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 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: 2-5 v. 2-5, 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, although Packers-Vikings is becoming an intriguing option even with the Packers still unbeaten.

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 Rams-Bengals and Dolphins-Jets continue to wait in the wings.

Week 13 (December 6):

  • Tentative game: Indianapolis @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: 3-4 v. 4-3, a rather mediocre game but the Colts still lead the division despite being below .500.
  • Likely protections: Jets-Giants (CBS) and Eagles-Patriots (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Cardinals-Rams is the only game pitting two teams at or above .500.

Week 14 (December 13):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 3-4 v. 1-6. Not looking good.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bengals (CBS, confirmed) 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 pits an unbeaten against a better team than the Cowboys, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cowboys’ name value trumped that.

Week 15 (December 20):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: 6-0 v. 2-5. Massively lopsided.
  • Likely protections: Broncos-Steelers (CBS, confirmed) and Panthers-Giants or Bears-Vikings (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Panthers-Giants is a bit lopsided, sitting at 5-0 v. 4-3, but it’s still a Giants win better than Packers-Raiders.

Week 16 (December 27):

  • Tentative game: Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: 4-3 v. 1-6. 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 Colts-Dolphins waits in the wings.

Week 17 (January 3):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

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

  1. Guess NBC is stuck with Eagles/Cowboys on Nov. 8 and half of America will miss Green Bay/Carolina. Hopefully one or both teams will lose (especially GB since I want Denver to win).

  2. I don’t think GB-Min in Week 11 (Nov. 22) is even being considered. GB already plays on Thanksgiving Night four days later on NBC. … Almost positive GB-Min stays at noon CST on Fox.

  3. My thoughts after Week 7:

    Week 11: Same as last two weeks, CBS protects Colts-Falcons (likely main game) and allows Bengals-Cardinals to go to CBS since 4:05 game can’t go to more than half the country (Chiefs-Chargers to CBS).

    Week 12: NO CHANCE of any change for obvious reasons.

    Week 13: NO CHANCE of any change as Colts-Steelers likely as even if Colts are 3-7 after Week 11, they likely are still in contention for very bad AFC South and Steelers likely in Wild Card contention.

    Week 14: Same as last two weeks. Still think FOX protects Cowboys-Packers (as that is main 4:25 game that week) and allows Falcons-Panthers go to NBC (Seahawks-Ravens to FOX).

    Week 15: Because of the situation with the Bay Area and not being allowed to air a game opposite a team’s home game, the only possible flex here is Packers-Raiders with if so Bengals-49ers likely shifted to FOX to be the 4:05 PM game there. Any other move that flexes out Bengals-49ers would require a waiver of the normal rule that essentially prevents the Raiders and 49ers from being on simultaneously (unless playing each other) and I don’t see the NFL doing that unless BOTH the Raiders and 49ers are really bad OR the NFL makes Bengals-49ers (as suggested in the last thread by someone else) an 11:30 PM ET/8:30 PM PT game (possibly if so made an extra game on NFL Network).

    Week 16: If Steelers-Ravens is shifted out of SNF, I suspect we’ll get Falcons-Panthers again on SNF as I suspect FOX will protect Packers-Cardinals.

    Week 17: Still too early, but unless the Cowboys get their act together and the Redskins are for real, I think as long as the Eagles and Giants are within one game of each other or are tied after Week 16, Eagles-Giants in The Meadowlands is the Sunday Night Finale if that game is for the NFC East title or somehow is for the second Wild Card (as the NFC South loser likely will be the first Wild Card).

  4. Last year multiple sources showed the exact protected games. I wonder why they haven’t this year. Maybe the NFL worked harder to make sure they weren’t leaked?

  5. Walt, I still dont see Fox giving up two Carolina-Atlanta games nor NBC wanting both since neither has a huge national following but none the less a good match up for the first game for Fox because of their current records. I think they split the two and the NFL puts some influence on Fox to let the Cowboys-Packers go to Sunday night for big ratings for the common good of the NFL.

  6. We all know NBC covets showing that 4th Cowboys game each year and there isn`t really another matchup available in Dallas`s schedule besides the Packers that would be desirable enough to flex.

  7. Except Cory they may want to save that Cowboys flex for Week 17 just in case Cowboys-Redskins is for the NFC East and they are clearly 1-2 (still think right now that will be Eagles-Giants, but a lot can change between now and then).

  8. Also, they might want to save the Cowboys Flex for a possible Week 16 Cowboys-Bills SNF tilt if the Bills get their act together and that game has impact on both conferences.

  9. Also, keep in mind, the Packers can only be flexed ONCE into SNF and the NFL may need to keep Cowboys-Packers off SNF in Week 14 so the NFL can flex Packers-Raiders the following week as that is the ONLY game that can replace Bengals-49ers on SNF without creating other problems.

  10. I’d be curious to see if both Atl-Car games wind up on NBC with both games in 3 weeks. I think it is a slam dunk that FOX will protect GB-Dall on Dec. 13. As for Dec. 27, GB-Ariz looks now to be on par with them (probably higher before Arizona lost to Pittsburgh). FOX may try to game the system by leaving both games unprotected assuming NBC won’t want both of them. If FOX protects GB-Ariz, they may get both GB-Ariz and Atl-Car on Week 16.

  11. Maybe this is why none of the Fox protected games have been reveiled yet. You have the NFL in a number of potential binds: so many lopsided SNF tentative games scheduled..having to possibly show the same matchup twice on Sunday Night Football within 3 weeks…the 49ers-Raiders home game mess…how and when to get the 4th Cowboys game squeezed in…and a lack of good flex alternatives if FOX just picks and chooses. This is why I think the NFL is negotiating with FOX to bend some and why we dont know their protected games yet.

  12. I think it’s really doubtful the protections haven’t been finalized yet. It’s two whole weeks after they were supposed to have come down, which means two weeks of additional data for Fox to use. When the NFL has fought with CBS and Fox over what games to flex to Sunday, usually those have been resolved within a matter of days, and if the NFL really didn’t like what Fox protected, they can get Fox to “voluntarily” relinquish it like they did with CBS for a Broncos-Chiefs game a while back.

    Keep in mind, the NFL doesn’t actually want the protections to be known for some unfathomable reason, and they HAVE managed to keep that information from leaking in the past. There was one year when the protections didn’t leak at all, and another where I never encountered them until after the first flex came down. We only know two of the CBS protections because the Steelers revealed them because they happen to want to reveal them, and they weren’t that hard to guess anyway.

  13. Well, after the Raiders won again to get to 4-3 and actually have hold of the first Wild Card slot in the AFC (Jets have the second WC spot). This almost assures Cowboys-Packers NOT being flexed to SNF in week 14 because it’s looking more and more like the NFL will have to save that flex for Week 15 as Packers-Raiders is the ONLY game that can replace Bengals-49ers for SNF without creating other problems for the NFL.

  14. Schedule changes after Nov. 1 results:

    Nov. 22
    Bengals/Cardinals to NBC
    Packers/Vikings to 4:25pm on FOX

    Cin/Ariz might be CBS’s first choice but maybe the NFL can persuade them to let NBC have them. Would CBS really miss them, especially since they are have a single header that week? Should CBS protect Cin/Ariz, then Ind/Atl. FOX needs a DH game other than SF-Sea. So if NBC takes GB-Minn, CBS will have to give up something to FOX.

    Nov. 29
    No changes except maybe a second minor game moves to 4:25pm on CBS. Pitt/Sea is the big game but should everyone outside of the blackouts get it? I can see SD/Jack moving to 4:25.

    Dec. 6
    I can see either Ind/Pitt, Den/SD, or NYJ/NYG (think New York’s CBS and NBC will be fighting for that game?) on NBC with the other two on CBS. FOX has the DH and Phil/NE at 4:25, probably move Ariz/St.L there for a 2nd game.

    Dec. 13
    Atl/Car to NBC
    Sea/Bal to 4:25pm on FOX (1pm if they want to show Dall/GB “nationally”). Watch out for Oak/Den if Oak truly is for real. And why wouldn’t NBC want to show Peyton again?

    Dec. 20
    Possibilities: NYG/Car, Ariz/Phil, GB/Oak (who’d have thunk it?). Hou/Ind would likely be huge to who wins the AFC South if that actually matters. Cin/SF has to go to 4:25pm on CBS. As Walt said, GB/Oak to SNF would prevent SF and Oak from playing at the same time (even though the games would be scheduled for different networks).

    Dec. 27
    It should be NE/NYJ, especially if the Pats are going for another unbeaten season. It’s by far CBS’s best choice that week but they have a single header that week. Assuming CBS protects it, it might be NYG/Minn (assuming FOX protects GB/Ariz).

    Maybe they should change to only allow CBS and FOX to protect games on DH weeks. Otherwise, you have a marquee game that probably won’t even be televised in half of the country. I can see 4:25pm games being protected or a 1pm if it can be moved to 4:25pm.

  15. Last year no games were flexed. This year you can have all but Brady/Manning flexed. I think the two Steelers games (Ind on Dec. 6 and Balt on Dec. 27) have the best chances to stay among the remaining five. The other three are DOA. Maybe the NFL should just move them back now. I remember they moved a Colts game from SNF BEFORE announcing a replacement the year Peyton was hurt the whole year.

    So in the six flex weeks you have one Peyton game, one Brady game (and it’s vs. each other, one Seattle game (vs. Baltimore, who has two SNF games in December), ZERO Cowboys games, ZERO Giants games, and ZERO Packers games. The only “popular” team with two SNF games during the flex period is the Steelers. No wonder this will be the year of the flex!

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