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The Constitution’s Two Fatal Flaws, Part I: The Inevitability and Value of Parties

Despite the bizarre political-rally setting, I thought President Obama’s farewell address Tuesday night was one of the better ones of his presidency, certainly one of the most important, making several important points about the state of our democracy and our country and what to do and not do about it. But besides the fact that he aimed it enough at his supporters that the people who perhaps most needed to hear what he said will ignore it, I’m worried that his unwavering commitment to optimism may have led him to understate the threats to our democracy and fail to get at their root causes. In December, when the left was calling for the electors to effectively overturn the results of the election, I made many of the same points but came to two conclusions that evidently were a bridge too far for Obama: that the root of the problem was the two-party system and that truly fixing our government would have to involve making changes to the Constitution.

In other words, I saw the problems with our government as primarily structural, while Obama sees them (or says he sees them) as primarily peculiar to this moment. Obviously the particular circumstances of the moment must have something to do with our situation for us to make it over two hundred years without running into the problems we’re experiencing now, but the specifics of those circumstances are unlikely to change just because Obama hectors us to change them, and are more likely to get worse. “The splintering of our media into a channel for every taste” and the ability to take in only the facts and engage only with people we already agree with was inevitable with the rise of the Internet, a natural consequence of human nature only forestalled by the presence of a small number of media outlets able to control the national conversation to a significant extent; perhaps it’s possible to teach people to discern real facts from “fake news”, but we’re a long ways away from that and not even that close to universally recognizing it as a good thing, let alone a necessity of democracy. Obama speaks of “allow[ing] our political dialogue to become…corrosive” and “writ[ing] off the whole system as inevitably corrupt” as weakening the ties holding the nation together, as though the corrosiveness of our political dialogue weren’t an inevitable result of technology and increased popular participation in political debates and the criticisms of the system didn’t have some merit. In this context, it makes sense that Obama would speak of “rebuilding our democratic institutions” in ways that work within the system – making it easier to vote, reducing the influence of money in politics, increasing the emphasis on “transparency and ethics”, and redrawing district lines, all laudable goals but made easier if not self-correcting when more than two parties can thrive, which none of those goals help with – but treat the problem as a failure to live up to our Constitution’s ideals, rather than the Constitution itself potentially being part of the problem.

Not that the Constitution’s ideals are bad ones – far from it! But in America, we tend to revere the Founders and our founding documents almost to the point of religious devotion. If Obama can’t admit that our Constitution might be a contributing factor to our problems, calling for a Constitutional convention to greatly change the structure of our government must seem downright sacrilegious; even raising the possibility that the way the Constitution pursues its ideals ends up undermining them seems largely verboten. In order to truly confront the root causes of today’s gridlock, we are going to have to confront the reality that for all their wisdom, the Founding Fathers were after all human beings who lived nearly 250 years ago, human beings with flaws and disagreements, and that in crafting the Constitution they made some critical errors that ultimately undermined their goals.

There are two major errors the Founders made in crafting the Constitution in particular that have proven to undermine the franchise. The first and most obvious to students of American history is their distrust of political parties without appreciating the forces leading to their creation. The second was that, for all their distrust of kings, they let their hero-worship of George Washington lead them to give the presidency more power than they probably actually wanted, creating the opening that would ultimately lead to today’s king-like presidency through a procession of presidents with less humility – a process they were actually deeply aware of. The two are interrelated – the Founders hoped the Congress would stop the president from obtaining more power for himself, but they’re more likely to let the president do what he wants if they’re more concerned about their loyalty to the party than to their current office or themselves – but each has proven corrosive on their own.

The Founders believed factionalism was the result of too much popular participation in the political process – of people pursuing narrow self-interests. By granting more power to elected representatives, they believed, those representatives would be free to focus on deliberating amongst themselves, united by the quest to do what was best for the republic as a whole and the imperative to do the job for which they were elected. In the Founders’ minds, lawmakers would line up and take stands on an issue, then when the next issue came up they would line up and take sides on that issue, sides that looked completely different from the previous issue and with little apparent commonalities besides their opinion on that issue. Besides missing that even the “best men” could be subject to a more subtle form of the same sort of passions they believed the people at large were susceptible to (not to mention that this was pretty much how Britain’s Parliament worked and it resulted in the very party system they were trying to avoid), the Founders missed that even the most learned, disinterested statesmen could have legitimate fundamental definitional differences as to what was best for the republic, differences that existed amongst the Founders themselves and would unite those committed to one definition behind a given course of action while pitting them against other definitions dedicated to other courses of action, and might even lead them to believe the other side was not really interested in the welfare of the republic and that only their own side was. Some might believe in a strong central government while others believed in states’ rights; some might believe in protecting rural farmers while others believed in helping urban industries. Even among the very people that worked on the Constitution there were disagreements over what it actually allowed the federal government to do.

In the end, the Founders were probably too optimistic about the merits of voting for the person as opposed to the party. Parties may have been the result of people pursuing narrow self-interests, but organized parties control and direct the pursuit of self-interest into forms more conducive to the success of the party as a whole, presenting a coherent statement of the merits for or against a particular position from the anarchy of hundreds of individual representatives, encouraging and supporting compromise and potentially unpopular yet necessary courses of action, even if they don’t always do so in the most savory of ways. The separation of powers was supposed to prevent the system from being exploited by people with naked self-interest; Congress was supposed to have most of the power, and the President had to work with them to get anything done. Individual Congressmen couldn’t get too much power without potentially running afoul of the President, and if worst came to worst the Supreme Court could curb the President and Congress from together abridging the rights of the people. What the Constitution does not do is provide any system for curbing those who would pursue naked self-interest despite all this, something that has become far more necessary now that the Senate and Presidency are directly elected by the people, creating far more opportunity for a demogogue to achieve one of those offices. Members of Congress can only be booted out in the middle of their term by a two-thirds vote of their house (a high enough bar that it is exceedingly rarely tried), and the President can only be impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanors”, not for using the legitimate privileges of their office in a legal but self-serving way. In effect, the Constitution and the push for democracy uber alles leaves it up to the easily-manipulable people to vote out the most self-interested politicians (and as the Republican primary process proved, even if the people do try to vote against the demogogue they can end up splitting the vote and giving the demogogue the win anyway).

Despite all our polarization along partisan lines, in some ways we live in a culture significantly closer to the Founders’ intention than at any time in history, and it is proving no virtue; we now live in a world where a self-professed billionaire can run for an office he seems to treat more like a dictatorship than a presidency solely on the back of his own brand, where one particularly venal politician can bring the entire government to a standstill just to discredit the “establishment” and further his own career. Republicans may take advantage of this more than Democrats, but over the last sixteen years I have lamented that Democrats have been too moral to engage in this sort of brinkmanship; their commitment to upholding political norms, actually seek out compromise, and actually care about appealing to more than just party activists gave them a candidate for President that failed to excite those activists enough to match the enthusiasm of Trump supporters, has given them little hope of capturing the House until at least 2022, and dashed any hope of actually accomplishing any of their agenda at the national level short of favorable Supreme Court decisions – and the rise of Bernie Sanders and backlash of the party base against its establishment in the wake of Hillary’s loss (in part because of the reticence of many of Sanders’ supporters to support her even in the face of the threat posed by Trump) suggests the Democratic base is getting tired of constantly trying to appease the Republicans and constantly losing, and may be about to react to Trump’s victory and Republican control of both houses of Congress similarly to how the Republicans reacted to Obama’s similar victory. Sanders supporters who seethe at the DNC tipping the scales to Hillary should note that a similar degree of control at the RNC might have saved the country from Trump.

In Federalist #10, James Madison argued that the only way to prevent the tyranny of a majority of citizens from trampling over the rights of a minority was a system of representation, whereby “the public views” would be filtered “through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.” Demagogues and evil men might obtain high office, but this would be unlikely at large scales, since there would be more wise men, it would be harder for demagogues to charm a larger number of people, and the diversity of their opinions would be more likely to center on wiser men. A large nation, Madison argued, would have a greater diversity of interests, which would make it harder for any of them to form a majority with which to pursue their views on the whole, and even if they did they would be torn apart by internal disagreements:

The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other. Besides other impediments, it may be remarked that, where there is a consciousness of unjust or dishonorable purposes, communication is always checked by distrust in proportion to the number whose concurrence is necessary.

Madison recognized that if factions could not be avoided, the best outcome would be a large number of them, representing a diversity of competing interests, that could not band together to pursue a single policy at the expense of the minority. This, he would soon see, would not come to pass. The Constitution did nothing to prevent the diversity of interests in the United States from coalescing around two major political parties, or from being able to push their agenda on the rest of the country once they were able to form a majority. Nor could Madison foresee today’s great urban-rural divide and the formation of two great factions with diametrically opposed views hoping to achieve enough control of government to enact their agenda, with few who honestly combine views from each side, let alone hold completely novel views, and fewer who are active enough in politics to exert their own influence on the system.

It’s impossible to know what, exactly, the Founders would have done differently if they had known that the rise of parties was going to be inevitable. Likely they would have sought to find a way to direct the passions of each faction towards the good of the republic while mitigating the negative consequences they feared – perhaps incorporating the parties into the system of checks and balances in some way and creating structural, not merely cultural, incentives to compromise. If Federalist #10 is any indication, one thing they might have done would be to try to ensure that as many definitions of the good of the republic would be represented as possible, under the theory that compromise is more likely when there are many parties that are likely to find common ground with other parties than when you have two parties diametrically opposed to each other. Part of the reason for our current malaise is that we have too few political parties for the diversity of our electorate, with the result that the parties, which should be private organizations to exert a particular viewpoint on the levers of politics, have effectively become fundamental parts of the political process themselves, with the primary process being seen as every bit as important a means to express one’s duty as a citizen as the general election. In a functioning democracy, party bosses should have every right to set the rules to run their parties as they see fit, but when the parties are every bit as much a part of the political system as Congress, for them to do so smacks of corruption and twisting the political system itself to serve entrenched interests, so the parties find themselves torn between ensuring party unity, representing all the factions of their base, presenting an electable candidate, and resisting insurgency. So the Republicans are hijacked by activists to nominate perhaps the most anti-democratic major-party candidate in American history, while the Democrats’ greater control of the process ends up alienating the very activists that, in the modern American political system, they so desperately need. A healthy party system might have parties for the following viewpoints (some of which might merge with others):

  • The free market almost always knows best, and government should be shrunk and as many functions given to private enterprise as possible.
  • Government should serve to curb the excesses of the free market and provide avenues of opportunity for people to move into the middle class or the rich.
  • The capitalist system needs to be torn down and replaced with a socialist system with government at its center.
  • America is a federation of states, and so the states should be given broad leeway to run themselves as they see fit, as much as is feasible.
  • Only a singular strong, powerful leader can make America great again.
  • America is a Christian nation and should be organized around Christian principles.
  • People should have freedom to do whatever they want without impinging on other peoples’ freedom, whether that’s to get an abortion, marry someone of the same gender, own a gun, or start and run a business as they see fit.
  • Government needs to act on behalf of the environment and future generations that cannot have a direct voice in government.
  • The only goal that matters is for America to increase its GDP as much as possible.
  • America should focus on protecting its own working class from the abuses of the rich and competition from overseas.
  • America should use its power to spread the ideals of democracy all over the world and safeguard the current world order of peace.

One thing I’m fairly certain the Founders would have done differently if they had known about the inevitability of parties is greatly curb the power of the Presidency, if not get rid of it and have the head of government be chosen directly by Congress. The rise of the two-party system would make it much easier for the President to continue to accrue power across the decades while losing little to none of it, while the method of electing the President himself would end up being the single biggest factor in preventing more than two parties from forming. We’ll get into that in the next post.

Predictions for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s selections are performed by a panel of 46 leading NFL media members including representatives of all 32 NFL teams, a representative of the Pro Football Writers of America, and 13 at-large writers.

The panel has selected a list of 15 finalists from the modern era, defined as playing all or part of their careers within the last 25 years. A player must have spent 5 years out of the league before they can be considered for induction into the Hall of Fame. Players that last played in the 2011 season will be eligible for induction in 2017.

During Super Bowl Weekend, the panel will meet and narrow down the list of modern-era finalists down to five. Those five will be considered alongside one senior candidate, selected by a nine-member subpanel of the larger panel last August, and two contributors (not players or coaches), selected by another nine-member subpanel, for a total of eight. From this list, at least four and no more than eight people will be selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

My prediction for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017 is:

LaDainian Tomlinson
Kurt Warner
John Lynch
Joe Jacoby
Don Coryell
Kenny Easley
Jerry Jones
Paul Tagliabue

Hall of Fame Game: Chargers v. Cardinals

A bigly disappointing blog-day.

In certain corners of the Internet, it has long been a meme to talk about how terrible a year 2016 has been. In my case, it has been no exception. In fact, the horribleness of 2016 in the wider world weighs all the more heavily on me, even if for rather irrational, self-centered reasons.

The year started out so well. I published my book and announced it in my last blog-day post, and during the first half of the year I supplemented the book with numerous posts containing content that, for one reason or another, didn’t make it into the book, as well as posts containing my comments on the latest developments from the world of cord-cutting. I also started making plans for how to parlay the book into something that might result in me making some actual money on a regular basis, as well as weighing ideas for my next book.

And then Donald Trump won the Republican nomination, and my productivity ground to a complete halt.

Once Trump had the nomination secure, I decided I had to write a series of posts about what it meant for American democracy and how to pull it back from the abyss. The problem is, history has proven time and time again that it’s a lot harder for me to write political posts than posts on more frivolous topics. That was the case in the lead-up to the 2008 election, it was the case when I attempted to turn my short-lived Sandsday comic into a discussion of global warming, and it was the case with my Occupy Tea Party series, which didn’t go beyond two or three posts on specific topics. In the case of Trump, writing those posts meant diving into the muck of the state of American politics, and doing research on the thinking behind certain elements of the Constitution. It was far easier for me to play games and do other frivolous things all day.

In the end, I didn’t put out the first post in the series until literally the day before the election, and I still haven’t put out the intended second post. In the meantime, from June until the Flex Schedule Watch posts started in October I was once again making only one post a month. This is only the 48th post since my last blog-day post, breaking a record I already hadn’t thought would even be set as low as it was. And after Trump’s election, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that if I had put it out earlier, started the conversation before the election, perhaps a Trump victory might have been avoided as the American people focused on a more productive avenue to reform the system – or even that if I had written all the political posts I had wanted to over the last decade and worked to popularize them, we wouldn’t have come so close to the abyss to start with.

It’s a solemn occasion for another reason: this post marks the 10-year anniversary of Da Blog. It’s been a long time since I made any posts while cowering in a bus stop shelter, but it has not, so far, been the ticket to greatness I’ve hoped it would be. Perhaps this is just my disappointment with the last year talking, but Da Blog has more often than not confronted me with my own lack of work ethic in achieving any of my dreams, something that seems to have actually gotten worse as time has gone on; my posting frequency seemed to fall through the floor after I graduated from college and moved to LA with my dad, when you might expect the opposite to happen. Certainly Da Blog has contained any number of things as it has gone on, from being a home to my sports projects to housing webcomic reviews to my ongoing thoughts on the future of the Internet to covering the sports TV wars to tracking the evolution of the video market. But it has remained little more than a placeholder while I think about working on the projects I really want to, the only one of which that has come to fruition was the book, and that only because of my dad’s pushing and even then taking much longer than it had any right to.

I would like to think the next decade of Da Blog will be more productive than the last decade – that I’ll actually start gaining an audience for my writings and can actually start making an impact in the wider world. But the way this year has gone I’m not even sure civilization as we know it will exist in a decade, and I’m certainly not optimistic that we haven’t just thrown away our last chance to stop global warming from destroying civilization for us. I’ll start Year Eleven sometime after the holidays (and before the inauguration) by finishing up the series on the Constitution, including at least one post I’ve been meaning to write since 2008, and presenting my ideas for how to refresh the Constitution. After that is anyone’s guess, because it feels like it’s impossible to tell what might possibly happen next anymore. I’ve swung back around to weighing ideas for books, and as a result it may well be that going post-light every year may just be the norm from now on, but I also keep having personal projects nagging at the back of my mind to keep me wanting to come back to sports TV ratings. I may also parlay the Constitution series into a broader overview on just how society went wrong and the conflict between it and human nature. Or the pressure to actually make money may move me to start writing for other outlets, no matter how frivolous the topics I’d write about may seem. There are any number of directions I could end up going from here, and I don’t know if I’m going to end up taking any of them.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 15

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 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (7-7)
SOUTH
48-6
510-4
8-6
NORTH
39-5
69-5
8-6
WEST
211-3
8-6
10-4 8-6
EAST
112-2
8-6
CLINCHED
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (6-8)
SOUTH
49-5
510-4
8-6
NORTH
39-5
68-6
8-6
WEST
29-4-1
8-6
CLINCHED 7-6-1
EAST
112-2
7-7
10-4
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Texans-Titans, Packers-Lions, and though it’s an extreme long-shot, Andrew DeCaro will be happy to know there is a situation where Patriots-Dolphins gets picked. Both of the division title games have a very strong chance of happening, though, and Pats-Dolphins is even dependent on one of them happening, so realistically this is about as simple as last year without the NFL being stuck without a loser-out game… not that they’ll necessarily appreciate it.
  • Packers-Lions will be picked if: The Packers win OR (the Titans lose AND the Texans or Colts win). I saw the following tweet on my feed Monday:

    Certainly Packers-Lions is the game NBC would prefer to any alternative, but this overlooks two wrinkles: the possibility that the loser would still make the playoffs, and the fact the Lions play Monday night, which the NFL might be uncomfortable waiting for to announce the Week 17 SNF game, to say nothing of the rest of the schedule. Indeed, the former is pretty realistic at the moment (and cannot be guaranteed not to be the case if the Packers win), even if right now the strength-of-victory tiebreaker is needed to break the tie between the Packers and Bucs. Would the NFL take an NFC North title game that’s not loser-out (the exact scenario that, last year, prompted the league to exempt Week 17 from appearance limits this year) over an AFC South title game that is, especially since the winner of the former probably won’t receive a first-round bye (a Seahawks loss would make it much easier for the league to justify picking this game over Texans-Titans) and in fact the game may just determine home field for a rematch the following week? We’ll see. (That said, if the Texans clinch the AFC South – UPDATE: or the Colts can still steal the division – the league might not wait for Monday to move this game into Sunday night, on grounds that even if the Packers lose and Lions win to clinch the division, they could still be playing for seeding while the Packers will likely be fighting for their playoff lives, and the league wouldn’t have any better options.)

  • Texans-Titans will be picked if: The Titans win OR the Texans and Colts lose. During “Football Night in America” the announcers repeatedly played up the prospect of a Packers-Lions division title game. I didn’t watch the whole show but I saw nothing about Texans-Titans, which might be in even better shape with the two teams tied at the top of the division. It’s also unlikely, though not impossible, for the loser of this game to still make the playoffs. (UPDATE: Turns out I forgot about the Colts being a game back and the possibility of them stealing the division if they take a three-way tie into Week 17 and win alongside the Titans, even though I mentioned it last week. This is why I shouldn’t write these posts late at night.) Actually…
  • Patriots-Dolphins might be picked if: The Dolphins lose AND the Texans and Titans win AND the Ravens lose AND (the Broncos lose OR the Dolphins have already clinched the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Broncos) AND the Patriots win AND the Raiders lose. The Titans beat the Dolphins head-to-head, while if the Dolphins lose out while the Texans split to lose the division, the Texans would have the better conference record. But the Ravens and Broncos need to lose or else it might not be a win-and-in game for the Dolphins, and if the Patriots still haven’t secured the #1 seed the league might prefer this game be played the same time as the AFC West games. And even then, this scenario still wouldn’t guarantee that the Texans-Titans loser made the playoffs even with a Dolphins loss. (It’s also worth noting that if the Raiders have clinched the AFC West, then this game needs to go in the 4:25 time slot to guarantee both the Raiders and Chiefs are playing for something, in which case the NFL might prefer to give Texans-Titans a guaranteed national audience rather than let CBS bury it behind the ratings magnet of the Patriots or in the 1 PM ET time slot, even if Packers-Lions is also an option, unless they’re in the mood to cross-flex one of these games.)

At a Time of Constitutional Crisis, A Call for Radical Bipartisan Reform

Before the electoral college has even voted, we find ourselves on the verge of a constitutional crisis. Over three hundred electors find themselves in the unenviable position of voting for a man who seems to see the Presidency as a personal tyranny, a man with no political experience and little apparent interest in the minutia of governing, who has evidently discarded his pledge to “drain the swamp” and filled many cabinet positions with fellow businessmen and people opposed to the very roles they are to be lifted to, who was only elected because, many people believe and the CIA has seemed to affirm, Russia selectively expedited the leaking of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s candidacy while doing nothing public with the information they obtained by hacking the Republican National Committee – yet this is just another thing being viewed through the lens of partisan politics, something the left can cling to as a mitigating factor in Donald Trump’s election yet which Trump’s supporters disclaim the importance of, because of Republicans, according to the same reports, viewing their own power as more important than America’s independence from interference by foreign powers.

Unwilling to come to terms with a Trump presidency, many on the left are now calling on Republican electors to overrule the vote of the people that put them in their position, and the vote of their party in the primary process, to choose a more “moderate” Republican, not even recognizing the undemocratic nature of what they are asking the electors to do, considering the risks associated with a Trump presidency to be worth any measure taken to avert it – in effect, to send a message to Trump’s supporters that even if their anti-establishment champion is elected, the establishment will still be able to overrule their vote and install one of their own as President to protect their prerogatives. The left has little to say about the reaction Trump’s supporters might have to such a turn of events, which might range from widespread rioting on the low end to full-on civil war on the high end. Even as someone who considers a Trump presidency similarly unthinkable, the only thing such a measure has to recommend it is that it would create what might be a once-in-a-lifetime bipartisan consensus to abolish or reform the electoral college, the left because of its effect to overrule the popular vote even when it supports the “losing” candidate by over two million votes, Trump’s supporters because of its members’ ability to overrule the very choice of the people that put them in their position if the powers that be object strenuously enough – but I’m already seeing evidence that if the electors did succeed in keeping Trump from the White House, the left would praise the electoral college to high heaven, forgetting that unless you believe Trump’s claim to have won by an even bigger margin if he had been forced to appeal to the popular vote, the electors’ intervention was only needed because of the electoral college in the first place.

But the electoral college is only one aspect of how we got here. So is the power-hungry Republican party that will take any measure to protect, increase, and perpetuate their own power, disenfranchising those that disagree with them, going along with whatever those that agree with them choose no matter the danger to the republic, and engaging in political brinksmanship to deny even the most necessary actions if Democrats would take the credit for it. So is the unaccountable establishment that consists both of the aforementioned Republicans and of the Democratic Party that many believe went all-out to secure the nomination of Hillary Clinton even in the face of the left’s own populist uprising in support of Bernie Sanders, a candidate who might have proven the anti-Trump forces to be more about Trump himself than the establishment as a whole, and rendered themselves vulnerable to the Trump movement without realizing it until it was too late. Regardless of what happens on Monday, if we are to avert a civil war and truly take power back from the establishment, we need a bipartisan effort to hold both parties accountable and reform our system of government to be properly responsive to the people. True change was never going to come from electing a single president, whether it be Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, or even Barack Obama, but from constant, hard work of activists on all sides to put pressure on people on all levels of government. We need to recognize that when we dumped all of Trump’s supporters into the “basket of deplorables”, or dismissed his opponents (for that seems to be more true than to speak of Hillary’s supporters) as “SJWs” and “cucks” who were deluded by the establishment’s lies, or generally allowed culture-war issues to define the differences between us, we were effectively doing the establishment’s work for them. So long as we remain divided, neither side will really get what they want and will be blinded by their hatred into losing sight of the areas of common ground, all while the establishment continues to profit at the expense of the people.

Our reform effort must begin by recognizing the systemic nature of the problems infecting our government and our political discourse, specifically the two-party system. Until recently, the two-party system protected the establishment’s prerogatives by presenting a mostly unified, centrist platform and finding a few wedge issues to nudge people into voting for one side or the other, both of which would ultimately pursue the same policies outside those wedge issues. There were good reasons for the parties to take that approach, but also good reasons for people to feel disenfranchised. The people have taken greater control over the parties and they have become diametrically opposed as a result, but the two-party system is if anything even more insidious now, as moderates and anyone outside the two great camps have effectively been purged. Yet it took someone with Trump’s charisma and cult of personality for anyone truly anti-establishment to capture a major party’s presidential nomination. Anyone with misgivings about Clinton or Trump were obliged to vote for them, as they had for their respective nominees in every previous election since at least 2004, if for no other reason than the control the winning candidate would have over the future of the Supreme Court. Perhaps if third parties offered a more viable choice than Gary “what’s an Aleppo?” Johnson or Jill “I’m not anti-vax but…” Stein, people with misgivings about both candidates could have rallied around such a candidate, but even then such a candidate would have little to no direct support in Congress, and third parties’ inability to field a viable candidate ultimately stems from the same source. With Congress in gridlock as the two great forces try to stop each other from getting their way, the Presidency is perceived, whether true or not, as being of pivotal importance, and since only one man can be President, the entire direction of the nation for four years turns on this one election – and there are only two directions it can go.

In short, the establishment already has less power than ever, yet the health of the Republic as a whole has suffered more than anything else, because we are trying to work within a system that can’t accommodate the situation we find ourselves in today. The irony is that we might be about to play out one of the exact scenarios the Founding Fathers feared might be the dissolution of the republic, which they tried so hard to prevent in the Constitution, in large part because of that same Constitution’s shortcomings. That’s why on the eve of the election, I issued a call for a constitutional convention to update the Constitution for today’s realities, or at least to form a bipartisan movement to work within the Constitution to uphold its values, to make our government work again, to make it responsible to the people again, to make our system of checks and balances strong again, to make our values real again – because only then will we truly be able to make America great again. I hope people from all sides of the aisle can put aside their differences and join forces to carry out this work, or else there will be nothing to stop our descent into the abyss.

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; 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 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (6-7)
SOUTH
47-6
510-3
7-6
NORTH
38-5
68-5 5-7-1
7-6
WEST
210-3
8-5
10-3 7-6
EAST
111-2
7-6
8-5
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (5-7-1)
SOUTH
48-5
59-4
8-5
WEST
38-4-1
68-5
5-7-1
NORTH
29-4
7-5-1
2 teams at 7-6 7-6
EAST
111-2
7-6
9-4
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Giants-Swamp, Texans-Titans, Panthers-Bucs, Jaguars-Colts, Packers-Lions, Patriots-Dolphins, Raiders-Broncos, Chiefs-Chargers.
  • Chances of Texans-Titans: 35 percent. With these two teams tied at the top of the division and the Colts a game back, there are only two main obstacles to this game being flexed to NBC: the severe lack of name value of the teams and the possibility of the loser still picking up a wild card spot, and the latter isn’t too big a concern right now. With Houston holding a perfect division record including one game over the Titans, while the Titans have only one division win, this game would at least be a candidate if the teams were either tied or if the Titans took a one-game lead into Week 17; that perfect division record also means that the Colts could be tied with the Texans in the latter scenario and still allow this to be a division title game. But the Colts can’t be tied for the division lead heading into the final week, and NBC might prefer virtually any other game.
  • Chances of Packers-Lions: 25 percent. The Packers have a game in hand over the Lions so they only need to make up one game to make this a division title game, but they have the twin problems of the potential of the loser still making the playoffs and the Vikings gumming up the waterworks. Even then, so long as the Packers beat the Vikings on Christmas Eve the Vikings would lose a tiebreaker if they managed to nab a share of the division lead, with the Packers winning the three-way tiebreaker if it came to that. What may be the biggest problem is that the Lions play on Monday night Week 16, meaning this game may have to be a division title game no matter what happens there – in other words, the Packers may have to make up a game this week and then beat the Vikings – but if that happens NBC would gobble this game up in a heartbeat.
  • Chances of Giants-Swamp: 15 percent. The Giants and Bucs have identical conference records with nothing but conference games remaining, so if they finished tied the Bucs would win the tiebreaker. So if the Giants and Bucs enter Week 17 tied with Washington a half-game behind both, then the loser of this game is out as they would fall behind the Bucs no matter what, while the winner should get in if they can’t be leapfrogged by an NFC North team.
  • Chances of Raiders-Broncos: 10 percent. The Raiders have a game in hand over the Broncos but have only a one-game lead in divisional games, so depending on what games the Raiders lose or Broncos win the Broncos might only need to make up one game. But this game would also need the Dolphins, or (less likely) teams in other divisions, to cooperate in order to eliminate the loser, and both AFC West games are dependent on Broncos-Chiefs as the Christmas night game.
  • Chances of Patriots-Dolphins: 6 percent. The Dolphins would lose the common games tiebreaker to either the Raiders or Broncos, so if they all entered the week tied this game would be closer to a win-and-in, lose-and-out game than that one, for reasons described here, assuming the AFC North or South isn’t a factor… and assuming the Patriots have nothing left to play for, because if they’re still fighting for seeding the league would probably prefer to have them playing at the same time (or earlier) as the Chiefs. The flip side is that the Dolphins can still win the division if they win out and the Patriots lose out, and the Patriots aren’t even guaranteed a playoff spot yet; I don’t know if that’s more or less likely as a scenario (and I’m not sure the Patriots can be guaranteed to be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss before the rest of the Week 17 games), but it might be more likely to put this game in primetime. If the chances I give this game seem high to you, think of it as 3 percent for each of these scenarios.
  • Chances of Jaguars-Colts: 4 percent. Similar to the first Pats-Dolphins scenario above but under slightly different conditions, namely the Colts and Titans being tied for the division lead by a game over the Texans. The Colts swept the Titans so they would get in with a win, but if the Texans win and the Colts lose then the Texans’ sweep of both teams would give them the division. But this game might be even less appealing than Texans-Titans, so it would be an absolute last resort.
  • Chances of Chiefs-Chargers: 4 percent. Also similar to Pats-Dolphins, this game is also dependent on a three-way tie but for the opposite reason: the Chiefs swept the Raiders and the Broncos can’t beat them on divisional record, so if the Chiefs collapsed to the point all three teams were tied for the division lead, the Chiefs would win the division with a win no matter what happened with the Raiders and Broncos. But between this and Jags-Colts, I don’t know which scenario is less likely or which game is less desirable.
  • Chances of Panthers-Bucs: 1 percent. Unlike the other games that only matter to one team, this one isn’t nearly as cut and dry, and in fact I’m not sure a scenario even exists where this game would be picked. The best-case scenario I can find for this being a win-and-in, lose-and-out game for the Bucs is if you took the scenario for the Giants game above and moved Washington a half-game ahead of the Giants and Bucs; then, if the Giants lose and the Bucs win the Bucs would get the 6 seed if no NFC North team intervenes, if the Giants and Bucs lose the Bucs could still make the playoffs unless an NFC North team intervenes, but if the Giants win and the Bucs lose then the Bucs are out. But even that requires the NFC North to cooperate in each direction, making it difficult if not impossible to think of a situation where this game would be a true candidate but Packers-Lions was not.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 13

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 15 (December 18):

  • Selected game: Tampa Bay @ Dallas.

Week 17 (January 3):

AFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (6-6)
SOUTH
46-6
59-3
2 teams at 6-6
NORTH
37-5
68-4
7-5
EAST
210-2
7-5
7-5 7-5
WEST
110-2
9-3
NFC Playoff Picture
DIVISION
LEADERS
WILD CARD WAITING IN
THE WINGS (5-7)
SOUTH
47-5
58-4
7-5
NORTH
38-4
67-5
2 teams at 6-6
WEST
28-3-1
6-5-1
5-6-1 6-6
EAST
111-1
6-6
8-4 5-6-1
  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
  • Possible games: Saints-Falcons, Giants-Swamp, Texans-Titans, Panthers-Bucs, Jaguars-Colts, Packers-Lions, Patriots-Dolphins, Cowboys-Eagles, Raiders-Broncos, Chiefs-Chargers.
  • Preliminary analysis: Typically, since the advent of the all-division-matchups-Week-17 era, I come up with arbitrary percentage chances of each game and analyses of the situations that might reward each game in my Week 14 post, then lay out the exact Week 16 outcomes that would put a specific game into SNF in my Week 15 post. But because there’s no primetime flex scheduling in Week 16 this year, this would be a short post if I didn’t say anything here, so here’s a sneak preview of next week’s post. The NFC East is strong enough that teams might end up playing for seeding at best, although the Bucs’ resurgence is making the game in the nation’s capital potentially more interesting. But if that game doesn’t work out, the AFC South is the likeliest candidate to produce the SNF game, much to NBC’s chagrin. Raiders-Broncos and Packers-Lions could end up becoming division title games (or games with a wild-card spot on the line), but the home teams would need to make up two-game deficits, an intermediary team (the Chiefs or Vikings) would need to become irrelevant, and the loser, ideally, would need to be eliminated from wild-card contention (requiring an absolute collapse on the part of the Raiders and huge rallies by the Dolphins and/or Steelers and Ravens). See here for why the NFC South games, Jaguars-Colts, and Chiefs-Chargers are options, and why there’s a very slight chance Patriots-Dolphins or Cowboys-Eagles could be the pick even if the road teams have already clinched their respective divisions, depending on how tiebreakers work out for the home teams.

Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 15 Picks

Week 15 (December 18):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
  • Prospects: 7-5 v. 4-7-1. 7-5 is good enough for a tie for the AFC North lead at the moment, the Steelers are a name team, and the Bengals won, but this would still be very questionable.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Broncos (CBS) and Eagles-Ravens (FOX).
  • Other possible games mentioned on last week’s Watch and their records: Lions (8-4)-Giants (8-4), Bucs (7-5)-Cowboys (11-1), Titans (6-6)-Chiefs (9-3), Colts (5-6)-Vikings (6-6), Raiders (10-2)-Chargers (5-7).
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: The Colts probably need to win to give Colts-Vikings a chance, but given the competition it might not make much of a difference.
  • Analysis: Shortly after last week’s post went up, I read this article that indicated that, in fact, neither Lions-Giants nor Bucs-Cowboys was protected – though in its original version it seemed to forget that Week 17 is not bound by appearance limits anymore, which coupled with how matter-of-factly it stated those non-protections, given the lack of any word of what the protections are to this point (it’s not even confirmed what Fox did protect this week, if anything), make me wonder whether the author actually knew what the protections were or made assumptions based on something else (my site maybe?). Clearly, though, if the author felt those appearance limits were the main obstacle to flexing either game in, as opposed to how many of those appearances would be strung together in a row, then if he was privy to any inside information then neither game can be ruled out, in which case they’re really the only two options; Titans-Chiefs is a skosh less lopsided than Bucs-Cowboys but is worse in both teams’ records and averages out to a worse pair of records than Lions-Giants. My inclination is that Lions-Giants has the edge, not only because it’s less lopsided, but because for some unfathomable reason the NFL thought it was a good idea to schedule a Jets home game for Saturday night and a Giants home game the following Sunday early afternoon, giving the Metlife Stadium grounds crew *maybe* 12-13 hours to turn around the field; moving Lions-Giants to Sunday night would not only give the grounds crew more time to turn around the field, but as pointed out in the comments here, would ease the logistical pressures on NBC as their crew for the Jets game could stay in place for the Giants game. (The league could move Lions-Giants to late afternoon, but unless it’s crossflexed to CBS’ doubleheader it would effectively be an admission that the league goofed up when putting together the schedule to begin with.) The flipside, besides the ratings gold the Cowboys always are, continues to be my concern about scheduling Giants home night games on consecutive December Sundays, especially since, as pointed out in the comments here and alluded to in the above article, many older Giants fans continue to stay away from night games on the perception that they would have to wander into a wretched hive of scum and villainy. (Also, since the article’s concern about appearance limits was that either NFC East game could be picked Week 17, it’s worth noting that while both the Cowboys and Giants are in primetime Week 16, only the Giants are on NBC and would have their streak of NBC appearances extended by a Week 17 move.)
  • Final prediction: Detroit Lions @ New York Giants.
  • Actual selection: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Dallas Cowboys. And seeing a reference to that selection was what reminded me I needed to write this post. Oops. Good thing I’d already been thinking about it since reading that article and the comments on the last post. For the record, Lions-Giants is staying put at 1 PM on Fox.

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.