Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 13 picks

Week 13 (December 2, analysis of actual pick to come on Wednesday):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: Very much in trouble. The Steelers (7-3) look great but the Bungles (3-7) are anything but. Also a factor: the Steelers’ high number of primetime games. NBC will want to flex this out for a better Steelers game later.
  • Protected games according to Hiestand: Jaguars-Colts (CBS) and Giants-Bears (Fox)
  • Other possible games mentioned on Wednesday’s Watch and their records: Chargers (5-5) v. Chiefs (4-6), Lions (6-4) v. Vikings (4-6), Titans (6-3) v. Texans (5-5).
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: The Titans play tonight but may have already locked up its supremacy. Its only vulnerability is its lopsided nature compared to Chargers-Chiefs, but not by much. A Titans loss, however, could bring the no-change option back, but that game is so lopsided compared to a potential divisional showdown and the appeal of Vince Young.
  • Analysis: On Wednesday, I wrote: “At the moment, Titans-Texans is likeliest (but very dependent on the Texans), followed by Chargers-Chiefs (but very dependent on the Chiefs), followed by Lions-Vikings (but very dependent on the Vikings). If the Texans, Chiefs, and Vikings all lose? Then a Cincinnati win over the Cardinals brings the no-change option back into the fold, and I believe NBC and the NFL will lean towards no-change when possible.” Well, the Bengals lost, and Lions-Vikings held up its end of the bargain while Chargers-Chiefs didn’t. Unfortunately, the Lions lost, and more importantly, Titans-Texans got what it needed as well. Strangely, I still wouldn’t be surprised to see no change.
  • Final prediction: Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans.

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.

Last year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. CBS and Fox were able to protect one game every week each but had to leave one week each unprotected and had to submit their protections after only four weeks.

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:

  • 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.
  • Two other rules were established earlier: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks, and can’t protect any games Week 17 this year.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five; the Pats and Cowboys already have six) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 18):

  • Selected game: New England @ Buffalo.

Week 12 (November 25):

  • Selected game: Philadelphia @ New England.

Week 13 (December 2):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: Very much in trouble. The Steelers (7-2) look great but the Bungles (3-6) are anything but. Also a factor: the Steelers’ high number of primetime games. NBC will want to flex this out for a better Steelers game later.
  • Protected games according to Hiestand: Jaguars-Colts (CBS) and Giants-Bears (Fox)
  • Other possible games: Chargers-Chiefs doesn’t look as good as you might think at 5-4 versus 4-5. 6-3 vs. 3-6, as Lions-Vikings is, is just more lopsided. Titans-Texans, at 6-3 vs. 4-5, might be the best unprotected pick.
  • Prediction: I don’t see Bengals-Steelers keeping its spot, but so much depends on what happens Sunday. The only chance for Chargers-Chiefs is for the Chiefs to beat the Colts, which isn’t as crackheaded as it sounds, considering the Chargers did the same thing this week. San Diego beating the Jaguars wouldn’t hurt either. The Texans should beat New Orleans to secure Titans-Texans; for Lions-Vikings to get in, the Vikings need to beat Oakland and ideally there should be some hope Adrian Peterson will be back by this point. But the Vikings also need the Texans to lose and for either the Titans to lose on Monday Night or the Lions to win against the Giants. At the moment, Titans-Texans is likeliest (but very dependent on the Texans), followed by Chargers-Chiefs (but very dependent on the Chiefs), followed by Lions-Vikings (but very dependent on the Vikings). If the Texans, Chiefs, and Vikings all lose? Then a Cincinnati win over the Cardinals brings the no-change option back into the fold, and I believe NBC and the NFL will lean towards no-change when possible.

Week 14 (December 9):

  • Tentative game: Indianapolis @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: Might be vulnerable with Baltimore below .500 and the Colts suddenly on a losing skid.
  • Protected games according to Hiestand: Steelers-Patriots (CBS) and Giants-Eagles (Fox)
  • Other possible games: Ignore Cowboys-Lions because of the primetime appearances. Chargers-Titans is the leading candidate, while Jags-Panthers is slipping along with the QB situation in Carolina. Chiefs-Broncos may be a dark horse but a problematic one.

Week 15 (December 16):

  • Tentative game: Washington @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: Might have the best chance to keep its spot, unless things break the Ravens’ way. Being in the same division as the Cowboys hurts, but these are two teams on fire (especially the G-Men) and the thrilling finish of their last meeting will help write the storyline.
  • Protected games according to Hiestand: Jags-Steelers (CBS). Hiestand mentions no Fox game but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
  • Other possible games: Seahawks-Panthers still has a chance but there are a lot of ifs involved. Titans-Chiefs keeps rolling along. Lions-Chargers might be the favorite – unless it was protected, but given the Chargers’ early-season struggles that’s less likely than you might think. Look out for Browns-Bills, a textbook case of why flex was adopted. Lions-Chargers and Redskins-Giants are the only other two games involving only teams with winning records.

Week 16 (December 23):

  • Tentative game: Tampa Bay @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: Very problematic, even with the Bucs’ success, which just makes it look lopsided.
  • Protected games according to Hiestand: None mentioned, but Skins-Vikings, Giants-Bills, and Dolphins-Pats (the latter two restricted by high number of primetime appearances) are all unprotected.
  • Other possible games: Texans-Colts (needs the Texans to improve), Packers-Bears (also in trouble but an appealing matchup regardless of respective records), Ravens-Seahawks (struggling). There aren’t a lot of attractive matchups this week. Lions-Chiefs might be becoming the favorite if the Chiefs can get back on track, while Giants-Bills is a legit dark horse.

Week 17 (December 30):

  • Tentative game: Kansas City @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: Awful. The Chiefs are starting to fall back down to earth.
  • Other possible games/Playoff Positioning Watch: Cowboys-Redskins out due to number of primetime appearances.
    • AFC East: The Bills are starting to give the Pats something to worry about. If the Pats lose all their remaining games, they’re 9-7. The Bills are 5-4. The Jets and Dolphins are already eliminated. The Pats are on NFL Network, and while the Bills play the Eagles, it’s still an unlikely scenario.
    • AFC North: Every team is theoretically in it. The Steelers are running away with it and the Browns are the closest competitor, two games back. The Browns can push Steelers-Ravens to primetime if they keep it close – but it depends a lot more on what the ex-Browns do. Right now, this game isn’t looking great.
    • AFC South: The Colts are now just a game ahead of the Jaguars and Titans. If that keeps up, Titans-Colts could be the favorite. The Texans are mathematically still in it.
    • AFC West: Substitute the Chargers for the Colts and the Broncos and Chiefs for the Jags and Titans. The Chargers are playing the Raiders; the Broncos, the Vikings. Not looking likely. But the Raiders are mathematically still in it.
    • AFC Wild Card: The Jags and Titans would get the nod if the season ended today, robbing some luster from Titans-Colts. The Bills and Browns are a game back, adding some luster to Bills-Eagles, but the Eagles need to hold up their end of the bargain. The Ravens, Broncos and Chiefs wait in the wings, so Steelers-Ravens could be a dark horse in the AFC.
    • NFC East: Cowboys two games up on the Giants. The Giants are on NFL Network and Dallas, playing a Redskins team three games out, has too many primetime appearances. Philly still mathematically in it.
    • NFC North: Packers-Lions undoubtedly the NFC favorite. Another two-game gap. Bears and Vikings still mathematically in it.
    • NFC South: Bucs holding on to a one-game lead over the Panthers and Saints. The Saints play the Bears, but Bucs-Panthers remains a dark horse. Falcons still mathematically in it.
    • NFC West: Seahawks with one-game lead over the Cardinals. The former plays the Falcons while the latter plays the Rams. Niners and Rams still mathematically in it.
    • NFC Wild Card: Giants and Lions would get the nod if the season ended today. Redskins a game back. Eagles, Bears, Panthers, Saints, and Cardinals all waiting in the wings at 4-5, lending a little credence to Bills-Eagles and Saints-Bears, but not enough to pass better games.

Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 12 Picks

Week 12 (November 25):

  • Tentative game: Philadelphia @ New England
  • Prospects: The Eagles are 4-5 and the Patriots (9-0) make any game look lopsided. Yet Michael Hiestand actually expects this game to keep its spot.
  • Other possible games mentioned in Wednesday’s Watch: Bucs (5-4) v. Redskins (5-4); Texans (4-5) v. Browns (5-4); Chargers (5-4) v. Ravens (4-5); Saints (4-5) v. Panthers (4-5).
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: None.
  • Analysis: All games above are more appealing from a competitive standpoint, but none exactly set the world on fire. But too many teams have other commitments on Thanksgiving or Monday night to really endorse any other games, and the Browns lost, and both the Saints and Panthers lost as well just as they looked to be the top spoiler, and when I thought both teams needed to win. Bucs-Redskins is the best alternative, if it’s not protected, but the fact it’s mostly a game to determine if either is for real shows just how bad the options are this week.
  • Final prediction: Philadelphia Eagles @ New England Patriots (no change).
  • Actual selection: Philadelphia Eagles @ New England Patriots (matches prediction, no change).

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 9

USA Today’s Michael Hiestand confirmed some of the finer points of flexible scheduling that were not in the NFL’s own information earlier in the week:

  • CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks, and can’t protect any games Week 17 this year.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC.

Here’s a team-by-team rundown, in the order of the new SuperPower Rankings. “PT App’s” reflects each team’s total number of appearances on NBC, ESPN and NFL Network under the current schedule. “On NBC” is self-explanatory. “Flexible NBC” is the number of NBC appearances that can be flexed out.

Team PT App’s On NBC Flexible NBC
Patriots 6 3 1
Colts 5 3 1
Cowboys 6 3 0
Packers 3 1 0
Steelers 5 2 1
Giants 5 3 1
Titans 2 0
Lions 0
Browns 0
Jaguars 1 0
Saints 4 2 0
Bucs 1 1 1
Chargers 3 2 0
Redskins 3 1 1
Ravens 4 1 1
Chiefs 1 1 1
Seahawks 2 1 0
Bills 2 1 0
Panthers 1 0
Texans 1 0
Vikings 1 0
Bears 4 2 0
Broncos 5 1 0
Cardinals 1 0
Eagles 4 3 1
Bengals 4 1 1
Falcons 3 0
Raiders 0
49ers 4 1 1
Jets 1 1 1
Rams 1 0
Dolphins 1 0

This makes the NFL’s decision to go with Pats-Bills stupefying unless CBS protected Steelers-Patriots or NBC intends to flex the Patriots out of its game with the Eagles next week. Two of the six-game teams have already been determined, assuming Pats-Eagles stays on the schedule. The Colts, Steelers, Giants, and Broncos have already hit the 5-game plateau, which might also help explain any decision to stay away from Steelers-Pats. This also explains why Redskins-Cowboys was off-limits.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site:

  • 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.

(Note: I have reason to believe the above rules are very incomplete.) Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 18):

  • Selected game: New England @ Buffalo.

Week 12 (November 25):

  • Tentative game: Philadelphia @ New England
  • Prospects: The Eagles are 3-5 and the Patriots make any game look lopsided. Yet Hiestand actually expects this game to keep its spot.
  • Other possible games: The Redskins took an inexplicable drop in the NBC Rankings to make Bucs (5-4)-Redskins (5-3) look more lopsided than it really is. But too many teams have other commitments on Thanksgiving or Monday night to really endorse any other games, and Texans (4-5)-Browns (5-3) is suffering with the Texans struggling. Chargers (4-4)-Ravens (4-4) is ruined by both teams losing bad. Saints (4-4)-Panthers (4-4) just may come out the winner despite both teams having worse records than either the Bucs or Redskins because it’s a key divisional matchup; it needs both teams to win, however. You start to see where Hiestand is coming from.
  • Prediction: If Fox protected Bucs-Redskins it’s hard to see Eagles-Patriots losing its spot, despite its lopsided nature. Chargers-Ravens (possibly also protected) and Saints-Panthers are the only other potential challengers, and both need both teams to win. Even then, they’re guaranteed to be going up against an unbeaten Pats team – they have a bye this week.

Week 13 (December 2):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: Very much in trouble. The Steelers look great but the Bungles are anything but. Also a factor: the Steelers’ high number of primetime games. NBC will want to flex this out for a better Steelers game later.
  • Protected games according to Hiestand: (I don’t know if Hiestand knows for certain or if he’s only speculating but the language implies he does know what he’s talking about.) Jaguars-Colts (CBS) and Giants-Bears (Fox)
  • Other possible games: With that data, Chargers-Chiefs now takes the lead. For some reason, Hiestand takes Detroit-Minnesota, which isn’t as crackheaded as it sounds when you consider how bad the Chargers’ record is (4-4) and how good Detroit’s is (6-2, same as the Steelers). The Chiefs are also 4-4 but the Vikings are sub-.500 – but with an electrifying running back, and still better than the Bungles.

Week 14 (December 9):

  • Tentative game: Indianapolis @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: Better than it used to be because of the protected games.
  • Protected games according to Hiestand: Steelers-Patriots (CBS) and Giants-Eagles (Fox)
  • Other possible games: Cowboys-Lions is eliminated due to the Cowboys’ six primetime appearances. Chargers-Titans is the leading dark horse, followed by Jags-Panthers. But their main hope lies in the Ravens’ struggles.

Week 15 (December 16):

  • Tentative game: Washington @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: Might have the best chance to keep its spot, unless things break the Ravens’ way. Being in the same division as the Cowboys hurts, but these are two teams on fire (especially the G-Men) and the thrilling finish of their last meeting will help write the storyline.
  • Protected games according to Hiestand: Jags-Steelers (CBS). Hiestand mentions no Fox game but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
  • Other possible games: Eagles-Cowboys is looking too lopsided to be competitive. Seahawks-Panthers still has a chance but there are a lot of ifs involved. Titans-Chiefs is gaining real ground. Lions-Chargers could also contend. (Further updates on this front next week.) Hiestand picks Jets-Pats if the Skins and Giants collapse and the Pats are still perfect, but as you can see above, that can only happen if Eagles-Pats gets flexed out, and it’s incredibly lopsided anyway.

Week 16 (December 23):

  • Tentative game: Tampa Bay @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: Very problematic, even with the Bucs’ success, which just makes it look lopsided.
  • Protected games according to Hiestand: None mentioned, but Skins-Vikings, Giants-Bills, and Dolphins-Pats (the latter two restricted by high number of primetime appearances) are all unprotected.
  • Other possible games: Texans-Colts (is probably out), Packers-Bears (also in trouble but an appealing matchup regardless of respective records), Ravens-Seahawks (could fall off if the Seahawks keep struggling and/or the Ravens prove a paper tiger). There aren’t a lot of attractive matchups this week. Lions-Chiefs may become less of a reach. Again, more on this next week.

Week 17 (December 30):

  • Tentative game: Kansas City @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: Awful. The Chiefs have some success finally, but that just makes the game look lopsided.
  • Other possible games: Steelers-Ravens, Titans-Colts, Cowboys-Redskins, Lions-Packers, with Panthers-Bucs a dark horse. Jags-Texans might be out. Titans-Colts and Lions-Packers are Hiestand’s favorites. Playoff positioning watch starts next week because I’m in a closing computer lab and I’m in a rush to get home.

Quick Check off the SNF Watch

CONFIRMED: Protection still exists. But looking at my Week 4 roundup, I might have found it hard to believe Fox would have protected Giants-Lions. The Giants were only 2-2 at the time and the Lions were similar. Panthers-Packers would have been a more likely protection for Fox.

Other projected protections: Bucs-Redskins Week 12; Jaguars-Colts and maybe Seahawks-Eagles Week 13; Steelers-Patriots and either Cowboys-Lions, Bucs-Texans, or Cardinals-Seahawks Week 14; Jaguars-Steelers and either Seahawks-Panthers or Eagles-Cowboys Week 15; Ravens-Seahawks and Packers-Bears Week 16; and Steelers-Ravens or Titans-Colts, and Cowboys-Redskins or Packers-Lions, Week 17.

NBC has a point when they note that the Bills are on fire. But the Pats are too far on another level for it to look competitive, in the game or the AFC East. NBC also notes that the Pats played in the two highest-rated games this season – ignoring that the Colts and Cowboys games were also two of the most-hyped, most-important games this season. It reminds me of when Sports Media Watch became so fixated with its “Cowboys were more responsible for Pats-Cowboys rating than the actual quality of the teams” hypothesis that it actually picked a lower rating for Pats-Colts, underestimating the NFL audience and failing to note that the NFL is unlike any other sports league. NBC (and the NFL) may be falling into the same trap.

The Week 10 College Football Rankings will be here shortly. They do not include ESPN’s Tuesday and Wednesday games. I will also update the Web site at the same time to include the NFL Lineal Title change.

Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 11 picks

Week 11 (November 18):

  • Tentative game: Chicago @ Seattle
  • Prospects: In big trouble. Seattle is 4-4 and Da Bears are 3-5.
  • Other possible games mentioned in Wednesday’s Watch and their records: Redskins (5-3) v. Cowboys (7-1); Panthers (4-4) v. Packers (7-1); Chargers (4-4) v. Jaguars (5-3); Chiefs (4-4) v. Colts (7-1); Giants (6-2) v. Lions (6-2).
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: None.
  • Analysis: Packers win to keep Panthers game alive, but the Panthers fail to hold up their end of the bargain. Chargers and Jaguars both lose to eliminate that game; had they both won, they got what they wanted from the Packers and Panthers as well. In any case, the Lions defeated the Broncos to set up a matchup of two 6-2 teams. There is no way for either team to be below .500 on game day.
  • Final prediction: New York Giants @ Detroit Lions.
  • Actual selection: New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills. Huh? Do I need to throw out my “lopsided” criterion? Are the Patriots that big a draw that people are willing to watch them play a sucky Bills team? Eagles-Patriots is currently listed for Week 12; why does NBC need to subject us to the Patriots in consecutive weeks? I’ve seen rumors of restrictions on the number of times a team can be in primetime; why would NBC restrict their ability to pick a far more appealing Steelers-Patriots matchup? Among the other rumors I’ve seen is the continued existence of protection; FOX protecting Giants-Lions or restrictions on Giants appearances on primetime national television are the only two logical explanations. (The Giants have primetime appearances Weeks 15 and 17 still to come, and have already had three primetime games already played. But the Cowboys have six primetime appearances on the schedule and no other Giants games look very flex-able. NFL Network is counted in these figures.) But even with that, wouldn’t Panthers-Packers or Chiefs-Colts be better than this lopsided mess – the former a Fox game (thus unprotected) with the very draw-worthy Packers?

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.

Last year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. CBS and Fox were able to protect one game every week each but had to leave one week each unprotected and had to submit their protections after only four weeks.

Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night, and by all appearances, CBS and Fox can’t protect anything. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site:

  • 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.

(Note: I have reason to believe the above rules are very incomplete.) Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 18):

  • Tentative game: Chicago @ Seattle
  • Prospects: In big trouble. Seattle is 4-3 and Da Bears are 3-5.
  • Other possible games: That the NFL’s biggest rivalry, Redskins-Cowboys, did not merit a preliminary pick on Sunday night does not bode well, but in any case the Redskins are a bit too far back of the Cowboys for it to make a real impact. Both it and Panthers-Packers are games pitting 4-3 teams against 6-1 teams. Normally Redskins-Cowboys would be a slam dunk, but I suspect restrictions on the Cowboys. Chargers-Jaguars is slightly worse, because of the Jags’ 2-loss record, but is in the better AFC. Despite the weak markets, the Chargers are still a draw, but this game needs some losses to fall their way Sunday. And look out for Chiefs-Colts, the way Kansas City has been playing of late. All of a sudden, the Chiefs are 4-3 like the other worse teams, but the better team is the best of all. Also sneaking up is Giants-Lions; I’ve been doing a disservice by ignoring that contest.
  • Prediction: Current favorite is Giants-Lions. If the Lions lose to Denver, it opens things up for the others. Keep an eye on Chiefs-Packers. If the Packers win, Chiefs-Colts becomes too lopsided and loses out. But a Chiefs win and a Lions loss would make it very appealing regardless of the result in Indy. That Chiefs-Packers game may give Chargers-Jaguars no chance at moving to Sunday night. Losses by either team wouldn’t help. But get wins by both teams, a Packers win, and a Panthers loss to Tennessee to make Panthers-Packers lopsided, plus the aforementioned Lions loss, and then we might be talking.

Week 12 (November 25):

  • Tentative game: Philadelphia @ New England
  • Prospects: The Eagles are 3-4 and the Patriots make any game look lopsided. This game might actually need a Patriots loss in the next two weeks. Certainly it needs the Eagles to keep winning.
  • Other possible games: Bucs-Redskins is hurt by both teams losing and is now a 15-17 game in the NBC Sports rankings. But too many teams have other commitments on Thanksgiving or Monday night to really endorse any other games, and Texans-Browns is suffering with the Texans struggling. Chargers-Ravens might be a good choice but the Ravens just took a fall of their own before the bye and they might be a paper tiger – as might the Chargers! Saints-Panthers just may come out the winner despite both teams having worse NBC Sports rankings than either the Bucs or Redskins because it’s a key divisional matchup. The Eagles may need to only take one of two for NBC to decide nothing else is compelling enough to change anything.

Week 13 (December 2):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: Very much in trouble. The Steelers look great but the Bungles are anything but.
  • Other possible games: Jaguars-Colts is the overwhelming favorite but could be threatened by the loss of Garrard. Giants-Bears is back to fading with the Bears’ hopes. Chargers-Chiefs is the leading dark horse.

Week 14 (December 9):

  • Tentative game: Indianapolis @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: See below.
  • Other possible games: Steelers-Patriots may be too good to resist. In addition to “Super Bowl 41.5”, the Steelers and the Ravens square off Monday Night. Those two games will likely determine who picks up this game. A sweep by either one of this week’s games will likely cinch up a Sunday Night date. A split leaves it to the following weeks to decide it, likely eliminates the Monday Night loser for being lopsided, and opens the door to the others. Cowboys-Lions can easily pull the rug out from under both. So can Chargers-Titans. And if all those teams collapse, there’s always Jags-Panthers.

Week 15 (December 16):

  • Tentative game: Washington @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: Might have the best chance to keep its spot, unless things break the Ravens’ way. Being in the same division as the Cowboys hurts, but these are two teams on fire (especially the G-Men) and the thrilling finish of their last meeting will help write the storyline.
  • Other possible games: Eagles-Cowboys is looking too lopsided to be competitive. Jaguars-Steelers now looks to be the favorite, if anything. Seahawks-Panthers still has a chance but there are a lot of ifs involved. Titans-Chiefs is gaining real ground. Lions-Chargers could also contend.

Week 16 (December 23):

  • Tentative game: Tampa Bay @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: Very problematic, even with the Bucs’ success, which just makes it look lopsided.
  • Other possible games: Texans-Colts (is probably out), Packers-Bears (also in trouble but an appealing matchup regardless of respective records), Ravens-Seahawks (could fall off if the Seahawks keep struggling and/or the Ravens prove a paper tiger). There aren’t a lot of attractive matchups this week. Lions-Chiefs may become less of a reach.

Week 17 (December 30):

  • Tentative game: Kansas City @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: Awful. The Chiefs have some success finally, but that just makes the game look lopsided.
  • Other possible games: Steelers-Ravens, Titans-Colts, Cowboys-Redskins, Lions-Packers, with Panthers-Bucs a dark horse. Jags-Texans might be out. We’ll see which of the others has pole position after next week – or if another game pulls an upset. Playoff positioning watch begins after Week 9.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 7

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.

Last year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. CBS and Fox were able to protect one game every week each but had to leave one week each unprotected and had to submit their protections after only four weeks.

Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night, and by all appearances, CBS and Fox can’t protect anything. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site:

  • 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.

(Note: I have reason to believe the above rules are very incomplete.) Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 18):

  • Tentative game: Chicago @ Seattle
  • Prospects: In big trouble. Seattle is 4-3 and Da Bears are 3-4.
  • Other possible games: Redskins @ Cowboys; Panthers @ Packers. That the NFL’s biggest rivalry did not merit a preliminary pick on Sunday night does not bode well; however, either could prove a very, very significant matchup. Panthers-Packers is helped by the Panthers’ recent performance; if Selection Day were today I would choose that game only because I suspect restrictions on the Cowboys but also because the Redskins may be a paper tiger. Chargers-Jaguars could look very appealing if the Chargers can build off their recent wins but currently is behind the other two despite having a better average NBC Sports ranking and needs some losses to fall their way.

Week 12 (November 25):

  • Tentative game: Philadelphia @ New England
  • Prospects: In trouble. The Eagles could be awful this year.
  • Other possible games: Bucs-Redskins would now be a 12-14 matchup in the NBC Sports rankings. But too many teams have other commitments on Thanksgiving or Monday night to really endorse any other games, although Texans-Browns is a very dark horse. Chargers-Ravens might be a good choice but the Ravens just took a fall of their own and they might be a paper tiger.

Week 13 (December 2):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: Very much in trouble. The Steelers may be in the top five teams in the NFL, but they just took a bad loss, and unless the Bungles pick up the pace this will be flexed out.
  • Other possible games: Jaguars-Colts is the overwhelming favorite but could be threatened by the loss of Garrard. Texans-Titans has started fading. Seahawks-Eagles is probably out. Giants-Bears now looks like a dark horse if Griese leads the Bears back to their winning ways.

Week 14 (December 9):

  • Tentative game: Indianapolis @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: This game couldn’t afford the Ravens’ bad loss because…
  • Other possible games: Steelers-Patriots may be too good to resist. Cowboys-Lions still has some time to come back but has a big hill to climb. Cardinals-Seahawks is a very dark horse. Chargers-Titans may be the dark horse with the best chance.

Week 15 (December 16):

  • Tentative game: Washington @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: Might have the best chance to keep its spot. Being in the same division as the Cowboys hurts, but these are two teams on fire (especially the G-Men) and the thrilling finish of their last meeting will help write the storyline.
  • Other possible games: Eagles-Cowboys is looking too lopsided to be competitive. Jaguars-Steelers now looks to be the favorite, if anything. Seahawks-Panthers still has a chance but there are a lot of ifs involved. Whispers of Titans-Chiefs are fluttering but it requires several teams to collapse.

Week 16 (December 23):

  • Tentative game: Tampa Bay @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: Very problematic, even with the Bucs’ success, which just makes it look lopsided.
  • Other possible games: Texans-Colts (in trouble), Packers-Bears (also in trouble but an appealing matchup regardless of respective records, and the Bears could come back), Ravens-Seahawks (could fall off if the Seahawks keep struggling and/or the Ravens prove a paper tiger). There aren’t a lot of attractive matchups this week. NBC may even have to reach for Lions-Chiefs.

Week 17 (December 30):

  • Tentative game: Kansas City @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: Awful. The Chiefs have some success finally, but that just makes the game look lopsided.
  • Other possible games: Steelers-Ravens, Titans-Colts, Cowboys-Redskins, Lions-Packers, with Panthers-Bucs a dark horse. Jags-Texans fading. I moved Lions-Packers back to the long list of very good matchups after seeing their respective records. Playoff positioning watch begins after 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.

Last year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. CBS and Fox were able to protect one game every week each but had to leave one week each unprotected and had to submit their protections after only four weeks.

Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night, and by all appearances, CBS and Fox can’t protect anything. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site:

  • 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.

(Note: I have reason to believe the above rules are very incomplete.) Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 18):

  • Tentative game: Chicago @ Seattle
  • Prospects: In big trouble. Seattle is 3-3 and Da Bears are 2-4.
  • Other possible games: Redskins @ Cowboys; Panthers @ Packers. That the NFL’s biggest rivalry did not merit a preliminary pick on Sunday night does not bode well; however, either could prove a very, very significant matchup. Panthers-Packers is currently riding on how the Panthers do the next few games. Chargers-Jaguars could look very appealing if the Chargers can build off their recent win. Look out for dark horses like Steelers-Jets and Browns-Ravens. A bit cloudy at the moment with only a few weeks before Selection Day.

Week 12 (November 25):

  • Tentative game: Philadelphia @ New England
  • Prospects: In trouble. The Eagles need to keep up the pace of their recent win.
  • Other possible games: Bucs-Redskins remains strong after a Redskins loss. Too many teams have other commitments on Thanksgiving or Monday night to really endorse any other games, although Texans-Browns is a very dark horse. If either or both the Bucs or the Redskins start sliding, Chargers-Ravens might be picked.

Week 13 (December 2):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: Very much in trouble. The Steelers may be in the top four teams in the NFL, but unless the Bungles pick up the pace this will be flexed out.
  • Other possible games: Jaguars-Colts is the overwhelming favorite. Texans-Titans has started fading. Seahawks-Eagles is still fading as well. Giants-Bears has a fighting chance if the Bears can come back, but that’s unlikely.

Week 14 (December 9):

  • Tentative game: Indianapolis @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: Would seem to be a good enough matchup to withstand any challenges. However…
  • Other possible games: Steelers-Patriots will give this game a lot of competition. Cowboys-Lions still has some time to come back but has a big hill to climb. Bucs-Texans and Cardinals-Seahawks both have big problems. Chargers-Titans may be the biggest dark horse.

Week 15 (December 16):

  • Tentative game: Washington @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: Starting to look decent. Being in the same division as the Cowboys hurts, but these are two teams on fire and the thrilling finish of their last meeting will help write the storyline.
  • Other possible games: Eagles-Cowboys is in big trouble. Jaguars-Steelers now looks to be the favorite. Seahawks-Panthers is also in trouble.

Week 16 (December 23):

  • Tentative game: Tampa Bay @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: Very problematic, even with the Bucs’ success, which just makes it look lopsided.
  • Other possible games: Texans-Colts (in trouble), Packers-Bears (also in trouble but an appealing matchup regardless of respective records), Ravens-Seahawks (could fall off if the Seahawks keep struggling). There aren’t a lot of attractive matchups this week.

Week 17 (December 30):

  • Tentative game: Kansas City @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: Awful.
  • Other possible games: Steelers-Ravens, Titans-Colts, Cowboys-Redskins, with Panthers-Bucs a dark horse. Lions-Packers, Jags-Texans fading. Playoff positioning watch begins after 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.

Last year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. CBS and Fox were able to protect one game every week each but had to leave one week each unprotected and had to submit their protections after only four weeks.

Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night, and by all appearances, CBS and Fox can’t protect anything. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site:

  • 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.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 18):

  • Tentative game: Chicago @ Seattle
  • Prospects: In big trouble. Seattle is 3-2 and Da Bears are 2-3.
  • Other possible games: Redskins @ Cowboys; Panthers @ Packers. That the NFL’s biggest rivalry did not merit a preliminary pick on Sunday night does not bode well; however, either could prove a very, very significant matchup. Panthers-Packers is currently riding on how the Panthers do the next few games. Look out for dark horses like Steelers-Jets and Browns-Ravens.

Week 12 (November 25):

  • Tentative game: Philadelphia @ New England
  • Prospects: In trouble. The Eagles need to get off the schnozz to avoid getting flexed out.
  • Other possible games: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers do not fall far by losing to the Colts. Bucs-Redskins could well be the best game. It all depends on whether both teams are for real. Too many teams have other commitments on Thanksgiving or Monday night to really endorse any other games, although Texans-Browns is a very dark horse.

Week 13 (December 2):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: Very much in trouble. The Steelers are back to looking like an elite team, but unless the Bungles pick up the pace this will be flexed out.
  • Other possible games: Jaguars-Colts, with Texans-Titans as a dark horse. Seahawks-Eagles keeps fading. Giants-Bears has a fighting chance if the Bears can come back.

Week 14 (December 9):

  • Tentative game: Indianapolis @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: Back to looking like a strong game. But the Ravens need to stay consistent.
  • Other possible games: Steelers-Patriots will give this game a lot of competition. But don’t count out Cowboys-Lions (now fading), Bucs-Texans, or Cardinals-Seahawks.

Week 15 (December 16):

  • Tentative game: Washington @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: Starting to look decent. Being in the same division as the Cowboys hurts, but these are two teams on fire and the thrilling finish of their last meeting will help write the storyline.
  • Other possible games: Eagles-Cowboys is in big trouble. Jaguars-Steelers now looks to be the favorite. Seahawks-Panthers is also in trouble.

Week 16 (December 23):

  • Tentative game: Tampa Bay @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: Could be better than might have been thought before the season. However, it is a 10-vs.-23 matchup in the NBC Sports Power Rankings, so it could be lopsided.
  • Other possible games: Texans-Colts, Packers-Bears (in trouble but an appealing matchup regardless of respective records), Ravens-Seahawks (could fall off if the Seahawks keep struggling) – with Jets-Titans a potential dark horse, though one that’s fading fast. There aren’t a lot of attractive matchups this week.

Week 17 (December 30):

  • Tentative game: Kansas City @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: Awful.
  • Other possible games: Steelers-Ravens, Titans-Colts, Cowboys-Redskins, with Panthers-Bucs and Jaguars-Texans dark horses. All of the three favorites involve teams currently 12th or better in the NBC rankings. Lions-Packers fading. Playoff positioning watch begins after Week 9.