Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 10

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

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

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

  • Selected game: Seattle @ New England.

Week 11 (November 20):

  • Selected game: Green Bay @ Washington.

Week 12 (November 27):

  • Selected game: Kansas City @ Denver. Well if that game wasn’t protected it would seem to be a no-brainer to flex in, but it’s a bit puzzling that it wasn’t protected (though I suppose CBS could have felt getting Pats-Jets back was worth potentially losing a strong Chiefs-Broncos matchup). Even more puzzling is that Patriots-Jets is now going to be the lead late doubleheader game on CBS (the second time the tentative game has moved to the lead late doubleheader slot, after another Patriots game moved to CBS in Week 16 of 2013), which would seem to defeat the point of flexing it out and makes me doubt that the NFL pulled another protection override (though it’s worth noting the Giants play in the early spot, and while the Jets and Giants have played at the same time several times in recent seasons, the NFL still wants to avoid it); were it not for Adam Schefter tweeting the full list of protections in 2014, I would be starting to doubt the protections work even remotely the way they did before the most recent TV deal. NBC’s Sam Flood seemed to possibly prefer keeping Pats-Jets, which suggests this was as much about propping up CBS as anything else, but again there seems to be little point to simply switching the two main Sunday games. The NFL seems to have gone even further into panic mode regarding the primetime ratings than I thought, and it’s not even necessarily clear that SNF will benefit more. The tentative game bias may actually be weaker than it used to be despite the TNF factor.

Week 13 (December 4):

  • Tentative game: Carolina @ Seattle
  • Prospects: 3-6 v. 6-2-1. Just got a little more lopsided than it already was.
  • Likely protections: Texans-Packers (CBS) and Rams-Patriots, Giants-Steelers, or Eagles-Bengals (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Chiefs-Falcons is definitely the strongest option; even if I’m wrong about CBS’ protection, which just got a lot more likely, the Packers’ struggles mean that Texans-Packers isn’t that strong and may not be that much better than the tentative. Dolphins-Ravens is also reasonably strong, while Racial Slurs-Cardinals at least pits a .500 team against a team above that mark. Lions-Saints, Rams-Patriots, Eagles-Bengals, Giants-Steelers, and Bills-Raiders are dark horses.
  • Analysis: Before the Week 12 flex came in I would have said Chiefs-Falcons was nearly a mortal lock to be flexed in. If it’s not protected it would still seem to be the obvious choice but it would put the Chiefs on SNF on consecutive weeks when neither game was the tentative beforehand, which I’m not sure has ever happened when Week 17 wasn’t involved (which makes that flex all the more puzzling, but the NFL has rarely been one for looking ahead when it comes to its flexes). Best-case scenario for Dolphins-Ravens is 6-4 v. 6-4 while the Falcons are on bye so the worst-case for Chiefs-Falcons is 7-3 v. 6-4. On the flip side, if Texans-Packers stands at 6-4 v. 5-5 it could either clearly lose to Dolphins-Ravens, or clearly beat it if it’s 5-5 v. 5-5, which could also keep Dolphins-Ravens pretty close to Racial Slurs-Cardinals if I’m right about the protection but the NFL doesn’t want to flex Chiefs-Falcons in anyway. So if I’m right about the protections this is a fairly easy choice no matter what else happens, but if Chiefs-Falcons is protected or the NFL doesn’t want to flex the Chiefs in in consecutive weeks, I would need to hold off and make a last-minute remarks post on Monday. Check my Tweeter on Sunday night and Monday afternoon, but in the meantime:
  • Final prediction: Kansas City Chiefs @ Atlanta Falcons.

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 8-1 v. 6-3, and the top two teams in the division, 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 was good enough I considered listing them as an option for the protection, and if it’s not protected it’s the only game involving nothing but teams above .500. Broncos-Titans and Cardinals-Dolphins aren’t far behind. Texans-Colts and Falcons-Rams are dark horses, while Steelers-Bills and Saints-Bucs are very long shots.

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
  • Prospects: 4-5 v. 3-5-1. The Steelers’ four-game losing streak may be putting this game in serious jeopardy of being flexed out (not that the Bengals aren’t bringing the game down on their own), especially with the wild-card cut line currently at 7-3, but it’s still really only mediocre. Still, this is another situation where the NFL’s finger might be on the Primetime Ratings Panic Button.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Broncos (CBS) and Eagles-Ravens (FOX).
  • Other possible games: While the Giants barely escaped the Bengals at home, it still put their game against the Lions at 5-4 v. 6-3, so if the teams keep moving in these directions Lions-Giants might be able to overcome the tentative game bias. Titans-Chiefs is a bit lopsided, but if the gap closes don’t count it out either. Saints-Cardinals, Colts-Vikings, and Bucs-Cowboys are all dark horses.

Week 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
57-2 5-4
4-5 5-5
67-3 4-5
5-5 4-5
NFC Playoff Picture
2 teams at 4-5
4-4-1 5-4
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Saints-Falcons, Giants-Swamp, Texans-Titans, Packers-Lions, Patriots-Dolphins, Bears-Vikings, Cowboys-Eagles, Cardinals-Rams, Raiders-Broncos, Chiefs-Chargers, Seahawks-49ers.

16 thoughts on “Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 10

  1. My views on this:

    I suspect Week 12 may have been a case of protection override. The NFL likely now will only have the Jets and Giants on at the same time in Week 17 OR like when it did happen a couple of weeks ago, when Eagles-Giants was on the singleheader network (FOX) and had it been moved to 4:05 PM would have resulted in New York not getting CBS’s main doubleheader game (allowing the NFL to air three games in New York as there was no way the NFL was going to put Jets-Browns at 4:25).

    Here’s what I think happens the rest of the way:

    Week 13: If Rams-Patriots had been in LA and the Rams were 5-5 when the decision had to be made, then that would be a lock because I think the NFL did up the schedules for this year based on the Rams being still in St. Louis and NOT LA (as otherwise, the NFL likely would have had the Rams play someone else in London and made Giants-Rams the Rams home opener in Week 3 on SNF so NBC could have all the stars of their new fall shows at the game). As this game is in New England, I don’t expect it to be flexed as it’s likely going to be a whitewash by the Pats. If the Eagles and Bengals win this week, then I suspect Eagles-Bengals is the Sunday night game, especially with a chance to get Carson Wentz on SNF, especially with the likelihood both NFC Wild Cards come out of the East and the Eagles, Giants and Redskins on the final week of the season all could be in “win and in, lose and finish LAST” situations (with the last place team very possibly 8-7-1 or 9-7).

    Week 14: NO WAY does Cowboys-Giants get flexed out. Giants very much in the Wild Card hunt and if they run the table that includes this game, they suddenly could be in a position to win the division.

    Week 15: Steelers-Bengals is a big enough rivalry to stay on SNF, especially if the entire division is under .500 when the decision has to be made. Otherwise, Lions-Giants with both Wild Card and Division implications in play could very well take the flex.

    Week 17: No change here. If Raiders-Broncos is for the AFC West, that IS the Sunday night finale.

  2. It still feels tough to tell what game will be flexed in week 13 or if Panthers-Seahawks remains the Sunday night game. Chiefs-Falcons seems like the best game but Dolphins-Ravens has also become intriguing as well.
    With regards to week 14 and 15, I wonder if the NFL or the Giants would not like airing Giants home games two weeks in a row since Cowboys-Giants will not be flexed out. I believe that I heard that Giants ownership prefers having as many afternoon games as possible.

  3. Walt, I think the NFL may prefer a “Win Your In…Lose Your Out” Game over a Divisional Title Game in Week 17. Both the Raiders and the Broncos will probably have playoff spots no matter the outcome. This is why I think a Giants-Redskins, Saints-Falcons, Packers-Lions,or Texans-Titans may be the better choices for a SNF finale with a loser goes home scenario. If I had to bet, knowing the NFL’s love for the NFC East and New York and Washington being huge markets for television Giants-Redskins will be your finale.

  4. Cory:

    That was as of now. A LOT depends on the next several weeks.

    If we have a “win and in” game guaranteed to be such in the last week of the season, that will likely be the game, though if Raiders-Broncos is for the #2 seed in the AFC (which it could very well be), then that could be the game if it’s guaranteed to be that.

  5. Atsushi:

    It’s not so much Giants management that prefers day games, it’s their season ticket holders, many of whom are older. That was in fact why the Jets actually closed out Giants Stadium I believe, as many older Giants fans won’t even go to 4:25 games because many remember how crime-ridden New York was in the 1970’s and ’80s and still think of the area in some ways from that time.

  6. Well, as all have said, for Week 12 the New England @ NY Jets game was flexed out(due to the NY Jets), in favor of Kansas City(7-2) @ Denver(7-3). This game indeed was my clear #1 choice. Two things that do surprise me about this are these: that CBS didn’t protect this game(or maybe they did as Walt said) and that we got this game, since 4 weeks later these teams play again in the rematch on Christmas night. Very rare that the same 2 teams meet twice on SNF. I actually did come up with a 2nd choice and that was Arizona(4-4-1) @ Atlanta(6-4).

    As for my opinions on Week 13 SNF flex options, I have it narrowed down to 3 choices to replace Carolina @ Seattle. My current #1 is Kansas City(7-2) @ Atlanta(6-4). #2 is Miami(5-4) @ Baltimore(5-4) and lastly, my #3 is Washington(5-3-1) @ Arizona(4-4-1).

    Now for my first take on Week 14 SNF flex options. No way the current choice and my #1 choice gets flexed. That game is Dallas(8-1) @ NY Giants(6-3). Though I do currently find 3 other games at least attractive enough to perhaps move off the 10amPST/1pmEST start time and be moved to later in the day. My #2 choice is Washington(5-3-1) @ Philadelphia(5-4). My #3 is Denver(7-3) @ Tennessee(5-5) and my #4 is Arizona(4-4-1) @ Miami(5-4).

    On to Week 11 and here’s to another great week of football. 🙂

  7. After Sunday, I now suspect Chiefs-Falcons (if not protected by CBS) will get flexed to SNF for Week 13. The Chiefs can I believe be also flexed in Week 15 against the Titans since they didn’t have any Monday night games and the game this coming Sunday will actually be their first prime time game all season.

  8. Walt,
    Thanks for the response and clarification. I remember there was speculation that the Giants would have a game flexed in week 17 last year and you mentioned the concerns of Giants season ticket holders with regards to home night games.
    I know that teams have been flexed in to SNF in consecutive weeks, but I think those involved teams playing one home game and a road game, or two road games. This makes me curious about the scenario of the Lions-Giants game being flexed in week 15.

  9. At this point, if Chiefs-Falcons doesn’t get flexed in I don’t think any game does. Maybe Giants-Steelers if Fox didn’t protect it, but that’s not overwhelmingly better than Panthers-Seahawks at this point, and by flexing in a Fox game in a Fox DH week, it might be another scenario where the tentative just becomes the featured late-afternoon game, defeating the point (unless you cross-flex Chiefs-Falcons to Fox). If you believe the Panthers are closer to being last year’s NFC Champions now, the lopsidedness of the game becomes less of an issue, and the teams are sexier than the Dolphins, Ravens, Bills, and Raiders, the teams in the other games involving only teams at or above .500. Hell, if Panthers-Seahawks keeps its spot I wouldn’t even necessarily read anything into whether the NFL would have been willing to flex in Chiefs-Falcons.

  10. What No Flexing Today Because of the Mexico City Game It looks like were stuck with this crappy matchup Between Carolina at Seattle. Because The NFL Is so Lazy They need to flex the game between Carolina at Seattle Now and get your lazy butts in gear now.

  11. As I recalled the deadline to flex is Tuesday. I have a feeling that we will hear something tomorrow from the NFL.

  12. Here’s my final opinion on how Week 13 should be flexed for SNF. My #1 pick stays Kansas Cit(7-3) @ Atlanta(6-4) to replace the original game of Carolina @ Seattle. My #2 choice is Miami(6-4) @ Baltimore(5-5) and lastly, my #3 is Buffalo(5-5) @ Oakland(8-2). It’s always possible that Carolina @ Seattle is kept due to the Panthers getting their record up to 4-6, but I sure hope not. I am thinking we’ll see something released tomorrrow by by the NFL on this matter.

    As for Week 14 and SNF. There will be no flex of any other game to SNF. My #1 pick and the original slated game is Dallas(9-1) @ Giants(7-3). Though my #2 choice is Washington(6-3-1) @ Philadelphia(5-5). My #3 pick is Houston(6-4) @ Indianapolis(5-5) and my #4 pick is Pittsburgh(5-5) @ Buffalo(5-5). I really do see Redskins/Eagles and Texans/Colts moving into the late slot games, as there are currently only 3 late games on the slate.

    Here’s my first take on Week 15 SNF flex scheduling. The current game is Pittsburgh(5-5) @ Cincinnati(3-6-1) and I think that game should go back to an early start time. My current #1 choice is New England(8-2) @ Denver(7-3), but I bet CBS has protected that game. My #2 choice is Detroit(6-4) @ NY Giants(7-3). My #3 choice is Philadelphia(5-5) @ Baltimore(5-5). My #4 choice is Indianapolis(5-5) @ Minnesota(6-4) and lastly, my #5 choice is Tampa Bay(5-5) @ Dallas(9-1).

    On to Thanksgiving week football, Week 12, and this is where things start getting serious. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the football. Go Pack Go!?!?! Ugh!!! 🙂

  13. What No Flex Game For week 13 Still I Think Were Stuck with this fucking Crap Game Between Carolina And Seattle come on you Lazy people and get your Lazy Butts in Gear right now and flex the game out now.

  14. Morgan – Thank you for all the hard work you put into this site. For those of us who enjoy the intricacies the “Game to Show The Games” as you call it – this is an awesome site to follow every year. Best to you during the holiday season.

    -Andrew S.
    Boston, MA


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