Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 6

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 even with the bit about the early flexes, this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why 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 4:15 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 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. 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.
  • In the past, three teams could 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. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; nine teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Giants, Cowboys, Packers, and Eagles don’t have games in the main flex period, and of those only the Giants don’t have games in the early flex period. 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 11 (November 22):

  • Tentative game: Kansas City @ San Diego
  • Prospects: 1-5 v. 2-4, in pretty bad shape.
  • Likely protections: Bengals-Cardinals or Colts-Falcons (CBS) and Packers-Vikings if anything (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Pretty much just CBS’ unprotected game; even Packers-Vikings might be too lopsided to be much of an option if it’s unprotected. The Eagles were the only 2-3 team to win and none of the unbeatens lost so I’m still looking at 2-3 teams; that Eagles win helps Bucs-Eagles some, but it’s still substantially behind CBS’ unprotected game. Cowboys-Dolphins is starting to emerge as an even darker horse.

Week 12 (November 29):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Denver
  • Prospects: Not a single loss between them, and possibly the last Brady-Manning showdown. No chance to lose its spot.
  • Likely protections: Giants-Washington if anything (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving Weekend, paucity of good games (I think it’s a mortal lock this is CBS’ unprotected week). I doubt it’s a coincidence the game you think is least likely to be flexed coming into the season is the one slated for this week. Vikings-Falcons is at least becoming a respectable option, but it really has no shot, while Bucs-Colts, Rams-Bengals, and Dolphins-Jets continue to wait in the wings.

Week 13 (December 6):

  • Tentative game: Indianapolis @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: 3-3 v. 4-2, a respectable but not worldbeating game, with marquee quarterbacks but small markets.
  • Likely protections: Jets-Giants (CBS) and Eagles-Patriots (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Only other options involve teams below .500, and even then there are only two games involving only teams at 2-3 or better. Falcons-Bucs is the only unbeaten-vs-2-3 game where the 2-3 team didn’t lose last week, and that only because the Bucs were on bye, and Cardinals-Rams is the only other option. This game will keep its spot if records hold.

Week 14 (December 13):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 2-4 v. 1-5, same as Chiefs-Chargers earlier. Not looking good.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bengals (CBS) and Cowboys-Packers or Falcons-Panthers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Either of Fox’s possible protected games would be very attractive, with at least one team unbeaten at the moment, and there may not really be any other option. Raiders-Broncos is another unbeaten v. 2-3 game, and Bills-Eagles at least pits two teams at .500, but that’s it.

Week 15 (December 20):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: 6-0 v. 2-4. Massively lopsided.
  • Likely protections: Broncos-Steelers (CBS) and Panthers-Giants or Bears-Vikings (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Panthers-Giants is increasingly lopsided, sitting at 5-0 v. 3-3, while Cardinals-Eagles is now 4-2 v. 3-3. Packers-Raiders is a bit too lopsided to be an option at the moment, at only a Raiders loss better than the tentative.

Week 16 (December 27):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 4-2 v. 1-5. One of the NFL’s better rivalries, but not in the best shape right now.
  • Likely protections: Patriots-Jets (CBS) and Packers-Cardinals or Panthers-Falcons (FOX).
  • Other possible games: As with the week with the first Panthers-Falcons matchup, Fox’s unprotected game is far and away ahead of any other contenders; Giants-Vikings is a very distant second, while Cowboys-Bills and Colts-Dolphins pit 3-3 v. 2-3 teams.

Week 17 (January 3):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

7 thoughts on “Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 6

  1. My thoughts after Week 6:

    Week 11: No change from a week ago, Bengals-Cardinals and Chiefs-Chargers get flip-flopped since the latter is still seen by everyone who has to get a late game on CBS while Bengals-Cardinals could have playoff seeding in both conferences and possibly more in play.

    Week 12: NO CHANCE of a Flex for obvious reasons.

    Week 13: NO CHANCE of a Flex since the Colts likely will be battling for the AFC South, even if it’s a year where that division winner could be 7-9 or worse.

    Week 14: Falcons-Panthers likely replaces Seahawks-Ravens since I think there is a 100% chance FOX protects Cowboys-Packers that week.

    Week 15: Tricky because if you flex the Giants or Eagles into SNF here, you can’t flex Eagles-Giants in Week 17 because both can only be flexed ONCE.

    One thing to remember is the fact the Raiders and 49ers between them do have to have a certain number of national TV slots and 1:00 PM ET games between them due to the fact neither team can be scheduled for a 10:00 AM PT game and I doubt the NFL wants to waive that rule having the 49ers and Raiders playing at home simultaneously. With that in mind, Bengals-49ers likely stays OR if the Raiders are in contention for an AFC Wild Card after Week 13 and the 49ers (currently one game out of the second NFC Wild Card since they hold the tiebreaker with the Vikings) are out of playoff contention, Packers-Raiders gets flexed into SNF (though I’m not sure that will happen given the Raiders host the Changers on Christmas Eve night in what may very well be the final NFL game in Oakland).

    Week 16: Will largely depend right now on where the Steelers stand with regard to the AFC North and Wild Card (Steelers currently have a one-game lead for the second Wild Card over the Bills and 1 1/2 games over everyone else). As of now, unless the Ravens completely fall off the deep end OR there is a more compelling game not protected, I suspect this one stays.

    Week 17: Way too early for any serious predictions here. As things stand now, the NFC East could go all the way to the end and the Eagles-Giants rematch could very well be the final game of the NFL’s regular season since as bad as they were Monday night, unless the Cowboys get their act together once healthy the rematch in the Meadowlands could be for an NFC East title where the winner is 8-8 or 9-7.

  2. I meant in the last post, the NFL can’t schedule the Raiders or 49ers for a 10:00 AM Pacific Time HOME game and I don’t think the NFL would want to waive the normal rules that bar games from airing opposite home games even where it’s a case two home games are airing simultaneously (as would be the case if Bengals-49ers is flexed out in Week 15 and Packers-Raiders is NOT Flexed into SNF).

    The only possible work-around to flexing out Bengals-49ers from SNF without ANY of the above happening otherwise would be a deal would be worked out where EITHER Bengals-49ers OR Packers-Raiders is shifted to the Saturday night slot on NFL Network that has Jets-Cowboys currently scheduled with Jets-Cowboys then flexed into SNF. I doubt the NFL would go that route, so I suispect NBC and the NFL are going to hope the 49ers and/or Raiders get into serious playoff contention so if there is any flex at all that week (15), it’s with the two Bay Area games.

  3. Bof:

    Eagles will at worst be 3-4 and in NFC East contention going into the Cowboys Game (Eagles have their bye next week) and if they beat Carolina, they will have a share of first at worst going into their bye week at 4-3. Even if Cowboys lose off the bye, they will be 2-4 and still very much in contention in what is so far a very weak NFC East (even more so if the Eagles and Cowboys BOTH lose this week).

  4. For the Week 15 issue and the Bay Area teams conflict, there is the precedent of Sunday Late Night Football from Week 5 of the 2013 Season – granted it was done to accommodate the MLB A’s Playoff game, but that means it is possible for a Bay Area team to play a home game on Sunday night AFTER the NBC SNF game (which was the 49ers that night, too)

    I don’t see in the “Flex Scheduling” rules that the game being Flexed out of SNF on NBC HAS to return to a day game on CBS or FOX. The downside here, is the visiting team to the 49ers, the Bengals, would be playing a road game that starts at 11:35 PM ET, not good for fans back in OH, if the 49ers got Flexed into Sunday Late Night Football (which avoids the Oakland Game conflict in the 4:15ish slot)

  5. Green Bay/Carolina currently sits at 6-0 vs. 6-0. Eagles at Dallas is 3-4 vs. 2-4.

    From what you said, NFL/NBC must declare their intention to flex a game and then CBS and FOX can protect one each. If they declare intent and FOX and CBS lock up the obvious choices (GB-Car, Den-Ind), can NBC/NFL just say let’s just keep Phil/Dall or would they HAVE to choose another game? If NBC/NFL has to choose another game, they probably keep it.

    Let’s assume NFL/NBC can announce intent but still get to keep the game if they don’t like the flex choices. CBS certainly protects Peyton vs. Luck. But would FOX then say let NBC have GB/Car so we can get Phil/Dall back?

    I would say a majority of America will see all three of Phil/Dall, GB/Car, Den/Indy. Only TB and SF will miss Den/Indy (no other CBS games in that window). The 1pm FOX game would be missed by plenty of cities including TB and SF who will miss both games because they are stuck with the FOX 4pm game (barring a blackout).

  6. I can’t believe there is a site dedicated to breaking down flex schedule…. A real ninche..

    Love it, great. I check it every week.

    Keep up good work

Leave a Comment