Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 11

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

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

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

Week 13 (December 4):

  • Selected game: Carolina @ Seattle. Not entirely surprising, and not necessarily as bad as some commenters think.

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 9-1 v. 7-3, 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 Texans-Colts is the only other game involving a team above .500 facing a team at .500; Steelers-Bills pits two 5-5 teams against one another.
  • Analysis: I’m not even listing games involving teams slightly below .500, because when the best possible games involve .500 teams and the tentative is as good as it is, there’s no flexing it out no matter what the exact identity of the teams is. The best-case scenario is that the Giants (the lesser team in the tentative) fall a half-game behind the Cowboys’ opponents this Thanksgiving (the best possible team in any alternative), which would require them to lose to the lowly Browns. No thanks.
  • Final prediction: Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants (no change).

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
  • Prospects: 5-5 v. 3-6-1. 5-5 is good enough for a tie for the AFC North lead at the moment, and the Steelers are a name team, but it is still a very vulnerable game.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Broncos (CBS) and Eagles-Ravens (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Lions-Giants now sits at 6-4 v. 7-3, if the NFL is willing to give the Giants consecutive Sunday night home games in December. Bucs-Cowboys is a bit lopsided and Colts-Vikings might not be able to overcome the tentative game bias. Titans-Chiefs, Saints-Cardinals, and Raiders-Chargers are dark horses.

Week 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
5-5 5-6
2 teams at 7-3
NFC Playoff Picture
66-3-1 4-5-1
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Saints-Falcons, Giants-Swamp, Texans-Titans, Patriots-Dolphins, Bears-Vikings, Cardinals-Rams, Raiders-Broncos.

22 thoughts on “Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 11

  1. Week 13 makes sense. The fact the Panthers are far from dead in the NFC South (though they do have to survive a trip to Oakland this week against the Raiders) likely is why this is staying on SNF since the Seahawks are also looking to be the #1 seed in the NFC.

    As for the rest:

    Cowboys-Giants a near-mortal LOCK to remain on SNF in Week 14.

    Especially if the Lions and Giants continue to win and are 8-4 and 9-3 respectively when the decision has to be made, Lions-Giants likely becomes that Sunday nighter.

    Even if there were a flex in Week 16, there would be NO WAY as of now NBC would even consider flexing out Broncos-Chiefs.

    As for Week 17, a lot rides on how the wild card races play out. If Raiders-Broncos is for the AFC West Title and a first-round bye regardless of how everything else plays out, that likely is the Sunday night finale.

  2. I suppose it makes sense for Panthers-Seahawks to remain the Sunday night game in week 13 since the Panthers are still alive.
    I am really interested to see what will happen week 15 and if Lions-Giants is flexed in leading to the Giants hosting Sunday night games consecutive weeks. Admittedly, I am a Giants fan who wants to attend that game, so selfishly I hope it is not flexed in. If the Colts can stay within striking distance of the Texans, I think that Colts-Vikings would be my number two choice to replace Steelers-Bengals in week 15.

  3. I think that the main reason that the NFL didn’t flex for Week 13 is that they didn’t want to see the Kansas City Chiefs for two weeks in a row.

  4. David,

    I have to agree, that the main reason that Chiefs-Falcons was not flexed in was that NBC did not want Chiefs games two consecutive weeks. In addition, with the Dolphins recent winning streak, I thought Dolphins-Ravens might have a chance to be flexed in but that game probably doesn’t match the appeal and star power of Panthers-Seahawks, even with the Panthers struggles this season.

  5. Here’s my final opinion on how Week 13 should have been for SNF. My #1 pick stayed Kansas Cit(7-3) @ Atlanta(6-4) to replace the original game of Carolina @ Seattle. My #2 choice was Miami(6-4) @ Baltimore(5-5) and lastly, my #3 was Buffalo(5-5) @ Oakland(8-2).

    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!!! 🙂

  6. Atsushi Idobe,
    Glad to hear that you agree with me. That truely means a lot. Well all of us know that for Week 14 Dallas at Ny Giants is not going anywhere. Hope you have a great thanksgiving and I enjoy reading your post on here.


  7. David and Atatushi:

    It was more like the fact the Chiefs host the Raiders in a Week 14 Thursday nighter and the NFL had already been roundly criticized for having the Redskins play this week on Sunday night and then on Thanksgiving. The NFL likely did not want to do that (and might not have been able to anyway if CBS protected that game). Dolphins-Ravens does not have a lot of sizzle outside of the east coast.

    Chiefs could still be flexed in for Week 15 vs, the Titans if the Titans win their next two.

  8. David,

    Thank you for your comments and I hope you have a happy thanksgiving as well.


    I have not specifically heard anything about the NFL being criticized for having teams play on Thursday night after playing Sunday night, despite the possible logistical issues for the team doing so. However, I remember two years ago that the Cowboys played the Giants in New Jersey on SNF and then flew back to Dallas for their Thanksgiving home game, so I wonder if the same issue was discussed for the Cowboys situation in 2014.
    Lastly, I agree that Titans-Chiefs in week 15 could be flexed in, but the Titans have their bye week after this weekend’s game against the Bears, so the best case for the Titans is to win this week and get to 6-6 before the flex decision for week 15. Assuming that Patriots-Broncos is protected, that would be the second (or third) choice depending on if the Giants can be flexed in two consecutive Sunday night home games. The Titans seem like they are moving in the right direction and will be a playoff team soon, much like the Raiders so perhaps NBC could showcase them against the Chiefs.

    Lastly I would also like to thank you for your insightful comments on this website and wish you a happy thanksgiving as well.

  9. Walt,
    I totally forgot that the Chiefs will be on NBC on Week 14. But just imagine had the NFL flexed Chiefs at Falcons for Week 13. The Chiefs would have been on NBC three weeks straight. I don’t recall since NBC started broadcasting SNF a decade ago that a team has appeared for three weeks straight.

  10. Atsushi,
    No problem anytime. Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow. I have a feeling that the three games could impact the rest of the 2016 NFL Season. Have a great thanksgiving everyone. Gobble Gobble.

  11. David:

    The fact NBC has Raiders-Chiefs in Week 14 is likely part of why they didn’t flex in Chiefs-Falcons for Week 13, as the NFL likely didn’t want to have a team on NBC three straight weeks unless they happened to be the final three of the season.

    Especially with the Lions winning on Thanksgiving, unless it becomes pretty obvious next week how the NFC North is going to play out (Lions winning next Sunday and Vikings losing to the Cowboys next Thursday), Lions-Giants looks like the frontrunner for Week 15 of SNF UNLESS the Bengals win this and next week AND no one in the AFC North is over .500.

  12. Walt, Jeff, Morgan Wick and Atsushi,
    I just wanted to say this. I learned a lot from all of you. Hope that all of you had a great Thanksgiving. Gobble Gobble!!!


  13. Terrance,
    I agree with you on that. I am sure that the NFL and NBC would love to see the Cowboys in primetime for 3 straight weeks. But I doubt that FOX will be happy about that.

    PS Even if Bucs vs Cowboys doesn’t get flex to SNF for Week 15. Lions-Giants is not a bad option.

  14. Cowboys would be in prime time FOUR straight weeks because the Week 16 game for them is a Monday nighter at home against the Lions if their game with the Bucs is on SNF.

  15. As for the remaining flexes, assuming Cowboys-Giants remains in for Week 14:

    Chiefs-Titans is now the frontrunner for Week 15 since by the time that decision has to be made for Week 15 the AFC South could be a three-way tie at 6-6, meaning at worst the Texans would be leading by a game and that division could still be up for grabs, plus the Chiefs will be hounding the Raiders (and if the Chiefs win their next two actually will lead the Raiders on at least a tie-breaker in the AFC West). Lions-Giants is possible, but the Lions could have complete control of the NFC North by then and that is the home finale for the Giants (and many of their older fans refuse to go to night games).

    Week 17: If the Dolphins continue to win and the #1 seed is still at stake for the Pats, then Patriots-Dolphins becomes the Sunday night finale.

  16. One thing that might push Lions-Giants to SNF is the fact the Jets play an 8:25 Saturday night game at Met Life against the Dolphins. Lions-Giants on SNF means stadium crews have more time to get the stadium ready for the Giants game.

  17. Walt,
    I totally forgot if indeed the Week 15 Cowboys-Bucs gets flexed to SNF they will be on primetime for four straight games. I am sure that the NFL and NBC would love to see this they are 10-1.

  18. I really have to believe Steelers-Bengals will be flexed out with the Bengals unlikely to be in postseason contention. While I would like to see Titans-Chiefs be flexed in week 15, the same problem as flexing in Lions-Giants would arise in which the Chiefs would host consecutive Sunday night games, with their week 16 game on Christmas night against the Broncos, not to mention the week 14 Thursday night game on NBC against the Raiders. I know that the Cowboys already have five primetime games, but with the Buccaneers suddenly appearing as a viable contender in the NFC, I think that game will be flexed in, depending on if it was protected. While the Cowboys would appear on NBC three straight weeks, two of them would be on the road, so that might be more appealing to NBC and the NFL.
    For week 17, like Walt mentioned, with the Dolphins winning streak and challenging the Patriots for the AFC East title, I think that game will be flexed in.

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