Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Preliminary Thoughts and Changes for the Season

A week ago I received a tweet asking if the Week 5 Sunday night game might be our first ever early flex. I didn’t actually read the tweet in detail, only seeing the notification of it on my phone, but seeing it and the mountains of notifications I was receiving put me into a panic mode, as I had fallen way behind on substantial changes I was planning to make to the Flex Schedule Watch this year. It took me all week to prepare the most substantial part of the changes and bring me to the point where I could even start to look at the situation.

The game in question? The Cowboys at the Texans.

I don’t know how many times I have to say this: if the Cowboys and their opponents have two wins between them and the Game of the Century is sitting there unprotected, maybe the league flexes out of a Cowboy game, but I’m not sure I would bet on it even then. Certainly they’re not going to burn the first-ever early flex on America’s Team, no matter how disappointing both Texas teams are. Neither was the undefeated Chiefs against Brady and the Patriots in any real doubt. (Oh, and only a handful of those notifications were actually about Cowboys-Texans.)

Rams-Niners Week 7 is more interesting, though; I’m surprised the Niners have multiple NBC appearances to begin with as I would have tagged them as more of a Monday night team unless and until Jimmy Garoppalo could prove himself to maintain his performance at the end of last season over the course of a whole season, and with him being out for the year and the Niners sitting at 1-3 to the Rams’ 4-0, most of the attraction the game had may be gone. It is a rivalry game between two big, multi-team markets but everyone knows how lukewarm LA has been to the return of the NFL. CBS is likely to protect Cowboys-Indians no matter what so if the Chiefs and Bengals both win it would certainly be attractive with only one loss between them, though probably not big enough names for the league to pull the early flex. Fox’s best games of Panthers-Eagles and Saints-Ravens would be more intriguing if the Eagles weren’t maxed out on primetime appearances (see below).

On to the changes to the flex schedule watch, where I was planning to institute the biggest changes to the structure of the Watch since I started it over a decade ago. My intention was to take all the information previously contained in my post-opening spiel, as well as other bits and pieces of information gleaned over the years, and present it in a coherent fashion on a single static page. That page ended up rambling on for over 3300 words, so it’s likely I’m going to continue providing a Cliffs Notes version of the page at the beginning of each post, but it’s likely to look completely different from the spiels I’ve given in the past.

In accordance with the new page, I’m also going to provide a table of primetime appearances in a single post at the beginning of the season, possibly shortly after the schedule release in future seasons. Recall the appearance limits are six primetime games for three teams, five for everyone else, and four NBC appearances. The Eagles have one SNF game in the main flex period so they could be flexed in if that game were flexed out. In the “Flexible” column, a “+1” indicates that the team has an SNF game in the Week 7-10 period, in other words, vulnerable to an early flex but not in Week 5 or 6 where any decision has likely already been made. This also doesn’t count the games that could potentially move to NFL Network on Saturday Week 16.

Team PT App’s On NBC Flexible
6 3 1+1
5 3 0+1
5 3 0+1
5 3 1+1
5 3 2
5 2 0+1
5 2 1
5 2 1+1
5 2 1+1
5 2 2
4 2 1+1
4 1 0
4 1 0
4 1 1
4 0 0
3 2 0
3 1 1
3 0 0
3 0 0
2 1 0
2 1 0
2 1 0
2 0 0
2 0 0
2 0 0
All others 1 0 0

Oh, and see here for why things might look different around here. I invite your comments on a potential future course of action on this post (assuming things actually do look different and the comments here are working), or alternately on Twitter.

2 thoughts on “Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Preliminary Thoughts and Changes for the Season

  1. Great to see you back Morgan. As for Week 7, I surely wouldn’t mind seeing Cincinnati at Kansas City flexed in, at the moment.

  2. This looks fine:

    I suspect Rams at 49ers will remain in Week 7. The 49ers have a very winnable game this week at home against the Cardinals (I’m actually in DFS using CJ Bethard as he looks to be a very value-oriented option that allows you to go for more expensive players elsewhere), so they should at worst be 2-5 going into that matchup. Plus, last year’s meeting in San Francisco was probably the wildest Thursday night game last year, so I can’t see that flexed out. Nor do I see any other game flexed out in the “Early Flex” period.

    As for the rest:

    Week 11: Steelers still a big national draw and there will I think be a ton of pressure from elected officials in North Florida to make sure Steelers-Jaguars remains on SNF (one of just two prime time appearances for the Jags I believe), not to mention this is a playoff rematch from last year.

    Week 12: Don’t see Packers-Vikings being moved out as the rest of the Sunday games are very weak.

    Week 13: Good chance both the 49ers and Seahawks are out of contention by the time decisions have to be made. I could see that game replaced by Broncos-Bengals (which may or may not be protected by CBS), which could have serious playoff implications by then.

    Week 14: Two teams in Steelers-Raiders with name value, but both could easily be out of playoff contention by then. I could easily see Rams-Bears be moved to SNF, especially with the Bears defense being what it is. Another possibility is the second Eagles-Cowboys game moves to SNF with Rams-Bears becoming the main 4:25 PM ET game on FOX (if Rams-Bears is protected), though Falcons-Packers could also be moved to SNF if the Falcons get their act together.

    Week 15: We know CBS will protect Steelers-Pats to 4:25, though if Eagles-Rams faltered, the NFL could make clear to CBS they owe NBC for no SNF game in Week 17 last year and this would be the payback for that. I do suspect Eagles-Rams will be at least meaningful for the NFC East, keeping it in place.

    Week 16: The way the Seahawks are faltering, I could see Chiefs-Seahawks moved out. It would be anyone’s guess as to what replaces it, but right now, assuming Steelers-Saints is protected by CBS, Jaguars-Dolphins if it has playoff ramifications would be the favorite to take the slot. One other thing the NFL should have done with Week 16 would have been to have Monday Night Football start an hour earlier than usual with a 7:15 PM ET kickoff as it is Christmas Eve.

    Week 17: As I noted last year, the NFL should do away with the 1:00/4:25 PM ET scheduling and instead have the last week where ALL games air between ALL of the NFL’s broadcast partners (including using DT-2/3/4 channels where needed) with ALL games in one conference kicking off at 3:00 PM Eastern Time and in the other conference at 7:00 PM Eastern Time. Sure, some locales might object to a 7:00 PM kickoff at the end of December, but this would eliminate the need for flexing the last week. As I would distribute Week 17:

    #1 Game in each time slot airs on NBC.
    #2-3 Games in each time slot air between FOX and CBS.
    #4 Game in each time slot airs on ABC.
    #5 Game in each time slot airs on ESPN (also LivWell, the DT-2 channel for ABC stations).
    #6 Game in each time slot airs on NFL Network (also Movies or BUZZR, DT-2/4 for FOX).

    #7-8 Games in each time slot air between DECADES (DT-2 Channel for CBS) and Movies or BUZZR (DT-2/4 Channel for FOX). Such games also air on FS1 (FOX Game) and most likely SPIKE TV (CBS game as that is owned by Viacom, former parent of CBS).

    That’s how I would handle Week 17

Leave a Comment