Category Archives: SNF Flex Scheduling Watch

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.

Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 13 Picks

Week 13 (December 2):

  • Tentative game: NY Giants @ Washington
  • Prospects: 4-6 v. 3-7. The name value and NFC East tire fire helps, but these are the worse two teams in the division.
  • Protected games: Broncos-Chiefs (CBS) and Bears-Vikings (FOX).
  • Other possible games mentioned on last week’s Watch and their records: Cardinals (6-4)-Eagles (6-5), Titans (4-6)-Colts (7-3), Dolphins (5-5)-Jets (5-5), Bengals (7-4)-Chargers (4-6).
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: None.
  • Analysis: Cardinals-Eagles is the only real contender left, with a definite leg up on second-place Dolphins-Jets. If you got rid of the team names and just looked at records, you would think the game between two six-win teams would be a shoo-in to be flexed in over a game between two six-loss teams, even with the tentative game bias. But the Cardinals are a massive weak link that basically no one knows about, and even the Eagles, especially with Michael Vick out and potentially losing his starting job, aren’t really as attractive as their NFC East brethren and Eli Manning v. RGIII. If one of the teams in the tentative game were the Cowboys, this game keeping its spot would be just as much a shoo-in as Cardinals-Eagles being flexed in would be if records were all that mattered. As it stands, even though I would be far from surprised to see Cardinals-Eagles flexed in and think this is pretty close to a toss-up, I still have to say…
  • Final prediction: New York Giants @ Washington RG3′s (no change).

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 10

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was 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):

  • Tentative game: NY Giants @ Washington
  • Prospects: 3-6 v. 3-6. The name value and NFC East tire fire helps, but these are the worse two teams in the division.
  • Protected games: Broncos-Chiefs (CBS) and Bears-Vikings (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving weekend, paucity of good games; Cardinals-Eagles is the only game that doesn’t involve a team with a losing record. Titans-Colts, Dolphins-Jets, and Bengals-Chargers become options if you look at 4-5 teams.
  • Analysis: None of these games offer much in the way of starpower, and none of them are so much better as to overcome the tentative game bias. Even discounting lopsidedness and name value, is 6-3 v. 4-5 really that much better than 3-6 v. 3-6? That’s not to say this game won’t get flexed out, but if both of its participants win this week there’s no way this game isn’t keeping its spot, it might be able to keep its spot with just one team winning, and the 4-5 teams need to win regardless. Still, you have to at least look at a 6-4 v. 5-5 game, as Bengals-Chargers would be (and as Titans-Colts could be even with a Colts loss), if the alternative is 3-7 v. 3-7.

Week 14 (December 8):

  • Tentative game: Atlanta @ Green Bay
  • Prospects: 2-7 v. 5-4. Doesn’t look good.
  • Protected games: Colts-Bengals (CBS) and Seahawks-49ers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Panthers-Saints is looking very strong to give Cam Newton his first NBC game with only one game separating the two for the NFC South crown, and Lions-Eagles is also a dark horse.

Week 15 (December 15):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: If I told you before the season that this game would be 6-4 v. 3-6 after Week 9, and you didn’t have the bye week schedule on hand, would you have ever guessed that the Steelers would be the 3-6 team?
  • Protected games: Packers-Cowboys (FOX) and Patriots-Dolphins (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Jets-Panthers is the only game not involving a team below .500.

Week 16 (December 22):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 7-2 v. 4-5; pretty lopsided, but the name value could still save it if it weren’t for the strong alternatives, and the Ravens might be climbing back into this thing.
  • Protected games: Broncos-Texans (CBS) and Cowboys-Indians (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Very surprised CBS chose to protect Broncos-Texans, a game involving a team that was 2-3 and in a tailspin at the time (and hasn’t won since), instead of Colts-Chiefs, two teams now leading their respective divisions and with three losses between them. Perhaps CBS had its eye more on getting Pats-Ravens back. 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
46-4
58-1 4-5
2 tied at 4-5 4-5
SOUTH
36-3
65-4 4-5
4-5 4-5
EAST
27-2
4-5
5-4 3-6
WEST
19-0
3-6
8-1 3-7
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (5-5)
EAST
45-5
56-3
5-5
NORTH
36-3
66-3
2 tied at 5-4
SOUTH
27-2
5-4
6-3 5-4
WEST
19-1
5-4
6-3
  • 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.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 9

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. Apparently CBS oh-so-graciously agreed to “voluntarily” give up its protection on this game to allow it to be seen by a national audience since they only had the singleheader this week; whether or not this has any impact on future weeks is unclear (especially since CBS still has no reason to protect Week 12), and CBS may end up getting paid back next year, but we may surmise from this the “Chiefs-Broncos rule”: if the singleheader network’s protected game is particularly strong, the NFL may overrule it and put it on NBC anyway. Presumably this will be less of an issue when the new contract kicks in next year, when games can move between CBS and Fox (especially since the general consensus seems to be that this is just to ensure a quality game in the late-afternoon doubleheader slot), except that Fox has a pretty strong game of its own in Niners-Saints; I would presume the NFL’s philosophy will be to make sure the two best games are in the two national television timeslots unless the NBC tentative game is good enough for the tentative game bias to kick in, but I have no idea how protection will work in the new contract.

Week 12 (November 24):

  • Tentative game: Denver @ New England
  • Prospects: 7-1 v. 7-2 and Manning v. Brady. No force on Earth could budge this game from this spot, which is why both networks chose to leave this week unprotected. (Does the fact Cowboys-Giants wasn’t protected say more about this game, or the NFC East tire fire?)
  • Protected games: None.
  • Other possible games: Chargers-Chiefs, Panthers-Dolphins, and Colts-Cardinals are the main options…
  • Analysis: …but all involve 4-4 teams and the least lopsided is Panthers-Dolphins at 5-3 v. 4-4. None of them can actually get better than Broncos-Patriots, which is killer given the double whammy of the tentative game bias and the general national appeal.
  • Final prediction: Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots (no change).

Week 13 (December 1):

  • Tentative game: NY Giants @ Washington
  • Prospects: 2-6 v. 3-5. The name value and NFC East tire fire helps, but these are the worse two teams in the division.
  • Protected games: Broncos-Chiefs (CBS) and Bears-Vikings (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving weekend, paucity of good games; Titans-Colts, Dolphins-Jets, and Bengals-Chargers are all options, but all involve 4-4 teams and none have much in the way of name value. And CBS has the doubleheader this week so the NFL isn’t rescuing Broncos-Chiefs for NBC again either.

Week 14 (December 8):

  • Tentative game: Atlanta @ Green Bay
  • Prospects: 2-6 v. 5-3. Doesn’t look good.
  • Protected games: Colts-Bengals (CBS) and Seahawks-49ers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Panthers-Saints is looking very strong to give Cam Newton his first NBC game with only one game separating the two for the NFC South crown. Titans-Broncos is a dark horse but might be too lopsided to compete.

Week 15 (December 15):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: If I told you before the season that this game would be 6-3 v. 2-6 after Week 9, and you didn’t have the bye week schedule on hand, would you have ever guessed that the Steelers would be the 2-6 team?
  • Protected games: Packers-Cowboys (FOX) and Patriots-Dolphins (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Jets-Panthers is the best option at the moment, with Cardinals-Titans lurking, but overall this is a pretty uninspiring slate of options.

Week 16 (December 22):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 7-2 v. 3-5; pretty lopsided, but the name value could still save it if it weren’t for the strong alternatives.
  • Protected games: Broncos-Texans (CBS) and Cowboys-Indians (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Very surprised CBS chose to protect Broncos-Texans, a game involving a team that was 2-3 and in a tailspin at the time (and hasn’t won since), instead of Colts-Chiefs, two teams now leading their respective divisions and with two losses between them. Perhaps CBS had its eye more on getting Pats-Ravens back. Saints-Panthers is also an option if Colts-Chiefs collapses, and Cardinals-Seahawks is waiting in the wings.

Week 17 (December 29):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins next week because let’s face it, this is probably going to be an NFC East title game, which means more likely than not it’s going to be Eagles-Cowboys.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 8

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):

  • Tentative game: Green Bay @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 5-2 v. 2-6. A surefire bet to lose its spot under normal circumstances, but the name value and the tire fire that is the NFC East could save it when you consider the competition.
  • Protected games: Chiefs-Broncos (CBS) and 49ers-Saints (FOX).
  • Other possible games: There are no games not involving teams below .500. Chargers-Dolphins and Ravens-Bears come close as two games involving 3-4 teams.
  • Analysis: The Giants are on bye this week, so they will enter the decision time with a win being their most recent game and, thanks to the NFC East tire fire, are currently only two games out of the division lead. Probably the best case scenario for both alternatives is being 6-3 or 5-3 v. 4-4 and Packers-Giants becoming 6-2 or 5-3 v. 2-6 with the Giants two and a half games out of the division lead – and the fact the Chargers are playing in Washington means they can’t really benefit from the Giants having sole possession of last place. I’m not sure that can overcome the tentative game bias given the name value of the teams involved, though since neither team is named the Cowboys I won’t be totally shocked if this game loses its spot.
  • Final prediction: Green Bay Packers @ New York Giants (no change).

Week 12 (November 24):

  • Tentative game: Denver @ New England
  • Prospects: 6-1 v. 5-2 and Manning v. Brady. No force on Earth could budge this game from this spot, which is why both networks chose to leave this week unprotected. (Does the fact Cowboys-Giants wasn’t protected say more about this game, or the NFC East tire fire?)
  • Protected games: None.
  • Other possible games: Chargers-Chiefs and Colts-Cardinals are the main options, but both are pretty lopsided and neither has the appeal of Broncos-Patriots.

Week 13 (December 1):

  • Tentative game: NY Giants @ Washington
  • Prospects: 2-6 v. 2-5. The name value and NFC East tire fire helps, but these are the worse two teams in the division.
  • Protected games: Broncos-Chiefs (CBS) and Bears-Vikings (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving weekend, paucity of good games; Bengals-Chargers is the only remotely good game that’s not protected, but at 6-2 v. 4-3, don’t count it out, especially if the Chargers start climbing into wild card contention. Can it overcome the lack of name value?

Week 14 (December 8):

  • Tentative game: Atlanta @ Green Bay
  • Prospects: 2-5 v. 5-2. Doesn’t look good.
  • Protected games: Colts-Bengals (CBS) and Seahawks-49ers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Panthers-Saints is the only game not involving a team below .500, but it too has a pretty good shot at 6-1 v. 4-3; lopsidedness is the main factor against it, but it’s only a two-game difference, Drew Brees and Cam Newton bring name value, the Panthers are third in the wild card race, and unlike the NFC East teams, the Falcons aren’t still alive for a playoff spot in a tire fire of a division (both Panthers and Saints are in the same division).

Week 15 (December 15):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: If I told you before the season that this game would be 6-2 v. 2-5 after Week 8, and you didn’t have the bye week schedule on hand, would you have ever guessed that the Steelers would be the 2-5 team?
  • Protected games: Packers-Cowboys (FOX) and Patriots-Dolphins (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Jets-Panthers is the only game not involving a team below .500, and it’s pretty uninspiring. Cardinals-Titans and Chiefs-Raiders are the biggest dark horses.

Week 16 (December 22):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 6-2 v. 3-4; might become pretty lopsided, but even then the name value could save it and the Pats might be playing worse than their record anyway.
  • Protected games: Broncos-Texans (CBS) and Cowboys-Indians (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Very surprised CBS chose to protect Broncos-Texans, a game involving a team that was 2-3 and in a tailspin at the time (and hasn’t won since), instead of Colts-Chiefs, two teams now leading their respective divisions and with two losses between them. Perhaps CBS had its eye more on getting Pats-Ravens back. Saints-Panthers is also an option if Colts-Chiefs collapses, and Cardinals-Seahawks is climbing.

Week 17 (December 29):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9, but let’s face it, this is probably going to be an NFC East title game, which means more likely than not it’s going to be Eagles-Cowboys.