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 20, CBS 21.
Week 17 (January 3 Playoff Positioning Watch):
|DIVISION LEADERS||WILD CARD||WAITING IN THE WINGS (6-8)|
|6 teams at 7-7|
|ALL DIVISION LEADERS HAVE CLINCHED AT LEAST A PLAYOFF SPOT|
- AFC East: Patriots (@Texans) lead by two over Dolphins (v. Steelers) and Jets, both of which they split the series with. (Since Miami swept the Jets a three-way tie would go to the Dolphins.) The Patriots and Dolphins each have divisional records of 4-2 to the Jets’ 2-4, eliminating the Jets, and I’ll wait to research common games until Sunday.
- AFC North: Bengals (@Jets) lead, Ravens (@Raiders) a game back, Steelers out by being swept.
- AFC South: Colts clinched.
- AFC West: Chargers clinched.
- AFC Wild Card: If the season ended today, the Broncos (v. Chiefs) and Ravens would get the nod (the Ravens beat the Broncos earlier in the season). The Dolphins, Jets, Steelers, Jaguars (@Browns), Texans, and Titans (@Seahawks) are a game back.
- AFC Playoff Positioning Among Division Winners: Colts have locked up the 1. Chargers (v. Redskins) have a two-game lead for the two over the Bengals and Patriots. Bengals-Jets and Dolphins-Steelers the main AFC contenders, but a lot depends on how the wild Wild Card shakes out.
|DIVISION LEADERS||WILD CARD||WAITING IN THE WINGS (7-7)|
|OUT ON TIEBREAKERS||CLINCHED PLAYOFF SPOT,
|CLINCHED 1st-RD BYE|
- NFC East: Eagles (@Cowboys) lead, Cowboys a game back, Giants two back. Because the Cowboys and Eagles play each other, the scenario that ends with the Giants tied for the division creates a three-way tie. The Cowboys would lose the division tiebreaker and the Eagles swept the Giants, so the Eagles would win the division.
- NFC North: Vikings lead by 2 games over Packers, and I don’t know if you noticed, but the Vikings swept that series.
- NFC South: Saints clinched.
- NFC West: Cardinals clinched.
- NFC Wild Card: The Packers (@Cardinals) and Cowboys would get the nod if the season ended today (Green Bay beat Dallas), with the Giants (@Vikings) a game back and the Falcons waiting in the wings but would still finish with a worse conference record than the Packers or Cowboys.
- NFC Playoff Positioning Among Division Winners: Saints (@Panthers) lead by two over Vikings, but scenario that leads to tie would give the Vikings a better conference record. Vikings lead by one over Eagles, who lead by one over Cardinals.
- Analysis: The NFC definitely has the better games with Cowboys-Eagles and Giants-Vikings, but the NFL showed last year they’re more concerned with making sure the game has playoff implications no matter what happens when we get to primetime, which would seem to favor the AFC’s chaotic race at the moment… unless the very likely case happens where Cowboys-Eagles is an effective NFC East title game, even if the loser is still in the playoffs. (See why Broncos-Eagles wasn’t picked for Week 16?) This year I’ll track evolving playoff scenarios on Twitter this Sunday.