Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 14

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; with NBC hosting a game the Saturday before Christmas Eve, 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, 2011, and last year. 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.
  • New this year, the flexed-out game always moves to the network from which the flexed-in game comes, regardless of which network it would air on normally. This should give the NFL some incentive to flex in games from the same network as the tentative, especially late in the year, to avoid having to deal with the rather restrictive crossflex rules more than necessary. It also affects CBS and Fox’s protection incentives; if the tentative is a game that would be valuable even if it needs to be flexed out (such as a Cowboys game), that affects both networks’ willingness to leave a week unprotected equally.
  • 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 Week 17 is exempt from team appearance limits. For the entire first decade of SNF, no team started the season completely tapped out at any measure, with every team having no more than three NBC appearances or five overall appearances; however, this year the Chiefs and Steelers have been given six appearances across all primetime packages, and in the Chiefs’ case, only Week 5’s Texans game even fell within the early flex period (and both NFL Network appearances are genuinely in primetime) – especially headscratching since the Jaguars and Browns have been saved from having to play Thursday night at all (the new Week 17 rules may have something to do with this, with the Jags and Browns being saved by a quirk of the calendar). 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 17 (December 31):

AFC Playoff Picture
7-6 7-6
NFC Playoff Picture
2 tied at 7-6 7-6
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Panthers-Falcons, Bengals-Ravens, Jaguars-Titans, Saints-Bucs, Packers-Lions, Bills-Dolphins, Cowboys-Eagles, Raiders-Chargers, Chiefs-Broncos, Cardinals-Seahawks. Some of these percentage chances are going to come off as high, but I couldn’t bring myself to put the percentage chances of Jags-Titans above 40 percent, yet all the other games either require a lot of things to break in their favor, are of a type the NFL would probably prefer to avoid (especially if Jags-Titans is an option), or in the case of Panthers-Falcons, have logistical issues that could completely preclude a move to Sunday night even if things break their way. (It didn’t help I actually miscalculated the numbers at first and had everything add up to 110 percent, with Jags-Titans reluctantly bumped up to 50.)
  • Chances of Jaguars-Titans: 40 percent. NBC would absolutely take any other game if it met the standard for being flexed into Sunday night, especially with it being very likely the loser of this game still gets a wild card spot, but nothing is a sure thing and unless the Titans fall off the face of the earth (or at least just lose one more game than the Jags over the next two), or win their next two while the Jaguars lose their next two, this has a very good chance to at least be a fallback option, and the league might actually prefer it to some of the options below.
  • Chances of Raiders-Chargers: 15 percent. There are two scenarios where this game becomes a Sunday night possibility: either the Chiefs lose enough that the winner of this game wins the division, or it becomes a win-and-in, lose-and-out game for the wild card. On the first front, the Chiefs beat the Chargers the first time they met (the second time is this weekend) and split with the Raiders. If the Chargers win this weekend the Chiefs will enter the last week with a 3-2 division record, same as the Chargers, while the Raiders enter at 2-3 and having already lost the first game to the Chargers; in that scenario the Chargers might then have to lose to the Jets just so the tiebreaker between the teams isn’t decided by strength of victory, and that would still probably require a Chiefs loss to the Dolphins. On the wild-card front, the Raiders have losses to both the Bills and Ravens while the Chargers beat the Bills, but the teams are all currently tied for the last wild-card spot so it wouldn’t take much slippage by the Bills and Ravens to make this game for the wild card.
  • Chances of Packers-Lions: 10 percent. This is the game NBC would pick every day of the week, but the problem is that both teams are a game out of the playoffs and have to navigate the traffic of the NFC South teams and the Seahawks, not to mention the Cowboys. The Packers have wins over Seattle and Dallas but lost to the Falcons; they play the Panthers this week in what increasingly sounds like Aaron Rodgers’ return. The Lions lost to both NFC South teams but won the first game over the Packers.
  • Chances of Chiefs-Broncos: 10 percent. For reasons described here, if the Chiefs and Chargers split their next two (the winner of that game losing the next and vice versa) while the Raiders win both, this game would decide whether or not the Chiefs win the division regardless of the result of the other game. Probably the Chiefs would need to lose their next two for Raiders-Chargers to be a division title game.
  • Chances of Panthers-Falcons: 5 percent. Same deal as Raiders-Chargers, essentially, except that the Saints look much stronger than the Chiefs at the moment (and at the least, their sweep of the Panthers means the Panthers needs to be at least a game ahead of them to qualify as a division title game) and both teams, especially the Panthers, would need to move back considerably for only one of them to make the playoffs. (In any case, as one of my commenters points out, moving this game to Sunday night would leave the stadium only about 13 hours of overnight turnaround for the Peach Bowl the next day, making even a move to the late afternoon iffy.)
  • Chances of Bengals-Ravens: 5 percent. The Ravens would hold tiebreakers over both the Raiders and Chargers, so if all three go into the final week tied this might be the choice if the Chiefs have already clinched the AFC West.
  • Chances of Bills-Dolphins: 5 percent. These two teams play two of the last three weeks against one another. If the Dolphins win the first one this game’s chances likely depend on the rest of the AFC regressing enough that this is a winner-in game; if the Bills win the game’s chances depend on this being win-and-in, lose-and-out for the Bills under similar circumstances to Chiefs-Broncos and Bengals-Ravens (though if the Bills proceeded to lose out and the Dolphins won out the Dolphins would still win the divisional tiebreaker). But that’s not as clear as with the Ravens or Chiefs; the only West team the Bills have played was a loss to the Chargers, while the Raiders have played two more conference games than the Bills and lost both.
  • Chances of Cardinals-Seahawks: 5 percent. If the teams involved retain their current relative positions, the Seahawks would lose tiebreakers to the Packers or Lions with a loss. The Cardinals have an outside shot of making the playoffs themselves, but that probably can’t be assured to be on the line entering Week 17.
  • Chances of Saints-Bucs: 3 percent. Technically this game is to Panthers-Falcons what Chiefs-Broncos is to Raiders-Chargers, but the circumstances in which it would be an option aren’t actually directly covered by that post. The Saints swept the Panthers so they would need to be tied with the Panthers. But the Falcons just won the first game between them so the Saints would need to win the second to even have a chance to win the tiebreaker with them, meaning the Saints would need to lose this week and the Falcons would need to win to get back to the two teams being even a game apart entering Week 17. Supposing that happened and the Falcons and Bucs won Week 17, we’d have a three-way tie the Saints would win by virtue of sweeping the Panthers while the Falcons split with both teams. But could this game still be an option if the Saints and Panthers were tied while the Falcons were a game back after sweeping the Saints? The three-way tie then would win the division for the Falcons by virtue of a 3-1 head-to-head record to the Saints’ 2-2 and the Panthers’ 1-3. Even then a lot is likely to depend on what other games are available and what the wild card situation is, and the NFL would likely prefer to avoid this sort of situation in favor of one where both teams have something to play for.
  • Chances of Cowboys-Eagles: 2 percent. Cowboys or no Cowboys, for this to happen the Cowboys would need to win out, the Packers and Lions would need to both split, the Falcons would need to lose out, and none of the other scenarios can happen, because this game has two things going against it: it would put both games of a division rivalry on NBC (the second time this would have happened with the NFC East) and it would involve a team likely to be resting up for the playoffs, which isn’t the case for any of the other “only matters for one team” games. (Even if the Eagles enter Week 17 not yet having clinched their seed, there’s no way to guarantee their seed would still be undetermined heading into Sunday night. It would arguably be better if they had clinched their seed because then they have nothing to play for anyway.)

30 thoughts on “Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 14

  1. Morgan:

    I included a link to the NFL scheduling issues from the last post in the past threat to my name here (click my name).

    Obviously, some of the issues for this season were the fact there again was no Week 16 bye (due to Christmas falling on a Monday) and the schedules were likely made up on the assumption the Chargers would have remained in San Diego and not moved to Carson before it was known the Chargers were moving (even if the approved schedule came after the fact).

    As for Week 17:

    Given there is a very good chance IF the Steelers win Sunday AND the Jags win their next two the Jags would get a first-round bye by beating the Titans on New Year’s Eve (unless the Pats somehow faltered against the Jets in Weej 17), if that happens, Jags-Titans likely is the Week 17 finale if the #2 seed in the AFC is in play regardless of whether or not it’s for the AFC South because if it’s not, it could be the Titans have to win or they are entirely eliminated from the postseason regardless of what happens in the afternoon (and if the Titans also win their next two, it’s for the AFC South and in the Jags case possibly a first-round bye). Given New Year’s Eve likely will be a rare case where a team won’t drive the ratings needle because of it being New Year’s Eve, I suspect NBC would rather be in Nashville than other places that night.

    Raiders-Chargers is the next best option IF that game is for the AFC West. That likely will be a quasi-home game for the Raiders given the large fan base they still have in LA and you could see that become essentially a road game at home for the Chargers.

    Chiefs-Broncos: If other than a five-quarter tie this game is guaranteed to be win-and-in, lose-and-out for the Chiefs, this is likely next on the list.

    One other longshot possibility brought up by ESPN Radio’s Freddie Coleman (on his national show): If the Browns are 0-15, Browns-Steelers was his idea for that Sunday Night game because there would be many people tuning in just to see if the Browns became the first team since the 2008 Lions (and only the second in a 16-game season) to finish without a win as there are those who love trainwrecks and this would be an all-timer. If all other playoff seeds are determined by Christmas Night, than this would be an option.

    Packers-Lions: I doubt it, but this could be for a wild card but both must win their next two and get help elsewhere for this to be guaranteed to have playoff implications the final night.

    You know I don’t think they can move Panthers-Falcons due to the Peach Bowl. The rest are highly unlikely.

  2. Well, there were no changes to the Week 16 schedule. No real surprise, but some could have been warranted, if it was to be allowed.

    I have 6 possible games.

    #1 to me is still Jack(9-4) @ Tenn(8-5), but it appears Jack might pull away with Marriota kinda hobbled and this might not turn into a win and your in situation afterall. The collapse of Kansas City and surge of the Chargers has made this more tenous than ever.

    #2 to me is still Car(9-4) @ Atl(8-5) and even Rich Eisen, on his show today, mentioned this as his possible choice or what he could see as Game 256, as he said it. I think a call, tweet, or email from Walt Gekko to Rich Eisen might be a good idea to inform him of the Peach Bowl implications.

    My #3 & potentially moving up game is Oak(6-7) @ LAC(7-6). Alot has to do with what happens this coming weekend.

    My #4 is GB(7-6) @ Det(7-6), but if Atlanta and Seattle continue to win, this will become moot.

    My #5 is Ariz(6-7) @ Sea(8-5). This is a longshot.

    My #6 is Dal(7-6) @ Phil(11-2), but the Eagles could have their playoff seed all locked up by this game and the SNF game won’t be where 1 team has no incentive to play.

    Here’s to a Week 15 as fun as Week 14 was. Go Pack Go this Sunday at Carolina with Aaron Rodgers back in the saddle. ????☺????

  3. Jeff:

    I did actually send a tweet. I’m sure others who know the situation with the Peach Bowl have as well.

    I’m sure the schools involved in that game would like to see that game played at 1:00 PM or even moved to Saturday to give them more time to prep on the field for that game.

  4. Why are people so worried about the peach bowl? I’ve seen stadiums that host 1pm NBA games be ready for 7:30pm NHL games and vice versa. I would assume a switch from NFL to college football would be much easier to handle, plus they’d have much more time overnight than a same day switch.

  5. Bob:

    While it is true the NBA and NHL where the arena is shared often have events on the same day, it’s very easy to do a switch from one configuration to another because:

    1. The basketball court is usually laid OVER the ice for hockey.

    2. The arenas are smaller and usually can be cleared more quickly between events. Also, many arenas don’t have the same level of traffic entering and exiting at one time.

    For an NFL building, it’s much more difficult to do a quick turnaround, which if Panthers-Falcons was flexed to SNF could be a major issue, especially since people would likely be hanging in the parking lot after the game for a bit to celebrate New Year’s and people inside the building would have having to clean up plus install completely different turf on the floor for the Peach Bowl (as is done for example in Dallas when there is a college game followed by a Cowboys game). Add to that you likely will have the issues of some Auburn and Central Florida fans likely arriving in the Mercedez-Benz Stadium Parking lot in RVs for the Peach Bowl as it is just as fans would be leaving following a 1:00 PM Panthers-Falcons game and that becomes much worse if Panthers-Falcons is even moved to 4:25 let alone 8:30 (fans arriving in RVs is unique to college football that you generally don’t see with the NFL), which can create a logistical nightmare. On top of that, you have to take out the cameras in place for Panthers-Falcons and replace them with cameras from ESPN for the Peach Bowl.

    That’s why Panthers-Falcons likely can’t be flexed to SNF unless NBC agreed to also move their telecast to Saturday Night.

  6. I’m doing preliminary work on the next post, and if you’re the NFL, what do you do if the Falcons win on Monday night? Near as I can tell, the only options then would be Jags-Titans which needs the Jags to lose to the Niners and a Titans win to be a division title game (yes the Jags could be playing for a first-round bye but there’s no way to guarantee what they are or aren’t playing for by Sunday night), an extreme long-shot Bills-Dolphins game that would need a *lot* of things to break right, and that Panthers-Falcons game that probably can’t actually move. Frankly, if I’m the NFL I’m looking into the possibility of moving Panthers-Falcons to Bobby Dodd Stadium.

  7. Really? The last game of the NFL season to determine a playoff berth played in a college stadium? If anything, move the Peach Bowl to Georgia Tech then. You got UCF and a 3 loss Auburn team disappointed they lost the SEC Championship and were just at Atlanta in December.

  8. As previously said, you can flex Panthers-Falcons, BUT the game would have to be moved to likely Saturday Night. I don’t think NBC would object to that because New Year’s Eve is not going to be a highly rated night anyway.

    As said above, Freddie Coleman (of ESPN Radio) suggested making Browns-Steelers the finale if the Browns are 0-15 because there are those who will tune in just to see if the Browns finish 0-16.

  9. Why would the NFL not think far enough ahead and not schedule any Week 17 NFL games at stadiums that host Bowl games during that week? Another example of how mismanaged this league has become…hopefully a record TV rating low for the Sunday Night Football finale opens some eyes for the years to come. Mark Cuban’s words of an impending NFL demise become more true everyday.

  10. Never in the history of flex scheduling has a game switched dates for something that wasn’t weather-related. There’s a reason why MNF and TNF do not get flexed. And for the author of this article to suggest a change of venue? My goodness you just lost a visitor I’ll go to the506 or reddit to talk about flex scheduling they clearly know way more about that than people on this website

  11. Is there a way to edit a previous comment? A huge mistake of mine to suggest other websites now people on here will just hijack threads elsewhere with the same ridiculous nonsense

  12. Bowl games have a lot of pageantry going on beyond what’s seen on TV, with much of the week if not the month taken up with events surrounding the game. Moving the site of the game on short notice isn’t a trivial element.

    As linked in the previous thread, this year’s schedule was particularly difficult to put together, and creating potential interference with college games, including putting the Panthers on the road Week 17 when all three other NFC South teams had stadiums hosting bowl games the next day, was probably the least bad option.

    Normally I’d barely give Walt Gekko’s wild speculation the time of day – every year he brings up doomsday scenarios involving antitrust investigations if the team whose stadium is hosting the national championship has to also host a wild card game, and earlier this year he was not only arguing that NBC would insist on Eagles-Rams for esoteric reasons that, if they felt that strongly about it, would suggest pre-scheduling a Rams or Chargers home game every year regardless of their record, but coupling it with a massive and self-admittedly unprecedented schedule overhaul that would involve the dreaded “make the SNF game the featured DH game” (and the notion that this game could move to Saturday is just ridiculous), but this is pretty hard to argue against considering even as is the turnaround time is similar to that which faced the Big 12 Championship Game if it had stayed on Friday following Indians-Cowboys the week after Thanksgiving. As is the turnaround time is doable – last year the Panthers and Bucs played 24 hours before the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium – but it’s a ticking time bomb where moving it later causes a host of problems, and there aren’t any easy solutions.

  13. Can the NFL not call up College Football in the planning stage and work out some kind of solution where a less than 24 hour window would not exist between an NFL game and a Bowl Game?? You can’t change things at the last moment but in the planning stage you sure could work out compromises. Seems like people that are being a heck of a lot money in the NFL’s Upper Management are dropping the ball on this matter!

  14. Was reading the 506’s thread and it was noted that as is, Bills-Dolphins has a pretty short turnaround time of its own from the Orange Bowl, indeed similar to what the Peach would be facing if Panthers-Falcons were moved to Sunday night. So by the same logic that argues that Panthers-Falcons can’t move late, Bills-Dolphins would seem to have to at least move to late afternoon.

    But the real nightmare facing the NFL is, if the Falcons win tonight, even Panthers-Falcons isn’t guaranteed. What happens if the league doesn’t have any Sunday-night-suitable games? Do they just sacrifice two non-playoff teams? Put on Cowboys-Eagles if the Cowboys are out of the playoffs and the Eagles have sewn up the #1 seed?

  15. And then there’s all the times a USC home game on Saturday was followed by a Rams home game on Sunday, which… were not nonexistent but which would be a lot tougher for a special, year-end bowl game that’s one of only two college games the stadium hosts all year, possibly requiring the field to be painted with both games in mind (maybe even setting up a repeat of the uneven end zones from the Big Ten championship). The Peach Bowl wouldn’t be happy about it, but it is conceivably doable; whether it’s actually practical is another matter (especially since the Coliseum is grass and Mercedes-Benz Stadium is fieldturf; I don’t know which is easier to turn around).

  16. I doubt there is ANY home team that wants this year’s Sunday Night finale….think about just the workforce issue that is involved for the hosting stadium…you have to ask your employees to give up a New Year’s Eve night which will probably force you to give premium pay plus have employees that probably just won’t show up because they have party plans. This rolls into other area’s of the hosting city too…police force, city employees, etc. trying to find people to cover for an event that will push past the midnight hour for many. Top it off with the possible fact that is could be all for a MEANINGLESS game…oh boy…Cuban has to be smiling somewhere in all this!

  17. Cory:

    What you brought is why the Cotton and Peach Bowls needed to have been in the opposite order, with the Peach Bowl on Friday Night (when the Cotton Bowl is) and the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day in the early slot. I’m sure Jerry Jones would not have been happy with the Cotton Bowl kicking off at 11:30 AM local time on New Year’s Day, but it would have been a lot better than the Peach Bowl being where it is.

    Why the NFL did not have the two Falcons-Panthers games in the opposite order is beyond me. Was there an event aside from the Belk Bowl (Friday, Dec. 29) at Bank of America Stadium that prevented the NFL from reversing the Falcons-Panthers games?

    Also agree no one wants to host the Sunday Night finale this year. Perhaps in future years when Christmas and New Year’s Falls on a Monday (as they do this time around), the NFL should have the final day of the regular season be Saturday, Dec. 30.

    As I also have noted before as well, we can remove the last Sunday Night game scenario altogether by having the NFL on the last week do what MLB now does as well as the NBA and most pro sports leagues in Europe: Have all games in a conference go simultaneously and have all such air simultaneously on ALL of the NFL’s broadcast partners with a couple of DT-2 Channels thrown in and no blackouts. As I would do it:

    On the last day, all games in one conference would kick at 3:00 PM ET/Noon PT and in the other conference at 7:00 PM ET/4:00 PM PT. This would eliminate any scoreboard watching since all conference games would be at the same time. For broadcasting purposes:

    NBC would get the #1 game in each time slot.

    CBS and FOX would split the #2 and #3 games in each slot.

    ABC and ESPN would split the #4 and #5 games in each slot (the ESPN games would also air on the DT-2 Channels of local ABC stations).

    NFL Network would get the #6 game in each time slot, which also would air on COZI TV (in most cases, the DT-2 channel of your local NBC station).

    DT-2/DT-4 Channels for CBS (DECADES) and FOX (Movies or BUZZR) would split the #7 and #8 games in each time slot. Such games would also be available on cable outlets owned by Viacom (SPIKE TV) and NewsCorp (TBD after the sale of FOX’s cable outlets to Disney).

    NBC would also get a new Wednesday after Thanksgiving game that would be hosted on an alternating basis by the Jets and Giants (at Met Life Stadium) and be tied to the Christmas tree lighting in Rockerfeller Plaza that would be at haltime of that game (to compensate for not having the final Sunday Night game to itself).

    That to me solves a lot of these problems with the last week.

  18. Morgan:

    Like I had said, it was suggested by Freddie Coleman of ESPN Radio on his national show that if the Browns are 0-15, the NFL could always stick Browns-Steelers in the last Sunday Night spot that would guarantee the possibility of the Browns finishing 0-16. There are people who would tune in just to see that trainwreck happen.

  19. The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia. This is what happened in 2006, the 1st year of flex scheduling. This is the last time that the NFL ended the season on a Sunday, December
    31st. The NFL chose this game for reasons stated below. As a reminder, back in 2006, the Week 17 schedule was NOT all divisional matchups. And yes, next time the NFL would end the season on a Sunday, December 31st is in 2023. It would indeed behoove the NFL to end the season on Saturday, December 30th that year.
    Week 17 at Chicago Bears Edit
    1 2 3 4 Total
    Packers 13 10 0 3 26
    Bears 0 0 7 0 7
    at Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois[43]

    Game time: 7:15 pm CST
    Game weather: 50 °F (10 °C), Humidity 81%, Wind: SW 10 mph
    Game attendance: 62,287
    Referee: Bill Vinovich
    TV announcers (NBC): Al Michaels, John Madden, and Andrea Kremer

    Game summary

    On New Year’s Eve, the Packers traveled to Chicago to face the Bears at Soldier Field. With the new NFL flexible-scheduling intact, the game was moved to the Sunday night because of playoff implications and the possibility of it being Brett Favre’s last game. However, the Packers became ineligible for a playoff bid when the New York Giants clinched a tie-breaker earlier in the day…

  20. My guess is if Dallas beats Seattle next week, DAL @ PHI is the likely choice. The three realistic options at this point are JAX-TEN, CAR-ATL and DAL-PHI and even a meaningless Cowboys-Eagles game (which it very well could be by the time Sunday night hits) would garner a much higher rating than either of the other two. The only thing that could cause it to stay in the afternoon would be if the NFL decided they didn’t want to give both Cowboys-Eagles games this year to NBC – but usually when they pick a network to screw, it’s FOX.

    For what it’s worth, the Falcons played a 1 P.M. EST home game in Week 13 the day after the SEC Championship, which started at 4 P.M. the day before and couldn’t have provided them more than 16 hours of real preparation for getting the stadium turned around for the next day. So I wouldn’t say the early start time for the Peach Bowl necessarily rules out a CAR-ATL flex, though it definitely complicates it.

  21. Nathaniel:

    If the Jags and Titans both lose this week (as both are very possible as the Jags are facing a 49ers team that could very well run the table to finish 6-10 and the Titans are facing a Rams team that still needs one more win to take the NFC West), JAX-TEN could very well be where the winner wins the AFC South but if the Titans lose they are out of the playoffs entirely. If that is the case, then Jags-Titans is the finale as I do think NBC would rather be in Nashville. Plus, that game is in the central time zone so it would be ending before 11:00 PM local time.

    The problem with moving Panthers-Falcons from 1:00 PM (unless it were to Saturday night) would be the turnover for the Peach Bowl, plus that you will fans of Auburn and Central Florida likely arriving in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium Parking lot ahead of the Peach Bowl in RVs the night before the game, creating additional problems. Going from College to an NFL game is much different than going from an NFL to a college game, especially one of the “New Year’s Six” Bowl games.

    Whatever game is in the slot is not going to do well because of it being New Year’s Eve, one reason why in future years when New Year’s falls on a Monday the NFL should look to have the final day of the regular season be Saturday 12/30.

  22. Morgan:

    I saw that after I said what I did and coming here. That was my bad.

    Anyway, at this point, if it turns out the Steelers will have a chance to get the #1 seed in the AFC regardless of the outcome of Jets-Pats earlier in the day and even if not if the Browns are 0-15, especially if the NFL is unable to move Panthers-Falcons to Sunday Night Football (due to the Peach Bowl), NBC might have to take Browns-Steelers, which is mainly attractive for the “trainwreck” factor already noted.

    What I suspect may happen is if Panthers-Falcons has playoff implications that are guaranteed on Sat. 12/30, but not New Year’s Eve night, Panthers-Falcons is flexed, BUT Sunday Night Football becomes a special Saturday edition on NBC, which I suspect NBC would not be too upset about because it also would assure “New Year’s Eve With Carson Daly” would start on time on New Year’s Eve Night.

    As said, a better solution to this is in the future, when New Year’s Day falls on a Monday, the NFL ends its regular season with an all-Saturday schedule on Dec. 30th.

  23. I’m Glad That Packers Lions Will not be flexed Because ESPN Aried the first meeting Last month but I Don’ t See Eagles cowboys being Flexed because NBC Aired first meeting last month. So My Guess Will be Jags Titans. But I Could Be Right.

  24. The SNF move to Saturday probably isn’t actually possible at all – the flex rules state that for Week 17 it’s six days notice rather than the standard 12, so the only way you could do it by that rule is to announce it on Sunday evening itself. That’s assuming you even can move the slot (the NCAA would surely object, what with the Orange Bowl there).

    In any case, that game’s consequences aren’t likely to be self-contained, making it a better fit for 1pm. NBC need a Jags loss/Titans win to create a divisional title game, even if the only other consequence is home advantage for a rematch a week later. (A Jags win would put them in the hunt for a bye, but again that’s not a self-contained situation.)

    Probably the only truly self-contained game on the slate is the presumptive Browns bid to avoid 0-16 (and maybe they get a Week 16 win again like they did against my Chargers last year – thanks for making it impossible not to fire Mike McCoy, Browns! – and thus removing even that). The Steelers could be playing for seeding, but that’s not a given. (Note that the Jags and Pats both own the tiebreaker over the Steelers.)

    I like the proposal for all games in each conference to be played at once. It removes some farcical situations, like the one in 2013 where the Chargers-Chiefs game suddenly mattered because all of the numerous 1pm games that needed to go our way suddenly did and the Vegas line hilariously moved a ridiculous number of points because suddenly it mattered to us (the Chiefs were already locked into the 5 seed and obviously sat their starters).

    (We still needed a FG miss and two zebra blunders to win that game. Revenge came when we lost a win-and-in a year later to a Chiefs side again starting Chase Daniel.)

  25. David:

    Funny thing about that Chargers game where the Chiefs won is if the NFL made it like the NBA where playoff seeding is solely by record and not winning your division, the Chiefs would NOT have been resting their starters in that last game because they would have been playing for the #3 seed instead of being locked into the #5 seed as I remember. That would have been a completely different game if that had been the case.

  26. I said this on December 13th:

    I have 6 possible games.

    #1 to me is still Jack(9-4) @ Tenn(8-5), but it appears Jack might pull away with Marriota kinda hobbled and this might not turn into a win and your in situation afterall. The collapse of Kansas City and surge of the Chargers has made this more tenous than ever.

    Update: now Jack is up by 2 games over Tenn with 2 weeks to go and they play in Frisco this week and should clinch the division. If Tennessee somehow beats the Rams this Sunday, they could also have a playoff spot locked up too. Still could be the game, just for seeding purposes, but likely for the Titans’ playoff life.
    #2 to me is still Car(9-4) @ Atl(8-5) and even Rich Eisen, on his show today, mentioned this as his possible choice or what he could see as Game 256, as he said it. I think a call, tweet, or email from Walt Gekko to Rich Eisen might be a good idea to inform him of the Peach Bowl implications.

    Update: both won in Week 15 and both could have a playoff spot locked up after Week 16. If Saints lose to Falcons this week and therefore, New Orleans doesn’t clinch the division, there’s no chance this is the Week 17 SNF game.
    My #3 & potentially moving up game is Oak(6-7) @ LAC(7-6). Alot has to do with what happens this coming weekend.

    Update: Chargers and Raiders both losing in Week 15, coupled with a division clinching win by KC vs Miami this week gets rid of this game.
    My #4 is GB(7-6) @ Det(7-6), but if Atlanta and Seattle continue to win, this will become moot.

    Update: Green Bay losing and being knocked out of the playoff race knocked alot of luster out of this. This game could be win and in for the Lions, but not likely. This could be the game, as just for the hell of it.
    My #5 is Ariz(6-7) @ Sea(8-5). This is a longshot.

    My #6 is Dal(7-6) @ Phil(11-2), but the Eagles could have their playoff seed all locked up by this game and the SNF game won’t be where 1 team has no incentive to play.

  27. My #5 is Ariz(6-7) @ Sea(8-5). This is a longshot.

    Update: no chance now with Arizona out and Seattle put if they lose to the Cowboys this week.

    My #6 is Dal(7-6) @ Phil(11-2), but the Eagles could have their playoff seed all locked up by this game and the SNF game won’t be where 1 team has no incentive to play.

    Update: Dallas wins and this game will matter to them. A possible seeding at stake for Philly and a maybe win and in for Cowboys.

    This entire decision for the right game for the Sunday Night Football game for Week 17 has become a disaster. I just say move the Peach Bowl to the Sunday Night Football slot and have all the NFL games end in the late window. Of course I am being facetious, but hell if I know what to do. Hahahaha.


  28. Jeff:

    Still think there is the one other possibility of Browns-Steelers if the Browns lose this week. That game would then be guaranteed to have meaning, if for no other reason than the fact the Browns would be trying to avoid being just the second winnless team of the 16-game era.

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