Category Archives: SNF Flex Scheduling Watch

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 7

Now with full list of protections!

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 even with the bit about the early flexes, this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why 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 4:15 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. 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.
  • In the past, three teams could 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. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; ten teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Packers, Bears, 49ers, Steelers, and Saints don’t have games in the main flex period, and all have games in the early flex period. I don’t know if both of the games scheduled for 12/20 count towards the total, or only the one in primetime. 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 11 (November 16):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Indianapolis
  • Prospects: 5-2 v. 5-2; hard to imagine it losing its spot.
  • Protected games: Eagles-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Lions-Cardinals is probably the best option. Seahawks-Chiefs is a very dark horse.

Week 12 (November 23):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 6-1 v. 3-4. This game is starting to look lopsided, but the Cowboys being flexed out of SNF would probably be a harbinger of the apocalypse, especially when they’re not the ones dragging it down.
  • Protected games: Dolphins-Broncos (CBS).
  • Other possible games: This was my only whiff on picking the protections; I had thought Fox would protect Cardinals-Seahawks or Lions-Patriots here, but those aren’t such huge games involving such big names as to justify reducing the chance of getting Cowboys-Giants back. Lions-Patriots is the best option; Cardinals-Seahawks is now only a dark horse.

Week 13 (November 30):

  • Tentative game: Denver @ Kansas City
  • Prospects: 5-1 v. 3-3. Not terribly lopsided at the moment, but doesn’t have the Cowboys invulnerability factor.
  • Protected games: Patriots-Packers (CBS) and Saints-Steelers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving weekend, paucity of good games, especially with Eagles-Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Browns-Bills is a dark horse, but Chargers-Ravens is really the only good option. Would that overcome the chance to have Peyton Manning on?

Week 14 (December 7):

  • Tentative game: New England @ San Diego
  • Prospects: 5-2 v. 5-2. Very strong to keep its spot.
  • Protected games: Steelers-Bengals (CBS) and Seahawks-Eagles (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Colts-Browns, Ravens-Dolphins, and Chiefs-Cardinals are dark horses, but only Bills-Broncos involves two teams over .500, and none of those are particularly appealing, especially given the tentative they’d have to unseat.

Week 15 (December 14):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ Philadelphia
  • Prospects: 6-1 v. 5-1 and an NFC East showdown. If form holds, this game has a mortal lock on this spot.
  • Protected games: Broncos-Chargers (CBS) and 49ers-Seahawks (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Packers-Bills is the only game involving two teams over .500, and it would require an absolute collapse by one or both tentative teams and that still might not be enough (as many Cowboys games past have shown). Bengals-Browns and Dolphins-Patriots are dark horses.

Week 16 (December 21):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ Arizona
  • Prospects: 3-3 v. 5-1 is starting to look a mite lopsided, but what do you flex it out for?
  • Protected games: Colts-Cowboys (CBS) and Lions-Bears (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Chiefs-Steelers is your best option at 4-3 v. 3-3. Browns-Panthers is a very dark horse.

Week 17 (December 28):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 6

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 even with the bit about the early flexes, this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why 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 4:15 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. 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.
  • In the past, three teams could 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. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; ten teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Packers, Bears, 49ers, Steelers, and Saints don’t have games in the main flex period, and all have games in the early flex period. I don’t know if both of the games scheduled for 12/20 count towards the total, or only the one in primetime. 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 11 (November 16):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Indianapolis
  • Prospects: 4-2 v. 4-2; hard to imagine it losing its spot.
  • Likely protections: Probably nothing, but if anything Bengals-Saints (CBS) and 49ers-Giants or Eagles-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Besides Fox’s unprotected game, Lions-Cardinals is a possibility, and Texans-Browns is a dark horse.

Week 12 (November 23):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 5-1 v. 3-3. This game could start looking lopsided, but the Cowboys being flexed out of SNF would probably be a harbinger of the apocalypse, especially when they’re not the ones dragging it down.
  • Likely protections: Dolphins-Broncos (CBS, confirmed) and Cardinals-Seahawks or Lions-Patriots (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Basically, the only real option is whatever game Fox didn’t protect, although Bengals-Texans is a dark horse.

Week 13 (November 30):

  • Tentative game: Denver @ Kansas City
  • Prospects: 4-1 v. 2-3. Also could start looking lopsided, and doesn’t have the Cowboys invulnerability factor.
  • Likely protections: Chargers-Ravens or Patriots-Packers (CBS) and Saints-Steelers (FOX, confirmed).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving weekend, paucity of good games, especially with Eagles-Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Browns-Bills is a dark horse, but CBS’ unprotected game is really the only good option. Would that overcome the chance to have Peyton Manning on?

Week 14 (December 7):

  • Tentative game: New England @ San Diego
  • Prospects: 4-2 v. 5-1. Very strong to keep its spot.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bengals (CBS, confirmed) and Seahawks-Eagles (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Colts-Browns is an option, and Bills-Broncos is a dark horse, but none of those are particularly appealing, especially given the tentative they’d have to unseat.

Week 15 (December 14):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ Philadelphia
  • Prospects: 5-1 v. 5-1 and an NFC East showdown. If form holds, this game has a mortal lock on this spot.
  • Likely protections: Chargers-Broncos (CBS, confirmed) and 49ers-Seahawks (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Bengals-Browns is the only unprotected game involving two teams over .500, and it would require an absolute collapse by one or both tentative teams and that still might not be enough (as many Cowboys games past have shown). Packers-Bills and Texans-Colts are dark horses.

Week 16 (December 21):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ Arizona
  • Prospects: 3-2 v. 4-1 makes for a pretty strong game, all things considered, especially given the alternatives.
  • Likely protections: Colts-Cowboys (CBS) and almost certainly nothing, but if anything Lions-Bears (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Browns-Panthers is the only real option at the moment, and it hardly is one. Ravens-Texans and Lions-Bears are dark horses.

Week 17 (December 28):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 5

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 even with the bit about the early flexes, this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why 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 4:15 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. 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.
  • In the past, three teams could 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. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; ten teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Packers, Bears, 49ers, Steelers, and Saints don’t have games in the main flex period, and all have games in the early flex period. I don’t know if both of the games scheduled for 12/20 count towards the total, or only the one in primetime. NBC appearances for all teams: GB 3 (2 semi-flexible), SEA 3 (1 flexible), IND 2 (1 flexible), DEN 3 (1 semi-flexible, 1 flexible), CHI 2 (1 semi-flexible), SF 3 (1 semi-flexible), PIT 2 (1 semi-flexible), CAR 1, NO 2 (1 semi-flexible), DAL 3 (2 flexible), CIN 1, NE 3 (2 flexible), NYG 2 (1 flexible), PHI 3 (1 flexible, 1 ?), BAL 1 (semi-flexible), KC 1 (flexible), SD 1 (flexible), ARI 1 (flexible). All primetime appearances for all teams: GB 5 (2 semi-flexible), SEA 4 (1 flexible), IND 5 (1 flexible), DEN 5 (1 semi-flexible, 1 flexible), CHI 5 (1 semi-flexible), SF 5 (1 semi-flexible, 1 ?), PIT 5 (1 semi-flexible), CAR 3, NO 5 (1 semi-flexible), DAL 5 (2 flexible), CIN 3, NE 5 (2 flexible), NYG 5 (1 flexible), PHI 4 (1 flexible), BAL 3 (1 semi-flexible), KC 3 (1 flexible), SD 4 (1 flexible, 1 ?), ARI 3 (1 flexible), DET 1, NYJ 3, WAS 4 (1 ?), STL 2, HOU 2, TEN 2, MIA 2, ATL 2, all other teams 1.

Briefly, here are the current early-season games and their prospects for being flexed out:

  • Week 7: San Francisco (3-2) @ Denver (3-1). The 49ers started out 1-2, but now that they’ve climbed back above .500 I don’t think you waste an early flex on this. No chance of being flexed out.
  • Week 8: Green Bay (3-2) @ New Orleans (2-3). A bit chintzy, but it is still two name teams and it’s still Aaron Rodgers v. Drew Brees.
  • Week 9: Baltimore (3-2) @ Pittsburgh (3-2). Again, not a great game, but still a marquee rivalry between two teams above .500.
  • Week 10: Chicago (2-3) @ Green Bay (3-2). Basically the same situation as Packers-Saints, except Chicago isn’t quite as big a name (but still a big market) and Jay Cutler isn’t Drew Brees. The Bears would need to look pretty bad for this game to lose its spot, but if the NFL still has one or both early flexes left they could easily burn it on this.

I held off on making this post because I wanted to find out how the new “cross-flex” system affected how protections worked, if at all; the purpose of protections is to protect the afternoon packages, so it seems to defeat the point of protections if you can protect a game from NBC only to lose it to CBS or Fox. On the other hand, that would seem to defeat the point of the cross-flex system, whose main purpose was billed as beefing up the late spot of the doubleheader, which would seem to be difficult to do if you can only move games you could move to SNF anyway (although the tentative game bias would seem to produce at least a few candidates). And then there’s the fact that some games in the flex period have already been picked for cross-flexing, meaning they could be protected by networks that wouldn’t normally have them… Regardless, for now I’m going to assume protections work as they have in seasons past, and as such here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 16):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Indianapolis
  • Prospects: 3-2 v. 3-2, about the same as the remaining early-flex games. Obviously this rivalry isn’t as hot as in the Brady-Manning days, but it’s still Brady v. Luck.
  • Likely protections: Bengals-Saints if anything (CBS) and 49ers-Giants or Eagles-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: With no unbeaten teams after just five weeks, you see a lot of mediocrity in the standings, as the early-flex games and this first tentative show. Besides Fox’s unprotected game, Lions-Cardinals is a possibility, and Texans-Browns is a dark horse.

Week 12 (November 23):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 4-1 v. 3-2. The NFC East is hardly last year’s tire fire, and for once the Cowboys don’t look quite so mediocre as in years past.
  • Likely protections: Dolphins-Broncos, Bengals-Texans, or nothing (CBS) and Cardinals-Seahawks or Lions-Patriots (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Basically comes down to whatever games CBS and Fox don’t protect.

Week 13 (November 30):

  • Tentative game: Denver @ Kansas City
  • Prospects: 3-1 v. 2-3. Possibly the most vulnerable of the tentatives, yet still has a pretty good chance to keep its spot on its own merits.
  • Likely protections: Chargers-Ravens or Patriots-Packers (CBS) and Saints-Steelers if anything (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving weekend, paucity of good games, especially with Eagles-Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Browns-Bills is a dark horse, but CBS’ unprotected game is really the only good option. Doubtful that’d overcome the chance to have Peyton Manning on.

Week 14 (December 7):

  • Tentative game: New England @ San Diego
  • Prospects: 3-2 v. 4-1. Very strong to keep its spot.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bengals, Bills-Broncos, or nothing (CBS) and Seahawks-Eagles (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Besides CBS’s unprotected game, Ravens-Dolphins and Colts-Browns are dark horses. None of those are particularly appealing.

Week 15 (December 14):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ Philadelphia
  • Prospects: 4-1 v. 4-1 and an NFC East showdown. If form holds, this game has a mortal lock on this spot.
  • Likely protections: Chargers-Broncos (CBS) and 49ers-Seahawks (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Packers-Bills and Texans-Colts, both of which would require an absolute collapse by one or both teams and that still might not be enough (as many Cowboys games past have shown). Bengals-Browns and Dolphins-Patriots are dark horses.

Week 16 (December 21):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ Arizona
  • Prospects: The NFL sometimes seems to put throwaway games in Week 16 and this may have seemed like one of them, but at 3-1 v. 3-1 it’s nearly on par with the previous week.
  • Likely protections: Colts-Cowboys (CBS) and Lions-Bears but more likely nothing (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Ravens-Texans is the only real option at the moment, and it hardly is one. Browns-Panthers is a dark horse.

Week 17 (December 28):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

2014 NFL TV Schedule

Here is the schedule of games on Fox, NBC, CBS, ESPN, and NFL Network for the 2014 season, which will kick off with the Packers visiting the Seahawks.

There are several changes to the NFL’s TV landscape this season. ESPN will air a Wild Card playoff game for the first time, while NBC will trade in one of its Wild Card games for a Divisional round game (the full postseason schedule will be announced at a later date). NBC will be able to flex in games as early as Week 5, but will be able to flex in no more than two games before Week 11. CBS and Fox will be able to air games from the other network’s conference, allowing this year’s Thanksgiving slate to consist entirely of NFC divisional matchups. Finally, CBS will simulcast the first half of the Thursday night slate with NFL Network, in addition to producing the entire slate.

Games marked with an asterisk (*) may be flexed out for any of the CBS or Fox games earlier in the day. Games marked with a cross (†) may also be flexed out, but no more than two games with a cross may be flexed out in this fashion. Follow the SNF Flex Scheduling Watch category for more information throughout the season. Games may also move to the network marked with a 4:25 ET start time. Networks in bold are cable. All times Eastern.

Read More »

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 written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 11
  • In effect during Weeks 11-17
  • 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 4:15 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, 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.
  • In the past, three teams could 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. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; six teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the 49ers don’t have at least one game that can be flexed out. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 5 post.

First, a postscript on the Week 16 selection of Bears-Eagles: apparently the NFL flexed out a perfectly passable and important Patriots-Ravens game for the same reason I adhered to a 22-20 rule for two years before being disproved at the end of the second year. In short, if the NFL didn’t make a CBS-to-Fox flex it wouldn’t be able to flex in a CBS game Week 17. Of course flexing in Lions-Eagles Week 14 and Panthers-Saints this week would have achieved the same goal without making the Week 17 flex more dramatic than it had to be, all for the sake of preserving a CBS-Fox balance that, as it turned out, might not even have been relevant if the NFL hadn’t flexed in Bears-Eagles!

Week 17 (December 29):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (6-8)
SOUTH
49-5
511-3
CLINCHED
NORTH
39-5
68-6
8-6
EAST
210-4
8-6
8-6 7-7
WEST
111-3
11-3
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (7-6-1)
NORTH
48-6
510-4
7-6-1
EAST
38-6
610-4
7-7
SOUTH
210-4
9-5
10-4
WEST
112-2
10-4
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Eagles-Cowboys, Packers-Bears, Ravens-Bengals. (The Jets lost and Miami won, so Jets-Dolphins is out, and the 49ers winning this past week, holding the tiebreaker, and playing on Monday night keeps 49ers-Cardinals from being an option.)
  • Eagles-Cowboys will be selected if: The Cowboys win OR the Packers lose AND the Bengals win AND the Ravens lose AND the Bears beat the Eagles. The NFL could have flexed this game in if the Cowboys and Eagles both lost, but no-o-o-o.
  • Packers-Bears will be selected if: The Packers win OR the Lions lose AND the Cowboys lose AND the Bengals win AND the Ravens lose AND the Eagles beat the Bears. Thanks to the NFC North trying to out-mediocre the NFC East in recent weeks, this game has a real chance to pull the semi-upset, especially if Aaron Rodgers comes back. I’m cracking open the possibility that if it comes down to Eagles-Cowboys or Packers-Bears, the NFL could make the selection contingent on the Bears-Eagles game and have Bob Costas ready to announce it on the postgame.
  • Ravens-Bengals will be selected if: The Cowboys lose AND the Packers lose AND the Bengals lose AND the Dolphins win AND the Ravens lose. That this game ends up determining the AFC North crown is highly likely, as it would only require the Bengals to lose or the Ravens to win, and that would at least allow this game to serve as the NFL’s ace in the hole if Eagles-Cowboys and Packers-Bears are both contingent on the Bears-Eagles result… but if the loser can still pick up the wild card, the NFL may shy away, especially since this game is far less attractive than the perpetual train wreck known as the Dallas Cowboys or the Packers-Bears rivalry, and especially if this just determines home field advantage for a rematch the following week. (In other words, if the Colts lose the NFL is definitely not picking this game in any scenario other than the above.) All told, this week could end up saying a lot about how much the NFL places on being able to announce the Week 17 game at halftime of SNF (or alternatively over whether the NFL favors NBC or Fox more and which game is seen as more attractive), and a lot could depend on how much the NFL can wait to pick one game or the other without having too many ripple effects on the afternoon schedule. There’s an off chance, if things break just right, the NFL just picks Eagles-Cowboys and runs the risk of it being irrelevant (which is still better than being half-relevant).

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 14

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 written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 11
  • In effect during Weeks 11-17
  • 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 4:15 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, 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.
  • In the past, three teams could 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. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; six teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the 49ers don’t have at least one game that can be flexed out. 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 16 (December 22):

  • Selected game: Chicago @ Philadelphia. Now I know the NFL goofed up when it flexed Panthers-Saints into primetime this past Sunday night. Someone commented on my Last-Minute Remarks post that flexing out a perfectly good tentative might be compensation for CBS giving up the Chiefs-Broncos protection, as well as for the NFL’s inability to flex Cardinals-Eagles into primetime the week before, but both of those would have been solved and the whole thing avoided if the NFL had flexed Lions-Eagles last Sunday night and Saints-Panthers this week. Yes, if Al Michaels is right Saints-Panthers is less important now, Lions-Eagles would have been a snowy mess (Fox had to paint yard lines on the field!) with the added factor of night making it that much colder, and Fox had to keep Seahawks-49ers in the late spot so there’s no guarantee they would have even put Saints-Panthers there, but there had to have been a better way to handle this – especially since Eagles-Cowboys had been the odds-on favorite for Week 17 and now it’s highly unlikely NBC would be able to announce that at halftime, which just makes this look all the more supremely dumb. I can pretty much guarantee you that if next year’s rules were in place the whole thing would have been handled very differently. (Meanwhile, the folks at the 506sports.com forums who insist there’s something preventing the NFL from moving both halves of a divisional matchup to primetime against all evidence just got some ammo.)

Week 17 (December 29):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (5-8)
SOUTH
48-5
510-3
5-8
NORTH
39-4
67-6
7-6
EAST
210-3
7-6
7-6 6-7
WEST
111-2
6-7
10-3
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (7-6)
NORTH
47-6
59-4
7-6
EAST
38-5
69-4 6-6-1
7-6
SOUTH
210-3
8-5
9-4
WEST
111-2
9-4
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Eagles-Cowboys (the odds-on favorite), Packers-Bears, Ravens-Bengals, Jets-Dolphins, 49ers-Cardinals.
  • Chances for Eagles-Cowboys: 40 percent. As before, this game now looks a lot less likely, at least if the NFL wants to make the announcement at halftime of Week 16. Considering it’s an NFC East matchup, under normal circumstances all that would be needed would be to avoid a) either the Eagles winning their next two and the Cowboys losing at least one or the Cowboys losing their next two and the Eagles winning at least one or b) the Eagles losing their next two and the Cowboys winning their next two (as the Cowboys would win a division tiebreaker even with an Eagles win in that circumstance). But just that short list of situations could completely preclude this game from happening in any of the following situations where it might otherwise be plausible: the Eagles win their next game and the Cowboys split, the Eagles lose their next game and the Cowboys lose both, the Eagles lose their next game and the Cowboys win both. And, of course, if the Eagles win their next game and the Cowboys lose both the division is already theirs. That leaves just two situations where the Bears-Eagles result has no impact and Cowboys-Eagles can still be announced at halftime: the Eagles winning their next game and the Cowboys winning both, and the Eagles losing their next game and the Cowboys splitting, because if the teams remain a game apart the Cowboys have the head-to-head tiebreaker with a win.
  • Chances for Packers-Bears: 10 percent. Did we mention this game is affected by the Week 16 game too? And that this game would probably need the Bears and Packers to win profusely and the Lions to lose profusely?
  • Chances for Ravens-Bengals: 20 percent. The Ravens are currently tied for a wild card spot, so in order for this game to be flexed in not only would the Bengals have to lose their next two and the Ravens win at least one (the Ravens won their previous matchup and so would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker), it would probably help if the Dolphins won their next two as well and tried to preclude the Ravens from still getting a wild card with a loss.
  • Chances for Jets-Dolphins: 15 percent. If the Dolphins lose both and the Jets win both, the Dolphins would still hold a head-to-head tiebreaker with a win, and the Jets hold the common-games tiebreaker and can’t do worse than tie the division tiebreaker, so as long as the teams remain within a game of one another this game would determine the order in which they finish relative to one another. But Baltimore would have to be unable to make the playoffs if they don’t win the division and Ravens-Bengals needs to be out as an option, which probably means this game needs Baltimore to lose both games, and I haven’t even talked about San Diego.
  • Chances for 49ers-Cardinals: 15 percent. The Niners beat them the first time and hold the division tiebreaker no matter what, so the Niners would need to lose at least one more game than the Cardinals (either the 49ers lose both with the Cardinals winning at least one or the Cardinals win both with the 49ers losing at least one), but with all the teams in the “waiting in the wings” column probably winning their mediocre divisions before they get the wild card, there’s an excellent chance this game would be win-and-you’re-in in that case. The problem: the Niners play on Monday night, so really the only situation where this game could be flexed in no matter what would be if the Niners lost their next game and the Cardinals won both. This is why Cowboys-Eagles still has the percentage it does: NBC’s best hope may end up being to flex it in and hope for the best, because the worst case might end up being the game having no impact at all. I’m not ruling out the possibility of me having to check Panthers-Falcons or Chiefs-Chargers either.

Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 16 Picks

Week 16 (December 22):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 10-3 v. 7-6; pretty lopsided, but the name value could still save it and the Ravens are very much alive in the playoff hunt (then again, every AFC team that’s not the Texans – more on them in a bit – and Jags are).
  • Protected games: Broncos-Texans (CBS) and Cowboys-Indians (FOX).
  • Other possible games mentioned on Tuesday’s Watch and their records: Saints-Panthers (10-3 v. 9-4 in some order), Colts (8-5)-Chiefs (10-3), Cardinals (7-5)-Seahawks (11-1, both teams currently playing), Bears (6-6)-Eagles (8-5).
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: The Bears are playing, but Bears-Eagles doesn’t really have a shot to be flexed in.
  • Analysis: CBS’ decision to protect Broncos-Texans over Colts-Chiefs was questionable at the time since the Texans definitely had the worst record of the four at 2-3 and seemed to be in a tailspin; now it seems to have given the Texans the kiss of death, as they haven’t won since (even losing to the freaking Jaguars twice!) and the Colts and Chiefs have only two-thirds as many losses between them as the Texans have themselves. But CBS looks to be off the hook for that with the Colts losing, making Colts-Chiefs not only definitely worse than Saints-Panthers but slightly lopsided as well. This selection will say a lot about the NFL’s priorities, because the Ravens have recovered enough to get above .500 (if it weren’t for a questionable pass interference call Patriots-Ravens would be equally as lopsided as Colts-Chiefs and only a game worse) and I might ordinarily side with the tentative game bias here even with Saints-Panthers’ awesome pair of records… on the other hand, the NFL showed with the Chiefs-Broncos protection overrule – oh sorry, “voluntary protection dropping” – a desire to flex in games on the singleheader network to deliver them to a national audience, and Fox has the singleheader this week… on the other other hand, if that were a factor here the NFL wouldn’t have flexed in Panthers-Saints this week, because now flexing in Saints-Panthers means taking away both halves of a divisional matchup from Fox (both of them being flexed in without Week 17′s weird circumstances being a factor) and putting the same matchup on NBC twice in three weeks (without the playoffs being a factor). I’m not saying I would be surprised if Saints-Panthers was flexed in, but considering the records aren’t quite as attractive as Chiefs-Broncos was…
  • Final prediction: New England Patriots @ Baltimore Ravens (no change).

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 written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 11
  • In effect during Weeks 11-17
  • 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 4:15 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, 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.
  • In the past, three teams could 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. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; six teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the 49ers don’t have at least one game that can be flexed out. 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 11 (November 17):

  • Selected game: Kansas City @ Denver.

Week 12 (November 24):

  • Selected game: Denver @ New England.

Week 13 (December 1):

  • Selected game: NY Giants @ Washington.

Week 14 (December 8):

  • Selected game: Carolina @ New Orleans.

Week 15 (December 15):

  • Selected game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh.

Week 16 (December 22):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 9-3 v. 6-6; pretty lopsided, but the name value could still save it if it weren’t for the strong alternatives, and the Ravens are very much alive in the playoff hunt (then again, every AFC team that’s not the Texans – more on them in a bit – and Jags are).
  • Protected games: Broncos-Texans (CBS) and Cowboys-Indians (FOX).
  • Other possible games: CBS’ decision to protect Broncos-Texans over Colts-Chiefs was questionable at the time since the Texans definitely had the worst record of the four at 2-3 and seemed to be in a tailspin; now it seems to have given the Texans the kiss of death, as they haven’t won since (even losing to the freaking Jaguars!) and the Colts and Chiefs have as many losses between them as the Texans have themselves. But Colts-Chiefs will have to compete with the Saints-Panthers rematch, especially with CBS holding the doubleheader, and Cardinals-Seahawks and Bears-Eagles are waiting in the wings.
  • Analysis: Cardinals-Seahawks is even more lopsided than the tentative and Bears-Eagles is a battle of two teams out of the playoffs when no team in the other two games has more than four losses. It basically comes down to Saints-Panthers and Colts-Chiefs, and while Fox would scream bloody murder at losing both halves of a divisional matchup (without even one of them falling in Week 17), especially twice in three weeks, under the “Chiefs-Broncos rule” the NFL would have been better served keeping the game in the Superdome on Fox; as a result, if both games have identical pairs of records I think the tie goes to Saints-Panthers (having the more name quarterbacks and teams doesn’t hurt). The game in the Superdome is this week with the teams holding identical records and is therefore irrelevant, but unless the Colts and Chiefs both win (putting it a full game ahead of Saints-Panthers) and the Ravens lose, CBS might be off the hook for its blunder of a protection. A Ravens win might be enough for the tentative to keep its spot, but a loss could very easily open the door for one of the other two games to waltz in.

Week 17 (December 29):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS
NORTH
48-4
59-3 5-7
6-6 5-7
SOUTH
38-4
66-6 5-7
5-7 5-7
EAST
29-3
6-6 4-8
6-6 4-8
WEST
110-2
4-8
9-3
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS
EAST
47-5
59-3 6-6
7-5 5-6-1
NORTH
37-5
68-4
6-6
SOUTH
29-3
7-5
9-3 7-5
WEST
111-1
8-4
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Eagles-Cowboys (the odds-on favorite), Packers-Bears, Ravens-Bengals, Jets-Dolphins, 49ers-Cardinals.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 12

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 written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 11
  • In effect during Weeks 11-17
  • 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 4:15 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, 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.
  • In the past, three teams could 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. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; six teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the 49ers don’t have at least one game that can be flexed out. 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 11 (November 17):

  • Selected game: Kansas City @ Denver.

Week 12 (November 24):

  • Selected game: Denver @ New England.

Week 13 (December 1):

  • Selected game: NY Giants @ Washington.

Week 14 (December 8):

  • Selected game: Carolina @ New Orleans. A case could be made that this pick, as opposed to Lions-Eagles, actually wasn’t that far-thinking of the NFL, especially given the released protection on Chiefs-Broncos earlier in the year; see Week 16 below.

Week 15 (December 15):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: The Steelers’ 5-6 record now has them tied for second in the division (and in a six-way tie for the six seed), while the Bengals aren’t looking quite so strong as they were. If the Steelers keep winning, this game may yet keep its spot, especially given the lack of other options.
  • Protected games: Packers-Cowboys (FOX) and Patriots-Dolphins (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Cardinals-Titans and Jets-Panthers both involve other teams in the six-way tie for the AFC six seed, and if we’re talking about 5-6 teams we have to talk about Saints-Rams.
  • Analysis: Honestly, at this point any other alternative probably needs the Steelers to lose to have any shot at overcoming the tentative game bias. Saints-Rams may be too lopsided to mention, and the best-case scenario for the other two might be 8-4 v. 6-6 with Bengals-Steelers sitting at 8-4 or 7-5 v. 5-7. That suggests it may be impossible to overcome the tentative game bias even if the Steelers do lose. Would NBC and the NFL be willing to overlook lopsidedness at 9-3 v. 6-6 going against 7-5 v. 5-7? It’s possible, especially with the TV-friendliness of the Saints, Jets, and Panthers, and especially if 6-6 is good enough for a playoff spot, but I’m not going to count on it.
  • Final prediction: Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers (no change).

Week 16 (December 22):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 8-3 v. 5-6; pretty lopsided, but the name value could still save it if it weren’t for the strong alternatives, and the Ravens are very much alive in the playoff hunt (then again, every AFC team that’s not the Texans – more on them in a bit – and Jags are).
  • Protected games: Broncos-Texans (CBS) and Cowboys-Indians (FOX).
  • Other possible games: CBS’ decision to protect Broncos-Texans over Colts-Chiefs was questionable at the time since the Texans definitely had the worst record of the four at 2-3 and seemed to be in a tailspin; now it seems to have given the Texans the kiss of death, as they haven’t won since (even losing to the freaking Jaguars!) and the Colts and Chiefs have only two-thirds as many losses between them as the Texans have themselves. But Colts-Chiefs will have to compete with the Saints-Panthers rematch, especially with CBS holding the doubleheader, and Cardinals-Seahawks and Bears-Eagles are waiting in the wings with Steelers-Packers a very dark horse.

Week 17 (December 29):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS
NORTH
47-4
59-2 5-6
2 tied at 5-6 5-6
SOUTH
37-3
65-6 5-6
5-6 5-6
EAST
28-3
5-6
2 tied at 5-6 4-7
WEST
19-2
4-7
9-2 4-7
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (5-6)
EAST
46-5
58-3
6-5
NORTH
36-5
67-4
6-5
SOUTH
29-2
7-4
8-3 6-5
WEST
110-1
6-5
2 tied at 7-4 5-5-1
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Eagles-Cowboys (the odds-on favorite), Packers-Bears, Ravens-Bengals, Jets-Dolphins, 49ers-Cardinals, Rams-Seahawks.

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 written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 11
  • In effect during Weeks 11-17
  • 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 4:15 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, 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.
  • In the past, three teams could 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. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; six teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the 49ers don’t have at least one game that can be flexed out. 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 11 (November 17):

  • Selected game: Kansas City @ Denver.

Week 12 (November 24):

  • Selected game: Denver @ New England.

Week 13 (December 1):

  • Selected game: NY Giants @ Washington.

Week 14 (December 8):

  • Tentative game: Atlanta @ Green Bay
  • Prospects: 2-8 v. 5-5. Ouch.
  • Protected games: Colts-Bengals (CBS) and Seahawks-49ers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Lions-Eagles is becoming interesting, but when one team already has five losses, it can’t compete with…
  • Analysis: It’s Panthers-Saints. It’s Cam Newton v. Drew Brees. It’s a team I’ve been fascinated by ever since they rode the league’s most exciting offense Newton’s rookie season to a 6-10 record, making it inevitable they would go defense with their first-round pick in the draft, only to have Luke Kuechly’s Defensive Rookie of the Year season ruined by Newton’s sophomore slump, but now are in prime position to make the playoffs and could take the lead in the division with a win. It’s Riverboat Ron v. Bountygate Sean. It’s Carrie Underwood blandly singing “Panthers and the Saints, a division showdown” (seriously, “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night” is no “Are You Ready for some Football”, but at least Faith Hill didn’t seem like she was going through the motions singing the lines that were written for someone else and actually seemed like she wasn’t completely incongruous singing about football even though Underwood has dated Tony Romo in the past). And perhaps most importantly, it’s a battle between two teams with as many losses between them as the Eagles have by themselves with the division lead on the line. What could keep this game from being flexed in is that other Panthers games could also be flexed in each of the next two weeks, including the return match of this game, so the existence of Lions-Eagles as a safety valve may cause the NFL to hold off for now, but that would be more likely if CBS had protected Colts-Chiefs in two weeks instead of Broncos-Texans, and even then I still wouldn’t pick against this game.
  • Final prediction: Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints.

Week 15 (December 15):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: The Steelers’ 4-6 record now has them tied for second in the division, while the Bengals aren’t looking quite so strong as they were. If the Steelers keep winning, this game may yet keep its spot, especially given the lack of other options.
  • Protected games: Packers-Cowboys (FOX) and Patriots-Dolphins (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Jets-Panthers is the only game not involving a team below .500 (there’s a comment on the Last-Minute Remarks post telling me to look out for Seahawks-Giants if the Giants keep winning, but not only would that require the Seahawks to lose as well to keep from being horribly lopsided, it would also require the Steelers to lose more to overcome the tentative game bias).

Week 16 (December 22):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 7-3 v. 4-6; pretty lopsided, but the name value could still save it if it weren’t for the strong alternatives, and the Ravens are very much alive in the playoff hunt (then again, every AFC team that’s not the Texans – more on them in a bit – and Jags are).
  • Protected games: Broncos-Texans (CBS) and Cowboys-Indians (FOX).
  • Other possible games: CBS’ decision to protect Broncos-Texans over Colts-Chiefs was questionable at the time since the Texans definitely had the worst record of the four at 2-3 and seemed to be in a tailspin; now it seems to have given the Texans the kiss of death, as they haven’t won since and the Colts and Chiefs have half as many losses between them as the Texans have themselves. But Colts-Chiefs will have to compete with the Saints-Panthers rematch, and Cardinals-Seahawks and Bears-Eagles are waiting in the wings.

Week 17 (December 29):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS
NORTH
47-4
59-1 4-6
3 tied at 4-6 4-6
EAST
37-3
65-5 4-6
2 tied at 5-5 4-6
SOUTH
27-3
5-5 4-6
4-6 4-6
WEST
19-1
4-7
9-1
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (4-6)
EAST
46-5
57-3
5-5
NORTH
36-4
66-4
6-4
SOUTH
28-2
6-4
7-3 6-4
WEST
110-1
5-5
2 tied at 6-4 5-5
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Eagles-Cowboys (the odds-on favorite), Packers-Bears, Jets-Dolphins, 49ers-Cardinals, Rams-Seahawks.