Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 10

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; with NBC hosting a game the Saturday before Christmas Eve, 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, 2011, and last year. 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.
  • New this year, the flexed-out game always moves to the network from which the flexed-in game comes, regardless of which network it would air on normally. This should give the NFL some incentive to flex in games from the same network as the tentative, especially late in the year, to avoid having to deal with the rather restrictive crossflex rules more than necessary. It also affects CBS and Fox’s protection incentives; if the tentative is a game that would be valuable even if it needs to be flexed out (such as a Cowboys game), that affects both networks’ willingness to leave a week unprotected equally.
  • 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 Week 17 is exempt from team appearance limits. For the entire first decade of SNF, no team started the season completely tapped out at any measure, with every team having no more than three NBC appearances or five overall appearances; however, this year the Chiefs and Steelers have been given six appearances across all primetime packages, and in the Chiefs’ case, only Week 5’s Texans game even fell within the early flex period (and both NFL Network appearances are genuinely in primetime) – especially headscratching since the Jaguars and Browns have been saved from having to play Thursday night at all (the new Week 17 rules may have something to do with this, with the Jags and Browns being saved by a quirk of the calendar). A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 4 post.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 10 (November 12):

  • Selected game: New England @ Denver.

Week 11 (November 19):

  • Selected game: Philadelphia @ Dallas.

Week 12 (November 26):

  • Selected game: Green Bay @ Pittsburgh.

Week 13 (December 3):

  • Tentative game: Philadelphia @ Seattle
  • Prospects: 8-1 v. 6-3 and a matchup between two teams in the thick of the playoff mix.
  • Likely protections: Probably Patriots-Bills (CBS) and honestly, probably nothing for Fox, as any of their games are possibly protectable.
  • Other possible games: Panthers-Saints and Vikings-Falcons are the only games involving only teams above .500.
  • Analysis: At the same time it announced a crossflex for Week 12, the league also announced it was moving Panthers-Saints to become Fox’s lead national game this week, and listed a “final schedule” for both weeks, implying Eagles-Seahawks isn’t going to be flexed out no matter what. Of course it’s not like either game was going to overcome the tentative game bias anyway, not when the teams involved are this good (the best-case scenario for a flex is Panthers-Saints at 8-2 v. 7-3 with Eagles-Seahawks at 8-2 v. 6-4), but this allows me to make next week’s post right after the Monday night game ends.
  • Final prediction/actual selection: Philadelphia Eagles @ Seattle Seahawks (no change).

Week 14 (December 10):

  • Tentative game: Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: 4-5 v. 7-2. The AFC is shoddy enough that the Ravens are only a game out of the wild card, but this game is looking pretty lopsided with the Steelers running away with the division, and the Ravens-Steelers rivalry can’t carry a game by itself anymore.
  • Likely protections: Raiders-Chiefs or Vikings-Panthers if anything (CBS) and Cowboys-Giants (FOX).
  • Other possible games: As mentioned last week, the general manager of the Coliseum is now on record saying that “there are no restrictions on the venue playing host to a Sunday night game”. Still, if Vikings-Panthers is unprotected the league may want to make good neighbors with USC and the Coliseum’s neighbors and take Vikings-Panthers even with a slightly worse pair of records, especially with the Eagles on SNF the previous week and the Rams having an outside shot at being flexed in next week (if the Cowboys’ invulnerability to being flexed out somehow disappears). Seahawks-Jaguars remains a game involving a good pair of records but a team in the Jaguars the league and networks may instinctively blanch at the prospect of featuring.

Week 15 (December 17):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ Oakland
  • Prospects: 5-4 v. 4-5, but as usual it would take the apocalypse hitting to dislodge a Cowboys game from Sunday night.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Steelers (CBS) and probably Packers-Panthers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Rams-Seahawks would be a good choice to flex in under more ideal circumstances. Any other games would involve going to teams below .500, and Dolphins-Bills and Cardinals-Trumps aren’t that appealing even then; certainly they wouldn’t overcome the tentative game bias even if the Cowboys weren’t involved.

Week 17 (December 31):

AFC Playoff Picture
4-5 3-7
5-4 4-5
4-5 4-6
NFC Playoff Picture
2 teams at 5-4
7-3 5-4
5-4 5-4
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Panthers-Falcons, Jaguars-Titans, Packers-Lions, Bills-Dolphins, Cowboys-Eagles, Cardinals-Seahawks.

9 thoughts on “Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 10

  1. There was no way Eagles-Seahawks was being flexed out. Seahawks at worst would be 6-5 when the decision has to be made and in the hunt for a wild card and more likely this game will have major implications on the NFC West (Eagles could have the NFC East wrapped up before this game) and one or both first-round byes in the playoffs.

    Week 14: Still in my view a very good chance Eagles-Rams gets flexed if for no other reason than NBC being able to do a big-time “meet and greet” with the stars of NBC’s prime time shows ahead of that game at the LA Coliseum and the stars of such shows “being seen at the game.” As said before, there are many (mainly, but not all women) who don’t care about sports who will for instance watch Lakers games on TNT/ESPN/ABC just to see who is at the game and that audience is one NBC likely would get for that game that also features the top two picks of the 2016 draft. Another factor is Redskins-Chargers is at 4:05 PM ET on CBS and I doubt the NFL wants both the Chargers and Rams on simultaneously.

    I also see several other changes for Week 14 if that happens:

    Cowboys-Giants moved to 1:00 PM ET, which would make sense since Jets-Broncos is at 4:05 PM ET on CBS and the NFL really doesn’t like to have the Jets and Giants on at the same time even if they do have that happen sometimes (and fans of both teams in New York have complained about that more than a few times). This move I suspect happens no matter what.

    Ravens-Steelers becomes the main 4:25 PM ET game on FOX.

    Seahawks-Jaguars ALSO gets moved to 4:25 PM ET as due to the Orlando area overlapping the Tampa and Jacksonville markets, the NFL I believe has to move one of that game or Lions-Bucs to 4:25 PM ET

    It’s also possible if Eagles-Rams gets flexed to SNF (which given the likelihood of either Seahawks-Jags or Lions-Bucs having to be moved to 4:25 for reasons noted), it’s possible we could see where Ravens-Steelers becomes the main 1:00 PM ET game with only one of the two Florida games on FOX with it at that time opposite the CBS singleheader games and ALL of the other FOX games at 4:25 PM ET in what would be the opposite of the normal way of doing it.

    One other possibility would be Cowboys-Giants was cross-flexed to CBS at 1:00 PM ET and CBS got to show BOTH Cowboys-Giants AND Jets-Broncos in New York (similar to what happened this past week when CBS stations in the LA market got to show both Chargers-Jaguars and Texans-Rams. Another possibility would be both the Jets and Giants games were cross-flexed (Cowboys-Giants to CBS, Jets-Broncos to FOX) with Cowboys-Giants at 1:00, especially if FOX wound up with Ravens-Steelers and either of the Florida games only at 1:00 and the rest at 4:25 (and Eagles-Rams on NBC).

    Week 14 could see the most changes of any week in NFL history.

    Week 15: Still think if Rams-Seahawks is for the NFC West, that is flexed in, especially if the Raiders are 4-8 and Cowboys are 5-7 when that decision has to be made.

    Week 17: Jaguars-Titans to me is the favorite, especially since the NFL likely won’t be allowed to flex in Panthers-Falcons due to Mercedes-Benz Stadium officials needing to get the stadium ready immediately after that game for the Peach Bowl at 12:30 PM the following (New Year’s) Day (in fact, I would not be surprised if Peach Bowl officials make a request to the NFL that Panthers-Falcons be played on Saturday to give them more time to get the stadium ready).

  2. Howdy Walt,

    The Panthers/Falcons game will not be moved to Saturday for the Peach Bowl. That game will more than likely have some big-time playoff implications and there’s no way the NFL moves it back a day. It may even have to be played at 4:25pm EST due to other games with equal playoff implications having to be played at that same time. More to come tomorrow from me. Peace out,


  3. Jeff:

    I would not be surprised if Panthers-Falcons is not allowed to be flexed to 4:25 due to the Peach Bowl situation. That may override the NFL’s needs.

    This could have been avoided if the College Football Playoff committee scheduled the Peach Bowl for Friday (12/29) where the Cotton Bowl is.

  4. Schmolik:

    The flex schedule rules DO NOT APPLY to Week 17. That said, it’s likely moot because the Eagles may very well have everything wrapped up before that game and likely would be resting their starters. It’s HIGHLY unlikely at this point that game will have any meaning for the Eagles.

  5. As I am watching the Week 11 games right now, I will state my Week 17 Sunday Night Football opinions. Only 4 games for that week involve teams with records .500 or over.

    My #1 is still Jack(6-3) @ Tenn(6-3, now 6-4). My #2 Is Carolina(7-3) @ Atlanta (5-4). My #3 is Green Bay(5-4) @ Detroit(5-4). My #4 is Dallas(5-4) @ Philadelphia(8-1).

    Come on now Pack!!! Beat those Ravens. ????????

  6. Jeff:

    Again, you have to assume due to the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Day being at 12:30 PM ET and that NOT being able to be moved, Peach Bowl officials will likely make clear to the NFL they CAN NOT move Panthers-Falcons from 1:00 PM ET EVEN IF it’s the only game guaranteed to mean something on Sunday Night. Peach Bowl officials likely need more than say 8-9 hours to get Mercedes-Benz Stadium turned around from an NFL game to the Peach Bowl. Usually, you need at least 16-17 hours to get a stadium like that turned around and you have the added issue of some likely arriving in RVs for the Peach Bowl shortly after the scheduled 1:00 PM game ends on New Year’s Eve (something you don’t see with the NFL), which complicates matters if the game is moved to Sunday Night. That is why I can see Peach Bowl officials demand the NFL move Panthers-Falcons to Saturday over the NFL’s objections, citing the need to have the Peach Bowl ready (and if necessary, NBC having the game on Saturday night instead of Sunday with the Orange Bowl on ESPN moved from Saturday night to Sunday night in a corresponding move),

    What you COULD see happen is the NFL making requests that the Peach and Cotton Bowl switch time slots in the New Year’s Six Bowl Games, with the Cotton Bowl moved to the 12:30 PM slot New Year’s Day and the Peach Bowl being played three days earlier on Friday 12/29 at 8:30 PM ET (Cowboys finish the year on the road in Philly against the Eagles) so the NFL is then able to flex Panthers-Falcons to SNF if necessary.

  7. I don’t know if there is any precedence for switching bowl games around to accommodate NFL games and it would be hard to switch them at the last minute.

    As bad as the Ravens have been this year all of a sudden they are 5-5 and are tied for the last playoff spot in the AFC! Plus next week they host the Deshaun Watson less Texans which they should win. They should be 6-5 when the decision as to Steelers/Ravens or Eagles/Rams in Week 14 on SNF December 10 needs to be made. After the Ravens shut out the Packers today it appears now the Ravens deserved the SNF and the Packers should have lost their SNF game to the Rams (and that would have given the Saints a SNF game). I just hope if Eagles-Rams isn’t the SNF game that FOX makes Eagles-Rams the primary game and doesn’t shove the Cowboys-Giants down the country’s throat (of course in Philly and LA we will get Eagles-Rams).

  8. Schmolik:

    While it would be an unusual move have a game with playoff implications out of SNF, as noted Week 14 has a highly unusual set of circumstances. Moving Eagles-Rams to SNF makes sense because you have Redskins-Chargers at 4:05 PM on CBS that Sunday, plus it gives FOX a rare Steelers game that can become the main game that Sunday (with because of scheduling quirks that game at 1:00 with the reverse of the norm otherwise and most other FOX games at 4:25).

    You likely will see Cowboys-Giants moved to 1:00 PM, especially with the Cowboys losing last night to the Eagles and especially if the Cowboys lose Thursday to the Chargers. FOX also has to move either Lions-Bucs OR Seahawks-Jaguars to 4:25 PM due to an overlap of the Jacksonville and Tampa markets (in Orlando, FOX has both games), with if Seahawks-Jags moves that likely being the main regional game at 4:25 since in my scenario Ravens-Steelers would be at 1:00 PM on FOX (doing the doubleheader game first and then the regional games at 4:25) with a double cross-flex of the New York games (Cowboys-Giants moves to CBS at 1:00 PM, Jets-Broncos moves to FOX at 4:25 PM).

    You could see more switching around in Week 14 than any week in NFL history.

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