Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 11

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):

  • Selected game: Philadelphia @ Seattle.

Week 14 (December 10):

  • Tentative game: Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: 5-5 v. 8-2. Not terrible, exactly, and the Ravens are actually tied for the second wild card, but still a bit lopsided and the Steelers-Ravens rivalry has seen better days.
  • Likely protections: Raiders-Chiefs or Vikings-Panthers if anything (CBS) and Cowboys-Giants (FOX).
  • Other possible games: 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”, but Vikings-Panthers remains a game the league (if not NBC) might prefer to Eagles-Rams even without the Eagles’ one-loss status, if CBS didn’t protect it. Seahawks-Jaguars remains a game that would be a strong option if one of the teams wasn’t the Jags.
  • Analysis: The Ravens play on Monday night against a beatable Texans team and if they win (and possibly even if both they and the Steelers lose) it’s hard to imagine this game losing its spot. But if the game becomes more lopsided, 9-2 v. 8-3, as either Eagles-Rams or Vikings-Panthers could be, would be very difficult to pass up, even though Ravens-Steelers would still have playoff implications for both teams.

Week 15 (December 17):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ Oakland
  • Prospects: 5-5 v. 4-6, 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, Cardinals-Trumps, Texans-Jaguars, and even Bengals-Vikings 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
2 teams at 4-6
5-5 3-7
NFC Playoff Picture
6-4 6-4
5-5 5-5
  • 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.

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

  1. Looks to me like the NFL kind of jumped the gun by finalizing the Week 13 schedule so quickly. I get keeping Philly @ Seattle, but it is fairly lopsided record-wise. Carolina @ New Orleans did get moved from the early games to a late game window, but might have been the best choice for Sunday Night Football. Minnesota @ Atlanta also was less lopsided as well. But we don’t know about protections. I wish those were publicized in advance. Leaks come out in government easier than this happens.

    As for Week 14, Baltimore @ Pittsburgh is looking more likely to stay now. Though if the Steelers win and Baltimore loses, that could change. I like Minny @ Carolina most, followed by Seattle @ Jack, and then Philly @ Rams.

    As for Week 15, I hope the apocalypse happens and hope Dallas @ Oakland gets flexed. My 1st replacement would be New England @ Pittsburgh(though I am sure protected). Next for me is Rams @ Seahawks. Last choice for me, & soon to fall off my radar most likely is Green Bay @ Carolina.

    And finally Week 17. My #1 is still Jack @ Tenn. My #2 is Carolina @ Atlanta. These are the 2 current Wild Card teams in the NFC. I know, I know….the Peach Bowl. My #3 is Green Bay @ Detroit. My #4 is Dallas @ Philly. My 3 and 4 are likely to fall off, leaving just my top 2. Though it is possible that a different game could emerge that matters for a final playoff spot. Though because Week 17 is all divisional game matchups, it is tough for this to happen. We’ll see.

    Go Pack Go this Sunday at Pittsburgh. Need a miracle. ????????☺☺????????

  2. Jeff:

    Eagles-Seahawks had NO CHANCE of being flexed out. The Seahawks are still very much in the Wild Card hunt in the NFC (not to mention the NFC West if the Rams lose this week) and will be even if they lose again this week. Eagles could very well have the NFC East wrapped up by the time this kicks off, however, they are going to be in a dogfight with at least the Vikings and probably Saints for the #1 and #2 seeds in the NFC, so this is a no-brainer to keep.

    As for Week 14, I stand by my previous post that says we may see the most schedule changes of any week in NFL History as:

    Unless there is a cross-flex, either Lions-Bucs or Seahawks-Jaguars I believe MUST be moved to 4:25 due to an overlap of the Jacksonville and Tampa markets in Orlando (FOX has both games as of now).

    People in New York have complained about the Jets and Giants being on simultaneously, as that is scheduled to happen again in Week 14 (Jets-Broncos at 4:05 PM ET on CBS, Cowboys-Giants at 4:25 PM ET on FOX). I not only see where Cowboys-Giants goes to 1:00 PM (which would appease a lot of Giants season ticket holders who ONLY go to 1:00 PM games), but both New York games are cross-flexed (DAL-NYG to CBS at 1:00, NYJ-DEN to FOX at 4:25).

    You have BOTH LA teams scheduled at the same time (Redskins-Chargers at 4:05 on CBS, Eagles-Rams at 4:25 PM ET on FOX).

    This is why I see the NFL shifting Eagles-Rams to SNF with the double cross-flex of the New York teams noted while Ravens-Steelers goes to FOX as a rare 1:00 PM “America’s Game of the Week” doubleheader game with only Lions-Bucs or Seahawks-Jags with it at 1:00 and all other games on FOX at 4:25 PM ET (with most likely Seahawks-Jags the main game of those at 4:25). This clears up the New York and LA conflicts while FOX gets a rare Steelers game it can showcase almost by itself at 1:00 PM in a rare case where the doubleheader game goes first (and don’t think FOX would not drool to get a Steelers game that normally would be on CBS even if it meant losing Eagles-Rams).

    Week 15: Rams-Seahawks, especially if the NFC West is in play is the most likely game for that slot, especially if the Raiders and Cowboys continue to lose.

    Week 17: I again stand by what I have been saying that the NFL won’t be allowed to move Panthers-Falcons off of 1:00 PM due to Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Peach Bowl officials needing to get the stadium ready for the Peach Bowl at 1:00 PM. That’s why I can see Peach Bowl officials make a request to the NFL that Panthers-Falcons be moved to Saturday so they have more time to get the stadium ready for the Peach Bowl due to that game’s 12:30 PM ET kickoff on New Year’s Day (coupled with the likelihood you will have people arriving in RVs for the Peach Bowl around the time the Panthers-Falcons game ends as that is something unique to College Football you don’t see with the NFL). The only way the NFL likely can flex Panthers-Falcons is if the NFL can say work out a deal with the Cotton and Peach Bowls are flip-flopped with the Cotton Bowl moving into the New Year’s Day slot and the Peach Bowl taking place on Friday, Dec. 29.

    Otherwise, I suspect Jaguars-Titans is the favorite in a game that believe it or not where the Jags could be fighting for the #1 seed in the AFC and at worst a first-round bye (I was using ESPN’s playoff machine and I have the Jags running the table and finishing 13-3).

  3. If I were in charge today I would have flexed out the Eagles-Seattle game today (yeah I know I’m from Philly) in favor of Panthers-Saints but flexed in Eagles-Rams on December 10. This puts the Saints and Rams (and Panthers, who also I believe have not had a SNF game this season) into SNF and the Eagles don’t “lose” a game.

  4. The link under my name goes to ESPN’s Playoff Machine and my scenario.

    In my scenario, I do indeed have Jaguars at Titans the being the Week 17 Sunday Nighter because I have them both running the table and the Jags having to win in Nashville to win the AFC South and most likely the #2 seed in the AFC in that scenario.

  5. Jeff:

    I see what happened, it changed on the conclusion of the Lions game.

    You can also use it to adjust it to what you see happening.

    Notable on what I did before it was erased besides what I already wrote was I have the Eagles not losing until the final game against the Cowboys where you likely in that scenario see Nick Foles at Quarterback because the Eagles will have everything wrapped up through the NFC Playoffs.

  6. Monday Morning Update on December 10 games:

    Eagles/Rams is now 10-1 vs. 8-3!

    Giants/Cowboys is now 5-6 vs. 2-9!

    Seahawks/Jaguars is now 7-4 vs. 7-4

    Vikings/Panthers is now 9-2 vs. 8-3

    Ravens/Steelers is now 9-2 vs. 5-5 (I think Ravens should win easily so I’ll say 6-5)

    If you believe scheduled games shouldn’t lose their spot, 9-2 vs. 6-5 wouldn’t deserve to lose it and Pittsburgh is one of the most popular teams in the country although Ravens/Steelers has been seen way too many times and the Rams hasn’t been on SNF not only this year but they’ve made ONE appearance ever on Sunday Night Football. ONE! It was the winner take all showdown for the NFC West in 2010 (actually January 2011 at Seattle) when they were still in St. Louis. The Rams deserve this game more than the Steelers! If not, they deserve to me the showcase game on FOX way more than a 2-9 vs. 5-6 and embarrassed themselves on Thanksgiving Cowboys. Check out Sports Media Watch, the Cowboys game was the lowest rated Cowboys games in years. If NBC keeps the Steelers and FOX makes the Cowboys the featured 4:25pm game, it will be absolutely unfair to the Rams (and Eagles) and will be absolutely stupid. Hopefully they will allow Eagles-Rams a chance to showcase over a national (or large) audience. It would be totally unfair if that game is only seen in Philly and LA!

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