Category Archives: SNF Flex Scheduling Watch

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.

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

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was originally written with the 2007 season in mind and has been only iteratively and incompletely edited since then, hence why at one point it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:25 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5; I’m assuming protections were due in Week 4 again this year, and the above notwithstanding, Week 10 is part of the main flex period this year, as it was in 2006 and 2011. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC, although starting this year Week 17 is exempt from team appearance limits. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; nine teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Texans don’t have games in the main flex period, though they don’t have any early-flex games left either. 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 10 (November 13):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ New England
  • Prospects: 4-1-1 v. 6-1. A bit lopsided in the win column, but these two teams are tied for the fewest losses in the league.
  • Likely protections: Broncos-Saints but probably nothing (CBS) and Cowboys-Steelers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Falcons-Eagles and Vikings-Skraelings would be strong contenders against a weaker tentative (with Packers-Titans a dark horse)…
  • Analysis: …but both involve three-loss teams. A Seahawks loss and a Falcons win or a win by the other Washington would result in a comparison between 4-2-1 v. 5-3, which may not obviously go one way or the other, but 6-2 would still have the edge over 5-2, and 6-1 v. 5-3 would still be a skosh lopsided, before even getting to the tentative game bias.
  • Final prediction: Seattle Seahawks @ New England Patriots (no change).

Week 11 (November 20):

  • Tentative game: Green Bay @ Washington
  • Prospects: 4-2 v. 4-3, beatable but strong enough to fend off most challenges.
  • Likely protections: Ravens-Cowboys or Eagles-Seahawks (CBS) and probably Cardinals-Vikings if anything (FOX).
  • Other possible games: If Eagles-Seahawks is protected, Bucs-Chiefs and Cardinals-Vikings are the only games involving teams at or above .500, and the latter might be protected as well. Ravens-Cowboys is a dark horse if unprotected, as is Bills-Bengals; Titans-Colts and Dolphins-Rams are games between 3-4 teams.

Week 12 (November 27):

  • Tentative game: New England @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: 6-1 v. 2-5. Very lopsided, but could be hard pressed to lose its spot under the circumstances.
  • Likely protections: Chiefs-Broncos (CBS) and Cardinals-Falcons, Rams-Saints, Seahawks-Bucs, or nothing (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving Weekend, paucity of good games, and this year seems to have gotten unusually lucky in terms of good teams on Thanksgiving and Monday night (across those four games only the Colts are below .500). With Chiefs-Broncos likely protected, no games involve teams above .500, with Cardinals-Falcons and Seahawks-Bucs involving teams at that mark and Chargers-Texans as a viable dark horse.

Week 13 (December 4):

  • Tentative game: Carolina @ Seattle
  • Prospects: 1-5 v. 4-1-1, with the Panthers’ struggles making this unfortunately lopsided.
  • Likely protections: Texans-Packers (CBS) and Rams-Patriots, Giants-Steelers, or Eagles-Bengals (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Chiefs-Falcons and Bills-Raiders are reasonably strong contenders, as is Giants-Steelers if it’s unprotected, with Racial Slurs-Cardinals waiting in the wings. Rams-Patriots and Eagles-Bengals are dark horses, followed by Bucs-Chargers.

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 5-1 v. 4-3 would be tough for any game to overcome the tentative game bias against, but when it’s an intra-NFC East matchup involving the Cowboys, nothing else has a chance.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bills if anything (CBS) and Seahawks-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Native Americans-Eagles is good enough I considered listing them as an option for the protection, and if I’m right about the protections it’s the only game involving nothing but teams above .500. Broncos-Titans, Falcons-Rams, and Texans-Colts are dark horses with Cardinals-Dolphins further back.

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
  • Prospects: 4-3 v. 3-4. Not great, and without the sort of brand value that would insulate it from a flex, but not terrible, and potentially for the AFC North lead.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Broncos (CBS) and Eagles-Ravens (FOX).
  • Other possible games: The good news for this game is that Lions-Giants is the only game involving two teams above .500, and 4-3 v. 4-3 probably isn’t overcoming the tentative game bias and greater potential playoff implications (though a lot depends on Ben Roethlisberger’s health and how the Steelers play without him). Bucs-Cowboys might actually be more interesting if it weren’t lopsided. Titans-Chiefs, Colts-Vikings, and Raiders-Chargers are potential dark horses.

Week 17 (January 3):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 6

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

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

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was originally written with the 2007 season in mind and has been only iteratively and incompletely edited since then, hence why at one point it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:25 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5; I’m assuming protections were due in Week 4 again this year, and the above notwithstanding, Week 10 is part of the main flex period this year, as it was in 2006 and 2011. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC, although starting this year Week 17 is exempt from team appearance limits. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; nine teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Texans don’t have games in the main flex period, though they don’t have any early-flex games left either. 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 10 (November 13):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ New England
  • Prospects: 4-1 v. 5-1, which is nearly impossible to beat.
  • Likely protections: Broncos-Saints but probably nothing (CBS) and Cowboys-Steelers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Falcons-Eagles would be a strong contender against a weaker tentative (and might have been protected if the Cowboys were facing a weaker opponent), as would Vikings-Skraelings. Packers-Titans is too mediocre to be relevant, and Texans-Jaguars and Broncos-Saints are 4-2 v. 2-3 matchups that would need a lot to go their way under the best of circumstances.

Week 11 (November 20):

  • Tentative game: Green Bay @ Washington
  • Prospects: 3-2 v. 4-2, not quite as hard to beat as Seahawks-Patriots, but pretty strong.
  • Likely protections: Ravens-Cowboys or Eagles-Seahawks (CBS) and probably Cardinals-Vikings if anything (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Besides CBS’ unprotected game (and Cardinals-Vikings if it’s unprotected), the only other options involve teams below .500, with Bucs-Chiefs and Jaguars-Lions being the most viable.

Week 12 (November 27):

  • Tentative game: New England @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: 5-1 v. 1-5. Very lopsided, but could be hard pressed to lose its spot under the circumstances.
  • Likely protections: Chiefs-Broncos (CBS) and Cardinals-Falcons, Rams-Saints, Seahawks-Bucs, or nothing (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving Weekend, paucity of good games, and this year seems to have gotten unusually lucky in terms of good teams on Thanksgiving and Monday night (across those four games only the Colts are below .500), although Cardinals-Falcons is looking like a potentially viable alternative. Basically, whichever games Fox didn’t protect are joined by Jaguars-Bills as at least dark horses.

Week 13 (December 4):

  • Tentative game: Carolina @ Seattle
  • Prospects: 1-5 v. 4-1, with the Panthers’ struggles making this unfortunately lopsided.
  • Likely protections: Texans-Packers (CBS) and Rams-Patriots, Giants-Steelers, or Eagles-Bengals (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Chiefs-Falcons and Bills-Raiders are reasonably strong contenders, along with whichever game(s) are unprotected between Rams-Patriots and Giants-Steelers (I think the former is most likely), as well as Racial Slurs-Cardinals. Lions-Saints and Broncos-Jaguars are emerging as dark horses.

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 5-1 v. 3-3 would be tough for any game to overcome the tentative game bias against, but when it’s an intra-NFC East matchup involving the Cowboys, nothing else has a chance.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bills if anything (CBS) and Seahawks-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Native Americans-Eagles is good enough I considered listing them as an option for the protection, while Falcons-Rams and Broncos-Titans would also be very viable options against a more vulnerable tentative. Vikings-Jaguars is a dark horse, and Saints-Bucs is even darker.

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
  • Prospects: 4-2 v. 2-4. Not great, and without the sort of brand value that would insulate it from a flex, but not terrible.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Broncos (CBS) and Eagles-Ravens (FOX).
  • Other possible games: The good news for this game is that Titans-Chiefs and Lions-Giants are the only games that don’t involve teams under .500, and Lions-Giants, which has the better name value, pits two .500 teams. That’s not overcoming the tentative game bias. Bucs-Cowboys, Jaguars-Texans, or Saints-Cardinals could be dark horses if the road teams could climb above .500.

Week 17 (January 3):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 5

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

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

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was originally written with the 2007 season in mind and has been only iteratively and incompletely edited since then, hence why at one point it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:25 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5; I’m assuming protections were due in Week 4 again this year, and the above notwithstanding, Week 10 is part of the main flex period this year, as it was in 2006 and 2011 (and yes I goofed up by not writing this post last week). As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC, although starting this year Week 17 is exempt from team appearance limits. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; nine teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Texans don’t have games in the main flex period, though they don’t have any early-flex games left either. NBC appearances for all teams: CAR 2 (1 flexible), DEN 3 (1 semi-flexible, 1 flexible), NE 3 (1 semi-flexible, 1 flexible), ARI 2 (1 semi-flexible), GB 3 (1 flexible), MIN 1, CHI 1, DAL 3 (1 semi-flexible, 1 flexible), KC 2 (1 flexible), PIT 3 (2 flexible), NYG 2 (1 flexible), IND 2 (flexible), HOU 1, SEA 3 (2 semi-flexible, 1 flexible), PHI 1 (semi-flexible), OAK 1 (semi-flexible), WAS 1 (flexible), NYJ 1 (flexible), CIN 1 (flexible). All primetime appearances for all teams: CAR 5 (1 flexible), DEN 5 (1 semi-flexible, 1 flexible), NE 5 (2 flexible), ARI 4 (1 semi-flexible), GB 5 (1 flexible), MIN 4, CHI 4, DAL 5 (1 semi-flexible, 1 flexible), KC 3 (1 flexible), PIT 5 (2 flexible), NYG 5 (1 flexible), IND 3 (2 flexible), HOU 5, SEA 5 (1 semi-flexible, 2 flexible), PHI 4 (1 semi-flexible), OAK 3 (1 semi-flexible), WAS 3 (1 flexible), NYJ 5 (1 flexible), CIN 4 (1 flexible), LA 2, SF 2, ATL 2, NO 2, TB 2, BUF 2, BAL 3, MIA 2, all other teams 1.

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

  • Week 7: Seattle (3-1) @ Arizona (2-3). A fairly mediocre contest, but nowhere near the sort of emergency that would warrant pulling the early flex considering the protection rules. No chance of being flexed out.
  • Week 8: Philadelphia (3-1) @ Dallas (4-1). The Cowboys never, ever, get flexed out in any case; when it’s a matchup with the NFC East lead potentially on the line? No chance of being flexed out.
  • Week 9: Denver (4-1) @ Oakland (4-1). Two one-loss teams fighting for the AFC West lead adds up to a game that won’t see any available game overcome the tentative game bias. No chance of being flexed out.

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

Week 10 (November 13):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ New England
  • Prospects: 3-1 v. 4-1, which is nearly impossible to beat.
  • Likely protections: Broncos-Saints but probably nothing (CBS) and Cowboys-Steelers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Falcons-Eagles would be a strong contender against a weaker tentative (and might have been protected if the Cowboys were facing a weaker opponent), and Vikings-Skraelings finds itself lost in the shuffle. Packers-Titans is a dark horse.

Week 11 (November 20):

  • Tentative game: Green Bay @ Washington
  • Prospects: 3-1 v. 3-2, not quite as hard to beat as Seahawks-Patriots, but pretty strong.
  • Likely protections: Ravens-Cowboys or Eagles-Seahawks (CBS) and probably Cardinals-Vikings if anything (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Besides CBS’ unprotected game, the only other options involve teams below .500, with Bills-Bengals and Buccaneers-Chiefs being the most viable, and Titans-Colts as a very dark horse.

Week 12 (November 27):

  • Tentative game: New England @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: 4-1 v. 1-4. Very lopsided, but could be hard pressed to lose its spot under the circumstances.
  • Likely protections: Chiefs-Broncos (CBS) and Cardinals-Falcons, Rams-Saints, Seahawks-Bucs, or nothing (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving Weekend, paucity of good games, and this year seems to have gotten unusually lucky in terms of good teams on Thanksgiving and Monday night (across those four games only the Colts and Lions have three or more losses). Bengals-Ravens, Cardinals-Falcons, and Seahawks-Bucs are the best options.

Week 13 (December 4):

  • Tentative game: Carolina @ Seattle
  • Prospects: 1-4 v. 3-1, with the Panthers’ struggles making this unfortunately lopsided.
  • Likely protections: Texans-Packers (CBS) and Rams-Patriots, Giants-Steelers, or Eagles-Bengals (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Chiefs-Falcons and Bills-Raiders are reasonably strong contenders, along with whichever game(s) are unprotected between Rams-Patriots and Giants-Steelers (I think the former is most likely). Racial Slurs-Cardinals is a dark horse.

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 4-1 v. 2-3 is not great, but the Cowboys never get flexed out of SNF under any circumstances and certainly not when they’re playing this well.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bills if anything (CBS) and Seahawks-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Native Americans-Eagles is good enough I considered listing them as an option for the protection, and Falcons-Rams is a good option as well. Broncos-Titans and Texans-Colts are dark horses.

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
  • Prospects: 4-1 v. 2-3, like Cowboys-Giants not great, and the name value of the teams doesn’t insulate this game nearly as well.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Broncos (CBS) and Eagles-Ravens (FOX).
  • Other possible games: The good news for this game is that the only remaining options also involve 2-3 teams: Titans-Chiefs, Colts-Vikings, or Bucs-Cowboys, with Lions-Giants as a dark horse.

Week 17 (January 3):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

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 even with the bit about the early flexes, this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • In the past, three teams could appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; nine teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Giants, Cowboys, Packers, and Eagles don’t have games in the main flex period, and of those only the Giants don’t have games in the early flex period. 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 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS
SOUTH
47-7
59-5 ALL OTHER TEAMS
ELIMINATED
6-8
WEST
310-4
69-5
9-5
NORTH
211-3
9-5
9-5
EAST
112-2
CLINCHED
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (7-7)
EAST
47-7
59-5
2 tied at 6-8
NORTH
310-4
69-5
9-5
WEST
212-2
CLINCHED
SOUTH
114-0
CLINCHED
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Vikings-Packers, Bucs-Panthers. The situation is actually quite simple, but this may be the biggest looming headache of the all-division-games era, certainly if the Panthers, Vikings, and Cardinals all lose and leave the NFL with no good options.
  • Vikings-Packers will be picked if: The Packers lose OR (the Vikings win AND the Panthers lose). In all likelihood, the NFL is going to have to settle for a division title game between two playoff-bound teams that may well determine home field for a rematch the following week. What makes this even more of a headache is that the Vikings play on Sunday night, so if the Packers win this game’s chances will be dependent on the Sunday night result… then again, if you believe one of my commenters a Packers win could force this game to be rescheduled to Saturday anyway, since that would keep open the possibility the Cardinals would have to host the Vikings the weekend of the college football national championship in their home stadium, and in any case that possibility would make the NFL somewhat reluctant to flex Vikings-Packers to primetime even without the CFP factor.
  • Bucs-Panthers will be picked if: The Panthers win AND the Packers win. This is a last resort play if Vikings-Packers weren’t an option, but honestly if Vikings-Packers weren’t such a ratings magnet I could see the NFL going with the game that’s meaningless for playoff purposes but totally meaningful for history in the absence of a true winner-in, loser-out game, and they may do so anyway if they’d prefer to schedule Vikings-Packers simultaneously with Cardinals-Seahawks (i.e., if the Packers have a shot to steal the first-round bye, although if it’s still a division title game it’s much better to have it go on later than the reverse).

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 even with the bit about the early flexes, this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • In the past, three teams could appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; nine teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Giants, Cowboys, Packers, and Eagles don’t have games in the main flex period, and of those only the Giants don’t have games in the early flex period. 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 27):

  • Selected game: NY Giants @ Minnesota.

Week 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (6-7)
SOUTH
46-7
58-5
6-7
WEST
310-3
68-5
8-5 5-8
NORTH
210-3
8-5
8-5
EAST
111-2
8-5
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (6-7)
EAST
46-7
58-5
2 tied at 6-7
NORTH
39-4
68-5
8-5
WEST
211-2
8-5
SOUTH
113-0
CLINCHED
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Jets-Bills, Raiders-Chiefs, Indians-Cowboys, Vikings-Packers, Colts-Titans, Texans-Jaguars, Seahawks-Cardinals. Unfortunately, no division has more than one realistic wild card contender, and the divisions with the most straightforward straight-up division title games, the NFC North and West, have also all but locked up the two wild card spots between them.
  • Chances of Vikings-Packers: 25 percent. The good news is that this game should be a division title game regardless of the order in which the teams would be in so long as they’re within a game of each other; the Packers have a game in hand while the Vikings should take the division tiebreaker with a win. The bad news is it would take a nearly complete collapse for the loser of this game not to be in line for a wild card spot, and outright impossible for the loser to be guaranteed to be out. It may actually be better if the winner of this game is in line for a first-round bye, even though that could cause a logistical nightmare for the NFL (see the Seahawks-Cardinals section below for what’s facing the NFL if the Cardinals have to host a wild-card game). If this game could just determine home-field for a rematch the following week, or if the loser gets to play the sucky NFC East winner while the winner has to deal with an actually good team, the NFL might actually prefer Bucs-Panthers if the Panthers are still unbeaten. Still, the likelihood of this game being a division title game leads me to peg its chances so high; if the Panthers lose one of their next two this becomes the last-resort option.
  • Chances of Bucs-Panthers: 20 percent. This is basically a last-resort option for the undefeated factor the NFL would only choose if there’s no other attractive options; if the Panthers are still undefeated they’d have nothing else to play for, and there’s an off chance the NFL would prefer this game was simultaneous with other games involving NFC Wild Card contenders. So it says a lot I have the chances for this game being so high; all the other games below are counting on fairly specific circumstances.
  • Chances of Indians-Cowboys: 15 percent. Turns out the Giants might be more relevant to the Week 17 selection than I thought when I made my Last-Minute Remarks. As explained here, this game could be a contender for SNF even if the Cowboys are completely irrelevant; if Washington loses next week while the Eagles win, then the Eagles lose the following week while the Giants split their next two games, the result would be a three-way tie with Washington having swept the Eagles and holding the division tie-breaker over the Giants with a win over the Cowboys. Alternately, the Cowboys have a game in hand over the Indians and are the only team in the division with three division wins; if they win their next two and the only other NFC East win is the one that’s necessary for the Eagles to lose Week 16, the result would be a three-way tie a game back of the Indians with the Cowboys set to win any three-way tiebreakers over the Indians and the Eagles-Giants winner. Both of these scenarios would be dependent on the Giants-Vikings result, but we have just seen the NFL is willing to condition a flex on the Monday Night Football result, so they might be willing to condition a flex on the SNF result as well.
  • Chances of Jets-Bills: 10 percent. If the Bills win their next two and the Steelers lose their next two, the Jets would actually only need to split for this game to be an option, since the Bills have a game in hand.
  • Chances of Seahawks-Cardinals: 8 percent. Would need the Cardinals to lose their next two and the Seahawks to win their next two, and might need the Packers to lose this week as well so the Cardinals aren’t at risk for hosting a Wild Card game the same weekend as the college football National Championship in their stadium. Even then the Cardinals have already clinched a playoff spot and the Seahawks would have as well, so this is another last-resort pick.
  • Chances of Raiders-Chiefs: 7 percent. If the Chiefs lose their next two and the Raiders win their next two, and either the Jets or Steelers also lose their next two, both these teams would be in pretty good tiebreaker shape… to the point that if both the Jets and Steelers lose their next two, there’s a disturbingly good chance the loser of this game still makes the playoffs.
  • Chances of Texans-Jaguars: 7 percent. The Jaguars have opened up the possibility of the AFC South bailing out the NFL here. If the Colts lose their next two, the Jaguars win their next two, and the Texans lose their other game, this becomes a division title game.
  • Chances of Colts-Titans: 7 percent. Another last-resort game that could still lose to Bucs-Panthers if the Panthers are unbeaten and the Bucs aren’t still contending for the wild card, but falls under the same category as Indians-Cowboys might fall into, mentioned above. If the Jaguars win out and the Colts and Texans split, the Colts would hold the tiebreaker over the Texans-Jaguars winner.
  • Chances of Eagles-Giants: 1 percent. Yes, both these teams are technically maxed out on primetime appearances. Yes, part of the reason they’re maxed out may be that this game can’t be moved to primetime no matter what, given the possibility of a blizzard and traffic nightmare. But you know what? Given the constraints and substandard options facing the NFL, if worst comes to worst and this is a division title game and the only option otherwise available I would not be surprised to see the NFL say “screw everyone” and push this game into primetime no matter what Fox and the Meadowlands think.

Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 16 Picks

Week 16 (December 27):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 8-5 v. 4-9. One of the NFL’s better rivalries, but not in the best shape right now with the Ravens eliminated from the playoffs.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Jets (CBS) and Packers-Cardinals or Panthers-Falcons (FOX).
  • Other possible games mentioned on last week’s Watch and their records: Packers (9-4)-Cardinals (11-2), Panthers (13-0)-Falcons (6-7), Giants (5-7)-Vikings (8-5), Bears (5-8)-Bucs (6-7), Colts (6-7)-Dolphins (5-7), Cowboys (4-9)-Bills (6-7).
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: The winner goes to 6-7 and makes their respective game at least a little more palatable, but I’m not sure it matters.
  • Analysis: Well, I still don’t quite know what happened to put Cardinals-Eagles on SNF Week 15, but I’ve gotten enough of an idea, and thought through the implications of this week more, that I can actually make a semi-informed prediction about this week. The key is that the NFL probably wants to avoid a repeat of the Bears-Eagles fiasco from two years ago, when the loser of the SNF game was guaranteed to be in a division title game but the NFL wanted to announce the Week 17 game by halftime.They’d prefer a game with no impact on the Week 17 prospects of any game, and the only games that fit the bill are Bears-Bucs, Colts-Dolphins, and the tentative. (The NFL may want to hold Bucs-Panthers in reserve for the undefeated factor.) This is where the Cardinals-Eagles flex comes in, because the only way I can even begin to make sense of why it would be picked over Texans-Colts is if the NFL is hard up against the balance of primetime games taken from Fox and CBS and absolutely had to take a Fox game, and even then I’m not sure you’d take Cardinals-Eagles unless you had the same constraint this week as well (especially given the weakness of the Week 17 AFC options). Given the Bears’ weakness and the Panthers’ close calls and likelihood not to be playing for anything but an unbeaten season by Week 17 I wouldn’t be totally surprised by Panthers-Falcons, but…
  • Final prediction: Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
  • Actual selection: New York Giants @ Minnesota Vikings (if the Giants win tonight), Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens (no change) (if the Dolphins win tonight). I guess the NFL is comfortable with the possibility Vikings-Packers’ prospects will depend on what the Vikings do, and it probably is the best option if you ignore Week 17 implications, but looking at that other option, so much for my Fox-CBS balance theory.

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 even with the bit about the early flexes, this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • In the past, three teams could appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; nine teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Giants, Cowboys, Packers, and Eagles don’t have games in the main flex period, and of those only the Giants don’t have games in the early flex period. 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 22):

  • Selected game: Cincinnati @ Arizona.

Week 12 (November 29):

  • Selected game: New England @ Denver.

Week 13 (December 6):

  • Selected game: Indianapolis @ Pittsburgh.

Week 14 (December 13):

  • Selected game: New England @ Houston.

Week 15 (December 20):

  • Selected game: Arizona @ Philadelphia. Hoo boy, I can’t wait to hear what inscrutable thought process went into this one; have we ever seen a team below .500, certainly with more than a game’s difference between wins and losses, flexed into Sunday night (at least with a game involving only teams at .500 or above as an option)? Certainly I didn’t consider any teams below 5-6 last week despite the tire fire the NFC East is this year, but that’s offset by the fact this maxes out the Eagles on primetime appearances with a Week 17 game against the Giants still potentially deciding the division, and the decision came down before seeing if the two would come out of this week tied for the division lead. If you’re going to disqualify yourself from airing Eagles-Giants, why not put on Panthers-Giants, a game that honestly isn’t that much more lopsided even if the Panthers lose? If Fox protected Panthers-Giants, and you really don’t want to put the Texans on consecutive weeks or you want to address an imbalance of games taken from CBS or Fox, why not put on Bears-Vikings, two bigger markets and a less lopsided game? Yeah, the Vikings’ lease at the University of Minnesota’s stadium only allows them one primetime home game to be played when classes aren’t in session, but I can’t imagine Minnesota would still have classes in session when Christmas is the following Friday, and their Week 17 potential NFC North title game against the Packers is at Lambeau. Hell, Bills-Original Americans would at least be competitive and wouldn’t squeeze you out of a potential Week 17 game. The more I think about this the more I think this is the worst actual flex I’ve ever encountered in the ten years we’ve had flex scheduling, worse than the multi-week clusterbleep of two years ago that put the absolute worst Week 16 game the NFL could have for the purpose of determining the Week 17 game into SNF, which was at least an otherwise understandable choice with a two-game gap and without outright ruling out any potential Week 17 game. The only flex that might come close would be the very first flex known to be a flex way back in 2007 (when I wasn’t sure protections or appearance limits even existed), and even that involved the undefeated Patriots in their 18-1 season. Seriously, do you realize this is only a game less lopsided than the tentative?

Week 16 (December 27):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 7-5 v. 4-8. One of the NFL’s better rivalries, but not in the best shape right now. Probably would be a better flex choice than Cardinals-Eagles though.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Jets (CBS) and Packers-Cardinals or Panthers-Falcons (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Fox’s unprotected game has been far and away ahead of any other contenders all season, with Giants-Vikings in second. Of course that involves a 5-7 team, so for completeness’ sake let’s mention Bears-Bucs and Colts-Dolphins. Hell, let’s throw Cowboys-Bills in there for the hell of it.
  • Analysis: Well, with the Packers still hovering a game short of being maxed out and this now potentially representing the second straight week for the Cardinals on SNF, I guess we can rule that game out. Meanwhile, the once-mighty Falcons have fallen to .500 and the Panthers have clinched the division and might not have much of anything to play for by the time this game comes around, and it’s not like the Giants have a Week 17 candidate game to worry about getting maxed out for anymore. The worst-case scenario for Giants-Vikings is probably 8-5 v. 5-8, which probably still beats 7-6 v. 6-7 for Bears-Bucs and Colts-Dolphins given the name factor and NFC East bull-dropping fire, but might be close with 7-6 v. 5-8 for a game involving America’s Team that could still win the division. Of course the Cowboys would also be maxed out with their own potential Week 17 candidate game, but does anyone really want to see Indians-Cowboys in primetime again? Really the biggest threat to Giants-Vikings might be the tentative, whose best-case scenario is identical to Giants-Vikings’ worst with both the rivalry-game factor and the tentative game bias on its side, but after this flex I’m not even so sure about that. Hopefully I’ll be less sleep-deprived and more informed about just what the hell the NFL was thinking by Sunday night when I make my Last-Minute Remarks.

Week 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (5-7)
SOUTH
46-6
57-5
6-6
WEST
310-2
67-5
7-5
EAST
210-2
7-5
7-5 6-6
NORTH
110-2
6-6
7-5
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (5-7)
EAST
45-7
58-4
2 tied at 5-7
NORTH
38-4
67-5
8-4 4-8
WEST
210-2
6-6
7-5 6-6
SOUTH
112-0
CLINCHED
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Jets-Bills, Raiders-Chiefs, Indians-Cowboys, Vikings-Packers, Seahawks-Cardinals. Only three of these games involve teams within a game of each other at the moment (which would have been two if the Cowboys hadn’t won Monday night), but sure, let’s carelessly throw away the possibility of a fourth for whatever unfathomable reason!

Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 15 Picks

Week 15 (December 20):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: 10-2 v. 4-8. Massively lopsided.
  • Likely protections: Broncos-Steelers (CBS, confirmed) and Panthers-Giants or Bears-Vikings (FOX).
  • Other possible games mentioned on last week’s Watch and their records: Texans (6-6)-Colts (6-6), Panthers (12-0)-Giants (5-7), Packers (8-4)-Raiders (5-7), Bills (6-6)-Original Americans (5-6), Bears (5-7)-Vikings (8-4).
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: A win over the Cowboys would put the Bills game on par with Texans-Colts and at least put in some doubt as to the best option. The question is whether it would win a tiebreaker.
  • Analysis: Panthers-Giants or Packers-Raiders would max the Giants or Packers out on primetime appearances with potential Week 17 division title games looming, and as much as the NFL would prefer avoiding simultaneous Bay Area home games, right now the Giants’ game is the one that looks less likely – and what would make it really unlikely is an Indian win that puts their game against the Bills in that much better position. With Bears-Vikings lopsided and involving a 5-7 team, that leaves only the potential or actual battles of 6-6 teams. Texans-Colts would put the Texans on SNF in consecutive weeks (with neither being pre-scheduled) but it’s a pivotal clash in the AFC South while the Bills have no buzz whatsoever, and despite potentially leading their division and that division being the NFC East I’m not sure their opponents have much of any either.
  • Final prediction: Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts.

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 even with the bit about the early flexes, this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • In the past, three teams could appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; nine teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Giants, Cowboys, Packers, and Eagles don’t have games in the main flex period, and of those only the Giants don’t have games in the early flex period. 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 22):

  • Selected game: Cincinnati @ Arizona.

Week 12 (November 29):

  • Selected game: New England @ Denver.

Week 13 (December 6):

  • Selected game: Indianapolis @ Pittsburgh.

Week 14 (December 13):

  • Selected game: New England @ Houston.

Week 15 (December 20):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: 9-2 v. 3-8. Massively lopsided.
  • Likely protections: Broncos-Steelers (CBS, confirmed) and Panthers-Giants or Bears-Vikings (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Texans-Colts is a key showdown for the AFC South at 6-5 v. 6-5. Panthers-Giants is very lopsided at 11-0 v. 5-6, but the unbeaten factor can’t be discounted. I also must mention the continued possibility that the NFL would still give the edge to Packers-Raiders if it’s reasonably competitive with other options, even if it is a bit lopsided at 7-4 v. 5-6. It would probably overcome Bills-Original Americans (5-6 v. 5-6) under any circumstances, at least, and probably also Bears-Vikings (5-6 v. 8-3) even though that game might have greater name value.
  • Analysis: Realistically Panthers-Giants isn’t an option; it would max the Giants out on primetime appearances when Eagles-Giants Week 17 could still be an NFC East division title game. That basically leaves Texans-Colts, which would involve flexing in the Texans two weeks in a row, against Packers-Raiders. My impression is that a Raiders loss would probably make Texans-Colts a mortal lock, but it’s very easy to see a scenario where the Texans and Colts both lose and the Raiders win, which would actually make Packers-Raiders indisputably the better option regardless of Bay Area television considerations. Even if just one of the Texans or Colts lose, it would either give Packers-Raiders the same pair of records or make it a Packers win better. On the other hand, picking Packers-Raiders would also max the Packers out on primetime appearances with a potential Vikings-Packers division title game looming Week 17, which might open things up for the other games with 5-6 teams. The AFC South showdown factor probably gives Texans-Colts the edge over Bills-Natives, but if it’s 6-6 v. 6-6 and Bears-Vikings is 6-6 v. 8-4 and unprotected, it might get the edge especially given the relative popularity, market size, and name value of the teams.

Week 16 (December 27):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 6-5 v. 4-7. One of the NFL’s better rivalries, but not in the best shape right now, although the Ravens are looking not-horrible enough the game could keep its spot if circumstances warrant.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Jets (CBS) and Packers-Cardinals or Panthers-Falcons (FOX).
  • Other possible games: As with the week with the first Panthers-Falcons matchup, Fox’s unprotected game is far and away ahead of any other contenders, with Giants-Vikings in second and Bears-Bucs a dark horse.

Week 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (4-7)
SOUTH
46-5
56-5
6-5
WEST
39-2
66-5
6-5
NORTH
29-2
6-5
6-5 6-5
EAST
110-1
5-6
6-5 5-6
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (4-7)
EAST
45-6
57-4
5-6
NORTH
38-3
66-5
7-4
WEST
29-2
6-5
6-5 5-6
SOUTH
111-0
5-6
6-5 5-6
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Jets-Bills, Saints-Falcons, Jaguars-Texans, Raiders-Chiefs, Indians-Cowboys, Eagles-Giants, Vikings-Packers, Seahawks-Cardinals.

Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 14 Picks

Week 14 (December 13):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 6-5 v. 3-7. Not looking good.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bengals (CBS, confirmed) and Cowboys-Packers or Falcons-Panthers (FOX).
  • Other possible games mentioned on Monday’s Watch and their records: Falcons (6-5)-Panthers (11-0), Patriots (10-1)-Texans (6-5), Bills (5-6)-Eagles (4-7), Colts (6-5)-Jaguars (4-7), Raiders (5-6)-Broncos (9-2), Washington (5-6)-Bears (5-6), Saints (4-7)-Bucs (5-6).
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: A Ravens win gives Seahawks-Ravens a decent, though not overwhelming, chance of keeping its spot, with only a two-game gap and the Ravens with an outside shot at a wild card; a loss probably makes a flex certain, assuming the decision hasn’t already come down by game time. In any case I’ve already seen a tweet indicating the decision’s already been made to flex it out.
  • Analysis: Despite the long list of games above I felt Falcons-Panthers and Patriots-Texans were really the only options, and both are massively lopsided; even considering that, Racial Slurs-Bears and Raiders-Broncos are the only two of the remaining games that avoided involving a 4-7 team, and only the latter even comes close to overcoming the tentative game bias and is still a game worse on both sides than Patriots-Texans. This would be much easier if both undefeated teams lost or won, or even if the Panthers were the unbeaten that lost; as it stands the league would have to determine whether to go for Patriots-Texans’ name value and less lopsided nature or Falcons-Panthers’ unbeaten team. Factors to keep in mind: Fox has the doubleheader this week, so the NFL would prefer to take a game from CBS and give it a national audience, and the Panthers-Falcons return match has much less competition to be flexed in Week 16. On the other hand, Texans-Colts seems like a more likely choice to be flexed in next week than a lopsided Panthers-Giants matchup that would leave the Giants maxed out on primetime appearances with Giants-Vikings Week 16 and Eagles-Giants Week 17 both potential flex possibilities. Still, that hasn’t stopped the NFL before, so it hardly outweighs the factors in Patriots-Texans’ favor. Still, I make this prediction with the caveat that if Falcons-Panthers isn’t protected this week but is protected Week 16 (which, note, is also a Fox doubleheader week), I would be far from surprised to see it picked this week, and I’m not sure I agree with not waiting for MNF to see if the Ravens win if the NFL can wait. Even then, though, the name value might still give the edge to…
  • Final prediction: New England Patriots @ Houston Texans.
  • Actual selection: New England Patriots @ Houston Texans (matches prediction).