Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 13

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 15 (December 18):

  • Selected game: Tampa Bay @ Dallas.

Week 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
2 teams at 6-6
7-5 7-5
NFC Playoff Picture
2 teams at 6-6
5-6-1 6-6
8-4 5-6-1
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Saints-Falcons, Giants-Swamp, Texans-Titans, Panthers-Bucs, Jaguars-Colts, Packers-Lions, Patriots-Dolphins, Cowboys-Eagles, Raiders-Broncos, Chiefs-Chargers.
  • Preliminary analysis: Typically, since the advent of the all-division-matchups-Week-17 era, I come up with arbitrary percentage chances of each game and analyses of the situations that might reward each game in my Week 14 post, then lay out the exact Week 16 outcomes that would put a specific game into SNF in my Week 15 post. But because there’s no primetime flex scheduling in Week 16 this year, this would be a short post if I didn’t say anything here, so here’s a sneak preview of next week’s post. The NFC East is strong enough that teams might end up playing for seeding at best, although the Bucs’ resurgence is making the game in the nation’s capital potentially more interesting. But if that game doesn’t work out, the AFC South is the likeliest candidate to produce the SNF game, much to NBC’s chagrin. Raiders-Broncos and Packers-Lions could end up becoming division title games (or games with a wild-card spot on the line), but the home teams would need to make up two-game deficits, an intermediary team (the Chiefs or Vikings) would need to become irrelevant, and the loser, ideally, would need to be eliminated from wild-card contention (requiring an absolute collapse on the part of the Raiders and huge rallies by the Dolphins and/or Steelers and Ravens). See here for why the NFC South games, Jaguars-Colts, and Chiefs-Chargers are options, and why there’s a very slight chance Patriots-Dolphins or Cowboys-Eagles could be the pick even if the road teams have already clinched their respective divisions, depending on how tiebreakers work out for the home teams.

11 thoughts on “Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 13

  1. Right now, I would have to say Texans-Titans, but a lot of that may ride on the Christmas Eve night game with the Bengals (on NFL Network), a game where the Bengals might have thrown in the towel at that point (unless the Bengals win their next two and are at 6-7-1 when that game takes place with a smidge of hope they are still alive for the AFC Central when that game takes place).

    Otherwise, the way the races are, we may have to actually wait until at least Christmas Eve to figure out the Week 17 matchup.

  2. My early money is on the Packers @ Lions with the winner getting into the playoffs as the NFC North Division Champ and the loser going home. This would mean the Packers would probably have to win the next three games-very possible with a Snowy Seattle game in the forecast this week, a road game with the hibernating Bears the following, and a home Christmas Eve game with the Vikings that are struggling. The Lions would only have to lose one game to set this up then which is very possible as well against the Giants on the road or maybe Dallas on the road if the Boys are not resting people in Week 16. This would allow NBC to show a more ratings friendly game than an AFC South battle.

  3. Good points, however:

    I don’t see the Lions losing this week.

    I also think the Bucs or Falcons (or both) are going to falter, so if both the Pack and Lions are 10-5 going into the finale (or it’s otherwise set up for whoever wins the NFC North), I suspect both will be in the playoffs as I don’t see the NFC South loser making it and in that scenario, the Redskins lose once more they can’t make it.

    Oh, and obviously in my first post I meant NFC North. I still think if Texans-Titans is for the AFC South, that will be the game, especially since it would be the first chance for many to see Marcus Mariotta.

  4. (carried over from previous post by Morgan)

    Hello Flex Schedule friends,

    Here’s my first analysis on Week 17. Usually I’d be previewing Week 16 AND Week 17 this week, but since Week 16 Sunday is Christmas this year, that makes Week 16 moot.

    So far, I only have 5 of the 16 games on my radar for SNF. Current #1 choice is Oakland(10-2) @ Denver(8-4). #2 choice is Houston(6-6) @ Tennessee(6-6). #3 choice is Green Bay(6-6) @ Detroit(8-4). #4 choice is NY Giants(8-4) @ Washington(6-5-1) and lastly my #5 choice is New England(10-2) @ Miami(7-5). Looking forward to seeing the choices of all my friends here soon.

  5. I Think if the Dolphins Win the next 2 Games and the broncos win 1 and lose 1 I Think the game will be Pats Dolphins Because Raiders broncos was already seen in week 9 But Titans Texans would be a good choice but I Think The Texans would have division wrapped up by then but don’t count on NBC To Flex it. Because I Don’t wont to see Giants Redskins Again or Packers Lions Again But I Don’t wont to see An NFC Matchup Flexed but don’t count on it. but I think in the end it will be Pats Dolphins that gets it in the end. Because that would be the matchup for week 17 On Sunday Night Jan 1 on NBC.

  6. For week 17, I think that NBC may prefer Packers-Lions or Texans-Titans since either of these games could be for their respective division titles as winner take-all games, since its unlikely that the team that loses the division in these matchups could qualify as a wild card team. Matchups featuring teams competing for first-round byes like Patriots-Dolphins, Raiders-Broncos, Chiefs-Chargers, Cowboys-Eagles, and maybe Giants-Redskins will probably be played at 4:25 PM such as in past seasons so that no team rests its starters if it knows what its seeding will be going into the playoffs.

  7. One thing the NFL might want to consider is re-working their contract so the final day of the season, ALL games are played at the same time, perhaps at 3:00 PM Eastern Time (something MLB has done the last two years and the NBA now does sort of with all games in the Eastern and Central Time zones in the NBA starting at 8:00 PM ET and games in the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones beginning at 10:30 PM ET that night) or even doing it in prime time. Perhaps NBC could be compensated by giving them an extra prime time game (even an additional playoff game) or additional flexes for giving up the final Sunday night game of the regular season. Giving NBC an additional playoff game might open the NFL up to going to three wild cards so there are two additional playoff games the first weekend.

  8. Walt,

    I agree that it would be interesting if all of the week 17 games were played at the same time, but I think FOX and CBS would only want to show the games with playoff implications in the late game window so that as many fans could see them as possible. For example, this year in week 17, Bills-Jets will probably have no playoff implications and due to contractual obligations, CBS would only be able to air
    this game in the Buffalo and New York markets under your proposal. This might not appeal to FOX and CBS.

  9. Atsushi:

    One solution to that would be the final week of the season, stations are not obligated to air meaningless games. The last week could be worked where it is NOT part of the rest of the normal NFL TV policies where as long as those games air over-the-air somewhere (even if on a secondary channel owned by the people who own the network affiliate in question for example), then the NFL can designate the games with the most meaning split up between ALL of the network TV partners, with games airing simultaneously on CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN and NFL Network (including where possible additional games on DT-2 and DT-3 channels of network affiliates) and NO home blackouts. All games the last day would also be available online in this scenario so everyone would have ways to see every game if possible.

    That might be the way to do it.

  10. Hey there Walt,

    I love that you like to think outside the box when it comes to matters such as Week 17 scheduling. Well done. I think MLB made a very smart move in making the final day of the season, having all 15 games start at the same time.

  11. Walt,

    I think that would work well if more games were available on other over-the-air channels and the meaningful games with playoff implications could air on CBS, FOX, NBC, etc., as well as the internet.

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