Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 7

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was written with the 2007 season in mind):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 11
  • In effect during Weeks 11-17
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:20 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 8:20 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks, and could not protect any games Week 17 in 2007. Unless I find out otherwise, I’m assuming that’s still the case this year, especially with no tentative game listed Week 17. When looking up info on what the protected games might be, I found out that games were protected after Week FIVE this year, and presumably in some of the previous years. Previously all I knew was that games were protected after Week 4 the first year of flexible scheduling.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 5 post.
  • A rule that may have come to light late last year but that, given its restrictiveness and lateness in coming to light, I’m having trouble accepting, is that the balance of primetime games taken from FOX and CBS can’t go beyond 22-20 one way or the other. The current tally is FOX 15, CBS 20; with tentative games, the tally is FOX 19, CBS 22. With this rule in place, Weeks 11 and 14-16 cannot be flexed away from NFC road games without making up for it in Weeks 12, 13, and 17, and even with that at least one more game would have to be flexed to an NFC road game in said weeks.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 22):

  • Tentative game: Philadelphia @ Chicago
  • Prospects: 4-2 v. 3-3. Could still keep its spot if the competitors aren’t overwhelmingly appealing, but Da Bears have to stop the slide.
  • Protected games according to this: Jets-Patriots (CBS) and Redskins-Cowboys (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Giants-Falcons is the main contender for a flex, though the Giants are in trouble, with Colts-Ravens fading and 49ers-Packers looking to be as good a game as the tentative. Look out for Chargers-Broncos as a dark horse if the Chargers keep winning and the Broncos pick up a loss or two.

Week 12 (November 29):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 5-2 v. 3-3, the Steelers are defending champs, and it’s a rivalry game – and the pickings are very slim otherwise. Very good chance of keeping its spot.
  • Protected games: Bears-Vikings (FOX).
  • Other possible games: It’s Thanksgiving Weekend, so there are some slim pickings for games. Colts-Texans involves two teams over .500, but it’s lopsided. Jaguars-49ers is a battle of 3-3 teams – it’s not beating Steelers-Ravens.

Week 13 (December 6):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Miami
  • Prospects: 5-2 v. 2-4. This game is becoming lopsided.
  • Protected games: Cowboys-Giants (FOX) and Titans-Colts (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Eagles-Falcons is a battle of 4-2 teams. Vikings-Cardinals might be better, at 6-1 v. 4-2 and the Favre factor, which could tip the balance in its favor for a flex. Keep an eye on Jaguars-Texans.

Week 14 (December 13):

  • Tentative game: Philadelphia @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: It’s an NFC East game (always = ratings), and it’s 5-2 v. 4-2, currently the top two spots in said division (even if the Eagles are still tied for #2). Still a pretty good shot to keep its spot – the Giants’ troubles might help it in the long run if the game would have become lopsided as opposed to potentially having the division lead on the line if the game was played today.
  • Protected games: Chargers-Cowboys (CBS) and Packers-Bears (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Bengals-Vikings, Broncos-Colts, and Saints-Falcons remain strong contenders. Broncos-Colts is still the only compelling candidate to flex away from Eagles-Giants (without a loss between them), given the NFL’s reticence to pull the flex – though with the Favre factor, Bengals-Vikings looks mighty compelling, and Saints-Falcons might be the Saints’ best chance for a loss all year.

Week 15 (December 20):

  • Tentative game: Minnesota @ Carolina
  • Prospects: Still lopsided, with the Vikings 6-1 and the Panthers 2-4. There are better chances to worship at the Favre altar the previous two weeks, against teams that are actually winning, not to mention the Giants Week 17 if that game has playoff implications.
  • Protected games: Packers-Steelers (Fox) and Bengals-Chargers (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Falcons-Jets is the best, at 4-2 @ 4-3, followed by 49ers-Eagles and Bears-Ravens. Those are mediocre enough games that Vikings-Panthers might keep its spot yet.

Week 16 (December 27)

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ Washington
  • Prospects: Lopsided at 4-2 v. 2-5, but it is the NFL’s biggest rivalry so never count out its chances of keeping the spot.
  • Protected games: Ravens-Steelers (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Broncos-Eagles and Jets-Colts, with Jaguars-Patriots a dark horse. Right now the main attraction of those games is the unbeaten Broncos and Colts playing teams with similar records to the Cowboys, so there’s nothing terribly compelling if both unbeatens lose but the games remain lopsided.

Week 17 (January 3):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

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