Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 12

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

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

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

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Selected game: Dallas @ NY Giants.

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
  • Prospects: 6-5 v. 3-7-1. 6-5 is good enough for a tie for the AFC North lead at the moment, and the Steelers are a name team, but putting a 3-7-1 non-name team on Sunday night this late in the season is very questionable.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Broncos (CBS) and Eagles-Ravens (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Lions-Giants is the prohibitive favorite at 7-4 v. 8-3; the question is whether the NFL would be willing to have the Giants at home on Sunday night in consecutive weeks (plus Giants-Eagles the following Thursday), especially in December. Bucs-Cowboys is a bit lopsided, but what the Bucs just did to the Seahawks suggests it might be closer than records indicate, while Titans-Chiefs is reasonably strong but pits two non-name teams. Colts-Vikings and Raiders-Chargers are dark horses.
  • Analysis: The worst Lions-Giants could do is 7-5 v. 8-4, while Bucs-Cowboys could make it to 7-5 v. 10-2 – still concerningly lopsided, but it would be intriguing enough the league would at least consider it… if a) it didn’t put the Cowboys on NBC three straight weeks and b) Fox allowed them to pry the game out of their cold dead hands, protections aside. Meanwhile the Titans are on bye so Titans-Chiefs could be either 6-6 v. 9-3 (too lopsided) or 6-6 v. 8-4 (probably not beating Lions-Giants), and if that’s not good enough Colts-Vikings’ best-case scenario, 6-6 v. 7-5, certainly isn’t (and Raiders-Chargers is too lopsided to even consider). But considering the likelihood the NFL doesn’t want to flex in Lions-Giants for whatever reason, their real problem is that, given their lack of name value, I’m not sure either game would be able to overcome the tentative game bias; if it weren’t protected Eagles-Ravens might do better at 6-6 v. 7-5, but if either team loses it becomes a lot more questionable. If the NFL does flex to a game that doesn’t involve an NFC East team it’ll be a sign that they really don’t want to see more headlines about bad primetime ratings, or bad non-Cowboys ratings in general, created by bad games.

Week 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
8-3 6-5
7-4 6-6
NFC Playoff Picture
6-5 4-6-1
4-6-1 6-5
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Giants-Swamp, Texans-Titans, Patriots-Dolphins, Raiders-Broncos.

20 thoughts on “Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 12

  1. Hello all,

    Hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

    Here’s my final comments on flex scheduling for Week 14. Of course, I stay with Dallas @ NY Giants as my #1 pick. Obviously this is the selected game. My #2 option is Pittsburgh(6-5) @ Buffalo(6-5) and my #3 option is Denver(7-4) @ Tennessee(6-6). Being that were only 3 scheduled games for the late spot, I hope the NFL would move at least 1 or both of these games to the late slot. I didn’t see anything on NFL Communications about any of the schedule being changed and I haven’t checked the official schedule on yet, so I guess I will check that out soon and see if anything changed.

    As for my 2nd look at Week 15, I currently have 4 options to replace Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati as the SNF game. My #1 choice stays New England(9-2) @ Denver(7-4), though I know that is likely protected by CBS. My #2 choice is Detroit(7-4) @ NY Giants(8-3). My #3 choice is Tennessee(6-6)@ Kansas City(8-3) and lastly, my #4 choice is Tampa Bay(6-5) @ Dallas(10-1). I will have a final opinion on Week 15 after next week’s games, but I doubt much will change, as only 2 more games can get to a point where both teams could be .500 or better. I never think any SNF game should involve teams under .500 in the main flex period, but that’s just my 2 cents.

    I will start to give my Week 17 analysis after next week’s games. Go Pack Go at home(finally) vs. the Houston Texans.

  2. As for the remaining flexes, assuming Cowboys-Giants remains in for Week 14 (copying over what I posted in the previous thread):

    Chiefs-Titans is now the front-runner 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).

    One thing that may tilt SNF to Lions-Giants is the likelihood that game will have to be moved to at least 4:05 PM anyway (or switched to CBS as a 4:25 PM ET game) due to the fact the Jets play an 8:25 PM Saturday night game at Met Life against the Dolphins. They may not have enough time between the end of Dolphins-Jets and Lions-Giants to get Met Life Stadium ready for a 1:00 PM Sunday game anyway, so it’s quite possible Lions-Giants may wind up on SNF under those circumstances.

    Week 16: Even if there were a flex, there was NO WAY NBC would have flexed out Broncos-Chiefs.

    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.

  3. And as noted in the other thread, moving Bucs-Cowboys to SNF brings up the scenario where the Cowboys are playing four consecutive prime time games (Vikings this week, at Giants next Sunday, Bucs and then home to the Lions in the final Monday nighter of the year on ESPN).

  4. And since the Dolphins-Jets game is technically an NBC game (airing on NFL Network plus NBC stations in New York and Miami), it most likely is easiest for everyone to flex Lions-Giants to SNF since NBC’s cameras will already be in place for Dolphins-Jets.

  5. I just thought about this for Week 15. I could see either the Lions-Giants or Bucs-Cowboys flexed or cross flexed between CBS and NBC.

  6. I know that is crazy and FOX probably is not happy about it. But they didn’t protect those two games at the first place. All I am saying is that this gives the NFL flexbility in regards to Week 15.

  7. It would be stupid for Lions-Giants to be moved to the late afternoon; if the turnaround time to convert the field is too short, why was it scheduled that way to begin with?

  8. Morgan Wick,
    I totally forgot that the Giants and Jets share a stadium together. My mistake and great job with this site. Keep up the great work and happy holidays.

  9. David,

    I would assume that FOX protected Eagles-Ravens based on that article you found. I think that Buccaneers-Cowboys has to be the favorite given the Cowboys popularity, success, and the fact that they will play on Sunday Night two weeks in a row, but with only one being a home game, versus the scenario of either Titans-Chiefs or Lions-Giants being flexed, which would lead to both home teams consecutively playing home games on Sunday Night Football.


    The scheduling of Dolphins-Jets and Lions-Giants on Saturday night and then Sunday afternoon would lead me to believe that NBC might appreciate being able to set up for two straight night games at MetLife Stadium back-to-back in week 15. However, last year CBS had Jets-Cowboys on a Saturday night in week 15 and then the announcers (Jim Nantz and Phil Simms) announced Broncos-Steelers the next afternoon, which leads me to believe that moving cameras and equipment might not be a problem, leaving the door open for another game to be flexed in.

  10. In addition, assuming that Steelers-Bengals is replaced by a matchup originally scheduled on FOX, there might be a cross-flex of a game being moved from CBS to FOX, unless FOX directly receives the Steelers-Bengals matchup after the flex scheduling.

  11. Atsushi,
    As I recalled when Morgan Wick started writing on Week 10 he had listed that for Week 15 that FOX protected Eagles-Ravens. Most definately agree with you Buccaneers-Cowboys has to be the favorite to replace Steelers-Bengals for Week 15. Like I stated before I think that given the Cowboys success this season. They should be showcased as many times as possible. We shall here from the NFL next Monday or Tuesday for Week 15 Schedule Change.

  12. Atsushi,
    As of right now. Both CBS and FOX have four games in the 1pm eastern/10 am pacific window. I have a feeling that Steelers-Bengals will go to CBS and Jaguars-Texans will get crossflexed to FOX. Just like Week 17 in 2014.

  13. I just wanted to say this. NBC will probably announce the Week 15 SNF game this coming Sunday. As I recall they have done it before in the past.

  14. To me especially if the Lions win Sunday I suspect Lions-Giants becomes the Sunday nighter as that game will likely have jockeying for the #2 seed at stake at the time that decision has to be made. The fact NBC will have cameras there anyway for an NFL Network broadcast on Saturday likely makes Lions-Giants the frontrunner for SNF.

  15. It’s official: TB-Dal. There seems to be a Cowboys bias (or a desperation for great ratings) as DET-NYG is less lopsided (on paper). But Tampa Bay is looking good, so I guess they earned a Sunday night game.

  16. Heard on Westwood One the NFL has decided to flex Bucs-Cowboys to SNF for Week 15. That suggests that the Giants asked not to be flexed in part because it is their home finale (and many older season ticket holders won’t go to night games) and the fact the Giants then play a Thursday nighter in Week 16 against the Eagles.

  17. Jackson:

    As noted, I suspect Giants season ticket holders implored the team to ask the NFL not to move what is the Giants home finale to SNF due to many of those fans being older and generally those who only go to 1:00 PM games (many of them I don’t believe like to be out after dark if they can avoid it, in part due to perceptions of crime that date back from the 1970’s when that was a BIG issue in NYC).

  18. Howdy all,

    Good on Tampa Bay for winning 4 in a row to “earn” a Sunday Night Football game, albeit against the team with the best record in the NFL. So, does anyone know, but I wonder when the last time the Bucs played in a SNF game on NBC? That is being since the 2006 season. It would be very interesting to know for sure. Nice win for my Pack today to stay in contention. 🙂

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