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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
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (5-6)
SOUTH
46-5
58-3
6-6
NORTH
36-5
67-4
6-5
WEST
29-2
7-4
8-3 6-5
EAST
19-2
6-5
7-4 6-6
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (5-6)
SOUTH
47-4
58-3
6-5
NORTH
37-4
66-4-1
6-5 4-6-1
WEST
27-3-1
6-5
4-6-1 6-5
EAST
110-1
8-3
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Giants-Swamp, Texans-Titans, Patriots-Dolphins, Raiders-Broncos.

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
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (5-5)
NORTH
45-5
57-3
5-5
SOUTH
36-4
67-3
5-5 5-6
EAST
28-2
6-4
6-4
WEST
18-2
2 teams at 7-3
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (5-5)
SOUTH
46-4
57-3
5-5
NORTH
36-4
66-3-1 4-5-1
6-4
WEST
27-2-1
6-4
4-5-1
EAST
19-1
7-3
  • 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.

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
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS
NORTH
45-4
57-2 5-4
4-5 5-5
SOUTH
36-3
67-3 4-5
5-5 4-5
WEST
27-2
4-5
7-2
EAST
17-2
5-4
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (4-5)
NORTH
45-4
56-3
5-4
SOUTH
36-4
65-3-1
2 teams at 4-5
WEST
26-2-1
5-4
4-4-1 5-4
EAST
18-1
4-4-1
6-3
  • 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.

Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 12 Picks

Week 12 (November 27):

  • Tentative game: New England @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: 7-2 v. 3-7. 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 mentioned on last week’s Watch and their records: Cardinals (4-4-1)-Falcons (6-4), Bengals (3-4-1)-Ravens (5-4), Seahawks (6-2-1)-Bucs (4-5), Rams (4-5)-Saints (4-5), Panthers (3-6)-Raiders (7-2).
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: The Bengals have a chance to put a second 4-4-1 team in the conversation.
  • Analysis: Other than the Pats’ loss, the exact scenario I laid out that would have made the flex situation particularly interesting happened. Thanksgiving Weekend typically means a paucity of good options because of all the games, including the Cowboys, bumped to Thanksgiving day (and this year the Colts are the only team across the Thanksgiving and Monday Night games below .500), and 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 I still wouldn’t be surprised if Patriots-Jets keeps its spot, but a flex is a very real possibility, and for the moment I’m going to say that under most circumstances in the past, the NFL would definitely pull the trigger here (and indeed I wouldn’t be surprised if Seahawks-Bucs was the pick).
  • Final prediction: Arizona Cardinals @ Atlanta Falcons (if unprotected), Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens (if Cardinals-Falcons is protected and the Bengals win Monday night), New England Patriots @ New York Jets (no change) (if Cardinals-Falcons is protected and the Giants win Monday night).

The Democrats Lost Because They Spent Too Much Energy Fighting the Culture War

As I repeatedly checked social media last night and throughout the day today, somehow proving myself a glutton for punishment and wallowing in the depression and despair of my fellow liberals, a common theme in the posts I saw was thinking about all the people who would endure very real suffering in a Trump-Pence administration, the Mexican immigrants who would face deportation, the Muslims who would face ratcheted-up xenophobia, the young people who would lose their health insurance if Obamacare was scrapped without any meaningful replacement, the young unmarried women who could not only lose their access to contraception and other needed care but could see Roe v. Wade itself scrapped by a newly re-energized conservative Supreme Court majority, the gays and lesbians whose right to marry could also be scrapped by said majority, the transgender people that could see efforts like North Carolina’s bathroom law made the law of the land, and many others besides who could lose all the progress made during the Obama era if not before.

Obviously, if you’re an immigrant, Muslim, unemployed young person, sexually active unmarried woman, a member of the LGBT community, or a bleeding heart liberal who cares about all these groups, all these issues matter to you a great deal, but clearly they don’t matter enough to a large portion of the country to move them to vote for Hillary Clinton. What mattered to them was “draining the swamp” in Washington, “taking their country back”, and doing something about their perceived economic malaise. While the left wanted to take on Wall Street, lower the gap between the 99% and the 1%, and generally improve the economic life of the nation, until Bernie Sanders came along the closest they came to actually doing anything about it was a brief flowering of aimless protests known as Occupy Wall Street that quickly fizzled into nothingness. Instead the left spent the Obama era making life better for all those marginalized groups, especially the LGBT community, by shaming states that passed particularly anti-LGBT or anti-immigrant bills and supporting gay marriage efforts leading to the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision. In retrospect, it was the biggest mistake they could have made.

On the eve of the 2008 election, I said that after the abuses of the Bush years, the Democrats had a chance to give themselves a blank check for a generation. They have had only mixed success, and one of their biggest failings was the inability to improve the fortunes of middle America. To be sure, focusing on LGBT rights and the rights of other marginalized groups didn’t have monied interests like Wall Street and oil companies allayed against them, and often those groups were actually on the left’s side on those issues, so taking on those monied interests would have been much harder in the short run. But had Obama led eight years of increasing peace, prosperity, and palpable improvement in the fortunes of the middle and working class, it would have given much of the country reason to trust the Democrats on everything else, making it easier for the left to make life easier for those marginalized groups. Instead, middle America got the sense that things were getting better for all the Others but that they themselves were treading water at best, which led them to grow resentful of the “liberal elite” leading the country in a direction that they perceived would leave them behind, dashing the left’s hopes of electoral success and making it harder to implement the rest of their agenda, or of keeping the gains they did make.

Again, calling last night a victory for hatred, misogyny, and intolerance, as I’ve seen many on the left do, is probably overstating things; I’m of the opinion that last night can be explained in two words, the economy and “change”. Given the left’s victories everywhere except control of federal offices, it’s clear that most Americans broadly agree on the left’s agenda, but when it comes to federal office, the people on which the election hinges care only about those two things (and as a result, I’m now convinced Sanders would have crushed Trump in a landslide). By not properly focusing on the economy, though, the left accidentally stoked resentment towards what they were doing, allowing that hatred and intolerance to come to the fore, while the left didn’t recognize the predicament they had placed themselves in or its severity until it was too late.

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
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS
NORTH
44-4
56-2 4-4
4-4 4-4
SOUTH
34-4
66-3 4-5
2 teams at 4-5 4-5
WEST
27-2
4-5
6-2 4-5
EAST
17-1
4-4
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS
NORTH
45-3
55-3 3-4-1
5-4 3-5
SOUTH
36-3
64-3-1 3-5
4-4 3-5
WEST
25-2-1
5-4
3-4-1 4-4
EAST
17-1
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.

Donald Trump and the Crisis of American Democracy

Our long national nightmare is, one might hope, almost over. Hopefully it does not prove to be just beginning… and hopefully it does not prove to be a precursor of bigger and longer nightmares to come.

We are, at long last, coming to the end of one of the most bitter, divisive, and depressing presidential elections in recent memory, between the two most disliked candidates on record, and it would be fruitful at this time to stop and figure out how we got here. What does Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican party mean for the party and the nation? How is it that one of the two major parties’ nominees for President came to be a bloviating gasbag with policy proposals that thinking people almost unanimously agree portend disaster and who showed every sign of being the closest America has come to electing Hitler himself, how did the Republican elites show so much impotence in the face of his movement, and how did the prospect of his election prove to be a terrifyingly real, if somewhat distant, possibility even in the weekend before the election? Is it a party’s base wresting control of the party away from the elites and going against every modicum of common sense the elites try to warn them about? Is it the natural conclusion of those same elites feeding that same base a steady diet of racism and xenophobia, creating a monster they don’t deserve any sympathy for losing control over? Is it the result of a bipartisan revolt over the influence of money in politics that’s attracted Republicans to a man rich enough not to need to be bought and Democrats to the people-powered campaign of a Bernie Sanders, or is it simply a group of Americans falling in love with a charismatic strongman?

The truth is, as completely unexpected as the rise of Donald Trump may have been at the time, in many ways it is but the culmination of the trends rendering our democracy increasingly dysfunctional over the past decade and a half. It is the result of the increasing polarization of the country during the Bush era, creating two sides increasingly unable to speak to one another and increasingly punishing their own respective parties for not being sufficiently devoted to the cause, rendering it increasingly impossible to get elected as anything other than a complete ideologue, resulting in the complete gridlock of the Obama era, where it takes control of the White House, the House of Representatives, and 60% of the Senate to get anything done, and as proven by the fate of Obamacare, even that might not be enough if one house is only barely in control, and without it America lurches to the edge of crisis after crisis before Congress finally agrees to do the bare minimum to keep the country afloat (or in some cases, the President unilaterally sidesteps Congress and issues executive orders to get his way). Our Constitution and the Founding Fathers’ vision suffers as all sides look to exploit every loophole they can to get their way or prevent the other side from getting theirs. The only way for anything to change is if one has the resources to push it through by brute force, meaning monied interests’ control over the system has only deepened, and the Presidency gains more and more power as presidents use executive orders to do what Congress won’t do for them. Whether Donald Trump is the ultimate expression of the Republican base’s desires, or simply the result of people demanding a commanding presence to break through the gridlock, it is the natural evolution of this state of affairs, and it suggests that Trump is not necessarily a unique phenomenon but something that will only get worse if nothing is done to stop it.

In a way, what we’re seeing is the realization of a major flaw inherent in our Constitution, one foreseen by the Founding Fathers and whose escape from being quite so obvious as now is nothing short of miraculous (and partly rooted in some of the darker ghosts of American history). The Founding Fathers did not intend for political parties to form at all. They distrusted political parties and “factionalism” as a destabilizing force and believed people should vote for the person, not the party. As political science was almost nonexistent at the time, though, they had no real grasp of the forces that lead to the creation of parties and ended up forming parties almost literally before the ink was dry on the Constitution, over, somewhat ironically, the adoption of the Constitution itself.

The Founders were also, somewhat surprisingly, distrustful of too much democracy, fearing that it would lead to the outbreak of “mob rule” of the sort the French Revolution would soon seem to provide. At the time, most states restricted the right to vote to white male landowners, and partly out of a desire to keep the states primary to the federal government, the Founders restricted even their participation in the workings of the federal government. Only the House of Representatives was directly elected by the people; for over a century Senators were chosen by state legislatures, who also determined for themselves how members of the Electoral College to select the President would be chosen. Our modern-day commitment to democracy uber alles for as much of the adult population as possible is at odds with the values underlying the Constitution. The system of checks and balances underlying our government doesn’t work as the Founders intended when the President, the House, and the Senate are all chosen by the people.

That shift has direct consequences for our current malaise. Yale political scientist Juan Linz spent much of his career arguing that the great difference between dysfunctional Latin American democracies and relatively stable European ones had nothing to do with any cultural differences between them and everything to do with the form their respective governments took. European nations tend to have parliamentary systems where the prime minister is elected by the Parliament and so must have Parliament’s support; if the prime minister loses that support, the governing coalition either elects a new prime minister, forms a new coalition, or potentially holds a new election. Latin American systems, by contrast, tend to be modeled on the American system of a directly elected President separate from the Congress, meaning when the President and Congress disagree they can both claim to have the backing of the people and there is no obvious principle with which to resolve the dispute that would be terribly convincing. (Not for nothing were the democracies set up following and since World War II, often installed by America itself, usually parliamentary systems.)

The obvious exception to Linz’s analysis was the United States itself, which seemed to be a model of stability with its presidential system, but Linz’s theory was that America’s success could be chalked up to the diffuse, “big-tent” nature of American political parties that could accommodate many different ideologies under the same roof, something that frustrated many political scientists for many years as they looked wistfully at Britain’s ideologically-coherent parties without recognizing what a disaster it would be in America’s system of checks, balances, and separation of powers. In the American context, though, ideologically diffuse parties meant individual congressmen and Senators could vote their conscience and control of any branch of government by either party didn’t actually mean much – parties were themselves coalitions, and each caucus in each house had enough of a diversity of ideologies that coalitions could form that could keep the government more or less stable and moving in a single direction across the legislative and executive branches. This is no longer the case, and the result is providing chilling evidence for Linz’s theories.

That it was the case for so long, preventing the Founders’ fears about the impact of political parties from being realized, can be chalked up to three dark undercurrents of American history: corruption, race, and voter apathy. The party system that emerged after the Founding generation left power, by the time Electoral College members became largely determined by popular vote, was centered more around people’s feelings about Andrew Jackson than any actual issues, and the main issue dominating American politics was the slavery issue and the main fault line was the Mason-Dixon Line, and both parties tried to appeal to voters on both sides of the line. Although the Republican Party was founded around opposition to slavery, by the time Reconstruction was over both parties were increasingly dominated by the spoils system Jackson had started, and American politics was dominated by political machines who turned out the vote for their respective parties, whose ranks were mostly filled by people hoping to gain patronage positions if their side won. In other words, for most of the nineteenth century American politics had little to do with ideology; both sides may have stuck close by their own team, but actual issues were all but irrelevant in the post-Reconstruction era. It also helped that until Woodrow Wilson and World War I came along, the power of the Presidency was rather limited, and Congress was arguably more powerful; as in a parliamentary system, Congress could act on behalf of the people without conflict, especially once the Seventeenth Amendment provided for the direct election of Senators.

After World War II, race again began muddying the boundaries between the parties as the civil rights movement rose to prominence. The one constant of post-Civil War politics was Southern whites’ distrust of the party of Lincoln, but as integrationists became more and more prominent in the Democratic Party, it became increasingly fragmented, to the point that Southerners twice ran rival presidential tickets upon deciding the official Democratic nominee wasn’t sufficiently pro-segregation. Richard Nixon’s Southern strategy in 1968 created the final break between the South and the Democrats, turning the “Solid South” into today’s Republican stronghold. At about the same time, the modern primary system began to take shape, as the people, having already taken control of the Presidency and both houses of Congress, proceeded to wrench control over the selection of nominees for President away from party bosses. Before small cabals in “smoke-filled rooms” decided amongst themselves who the best candidate would be that could strike a balance between serving their interests and getting elected, meaning even after the post-Wilson expansion of presidential power the President still operated at some level of remove from pure popular will. Now the President had to appeal to a subset of the people from the very start – and more, the people were now engaged in every level of the process, becoming the underlying force behind the parties themselves rather than simply taking what the parties gave them, and pressuring parties and politicians to adopt their favored positions. The thorough democratization of American politics was complete, and the parties inevitably became levers for two different factions of the popular will, utterly ideologically opposed to one another, trying to pull the country in opposite directions.

In the popular imagination, our problems have obvious, commonsense solutions that don’t get enacted solely because corrupt politicians don’t enact them. Democrats think they’re in fealty to big business and other rich contributors; Republicans think they’re too addicted to power and big government. It escapes partisans on both sides that one side’s “commonsense solution” is another’s unacceptable giveaway to special interests. Democrats dismiss Republicans’ concerns as the result of being misled by big corporations and blinded by the culture war and a relentless message of patriotism, too stupid to realize that Republican policies are only keeping them down; Republicans dismiss Democrats’ concerns as being misled by the “liberal media” and ivory-tower elites and looking for a handout, too selfish to realize that Democratic policies only hold the country back. Only on Capitol Hill do people from each side of each issue meet and understand where each side is coming from, or even acknowledge that the other side exists. (Theoretically, the same could happen for party bases on the Internet, but it hasn’t happened and human psychology makes it unlikely to happen, and believe me I’ve tried.) Once they come down from the hill and present the result to the partisans back in the cave, they risk being accused of “selling out their principles” and replaced with someone less “corrupt”. It’s a truism that people don’t like Congress but like their own congressperson. What’s not as recognized is that the inverse is true: a congressperson that tries to do what’s necessary to improve the working of Congress as a whole finds their constituents turning against them. People agree that Congress does nothing, but don’t agree on what they should be doing – and prefer doing nothing to doing anything that the other side wants. The hard truth is that getting what you want means throwing some bones to what the other side wants, but people don’t believe there’s anyone legitimate or worth appeasing on the other side at all.

The result is that gridlock is now entrenched in our system. No longer torn between the party on one hand and the base on the other, today they are one and the same. Further fueled by cable news, talk radio, and ideological web sites, and increasingly distant from those on the other side as the parties increasingly reflect racial and urban-vs-rural divides and as congressmen get fewer opportunities to form relationships across the aisle, each side sees their positions as the only acceptable, even the only American positions, and that the other side is corrupt and their followers are deluded. For each side, compromise is unacceptable, and anyone who dares to vote for anything floated by the other side is a traitor – meaning any position that doesn’t conform to the two great forces doesn’t even get any sort of hearing to begin with, because any moderate gets swiftly weeded out, doomed to defeat in the primaries. If either side has any power to stop the other from getting their way, even a mere 40 votes in the Senate, then nothing whatsoever will get done as both sides dig in. The problem is compounded by the loss of the tools once used by party elites to compel votes, the earmarks, patronage, and lack of transparency so dismissed as hallmarks of corruption but which haven’t been replaced by any mechanism to stop small groups of congressmen, or even a single Senator, to grandstand for the sake of impressing their base or furthering their own political advancement. If there were a multitude of parties this might not be so big a problem – any ideology that might have relevant ideas would have a seat at the table, and without two parties on exact opposite ends of one another it would be easier to find common ground – but our system effectively precludes that, for reasons obvious to anyone who followed the 2000 election. So our democracy lurches ever forward to the brink, and if nothing is done to correct its course the result will either be the election of a Trump-esque strongman, one who will set out to push whatever their side wants no matter who gets trampled underfoot in the process, or all-out civil war, if not both – and either would likely be the death of the Republic.

All this would play out exactly as the Founders feared – the rise of factions resulting in the dissolution of the Republic – and we would do well to recall their wisdom. We no longer believe there is such a thing as “too much” democracy and have come to accept the advent of parties as inevitable, things our Constitution is not designed for. If we are to keep our democracy from plunging into the abyss, we must remember their wisdom while reflecting today’s values.

I urge my fellow Americans concerned about the direction of the country to call for a constitutional convention to update the structure of our government to reclaim the Founders’ wisdom while reflecting our values – crafting a government designed from the start under the assumption that the people will determine as many of its members as possible and recognizing the inevitability of parties, encouraging compromise between factions while strengthening the system of checks and balances for today’s society – or short of that, to form a movement to demand reforms to our democracy within the Constitution to better encourage compromise and finding the best ideas to move the country forward.

I don’t know what shape such a revitalized government would take, and I’m not confident that anyone selected to attend the convention would have anywhere near as much wisdom as the Founders, especially considering the concerning likelihood that anyone with such wisdom would be cast aside in favor of groups with axes to grind hoping to engrave their favored positions in the Constitution, but the necessity to at least confront the problem is undeniable, and I hope that by stating the issue in this way I can invite concerned Americans on both sides of the aisle, all of which consider themselves concerned about America’s well-being, to confront the issue and work together to start working towards a solution. Over the next few days and weeks I will present some specific ideas about flaws in the system and ways to resolve them – even without a convention, though some modification to the Constitution may still be warranted in order for those changes to be as effective as one would hope.

In 1787 the Founders saw an America in crisis – disrespected by the great world powers, unable to raise money to pay its debts, unable to do anything to ease squabbling between the states – and realized that large-scale reform would be needed for the republic to survive, for the Revolution to prove to be more than a Pyrrhic victory. We now find ourselves facing a crisis that may be every bit as big a threat to the survival of the Republic as what the Founders faced, and however we choose to solve it, we need people from left, right, center, and elsewhere to rise to the occasion and find solutions to the great challenge of our time, no matter what that might entail.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 8

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 (presumably).

Week 11 (November 20):

  • Tentative game: Green Bay @ Washington
  • Prospects: 4-3 v. 4-3-1, 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, the only available games involve teams at 3-4 or 3-4-1 at best: Bucs-Chiefs, Ravens-Cowboys, and Cardinals-Vikings (which might itself be protected), with Bills-Bengals being 4-4 v. 3-4 and Dolphins-Rams a matchup of 3-4 teams.
  • Analysis: Needless to say, none of those games are overcoming the tentative game bias (and audience-attracting ability of the Packers and Wall-Builders) even if the Packers fall to .500 (Washington’s bye is this week) and the 3-4 team climbs up to .500. That leaves Eagles-Seahawks, which stands at 4-3 v. 4-2-1 and would be the Seahawks’ second consecutive week on SNF. The best-case scenario would be 5-3 v. 5-2-1 with the tentative sitting at 4-4 v. 4-3-1, which gives a clear edge, but again probably not enough to overcome the tentative game bias and name value of the teams, especially since the whole reason Eagles-Seahawks is CBS’ game to protect to begin with is because it’s already slated as the late game of their doubleheader.
  • Final prediction: Green Bay Packers @ Washington Wall-Builders (no change).

Week 12 (November 27):

  • Tentative game: New England @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: 7-1 v. 3-5. 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 only teams at or above .500, with Cardinals-Falcons and Seahawks-Bucs the most viable dark horses and Bengals-Ravens and Rams-Saints matchups of teams at 3-4 or 3-4-1.

Week 13 (December 4):

  • Tentative game: Carolina @ Seattle
  • Prospects: 2-5 v. 4-2-1; relative upsets this weekend made it less lopsided, but it’s still not in good shape.
  • Likely protections: Texans-Packers (CBS) and Rams-Patriots, Giants-Steelers, or Eagles-Bengals (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Chiefs-Falcons and (if unprotected) Giants-Steelers are the strongest options, with Bills-Raiders close behind. Rams-Patriots, Eagles-Bengals, and Racial Slurs-Cardinals are the most viable dark horses, followed by Lions-Saints and Bills-Raiders; Dolphins-Ravens is hanging on by a thread.

Week 14 (December 11):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 6-1 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 is the most viable dark horse (unless Steelers-Bills is unprotected), followed by Falcons-Rams, then Saints-Bucs and Cardinals-Dolphins.

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
  • Prospects: 4-3 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 no game involves only teams above .500, with Titans-Chiefs and Lions-Giants being the biggest threats. Bucs-Cowboys could be an interesting dark horse, with Saints-Cardinals the only other game even to stick to teams at 3-4, 3-4-1, or above (and there are a LOT of teams at that mark).

Week 17 (January 3):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

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.