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.
Last year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. CBS and Fox were able to protect one game every week each but had to leave one week each unprotected and had to submit their protections after only four weeks.
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:
- Begins Sunday of Week 11
- In effect during Weeks 11-17
- 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 4:15 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.
- Two other rules were established earlier: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks, and can’t protect any games Week 17 this year.
- Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five; the Pats and Cowboys already have six) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC.
Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:
Week 11 (November 18):
- Selected game: New England @ Buffalo.
Week 12 (November 25):
- Selected game: Philadelphia @ New England.
Week 13 (December 2):
- Selected game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh.
Week 14 (December 9):
- Selected game: Indianapolis @ Baltimore.
Week 15 (December 16):
- Tentative game: Washington @ NY Giants
- Prospects: At 5-6 v. 7-4, this looks vulnerable. Being in the same division as the Cowboys hurts as well, but these are both teams that have legit shots at the playoffs and the thrilling finish of their last meeting will help write the storyline.
- Protected games according to Awful Announcing: Jags-Steelers (CBS), Lions-Chargers (FOX).
- Other possible games: Seahawks-Panthers still has a chance but it pits 7-4 vs. 4-7. It needs help. Titans-Chiefs is probably out, looking even worse. Browns-Bills has the exact same pair of records as Redskins-Giants.
- Prediction: I see no way the Redskins and Giants don’t make it four straight tentative games kept.
- Final prediction: Washington Redskins @ New York Giants (no change).
Week 16 (December 23):
- Tentative game: Tampa Bay @ San Francisco
- Prospects: Very problematic, even with the Bucs’ success, which just makes it look lopsided.
- Protected games according to AA: Texans-Colts (CBS) and Packers-Bears (FOX).
- Other possible games: There aren’t a lot of attractive matchups this week. Lions-Chiefs is in trouble, and as the Bills fall back to reality Giants-Bills is having problems. Ravens-Seahawks? Please. Skins-Vikings might be the favorite now, but that means you can’t count out Eagles-Saints either. At this point even Browns-Bengals has an outside shot – the Bengals have a better record than the Niners and the Browns’ is the same as the Bucs’.
Week 17 (December 30):
- Tentative game: Kansas City @ NY Jets
- Prospects: Awful. This has the best chance of losing its spot.
- Other possible games/Playoff Positioning Watch:
- AFC East: Patriots clinched.
- AFC North: Every team is theoretically in it. The Steelers are leading but the Browns are just a game back. The Browns can push Steelers-Ravens to primetime if they keep it close – but it depends a lot more on what the ex-Browns do. Right now, this game isn’t looking great.
- AFC South: The Colts are now just a game ahead of the Jaguars and three ahead of the Titans. Titans-Colts can still excite (see below) but is now vulnerable to an NFC game.
- AFC West: Chargers a game ahead of the Broncos and two ahead of the Chiefs. The Chargers are playing the Raiders; the Broncos, the Vikings. Not looking likely. But the Raiders are mathematically still in it.
- AFC Wild Card: The Jags and Browns would get the nod if the season ended today, with the Titans a game back. The Bills, Texans, and Broncos are two back, adding some luster to Bills-Eagles, but the Eagles need to hold up their end of the bargain. Note the Jags-Texans matchup, probably the only serious competitor to Titans-Colts in the AFC. As the Ravens fade, Steelers-Ravens is probably out. Dolphins cannot make the playoffs and the Jets would come down to a tiebreaker.
- NFC East: Cowboys opening a big lead on the Giants. The Giants are on NFL Network and Dallas has too many primetime appearances. Philly and Washington are down to a tiebreaker. Both lost the first game but still have one to play against them Cowboys.
- NFC North: Same as the East, except the Pack have another game’s lead over the Lions. Vikings out on tiebreak. Bears are down to tiebreak but won the first game and still have one to play.
- NFC South: Bucs up two on Saints, three on Panthers. The Saints play the Bears, and Bucs-Panthers is fading. Falcons still mathematically in it.
- NFC West: Seahawks opens up a two-game lead over the Cardinals. The former plays the Falcons while the latter plays the Rams. Niners still mathematically in it. Rams out on tiebreak.
- NFC Wild Card: Giants and Lions would get the nod if the season ended today. Wild-card implications could lend enough credence to Packers-Lions for the Favre factor to take over from there and make it the favorite. Redskins, Eagles, Vikings, Bears, Saints, and Cardinals are all a game back at 5-6, which means all but four teams in the NFC are within a game of the playoffs (!), lending a little credence to Bills-Eagles, Saints-Bears, and Vikings-Broncos. Panthers still waiting in the wings as well.