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 written with last season in mind):
- 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. (Note: Last year, NBC listed a tentative game for Week 17; they are not doing so this year.)
- 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. (Note: Again, excluding Week 17.)
- 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, and could not protect any games Week 17 last year. Unless I find out otherwise, I’m assuming that’s still the case this year, especially with no tentative game listed Week 17, and that protections were scheduled after Week 4.
- 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. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 4 post.
Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:
Week 11 (November 16):
- Selected game: Dallas @ Washington.
Week 12 (November 23):
- Selected game: Indianapolis @ San Diego.
Week 13 (November 30):
- Selected game: Chicago @ Minnesota.
Week 14 (December 7):
- Selected game: Washington @ Baltimore.
Week 15 (December 14):
- Selected game: NY Giants @ Dallas.
Week 16 (December 21):
- Selected game: Carolina @ NY Giants.
Week 17 (December 28 Playoff Positioning Watch):
- Note that not only is there no longer an NBC tentative game, there’s no NFL Network game. Apparently the league learned their lesson from last year’s Patriots-Giants debacle.
- AFC East: Jets-Patriots-Dolphins three-way tie, Bills two back. The Pats and Bills play each other, as do the Dolphins and Jets.
- AFC North: The Steelers and Ravens are the only two teams still in it; Steelers have a one-game edge. The Steelers play the Browns while the Ravens play the Jags.
- AFC South: The Titans are running away with it, with the Colts the only other team with a shot, and they lose the common games tiebreaker.
- AFC West: Chargers hanging by the division tiebreaker, and play division leader Denver. Hmm. But again, the Chargers would need to win out and the Broncos lose out.
- AFC Wild Card: The Ravens and Colts would get the nod if the season ended today. The AFC East losers are a game back. Dolphins-Jets and Titans-Colts are the main AFC contenders. Bills and Texans also waiting in the wings, Chargers need a tiebreaker.
- NFC East: The Giants have a three-game lead over the Cowboys, with the Eagles out by half a game, and the Cowboys lose the common games tiebreaker. The Giants play the Vikings.
- NFC North: Vikings lead, Bears a game back, Packers hanging on by a tiebreaker. The Bears play the Texans and the Packers play the Lions, but the Vikings play the Giants.
- NFC South: Every team still in it, with the Panthers leading, the Bucs one back, the Falcons two, and the Saints hanging on by a tiebreaker. The Panthers play the Saints, but Tampa Bay plays the Raiders and the Falcons play the Rams.
- NFC West: The Cardinals are running away with it and the 49ers lost both games to them so they’re out. Cardinals play the Seahawks. Hardly must-see TV.
- NFC Wild Card: The Bucs and either the Cowboys or Falcons would get the nod if the season ended today. Eagles a half-game back, Redskins, Bears, Saints a full game back. Packers and 49ers need a tiebreak. Giants-Vikings, Cowboys-Eagles, and Panthers-Saints are strong games, but that may be it in the NFC and the last one could be fading. Those could be competitive games for the NBC pick, though.