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; 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 15 (December 17):

  • Selected game: Dallas @ Oakland.

Week 17 (December 31):

AFC Playoff Picture
2 teams at 6-6
6-6 6-6
NFC Playoff Picture
2 tied at 6-6
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Panthers-Falcons, Jaguars-Titans, Packers-Lions, Bills-Dolphins, Raiders-Chargers.
  • Preliminary analysis: NBC is dreading the possibility of getting a Jags-Titans division title game, with the loser likely to still make the playoffs (if the game doesn’t just determine home field for a rematch the next week), on New Year’s Eve, which might get the lowest ratings for the Week 17 SNF game in the all-division-games era, if not since the start of the package. The Chiefs’ freefall, though, is opening up the possibility that Raiders-Chargers could serve as at least a marginally more attractive division title game, one with the loser likely to be out. Games for wild-card berths between the Panthers and Falcons as well as between the Bills and Dolphins (and not even listed here, the Bengals and Ravens) seem unlikely. NBC’s dream game would be Packers-Lions for a wild card spot, but that would require teams in the AFC South and West to regress.

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

  1. Well, here we are with only Week 17 for Sunday Night Football to be decided.

    My #1 remains Jack.(8-4) @ Tenn.(8-4)
    #2 is Car.(8-4) @ Atl.(7-5)
    #3 is Oak.(6-6) @ LAC(6-6)
    #4 is GB(6-6) @ Det.(6-6)
    #5 is Dal.(6-6) @ Phil.(10-2)

    Things could change a good bit here after the Week 14. Go Pack Go @ Cleveland this week. 🙂

  2. My view remains the same:

    Panthers-Falcons likely can’t be moved to Sunday Night Football due to the Peach Bowl being at 12:30 PM on New Year’s Day and needing to get Mercedes-Benz Stadium ready for that game. The only way I see that flexed is if that game also was moved to Saturday Night, something I can see Peach Bowl officials request the NFL do anyway.

    If Jaguars at Titans is for the AFC South, and especially if a first-round bye is at stake, then that is the Sunday Night Finale.

    Next would be Raiders at Chargers if that is a winner-take-all for the AFC West.

    It is conceivable Packers-Lions could be for a wild card, but too many things need to happen for that to be the case (especially with the Seahawks two games ahead right now).

    The ONLY way Cowboys-Eagles is the SNF Finale is if the Cowboys win out and the Eagles lose out before they meet.

  3. It looks like after all that posturing about Eagles-Rams it looks like that game could wind up being at least moved to Anaheim because of the wildfires if not postponed to Monday night because of that (Anaheim Stadium has a football field in place because the Eagles are actually practicing there this week). The Redskins-Chargers game is also I believe in a similar situation because of those fires due to the air quality.

    It will be interesting if one or both of those games has to be moved and possibly to Monday Night due to the fires, which likely are only going to get worst with hurricane force winds expected later this week in LA.

  4. I live in the greater LA area and things are definitely supposed to calm down wind-wize by Friday at the latest, but we’ll see what happens. I have a hunch the games will go on as scheduled. Sad for the many who have lost their homes for sure. ????

  5. You have to wonder if the NFL has a forecast of better air quality at the LA Coliseum on Monday would they move Eagles-Rams to Monday night (possibly done where it becomes part of a doubleheader on ESPN with Pats-Dolphins moved up to say 6:30 and Eagles-Rams having a 10:05 PM/7:05 PM local kickoff) so they can keep it there. I don’t think USC could object to that given the circumstances.

  6. It also occurred to me they could move Eagles-Rams to Monday night anyway because the Rams practice schedule has already been affected by the winds. By moving the game to Monday, the Rams would have more time to properly get ready for the game.

  7. Under normal circumstances, I would agree, however, this is a situation where they could put both games on ESPN by doing that (blacking out Eagles-Rams on ESPN in Philly and LA where it would air on FOX stations) OR let FOX have that game at 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM (with Pats-Dolphins moved to 6:30 PM ET) and find a way to compensate ESPN for moving up MNF for one week (possibly since with the NFL wanting to have all the teams who have yet to play a game in London play one in 2018, giving ESPN a London game next year on “Black Friday” that would be at 2:00 PM ET/11:00 AM PT that would be a new London game on the schedule). That to me might be the way to do it.

  8. After last night, what I suspect for now is this:

    Jags-Titans if it’s for the AFC South and possibly a first-round bye I suspect is still the frontrunner for the SNF finale (if both win out and Titans win that game, Titans win AFC south on head-to-head sweep). I still suspect NBC would rather spend New Year’s Eve in Nashville over other places, plus the Jags did not get a prime time game this year (Jags and Browns were the only teams not to play a Thursday game).

    Packers-Lions is possible, but both must win their next two and the Falcons probably have to lose both.

    Panthers-Falcons I think can only be flexed if the game also is moved from Sunday to Saturday night, something Peach Bowl officials might still insist on anyway.

    Raiders need to win their next two and hope the Chiefs lose their next two (including Saturday against the Chargers) for Chargers-Raiders to be possible for the finale.

    Regardless of what game is there, ratings likely will be the same no matter what because of it being New Year’s Eve. I would have myself in fact actually had the games for week 17 at Noon and 3:25 early with SNF at 7:30 to assure the SNF even if a full OT is played ends before the ball is dropped.

  9. Nothing yet from regarding any changes to the Week 16 schedule for Sunday December 24th. Currently there are 9 early games and 3 late games. I could see 2 games possibly flexed from early to late. Maybe Falcons @ Saints and Rams @ Titans. Being that it’s Christmas Eve, we’ll likely see no changes though. We’ll know for sure by tomorrow at the latest. When Morgan makes his new blog, I will give my current ideas on Week 17 Sunday Night Football.

  10. Well, there were no changes to the Week 16 schedule. No real surprise, but some could have been warranted, if it was to be allowed.

    I decided to make my opinions on Week 17 known now.

    I have 6 possible games.

    #1 to me is still Jack(9-4) @ Tenn(8-5), but it appears Jack might pull away with Marriota kinda hobbled and this might not turn into a win and your in situation afterall. The collapse of Kansas City and surge of the Chargers has made this more tenous than ever.

    #2 to me is still Car(9-4) @ Atl(8-5) and even Rich Eisen, on his show today, mentioned this as his possible choice or what he could see as Game 256, as he said it. I think a call, tweet, or email from Walt Gekko to Rich Eisen might be a good idea to inform him of the Peach Bowl implications.

    My #3 & potentially moving up game is Oak(6-7) @ LAC(7-6). Alot has to do with what happens this coming weekend.

    My #4 is GB(7-6) @ Det(7-6), but if Atlanta and Seattle continue to win, this will become moot.

    My #5 is Ariz(6-7) @ Sea(8-5). This is a slingshot.

    My #6 is Dal(7-6) @ Phil(11-2), but the Eagles could have their playoff seed all locked up by this game and the SNF game won’t be where 1 team has no incentive to play.

    Here’s to a Week 15 as fun as Week 14 was. Go Pack Go this Sunday at Carolina with Aaron Rodgers back in the saddle. ????☺????

  11. Jeff:

    I’m sure no one at NFL Network realized the conflict with the Peach Bowl. Like I said, the only way Panthers-Falcons is flexed in Week 17 is only if NBC agrees to move their final game from Sunday to Saturday night. The NFL should have flipped those games to begin with unless there were other conflicts involved.

    And after running the playoff machine, I see where if the Jags and Titans their next two AND the Steelers beat the Patriots on Sunday, it’s VERY likely that game could wind up being if the Jags win and it’s a first-round bye AND the Titans are completely out of the playoffs while if the Titans win they win the AFC South. That makes it the frontrunner.

  12. I’m about to put up the new post, but: if the Peach Bowl were to “insist” on moving Panthers-Falcons to Saturday they would have done so already. Obviously if there was any way for the Falcons to be on the road Week 17 the league should have taken it (and while I’m at it, I’m mystified why the NFL didn’t follow with recent tradition and had Dallas at home instead of on the road the week after Thanksgiving, precluding the Big 12 title game from being held on Friday), but this year’s schedule was particularly hard to put together to begin with. In any case the league is probably hoping they don’t find themselves wanting to move Panthers-Falcons even to the late afternoon to ensure the Seahawks have something to play for.

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