scheduling a Wild Card game next year for Monday, January 9 in an attempt to force the CFB Championship off that Monday. Especially with this being the Golden Super Bowl year and many 50th anniversary Super Bowl plans in place in the Bay Area in likely the two weeks leading up to that game, a delay that cut the time between the Conference Championships and Super Bowl to one week would likely have impacted those events, which could have led to a bunch of other unintended consequences, especially if the Yorks (who own the 49ers) got involved because this is their showcase and this Super Bowl is different because its the 50th.

    I suspect there will be pressure on a lot of fronts to at least force the Tournament of Roses Committee to move the Rose Bowl off its traditional time slot in years it’s not one of the semifinal games no matter how many traditionalists (especially those older) scream about it. ESPN and the NFL might very well between them pressure the Tournament of Roses Committee to do this in the future so this is avoided in the future (especially since next year Week 17 games are on New Year’s Day and the NFL would not have such backup options if games had to be moved up next year).

  22. Turns out the CFP may not have been idiots after all:

    It appears based on the fact the NFL already previously threatened to have a Wild Card Playoff game the scheduled Monday of the CFP Championship if the NFL playoffs expand to add a third Wild Card (with the other new game on Sunday night as the NFL likely would prefer a Monday night playoff game to one at 1:00 PM ET on Saturday afternoon), the NFL could very easily have privately threatened the CFP with moving a WC playoff game this (January 11) or next January to that Monday (January 9 in 2017) if the CFP had honored ESPN’s request to move the CFP Semifinals this year from New Year’s Eve to Saturday 1/2.

    As the NFL had already scheduled home games at all three sites of the “New Years Six” Bowl games that took place on New Year’s Eve (Peach, Orange and Cotton Bowls) for Sunday 1/3, if the CFP had moved the games to Sat. 1/2, as it worked out, the NFL would likely have been stuck with having to have a meaningless Redskins-Cowboys (and also possibly a meaningless Saints-Falcons) game at 4:25 PM ET on FOX and a Patriots-Dolphins game that only had the #1 seed on the line at 4:25 PM ET on CBS as opposed to the 1:00 PM ET starts those are scheduled for since (especially with the Cotton Bowl) there was likely no way they could get the stadiums ready in time for 1:00 PM ET starts, especially given the work that would have had to have been done immediately following each of the bowl games in order to get ESPN’s cameras out and FOX/CBS’s cameras in for the NFL telecasts the next day. That likely would have angered both FOX and CBS, and I suspect the NFL would have taken it out on the CFP by as noted either this year or next intentionally moving (or with expansion of the playoffs if they happen in 2016-’17, simply scheduling) a Wild Card playoff game for the night of the CFB Championship in an attempt to force that game off the Monday night it’s scheduled for no matter who gets upset about it.

    It may turn out what appears to be arrogance by the CFP may not have been after all, but knowing they had to take all the blowback of having the CFB Playoff Semis on New Year’s Eve in order to not have the NFL force the CFB Championship game to be moved either this year or in the future in retaliation for messing with the NFL’s schedule this year.

  23. Another reason why the College Football playoff semifinals were not moved off New Year’s Eve that is relevant to what would have happened with Sunday Night Football this week:

    If the Cotton Bowl had been last night (Sat. 1/2), the NFL could have been forced to stick a meaningless Redskins-Cowboys game as the Sunday Night Football finale on NBC as a result. That would have been because A T & T Stadium (where the Cotton Bowl was staged and is the Cowboys home field) may very well have not been ready in time for an afternoon game (1:00 or 4:25 PM ET) because the College Football Playoff Comittee “did the right thing” and put the CFB playoffs on Sat. 1/2 (for those who don’t know, the CFP has been taking massive blowback from many, including many who don’t care about sports who are still angry about their New Year’s Eve being ruined, calling it their worst New Year’s Eve Ever in large part because of the playoff games being on New Year’s Eve.

    “Doing the right thing” here with the CFP moving the playoff games to Saturday 1/2 could have potentially had the CFP Committe facing legal action from the NFL and Comcast (parent of NBC for those who don’t know) over NBC being stuck with a meaningless low-rated finale between the Redskins and Cowboys (as opposed to the Vikings-Packers game that is for the NFC North tonight) that could have affected NBC in other ways to where the NFL might have had to compensate NBC next year with an extra flex with no protections and an extra game on say the Wednesday after Thanksgiving to make up for it. That is something I’m sure was in the College Football Playoff Committee’s mind when they denied ESPN’s request in July to move the semis to Sat. 1/2, with that refusal having many people call the CFP Committee morons.

  24. Okay, Morgan, I’ll refute some of Walt’s absurd ideas.

    1. I’ve worked productions for the NFL. If the Cotton Bowl would have been Saturday, there still would be plenty of time for FOX to set up for a 4:25pm ET game on Sunday. All the modern stadiums are easy to set up and can even handle multiple production trucks. While the situation wouldn’t have been ideal, NBC would not have been “stuck” with Cowboys/Redskins in that situation.

    2. The CFP Committee has said it is trying to make staying home and watching the playoffs a “thing” for NYE, and its decision to have the games then was for that purpose. Another reason is to keep the other New Year’s Day games prominent (“we got to play in a New Year’s Day bowl”), which is why they didn’t go with 1/1–the playoffs would overshadow the other bowls.

    3. Morgan, the Monday night schedule for the CF Championship game isn’t arbitrary; it’s been that way for years dating back to the BCS Championship game. The reason is pretty simple: people are already conditioned to seeing football on Monday night, and there is no conflict with the NFL playoffs. For Walt, the NFL will NOT be doing a playoff game on a Monday night if/when it expands the playoffs for two reasons: a.) the Mon night teams will have a short week compared to who they’d be playing the next week, and b.) the NFL doesn’t want to conflict with the CF Championship (this has been stated publicly–Goodell said as much in March.)

    4. As for Arizona, the Cardinals could have still had a home playoff game on 1/9 without moving to Sun Devil Stadium. When the CF Championship site was decided, these contingencies are discussed. As I said above, getting a stadium ready in a day for TV isn’t optimal, but it’s done on a regular basis. Plus, it’s extremely unlikely that RVs would be in the stadium lot two days before the game. (On the other hand, hotels could be an issue, but with a large metro area like Phoenix, I’m sure there are enough rooms). And even if the RVs are there that early, there just wouldn’t be parking in those lots for the Cardinals game (again, this is far-fetched; modern NFL venues don’t typically open up their official parking days before).

    5. Walt, having worked in sports media for more than two decades, none of this “goes over my head,” as you mention in comment 25. You are overstating the possibility of Congressional involvement in this case. Yes, Congress has threatened to pull NFL antitrust before (and this summer it leaned on the FCC to change blackout rules), but the last time it was even talked about was in 2006 when Arlen Specter brought up the issue based on the NFL Network trying to strongarm cable providers. I cannot imagine Congress (as dumb as everyone there is) bringing this up again over ONE playoff game that MIGHT make it inconvenient for the CF Championship is, again, overstated.

    6. Walt, in comment 27, I’m not sure what you’re going on about regarding this year’s Super Bowl. EVERY Super Bowl has events for the full two weeks leading up to it: concerts, parties, a Fan Festival, etc. The fact that this is the 50th doesn’t make it any different in that regard. Even if the Championship Games got pushed back a week (HIGHLY unlikely), it wouldn’t affect the Super Bowl events all that much, save for the teams getting there a day or two later (the teams playing don’t usually get into town for the Super Bowl until the weekend before). The first week of the Super Bowl festivities in the host city is usually attended by locals, so that could still happen. But again, the NFL having to move playoffs back a week would be extremely far-fetched.

    7. Finally, Walt, in comments 18-19 you spitball some possible start times for NFL games. These would never happen (outside of a weather issue or other emergency): 1. NFL rules state that games taking place in the Mountain or Pacific time zones will be in the 4pm (4:25) slot, so there was no way that SEA/ARI would have been moved to 1 ET. 2. The Sunday broadcast windows are 1 and 4:25ET. Both FOX and CBS had doubleheaders scheduled, so staggering the start times would have screwed that up–not to mention that it goes against the NFL rules, which are clearly stated.

    Sorry for the rant. I know that this website is about speculation (and Morgan, you do a great job), but just throwing ideas out that have no basis in fact or are contrary to established practices doesn’t add a lot.

  25. Russ:

    My original thought was they would be able to get the Cowboys stadium ready in time for a 4:25 PM ET Redskins-Cowboys game, however, FOX would have have still be upset about being stuck with a meaningless game then (as opposed to 1:00) if that were the case (not that Seahawks-Cardinals was almost entirely meaningless, but that game at least did have potential playoff seeding involved). We have no way of knowing if they could have actually had the stadium ready for a 4:25 PM ET kickoff, and if everyone was told if the Cotton Bowl at been at 8:00 PM Sat. 12/2 the stadium would not have been ready for anything other than SNF (especially if the Cotton Bowl went multiple OTs), then that likely heavily influenced the CFPs decision as noted above (as otherwise, they likely are total idiots). The CFP likely did not want to risk putting the games on 1/2 and because Daniel Snyder refused to voluntarily let the NFL flip-flop the two Redskins-Cowboys games (the first meeting having been a Monday night), the CFP being set up to have legal action taken against them either by Snyder (who I think would have refused to voluntarily do a flip-flop because the first meeting was the Redskins’s only home prime time game) or by Comcast because of Comcast losing their Week 17 flex this year with the NFL if so forced to do a whole slew of changes to first compensate Comcast and then in turn compensate FOX and CBS next year.

    It’s like Bob Raissman does in his Sunday Columns in the New York Daily News with “double talk,” there’s what “was said” and “what ______ meant to say,” and that was my main point. Point was, the CFP likely saw too big of a risk of “unintended consequences” if they had moved the playoff semis like the general public wanted them to and were willing to take the flak for doing it (especially from women who I have seen in a few places rant about how this was their “worst New Year’s Eve ever” because their plans were messed with by the playoff semis (and yes, the playoffs being delayed a week are far fetched, but given some of the freak storms we have seen in recent years AND what has been going on overseas the last few years, I can see that happening in the future if something totally unforeseeable were to happen).

    Some of the others:

    I’m sure contingencies were discussed (as this will continue to come up the next four years), however, whole Goddell may have said NOW they won’t put a playoff game on Monday Night, I can see owners insisting on something different in the future (and its the owners as everyone knows who pay Goddell).

    The stagger idea, was just that, an idea that the NFL might actually want to discuss with CBS/FOX for future years for the last week. Also, the NFL should allow games in the Mountain Time Zone to start at 11:00 AM local time (1:00 PM ET). It would not kill locals to have an NFL game start at 11:00 AM, it’s been done for years in college football and would give the NFL more flexibility.

    As for Congress getting involved, while Congress SHOULD NOT be that dumb, I have seen too many dumb things done by Congress over time to rule out what I previously noted, especially if their constituents want such.

  26. I know this has nothing to do with the 2015 flex scheduling, but it does have to do with the 2016 flex scheduling. After looking at the 2016 NFL schedule, it appears to me that in Week 16, there will be no flex scheduling allowed. This is Christmas day and the Sunday Night Football game on NBS is Denver @ Kansas City. However, there is a game scheduled for 4 hrs earlier on the NFL Network and it is Baltimore @ Pittsburgh. Is it possible that these games could be exchanged(flexed) for one another? Anyone have any opinion or definitive answer on this? Any answers would be welcome. Thanks, Jeff

  27. Jeff:

    Just saw your last comment from April.

    There will be no flex in Week 16 as was the case in 2006 (when NBC actually had a 5:00 PM ET game on Christmas Day because Christmas fell on a Monday) and 2010 (when like this year, Christmas fell on a Sunday and most of the games were on Saturday as the NBA dominates Christmas Day). This will also be the case next season when Christmas Day falls on a Monday.

  28. Hey there Walt. Thank you for confirming that info for me. Had a good hunch this was the case.

    Now, about flexing for Weeks 5 to 9. For Week 5, I am sure that Giants @ Packers stays on Sunday Night Football, but 2 games stood above those to me based on overall record. My #1 choice after Week 3 would have been Atlanta @ Denver and my #2 choice would have been Houston @ Minnesota, with Giants @ Packers #3.

    For Week 6, my current diagnosis after Week 3 goes like this: Indy @ Houston is the scheduled game, but I have 4 above that game currently. #1 choice is Baltimore @ NY Giants, #2 is Dallas @ Green Bay, #3 is Kansas City @ Oakland, and #4 is Atlanta @ Seattle. My opinion is that the NFL will keep Indy @ Houston as the SNF Game in Week 6 due to that it is Indy and due to Indy coming back from London in Week 5. I will provide more opinion on what I believe the matchup should be after Week 4. Here’s to football!!! Go Pack Go!!!!

  29. Jeff:

    Don’t see any changes before Week 10.

    Only possible flex right now would be Week 11 with Eagles at Seahawks moving to SNF if both are leading their divisions and the Redskins tail off between now and after Week 9. If the Eagles keep their pace up, I’m sure NBC is going to want to Flex them into SNF and they can be flexed in twice (as the Eagles have one SNF and two MNF games this season).

  30. Hello Walt,

    I hear ya no not thinking there will be any flex changes before Week 10. Not quite sure why the NFL decided to change things to where 2 Sunday Night games could be flexed from Week 5 thru Week 10 or Week 9 in the case of this year, if they have some crap games they seem to keep and some other interesting options seem available. Though I do know that some of that is based on the max times a team can be on primetime and looking at how things might go towards the latter part of the season. Oh well.

    On to who I would have flexed into Week 6 Sunday Night Football in place of Indy @ Houston. My #1 choice would have been Atlanta @ Seattle, #2 I had Dallas @ Green Bay, #3 I had Philadelphia @ Washington, #4 I had Kansas City @ Oakland, #5 I had Cincinnati @ New England, & lastly #6 I had Baltimore @ NY Giants.

    Here’s my current opinion on Week 7’s Sunday Night Football game. I’d get rid of Seattle @ Arizona, but they probably won’t I only have 2 choices to replace this game at the moment. #1 is Minnesota @ Philadelphia & #2 is New England @ Pittsburgh. Both of these would be tremendously better than the incumbent in y opinion. I will post more on Week 7 and Week 8 next week. Go Pack Go this coming Sunday Night Football. 🙂

  31. For Week 7 of Sunday Night Football flex options, I’d still get rid of Seattle(3-1) @ Arizona(1-3). I still have only 2 choices to replace that game and they are the same 2 as last week, but my choices flip flopped after Week 5 compared to Week 4. My #1 is New England(4-1) @ Pittsburgh(4-1) and my #2 is Minnesota(5-0) @ Philadelphia(3-1).

    As for my current opinion on Week 8’s Sunday Night Football flex options. The currently scheduled game is Philadelphia(3-1) @ Dallas(4-1). I would keep this as my #1 option and this game is a 100% lock to stay on Sunday Night Football. My current #2 choice would be Green Bay(3-1) @ Atlanta(4-1) and my #3 is New England(4-1) @ Buffalo(3-2).

    On to Week 6 of the NFL season. Go Pack Go!!! 😉

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