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 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 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
10-4 8-6
NFC Playoff Picture
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Texans-Titans, Packers-Lions, and though it’s an extreme long-shot, Andrew DeCaro will be happy to know there is a situation where Patriots-Dolphins gets picked. Both of the division title games have a very strong chance of happening, though, and Pats-Dolphins is even dependent on one of them happening, so realistically this is about as simple as last year without the NFL being stuck without a loser-out game… not that they’ll necessarily appreciate it.
  • Packers-Lions will be picked if: The Packers win OR (the Titans lose AND the Texans or Colts win). I saw the following tweet on my feed Monday:

    Certainly Packers-Lions is the game NBC would prefer to any alternative, but this overlooks two wrinkles: the possibility that the loser would still make the playoffs, and the fact the Lions play Monday night, which the NFL might be uncomfortable waiting for to announce the Week 17 SNF game, to say nothing of the rest of the schedule. Indeed, the former is pretty realistic at the moment (and cannot be guaranteed not to be the case if the Packers win), even if right now the strength-of-victory tiebreaker is needed to break the tie between the Packers and Bucs. Would the NFL take an NFC North title game that’s not loser-out (the exact scenario that, last year, prompted the league to exempt Week 17 from appearance limits this year) over an AFC South title game that is, especially since the winner of the former probably won’t receive a first-round bye (a Seahawks loss would make it much easier for the league to justify picking this game over Texans-Titans) and in fact the game may just determine home field for a rematch the following week? We’ll see. (That said, if the Texans clinch the AFC South – UPDATE: or the Colts can still steal the division – the league might not wait for Monday to move this game into Sunday night, on grounds that even if the Packers lose and Lions win to clinch the division, they could still be playing for seeding while the Packers will likely be fighting for their playoff lives, and the league wouldn’t have any better options.)

  • Texans-Titans will be picked if: The Titans win OR the Texans and Colts lose. During “Football Night in America” the announcers repeatedly played up the prospect of a Packers-Lions division title game. I didn’t watch the whole show but I saw nothing about Texans-Titans, which might be in even better shape with the two teams tied at the top of the division. It’s also unlikely, though not impossible, for the loser of this game to still make the playoffs. (UPDATE: Turns out I forgot about the Colts being a game back and the possibility of them stealing the division if they take a three-way tie into Week 17 and win alongside the Titans, even though I mentioned it last week. This is why I shouldn’t write these posts late at night.) Actually…
  • Patriots-Dolphins might be picked if: The Dolphins lose AND the Texans and Titans win AND the Ravens lose AND (the Broncos lose OR the Dolphins have already clinched the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Broncos) AND the Patriots win AND the Raiders lose. The Titans beat the Dolphins head-to-head, while if the Dolphins lose out while the Texans split to lose the division, the Texans would have the better conference record. But the Ravens and Broncos need to lose or else it might not be a win-and-in game for the Dolphins, and if the Patriots still haven’t secured the #1 seed the league might prefer this game be played the same time as the AFC West games. And even then, this scenario still wouldn’t guarantee that the Texans-Titans loser made the playoffs even with a Dolphins loss. (It’s also worth noting that if the Raiders have clinched the AFC West, then this game needs to go in the 4:25 time slot to guarantee both the Raiders and Chiefs are playing for something, in which case the NFL might prefer to give Texans-Titans a guaranteed national audience rather than let CBS bury it behind the ratings magnet of the Patriots or in the 1 PM ET time slot, even if Packers-Lions is also an option, unless they’re in the mood to cross-flex one of these games.)

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

  1. Copying some of what I wrote in the last thread. While NBC may want Packers-Lions for the SNF Finale, there is a major thing that has to be considered:

    If the Titans beat the Jags on Christmas Eve, the Colts will be eliminated from AFC South and likely Wild Card contention even before their game with the Raiders takes place (used the ESPN Playoff Machine to figure that out).

    The two NFC South games on Christmas Eve and again on New Year’s Day will play heavily into whether or not Packers-Lions in Week 17 is win or go home or is simply for playoff seeding:

    If the Panthers and Buccaneers win on Saturday AND the Falcons and Bucs then both win on New Year’s Day, ONLY THEN is Packers-Lions a winner-take-all NFC North game with the loser out should the Pack also beat the Vikings on Saturday. That is the ONLY scenario (barring any tie games) where that is now the case if the Pack wins on Christmas Eve.

    With that in mind, as long as the Titans take care of business in Jacksonville on Saturday, Texans-Titans will be a winner-take-all for the AFC South AT LEAST for the Titans and it becomes winner-take-all, loser-go-home for both regardless of anything else if the Dolphins also beat the Bills in Buffalo on Saturday (Colts need both the Texans and Titans to lose this week and their week 17 game to end in a tie to win the AFC South I believe).

    That tilts it to Texans-Titans if the Titans take care of business in Jacksonville on Saturday since the Titans can’t be a Wild Card unless a myriad of things happen whereas there is now the excellent possibly the Lions and Packers BOTH make it regardless of the outcome of their game for the NFC North on New Year’s Day, especially if the Bucs lose again on Christmas Eve (to a Saints team that is mathematically still alive for the playoffs). If the Titans and Dolphins win Saturday, I suspect the NFL, knowing potential logistical issues with the last week of the season being on New Year’s will likely NOT want to wait for results of mainly the Monday nighter between the Lions and Cowboys before deciding on the Sunday night finale no matter what NBC wants and go with the guaranteed win-or-go-home Texans-Titans game.

  2. If either the Titans or Texans win, Indy can’t win the division because we know one of them will win Week 17 (barring yet another tie). But I forgot about the possibility of a three-way tie through Week 16 and the possibility of Indy stealing the division from either team until I saw Jeff’s comment on the other post. If that happens maybe the pendulum swings back to Packers-Lions.

  3. Morgan:

    I noted the Colts can only win the AFC South by winning their last two and the Texans and Titans losing this week, however, using the ESPN Playoff Machine, I have discovered if that happens AND the Titans beat the Texans in Week 17 (or that Texans-Titans game ends in a five-quarter tie), the Colts actually do win the AFC South on a two-way tiebreaker with the Texans (head-to-head sweep).

    The Week 17 schedule heavily hinges on the Titans taking care of business in Jacksonville on Christmas Eve. Otherwise, they may have to wait until possibly late on Christmas Eve at the earliest to make decisions on Week 17.

    BTW, playing around with the Playoff Machine, there are scenarios where the Saints actually make the playoffs in a five-way tie with the Panthers, Bucs, Vikings and Packers all finishing 8-8.

  4. (my post carried over from the prior thread)

    After Week 15, I still have my #1 as Houston(8-6) @ Tennessee(8-6). My #2 is now Green Bay(8-6) @ Detroit(9-5). My #3 is NY Giants(10-4) @ Washington(7-6-1). My #4 is Oakland(11-3) @ Denver(8-6). And lastly, my #5 is New England(12-2) @ Miami(9-5). I still believe my #5 choice will never happen. A potential problem with my current #1 is that if Indy either stays only 1 game behind Houston/Tennessee or is even with 1 of them, then the potential is there for all 3 games being in the mix on Week 17 and there’s no way that those games amongst those 3 teams wouldn’t be played at the same time and thus not on Sunday Night Football. If this happens, then Packers/Lions could likely fill the vacuum, but clearly this coming Saturday will be a huge factor in the Week 17 SNF game. We’ll see. That’s what makes this fun.

    Go Pack Go this weekend at Lambeau vs. the Vikings. 🙂

  5. I Will not watch Packers Lions If it is flexed I Don’t Like The Lion. But Texans Titans is No 2. But Don’t Count your Chickens If Pats Dolphins is flexed. But I Think There’s A Very Strong Chance that it could get flexed but Don’t count your chickens.

  6. I Will Not watch packers Lions Because I Do not like the lions because both teams have star players to attract. But I Will Watch Something Else. Or listen to old reruns of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 The 80s.

  7. Andrew:

    There is almost ZERO chance at this point Pats-Dolphins is flexed. There are scenarios in fact if they win this week they can actually clinch a playoff berth in fact I believe.

    As noted, the Week 17 flex hinges heavily on the outcome of Titans-Jaguars this week. If the Titans win, next week’s game with the Texans is guaranteed to be for the AFC South title AND if the Dolphins also win, it becomes winner-take-all with the loser out.

    For Packers-Lions to be winner-take-all, loser-go-home, BOTH the Lions and Packers have to lose this week (and the Lions remember don’t play until Monday night) OR the following must happen:

    The Packers win against the Vikings

    The Buccaneers AND Panthers BOTH must win on Christmas Eve


    The Buccaneers AND Falcons BOTH must win on New Year’s Day.

    Otherwise, the loser of the NFC North gets in as a wild card and the game, while for the NFC North is merely a matter of window dressing as there would be a good chance they would meet again the following week in the Wild Card round.

    That’s why to me the NFL won’t wait for Monday night and if the Titans beat the Jags, Texans-Titans will be the finale.

  8. Fine Texans Titans Would be Alright That’s My No 2 Choice So I Will Go With Choice No 2 But if it’s Packers Lions I Will not Watch it Because The Lions And Packers Have Star Players To Attract.

  9. With the AFC South locked up today for Houston, that gets rid of that game for Week 17 SNF. And with Detroit/Green Bay being for the NFC North title and with Washington only 1/2 game back of Green Bay, I doubt the NFL will want the Packers and Redskins to be playing at different times. And if Denver loses tomorrow, the Dolphins will be locked into a playoff spot. Also, if Pitt wins against Baltimore tomorrow and locks up the AFC North…..then Andrew DeCaro more than likely gets his wish of Dolphins/Patriots on Sunday Night Football in Week 17. Alot had to and alot still has to happen to make this possible, but the chances today are much greater than they were entering Week 16.

  10. The likely Sunday night is now Packers at Lions. That is the only game guaranteed to have meaning regardless of the outcome of earlier games. Even if the Pack and Lions clinch a playoff berth before that game takes place, if the Lions win Monday night (and don’t forget, the Cowboys already have the #1 seed wrapped up and it’s a completely meaningless game for them) the #2 seed in the NFC could still be in play depending on the outcome of Saints-Falcons earlier in the day (if the Saints win or that game ends in a tie, the Lions could then be the #2 seed, if the Falcons win, they are the #2 seed on the strength of schedule tiebreaker, if both Saints-Falcons and Packers-Lions end in ties in that scenario, Falcons win a three-way tie break on Strength of Schedule with the Lions and Conference record with the Seahawks).

    Too much would have to happen for Pats-Dolphins to actually have meaning on Sunday night.

  11. Walt,

    I agree with you (as well as the general sentiment) that Packers-Lions will be flexed in week 17. The possibility of Patriots-Dolphins being meaningless since the Dolphins can clinch a playoff berth depending on the Broncos games today and next week leads me to believe that Packers-Lions will be flexed. I am curious to see which games are moved to 4:25 PM though next week.

  12. It’s official: Packers-Lions is the SNF game. Giants-Swamp and Saints-Falcons move to the late slot, Pats-Dolphins could join them (presumably if the Raiders can still win home field).

  13. Well, per NFL Communications release, the Sunday Night Football game for Week 17 is set and indeed it is Green Bay at Detroit. Makes sense. Now I get to watch my game at the Packers bar after I get off of work. Yay! If the game was at any other time, then I would have had to just try to follow along at work.

    Two other games have been flexed from 10am PST/1pm EST to 1:25pm PST/4:25pm EST and they are New Orleans @ Atlanta and NY Giants @ Washington.

    One other game could be flexed from 10am PST/1pm EST to 1:25pm PST/4:25pm EST and that is New England @ Miami. It won’t be flexed however, if both Pittsburgh and Kansas City win today.

    As I type this, Pittsburgh just took the lead 7-0 over Baltimore.

    Go Pack Go next Sunday at Detroit. 🙂

  14. Hi Morgan,

    The Raiders can indeed still win Home Field Advantage throughout. If the Pats lose and the Raiders win, then the Raiders win the tiebreaker on common opponents vs. New England.

    Since that is indeed still possible, no matter the outcomes of any of the games left this weekend, it is rather surprising that the New England/Miami game isn’t a guaranteed flex game already. Hmm. :/

  15. Part of it is that the Raiders would still have something to play for if they haven’t clinched the division yet (i.e., if KC wins).

  16. It’s possible that officials in Miami don’t want a 4:25 PM game played on New Year’s Day, especially if there are local events scheduled for New Year’s Night such might interfere with.

  17. I’m sick of the packers. I Don’t Like the lions either. This was not a good choice I Don’t like this game and these teams. Because the Packers and Lions because both teams have too many star players to Attract. If you don’t want to watch it that’s too bad we are still airing it.

  18. Andrew:

    You may be sick of the Packers, but the fact is, that is the only game that is guaranteed to be meaningful regardless of the outcome of earlier games AND it becomes winner-take-all, loser go home if the Redskins beat the Giants in the afternoon OR the Bucs win, the Giants win and a host of other crazy results happen. It should be noted if the Redskins win and Packers-Lions ends in a tie, the Packers win the division AND the Lions get in as a Wild Card based on tiebreakers, plus if the Saints and 49ers both win their games earlier on Sunday, believe it or not the Lions would be also playing for the #2 seed (in that scenario, Lions would either be the #2 seed or completely out, Packers would be the #3 seed because the Falcons own a tie-breaker with the Packers but the Lions own such with the Falcons).

  19. Well There was no Thursday Night Football Game This Past Thursday. Because I watched NBA Basketball instead and that was all there really was on. But I Want to Know Who’s Playing Monday Night Football On January 2

  20. Til next season my SNF Flex schedule friends. Happy New Year and cya’s come next October.

    Jeff 🙂

    Go Pack Go in the playoffs. #RunTheTable

    @ Andrew DeCaro……the Monday Night Football game this week was college football bowl games. Ha. 😉

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