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 this was originally written with the 2007 season in mind and has been only iteratively and incompletely edited since then, hence why at one point 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 4:25 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; I’m assuming protections were due in Week 4 again this year, and the above notwithstanding, Week 10 is part of the main flex period this year, as it was in 2006 and 2011. 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.
  • Three teams can 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, although starting this year Week 17 is exempt from team appearance limits. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; nine teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Texans don’t have games in the main flex period, though they don’t have any early-flex games left either. 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 10 (November 13):

  • Selected game: Seattle @ New England (presumably).

Week 11 (November 20):

  • Tentative game: Green Bay @ Washington
  • Prospects: 4-3 v. 4-3-1, beatable but strong enough to fend off most challenges.
  • Likely protections: Ravens-Cowboys or Eagles-Seahawks (CBS) and probably Cardinals-Vikings if anything (FOX).
  • Other possible games: If Eagles-Seahawks is protected, the only available games involve teams at 3-4 or 3-4-1 at best: Bucs-Chiefs, Ravens-Cowboys, and Cardinals-Vikings (which might itself be protected), with Bills-Bengals being 4-4 v. 3-4 and Dolphins-Rams a matchup of 3-4 teams.
  • Analysis: Needless to say, none of those games are overcoming the tentative game bias (and audience-attracting ability of the Packers and Wall-Builders) even if the Packers fall to .500 (Washington’s bye is this week) and the 3-4 team climbs up to .500. That leaves Eagles-Seahawks, which stands at 4-3 v. 4-2-1 and would be the Seahawks’ second consecutive week on SNF. The best-case scenario would be 5-3 v. 5-2-1 with the tentative sitting at 4-4 v. 4-3-1, which gives a clear edge, but again probably not enough to overcome the tentative game bias and name value of the teams, especially since the whole reason Eagles-Seahawks is CBS’ game to protect to begin with is because it’s already slated as the late game of their doubleheader.
  • Final prediction: Green Bay Packers @ Washington Wall-Builders (no change).

Week 12 (November 27):

  • Tentative game: New England @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: 7-1 v. 3-5. Very lopsided, but could be hard pressed to lose its spot under the circumstances.
  • Likely protections: Chiefs-Broncos (CBS) and Cardinals-Falcons, Rams-Saints, Seahawks-Bucs, or nothing (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving Weekend, paucity of good games, and this year seems to have gotten unusually lucky in terms of good teams on Thanksgiving and Monday night (across those four games only the Colts are below .500). With Chiefs-Broncos likely protected, no games involve only teams at or above .500, with Cardinals-Falcons and Seahawks-Bucs the most viable dark horses and Bengals-Ravens and Rams-Saints matchups of teams at 3-4 or 3-4-1.

Week 13 (December 4):

  • Tentative game: Carolina @ Seattle
  • Prospects: 2-5 v. 4-2-1; relative upsets this weekend made it less lopsided, but it’s still not in good shape.
  • Likely protections: Texans-Packers (CBS) and Rams-Patriots, Giants-Steelers, or Eagles-Bengals (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Chiefs-Falcons and (if unprotected) Giants-Steelers are the strongest options, with Bills-Raiders close behind. Rams-Patriots, Eagles-Bengals, and Racial Slurs-Cardinals are the most viable dark horses, followed by Lions-Saints and Bills-Raiders; Dolphins-Ravens is hanging on by a thread.

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 6-1 v. 4-3 would be tough for any game to overcome the tentative game bias against, but when it’s an intra-NFC East matchup involving the Cowboys, nothing else has a chance.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bills if anything (CBS) and Seahawks-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Native Americans-Eagles is good enough I considered listing them as an option for the protection, and if I’m right about the protections it’s the only game involving nothing but teams above .500. Broncos-Titans is the most viable dark horse (unless Steelers-Bills is unprotected), followed by Falcons-Rams, then Saints-Bucs and Cardinals-Dolphins.

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
  • Prospects: 4-3 v. 3-4-1. Not great, and without the sort of brand value that would insulate it from a flex, but not terrible, and potentially for the AFC North lead.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Broncos (CBS) and Eagles-Ravens (FOX).
  • Other possible games: The good news for this game is that no game involves only teams above .500, with Titans-Chiefs and Lions-Giants being the biggest threats. Bucs-Cowboys could be an interesting dark horse, with Saints-Cardinals the only other game even to stick to teams at 3-4, 3-4-1, or above (and there are a LOT of teams at that mark).

Week 17 (January 3):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

10 Comments

  1. Walt Gekko
    Posted November 1, 2016 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Wash, Rinse, Repeat of last week:

    Week 11: Unlikely to change since the Redskins are on a bye this week and the Packers-Redskins game will have major NFC Wild Card implications.

    Week 12: With the Jets now 3-5 and could be very well be 5-5 when the decision has to be made (Jets bye comes after their Week 10 game), it’s unlikely this game will be flexed out either.

    Week 13: Panthers need to likely win at least two of their next three, otherwise, and especially if the Eagles are 6-4 or better (meaning they would win two of their next three) and the Bengals win their next two (to get to 5-4-1), Eagles-Bengals likely becomes the Sunday nighter.

    Week 14: Cowboys-Giants is almost certain to have serious NFC playoff implications, so no way does that get flexed out.

    Week 15: If the Bengals get flexed into Week 13, then there’s no way Steelers-Bengals gets flexed out.

    Week 17: Still too early to tell.

  2. Jeff
    Posted November 2, 2016 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Week 10 schedule is set in stone, since there was no press release by the NFL noting any change to the entire schedule. Therefore, the Seattle(4-2-1) @ New England(7-1) matchup for SNF stays.

    I would have kept that as my #1 also. My #2 choice would have been Minnesota(5-2) @ Washington(4-3-1). #3 choice was Atlanta(5-3) @ Philadelphia(4-3) #4 choice was Dallas(6-1) @ Pittsburgh(4-3) and lastly my #5 choice was Green Bay(4-3) @ Tennessee(4-4).

    As for Week 11, the scheduled SNF game is Green Bay(4-3) @ Washington(4-3-1), but that would be my #2 choice. My #1 choice is Philadelphia(4-3) @ Seattle(4-2-1), but that’s likely protected like Morgan said. It’s not protected because it’s the scheduled doubleheader game for CBS likely, This game would be never be an earlier game, as it is in Seattle. I have no other games that I’d currently want on SNF for this week, as of now. I’ll see what happens after this week.

    As for Week 12, the scheduled SNF game is New England(7-1)@ NY Jets(3-5) and though this game is horrible, I agree that it will stay. My only choice for this week would be Kansas City(5-2) @ Denver(6-2), but I am sure Morgan is right and that CBS has protected this game. Week 12 has horrible games on this Thanksgiving weekend Sunday. Plus, the game is to be played in the New York market and they rarely have national games moved from there.

    I just don’t know why the NFL, FOX, and CBS keep the public from knowing what the protections are from games being flexed to NBC. It’s like some kind of national security issue that can’t be divulged and it’s stupid. Oh well, enough of that rant.

    Go Pack Go this week at Lambeau vs. the Colts. 😉

  3. Jackson
    Posted November 3, 2016 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Why is week 16 not included? That’s my only question

  4. Atsushi Idobe
    Posted November 5, 2016 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    @Jackson

    I believe that Week 16 is not included since Christmas is on a Sunday this year and most NFL games that weekend will be played on Saturday, December 24th, and the league does not wish to move games from Saturday to Sunday or vice-versa.
    I believe that Panthers-Seahawks in week 13 will be flexed for Eagles-Bengals or Chiefs-Falcons due to the Panthers slow start.

  5. Atsushi Idobe
    Posted November 5, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    I agree with Jeff and I wonder why CBS and FOX keep it a secret which games they are protecting. It definitely makes it more difficult to predict which game is not protected by CBS and FOX for a certain week.

  6. Atsushi Idobe
    Posted November 5, 2016 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Sorry for the multiple comments Morgan, but in addition, I have to believe that week 14 is probably the unprotected week for one of or both CBS and FOX since they figure it is unlikely that Cowboys-Giants is flexed out due to the Cowboys early success this season. Week 11 with Packers-Washington also seems very strong with two popular teams so it is possible that FOX chose week 11 as their unprotected week, although CBS has a very strong Eagles-Seahawks match up that they would probably protect that week like Morgan mentioned.

  7. Jackson
    Posted November 6, 2016 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Okay. I forgot about the Christmas part of the picture. Now it makes sense. Doesn’t make sense to write a whole thing about week 16 when it doesn’t make sense to flex.

  8. Walt Gekko
    Posted November 6, 2016 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    Thoughts after Sunday:

    Week 12: With the Jets losing and the Panthers winning, if the Panthers win again next Sunday, perhaps Panthers-Raiders is flexed INTO Sunday Night Football as the Panthers seemed to have gotten their act together. Only thing that might prevent this is the fact the Panthers would be playing three straight games on NBC (one a Thursday nighter against the Saints).

    Week 13: Now not as likely to be flexed, especially if the Panthers win next week and are flexed in for Week 12.

    Week 14: Cowboys-Giants WON’T be flexed out.

    Week 15: If the Bengals continue to falter and Lions-Giants has any potential chance to have Wild Card and/or division implications, the Lions-Giants may get flexed in.

    Week 17: If it comes down to the rematch of Raiders-Broncos for the AFC West, that will be the game.

  9. Jeff
    Posted November 7, 2016 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Good comments there Walt. I will make my comments when Morgan comes up with the Week 9 edition.

  10. Posted November 11, 2016 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

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