Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 9

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 (presumably).

Week 12 (November 27):

  • Tentative game: New England @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: 7-1 v. 3-6. 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 only teams at or above .500, with Cardinals-Falcons and Bengals-Ravens the most viable alternatives, followed by Seahawks-Bucs and Rams-Saints. Panthers-Raiders is probably too lopsided to be relevant.
  • Analysis: The Bengals play on Monday night, so that may be hard to assess, but things could get interesting if the Cardinals win to get to 4-4-1, the Falcons lose to get to 6-4, Patriots-Jets gets even more lopsided, and Cardinals-Falcons wasn’t protected. I’ve heard it suggested that NBC doesn’t want its plans for travel from the Thanksgiving night site to the following Sunday night site to be changed on less than two weeks’ notice, but with their half of the TNF package they’d have to do that pretty much every week of the main flex period anyway, and I would imagine the league might be desperate to do anything to stem off the constant “collapsing ratings” headlines. Neither Cardinals-Falcons nor Bengals-Ravens have any stars on the level of Tom Brady, nor do they bring the same caliber of market, but there is some evidence that people are turning away from lousy primetime games as much as anything else, and the league might be reticent to put a game that looks like such a mismatch and whose main promise might be a repeat of the Butt Fumble on its main primetime package if it has viable alternatives. Of course, as Seahawks-Cardinals proved, even evenly-matched but mediocre teams can have a lousy game, and no matter what odds are Patriots-Jets keeps its spot, but I would consider a flex to be a very real possibility here if any of the below-.500 teams win.

Week 13 (December 4):

  • Tentative game: Carolina @ Seattle
  • Prospects: 3-5 v. 5-2-1. Still not in great shape, but not as lopsided as it used to be and the Panthers aren’t looking as terrible as they used to be.
  • Likely protections: Texans-Packers (CBS) and Rams-Patriots, Giants-Steelers, or Eagles-Bengals (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Chiefs-Falcons is definitely the strongest option, assuming I’m not wrong about CBS’ protection. Lions-Saints, Eagles-Bengals, Dolphins-Ravens, Giants-Steelers, Racial Slurs-Cardinals, and Bills-Raiders are dark horses.

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 7-1 v. 5-3, 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 I’m right about the protections it’s the only game involving nothing but teams at or above .500. Steelers-Bills, Broncos-Titans, Texans-Colts, and Cardinals-Dolphins are all dark horses.

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
  • Prospects: 4-4 v. 3-4-1. 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 only teams above .500, and it’s not really that much better. Titans-Chiefs, Saints-Cardinals, Colts-Vikings, and Raiders-Chargers are all dark horses.

Week 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
56-2 4-4
4-4 4-4
66-3 4-5
2 teams at 4-5 4-5
6-2 4-5
NFC Playoff Picture
55-3 3-4-1
5-4 3-5
64-3-1 3-5
4-4 3-5
3-4-1 4-4
5-3 4-4
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Saints-Falcons, Giants-Politicians, Texans-Titans, Packers-Lions, Cardinals-Rams, Raiders-Broncos, Seahawks-49ers.

8 thoughts on “Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 9

  1. Carrying over what I wrote after Sunday in the other thread:

    Week 12: With the Jets losing and the Panthers winning, if the Panthers win again next Sunday, perhaps Panthers-Raiders is flexed INTO Sunday Night Football as the Panthers seemed to have gotten their act together. Only thing that might prevent this is the fact the Panthers would be playing three straight games on NBC (the first a Thursday nighter at home against the Saints).

    Week 13: Now not as likely to be flexed, especially if the Panthers win next week and are flexed in for Week 12 (and if they are at 5-5 when this has to be decided, very unlikely to be flexed since this game could have wild card if not division implications).

    Week 14: Cowboys-Giants WON’T be flexed out.

    Week 15: If the Bengals continue to falter and Lions-Giants has any potential chance to have Wild Card and/or division implications, the Lions-Giants may get flexed in (and the Lions are only a half-game behind the reeling Vikings and could be in first in the NFC North by the time the decision has to be made).

    Week 17: If it comes down to the rematch of Raiders-Broncos for the AFC West, that will be the game.

  2. My final analysis for Week 11 stayed the same as I had it last week. Nothing came out from NFL Communications stating changes to any of the schedule. I would have moved Philadelphia(4-4) @ Seattle(5-2-1) to SNF and my #2 choice was the Green Bay(4-4) @ Washington(4-3-1, but that obviously stayed the game. It doesn’t disappointment me any, being a Packers fan.

    As for Week 12 SNF, I’d only choose Kansas City(6-2) @ Denver(6-3), but I am sure that is protected and we’re likely to be stuck with New England(7-1) @ NY Jets(3-6). I liked Morgan’s analysis about this week. I also continue to think the league likes that they have a rivalry game and that it’s being played in the Meadowlands(aka sorta New York).

    Now for my analysis for Week 13. The current SNF game is Carolina(3-5) @ Seattle(5-2-1) and it wouldn’t even make my list of 5 that I am going to mention here. My current #1 game is Kansas City(6-2) @ Atlanta(6-3). My #2 is NY Giants(5-3) @ Pittsburgh(4-4). My #3 is Houston(5-3) @ Green Bay(4-4). My #4 is Detroit(5-4) @ New Orleans(4-4) and lastly my #5 is Miami(4-4) @ Baltimore(4-4).

    I will have more on Week’s 12 and 13 next week. Though I am sure my Week 12 analysis won’t change. I will also have my 1st opinion on Week 14.

    Go Pack Go at Tennessee this coming Sunday. Need to come through boys. 🙂

  3. I really have to believe that week 12’s Patriots-Jets game will be flexed out. I assume that the Chiefs-Broncos game is protected so that isn’t an option so Cardinals-Falcons is probably the best option for a flex.
    As for week 13, it probably comes down to if the Panthers win this week and next Thursday night. If they get to 5-5, I think that Panthers-Seahawks will remain the Sunday night game. For week 13, I think that Giants-Steelers is FOX’s protected game so that will probably not be flexed. Lions-Saints might be a good game that would be flexed in since both teams have been winning after slow starts if the Panthers get tripped up.

  4. Atushi:

    If the Panthers win and are 4-5 when the decision has to be made, given how bunched up the NFC Wild card race will likely be PLUS the fact the Panthers are still the defending NFC Champs and the national appeal the Raiders STILL have from their glory days, I suspect Panthers-Raiders (which NO ONE would have protected) will be flexed in.

  5. Hey Walt, thanks for the response. I think that Panthers-Raiders is definitely an appealing game to be flexed in if the NFL decides that Patriots-Jets is not appealing enough to remain the SNF game provided that the Panthers win this week.
    I also wanted to ask you if the Panthers lose this week, what game do you think will be flexed in for Panthers-Seahawks? Like Morgan listed, there are many possible games to be flexed in outside of the protected games for week 13.
    It might be difficult to predict which games will be flexed/selected for week 15 or week 17 with the playoff picture so bunched up.

  6. Atsishi:

    In other comments, I mentioned if the Eagles are 6-4 and the Bengals are 5-4-1 when the decision has to be made, Eagles-Bengals looks most likely to be flexed into to replace Panthers-Seahawks.

  7. Walt:

    Thanks for the response, I think that Eagles-Bengals will be flexed in with the Panthers losing today, replacing Panthers-Seahawks. I also have a question regarding the protected games for CBS and FOX that Morgan can answer or clarify. Can the networks change what games they protect from their original selections? For example, in week 13, the likely game that CBS had protected was Texans-Packers, however, with the Packers recent struggles, perhaps CBS feels compelled to protect Chiefs-Falcons instead with the Chiefs recent success. The Packers are a popular team that was expected to do well, so I can see why CBS would have protected that game initially.

  8. Hello Atsushi,

    Nope, no do-overs for CBS and FOX on the games that they protect. For Weeks 10 through 17 of the flex scheduling, they have to make their protection picks by Week 4, so they need to do some really good guessing on what they think is smart to protect.

    I just wish we were given the info on what has been protected. A lot of years, this info has leaked out for the most part, but this year, not even the Russians have successfully hacked the emails between the NFL, CBS, FOX, and NBC. :O

Leave a Comment