Note: This post (mostly) does not incorporate the result of the Thursday night game. Hey, at least I didn’t skip it entirely like last year.
Since it started in its current format as the NFL’s main primetime package in 2006, the defining feature of NBC’s Sunday Night Football has been the use of flexible scheduling to ensure the best matchups and showcase the best teams as the season goes along. Well, that’s the theory, anyway; the reality has not always lived up to the initial hype and has at times seemed downright mystifying. Regardless, I’m here to help you figure out what you can and can’t expect to see on Sunday nights on NBC.
A full explanation of all the factors that go into flexible scheduling decisions can be found on my NFL Flexible Scheduling Primer, but here’s the Cliffs Notes version with all the important points you need to know:
- The season can be broken down into three different periods (four if you count the first four weeks where flexible scheduling does not apply at all) for flexible scheduling purposes, each with similar yet different rules governing them: the early flex period, from weeks 5 to 10; the main flex period, from weeks 11 to 17; and week 18. In years where Christmas forces either the Sunday afternoon slate or the Sunday night game to Saturday in Week 16, flex scheduling does not apply that week, and the main flex period begins week 10. Note: This year NBC’s press release indicated that the main flex period begins in Week 11 even though Christmas falls on Sunday. I’m assuming this is correct and the result of NBC still being able to have six weeks in the main flex period despite this because of the expansion of the season.
- In all cases, only games scheduled for Sunday may be moved to Sunday night. Thursday and Monday night games are not affected by Sunday night flexible scheduling (discounting the “flexible scheduling” applied to Saturdays in December in recent years – see below).
- During the early and main flex periods, one game is “tentatively” scheduled for Sunday night and listed with the Sunday night start time of 8:20 PM ET. This game will usually remain at that start time and air on NBC, but may be flexed out for another game and moved to 1, 4:05, or 4:25 PM ET on Fox or CBS, no less than 12 days in advance of the game.
- No more than two games can be flexed to Sunday night over the course of the early flex period. If the NFL wishes to flex out a game in the early flex period twelve days in advance, CBS and Fox may elect to protect one game each from being moved to Sunday night. This is generally an emergency valve in situations where the value of the tentative game has plummeted since the schedule was announced, namely in cases of injury to a key star player.
- CBS and Fox may also each protect games, historically in five out of six weeks of the main flex period, but all of those protections must be submitted after week 5, week 4 in years where the main flex period begins week 10 (so it is always six weeks before the start of the main flex period).
- No team may appear more than six times across the league’s three primetime packages on NBC, ESPN, and Fox/NFL Network, and only three teams are allowed to appear that often, with everyone else getting five. In addition, no team may appear more than four times on NBC. All teams’ number of appearances heading into this season may be seen here.
- According to the league’s official page, teams are notified when “they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.” However, they rarely make this known to the fans, and the list of each network’s protections has never officially been made public. It used to leak fairly regularly, but has not leaked since 2014.
- In all cases, the NFL is the ultimate arbiter of the schedule and consults with CBS, Fox, and NBC before moving any games to prime time. If the NFL does elect to flex out the Sunday night game, the network whose game is flexed in may receive the former tentative game, regardless of which network would “normally” air it under the “CBS=AFC, Fox=NFC” rules, keeping each network’s total number of games constant. At the same time, the NFL may also move games between 1 PM ET and 4:05/4:25 PM ET. However, this feature focuses primarily if not entirely on Sunday night flexible scheduling.
- In Week 18, the entire schedule is set on only six days notice, ensuring that NBC gets a game with playoff implications, generally a game where the winner is the division champion. More rarely, NBC may also show an intra-division game for a wild card spot, or a game where only one team wins the division with a win but doesn’t win the division with a loss, but such situations are rare and 2018 and 2020, respectively, were the first times it showed such games. If no game is guaranteed to have maximum playoff implications before Sunday night in this fashion, the league has been known not to schedule a Sunday night game at all. To ensure maximum flexibility, no protections or appearance limits apply to Week 17. The NFL also arranges the rest of the schedule such that no team playing at 4:25 PM ET (there are no 4:05 games Week 17) could have their playoff fate decided by the outcome of the 1 PM ET games, which usually means most if not all of the games with playoff implications outside Sunday night are played at 4:25 PM ET, except for two games moved to Saturday to be simulcast on ESPN and ABC.
Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:
Week 17 (January 1):
- Tentative game: LA Rams @ LA Chargers
- Prospects: Effectively flexed out already with the Chargers now maxed out on primetime appearances without it. The Rams’ surprisingly woeful season has sealed its fate.
- Likely protections: Vikings-Packers (CBS) and Saints-Eagles, Jets-Seahawks, or nothing (FOX).
- Other possible games: See my not-so-Last-Minute-Remarks post. Jets-Seahawks, Dolphins-Patriots, and Panthers-Bucs remain the main contenders, while Steelers-Ravens, Browns-Maroons, and Niners-Raiders continue to climb into contention.
- Analysis: For the second time, the NFL is pulling a “six-day hold” on the Sunday night game in the penultimate week, something that by all reports will become an explicit ability of the league’s once the new TV contracts kick in next year. That time the tentative was announced as keeping its spot while the late afternoon games were still ongoing, and the rest of the results would have favored the alternative to the tentative. This time, it was reported to the 506sports Discord that CBS had sent out an email indicating that the Week 17 schedule might not be finalized until Monday. One reason for the league’s patience might be that Dolphins-Patriots might be the best option available to them, but barring a crossflex losing Dolphins-Patriots would leave CBS with Steelers-Ravens as their best early game, though the situation isn’t quite as dire as when Eagles-Giants was in a similar situation some weeks back, as the Steelers are at least on the periphery on the playoff picture and Fox has both Browns-Maroons and Panthers-Bucs available in the early window.What I said in the Last-Minute Remarks post about the chances of each team being eliminated mostly holds, though it was pointed out on the 506sports Discord that there is a very slight chance of a scenario that would leave the Patriots eliminated from the playoffs before a hypothetical Sunday night tilt with the Dolphins. That leaves the question of how each game might affect the Week 18 schedule.
- Jets-Seahawks: There are a number of scenarios where Jets-Dolphins either is a Sunday night game or would have the winner beat the potential loser of a Sunday night game. If the Jets win and either the Dolphins lose to the Packers or the Patriots lose to the Bengals, a Jets win over the Seahawks could put Jets-Dolphins into Sunday night contention; if the Dolphins and Patriots both lose the Jets result could affect the chances of Patriots-Bills no matter which way it goes; on the other hand, if the Patriots, Dolphins, and Jets all win the Jets-Seahawks game could affect the chances for Chargers-Broncos; same goes if the Dolphins and Chargers lose regardless of the Jets’ result. If the Raiders win, Dolphins lose, and either the Patriots or Chargers lose, then you’re looking at the possibility of Jets-Seahawks affecting Chiefs-Raiders, although that might also hinge on the Monday night result anyway to see what the Chiefs have to play for. Realistically, though, any combination of results could put Jets-Dolphins in play at least for Saturday; you’d almost want the Dolphins to lose and Jets to win just to make it so that the game’s a Saturday candidate regardless of the Week 17 results, except of course that puts it in play for Sunday. As for the Seahawks, a Packers win all but guarantees that some game’s Sunday night chances could hinge on Jets-Seahawks, whether it’s Packers-Lions itself, Giants-Eagles, or Cowboys-NotIndians, while a Lions win over the Panthers opens up the possibility of the Seahawks themselves getting the Sunday night nod.
- Dolphins-Patriots: In addition to all the AFC scenarios that apply to Jets-Seahawks, if the Patriots and Chargers lose while the Browns, Steelers, and Dolphins win that could also make this game affect the chances of Chargers-Broncos.
- Panthers-Bucs: The Bucs need to win and the Falcons lose to wipe out the possibility of Bucs-Falcons being a division title game, with the Bucs’ win also eliminating Panthers-Saints from consideration. Then you can’t have both the Panthers losing and the Saints winning. This is the only game that can have a scenario where it can’t affect the Week 18 Sunday night game, with one caveat (two if you count the Bucs playing on Christmas night):
- It would be nice if the Bengals and Ravens either both won or both lost. That way, if the Ravens win Ravens-Bengals is a guaranteed division title game and the Sunday night game, at least, doesn’t need to wait for anything else; if the Ravens lose the possibility of a division title game hinges on the Monday night game and you might as well put whatever game you want on Sunday night.
- Finally, I expect the NFL would want to announce the Week 17 schedule, or at least get started on determining it, as soon as possible. On that front it’s notable that the Dolphins play on Christmas and the Chargers play on Monday night; if the Jets lose on Thursday, both of those results would factor into whether the Jets could be eliminated by a hypothetical Sunday night tilt with the Seahawks.
- Final prediction: Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (if the Bucs win, Falcons lose, Bengals lose, and either the Panthers win or the Saints lose), New York Jets @ Seattle Seahawks (if the above scenario doesn’t happen, the Jets win, and the Seahawks win OR Washington loses), Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots (if the Jets lose OR (the Patriots and Washington both win AND the Seahawks lose), and the Panthers-Bucs scenario doesn’t happen), Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (if the Jets and Washington both win and the Patriots and Seahawks both lose). Note that if this last scenario comes into play, and the rest of the original Panthers-Bucs scenario still doesn’t happen, I could see a game involving a 7-8 AFC team steal the spot; conversely I wouldn’t be totally surprised if Jets-Seahawks or Dolphins-Patriots (really only the latter, since this is going up after that Thursday night “performance”) are flexed in before the Sunday night game even if the Panthers-Bucs scenario is still alive, especially if the Texans upset the Titans to ensure Titans-Jaguars is for the division.
Week 18 (January 8):
- Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
- Games to watch: Every game except Texans-Colts is in play to at least move to Saturday. For Sunday night, Vikings-Bears, Browns-Steelers, and Cardinals-Niners are the only other games not in contention, although the pathway for Chiefs-Raiders is exceptionally narrow, the Thursday night result means Jets-Dolphins can only move to Saturday at best, and there’s a clear favorite on the board and another game that’s a clear backup option if the first choice doesn’t pan out. Percentage chances reflect likelihood of the game in question being a candidate for Sunday night only, not Saturday and not necessarily taking into consideration how likely they are to actually be taken, and as always, are based on ESPN Analytics’ percentage chances for each relevant game, with numbers for Jaguars-Jets taken shortly before kickoff and everything else taken around 10 PM PT.
- Chances of Ravens-Bengals: 74 percent. If this is a division title game, it’s got a high likelihood to move to Sunday night despite both teams being likely to make the playoffs, not only because of the marketability of Jackson v. Burrow, but because with the Bengals playing the previous Monday night, this game probably can’t move to Saturday, so it can only be displaced from Sunday night if there are enough other games that can go in standalone windows for both ESPN and NBC to be taken care of. As such the percentage chances for the other games mostly assume this game isn’t in play, with numbers for games not directly affected by the Ravens and Bengals games working under the assumption this game can’t be a Sunday night candidate for those games to be chosen. As it stands, the Ravens beat the Bengals the first time they played but are a game back now, but if the Ravens lose the next two weeks while the Bengals win their next two the Ravens would hold the edge in division record, so either the teams need to stay as they are right now or the Ravens can make up no more than one game.
- Chances of Titans-Jaguars: 20 percent. Jacksonville beat the Titans the first time, but if the Jaguars manage to take the lead heading into the final week the Titans would have the edge on division record with a win, so all that needs to happen for this to be a division title game is at least two combined Titans losses and Jags wins, hence the surprisingly high chances even with the assumption that Ravens-Bengals can’t be a division title game. (The chances jump up to 77 percent without that assumption.) But this would probably only move to Sunday night, as opposed to Saturday, as a last resort, even with the loser being out of the playoffs as opposed to merely settling for the wild card as in the case of Ravens-Bengals. One additional twist: if both teams lose their next two, the Colts would need to lose at least once, or else they could steal the division if they and the Jaguars both win, likely forcing both AFC South games to be played at the same time on Sunday.
- Chances of Jets-Dolphins: 11 percent. Miami won the first time and if they beat the Patriots they would hold the edge on common games, so either the Jets would need to win their next two while the Dolphins lost to the Packers, or the Patriots would need to beat the Dolphins. But the Patriots swept the Jets, so if they beat the Dolphins they’d need to lose to the Bengals and the Jets would still need to win their next two. On top of that, either way the Chargers would need to win at least once to not open up the possibility of the Jets still getting a playoff spot with a loss. Finally, if the Dolphins were to lose to both the Packers and Patriots, the Raiders would need to lose at least once or else they could knock the Dolphins out of the playoffs on common games even with a Dolphins win. Since this would be a loser-out game, it might be able to sneak in to Sunday night over Ravens-Bengals with enough other games that can move to Saturday… or it would be if this game were still alive. Strange as it sounds now, ESPN Analytics favored the Jets over the Jaguars by enough to put this game’s chances this high, even though the Jets would have needed to win against both the Jaguars and Seahawks for it to be an option, and wouldn’t even have been favored against the latter!
- Chances of Bucs-Falcons: 7 percent. Pretty straightforward situation here. The Bucs won the first time they played, so the Falcons need to win one more game than the Bucs; then to clear the field and ensure the winner of this game wins the division, the Panthers and Saints need to each lose at least once. Alternately, if the Panthers and Bucs both split with the Panthers beating the Bucs, the Saints win their next two, and the Falcons lose at least once, the Bucs would be tied with a Saints team they swept and a game ahead of a Panthers team that swept them, meaning they’d win the division with a win but would fall behind the Panthers-Saints winner with a loss, while the Falcons would be out of the playoffs by virtue of being swept by the Saints and having the worst division record, so the Panthers-Saints result wouldn’t affect what they have to play for. This is one game that could displace Ravens-Bengals if there are enough other games that can move to Saturday, as Tom Brady’s potential swan song, but the Bucs should be favored in each of their next two games, the Saints are the opposite, and the Falcons look to be big underdogs against the Ravens, so this game being for the division is easier said than done, and that’s even more the case for…
- Chances of Panthers-Saints: 4 percent. If the Bucs lose their next two, including the Panthers completing a sweep, while the Saints win their next two, this could become a division title game. Only caveat is that if the Lions beat the Panthers this week, the Falcons would need to lose at least once so they wouldn’t enter the week ahead of the Panthers. Alternately, if the Panthers and Falcons both win their next two while the Bucs beat the Cardinals, or if the Bucs lose their next two while the Panthers and Falcons each split, the Panthers would win the division with a win but would fall behind the Bucs-Falcons winner with a loss; then the Saints would need to perform worse than the Panthers and Falcons, as in the event of a four-way tie entering the final week, the Saints would lose a tiebreaker to the Bucs but win one against the Falcons.
- Chances of Chargers-Broncos: 2 percent. This would likely require the Chargers to lose their next two, unless they split, the Patriots win their next two, the Dolphins precede a loss to New England with a win over the Packers, and the Jets beat the Jaguars but lose to the Seahawks. That would give the Patriots the edge over the Dolphins on division record if they and the Dolphins have the same result, and if the Dolphins, Patriots, and Chargers all lost, either the Patriots would hold the edge over the Chargers on conference record if the Chargers’ loss came against the Colts, or the Patriots would need to have clinched the strength of victory tiebreaker. The Patriots might be pretty close to locking up strength of victory as it is, though, and if the Patriots do win their tiebreaker, the Jets would hold the edge over the Chargers either on conference or common games. If the Chargers lose their next two, they could fall behind the Jets-Dolphins winner if the Dolphins also lose two while the Jets reverse their results from the scenario above (though if the Patriots split they’d still need to clinch the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Chargers), or they could fall behind the Browns-Steelers winner if those teams each win their next two. In the latter scenario, either the Dolphins would still need to lose their next two while either the Patriots or Jets won their next two, or the Jaguars would need to beat the Jets no matter what to keep the Jets from holding the edge on conference games, and if the Patriots lost to the Bengals but beat the Dolphins (and either the Dolphins beat the Packers or the Jets lost to the Jaguars), then the Chargers would need to have clinched the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Patriots.
- Chances of Cowboys-NotIndians: 1 percent. If the Packers win their next two, the Lions and Washington split, and the Seahawks do no better than split, Washington would be sitting at 8-7-1 and a loss would put them behind, at minimum, the 9-8 Packers-Lions winner, or in the event of a Packers-Lions tie, the Lions’ wins over the Packers and Washington would give them the edge; meanwhile the Cowboys would need to be locked into the 5 seed, eliminated from the division but with the same or better record than the Giants over their next two. Cowboys always = ratings but I can’t see this displacing Ravens-Bengals, even if another game joins Packers-Lions as a Saturday candidate, when the Cowboys wouldn’t have anything to play for.
- Chances of Lions-Packers: 1 percent. The Lions beat the Packers the first time, so the teams need to either be tied or the Packers need to outright take the lead over them – but the Seahawks beat the Lions so if the Lions lose their next two they aren’t guaranteed to have a playoff spot waiting for them with a win, so the Packers need to win their next two while the Lions split and Seattle and Washington each lose their next two. (The Packers can be a game behind the Lions and still finish ahead of them with a win, but besides both teams winning their next two while Washington loses their next two, the Packers would also need to have clinched the strength of victory tiebreaker, and in order to do that heading into Week 18 every result that would make a difference would have to go their way, including the Seahawks beating the Jets and the Giants losing their next two. That would put the Lions ahead of both the Giants and Washington, so that would require the Seahawks to beat the Chiefs as well to make the game win-and-in, lose-and-out for them, but the Packers would still have a worse record than the Giants and Seahawks so would need one of them to lose to make the playoffs, which would make this a Saturday game at best.) Washington is slightly favored against the Browns and the Seahawks look like they should be favored against the Jets, but if this is a candidate, and there are enough other games that can move to Saturday, it might be able to displace Ravens-Bengals because of Aaron Rodgers’ star power. As a result, this game sits behind the Washington game in the pecking order by only .04%.
- Chances of Patriots-Bills: <1 percent. As with Ravens-Bengals this game probably can’t move to Saturday as the Bills play the previous Monday night. In this scenario the Bills need to have clinched the first-round bye and the Patriots need to be in a win-and-in, lose-and-out situation. That could mean that the Dolphins lose their next two, including to the Patriots, while the Patriots lose to the Bengals, which would give the Patriots the edge on division record; then either the Jets, who the Patriots swept, would also need to split their next two, or both the Browns and Steelers would need to win their next two as the Patriots beat them both. Alternately, if the Chargers lose their next two while the Patriots perform the same split and clinch the strength-of-victory tiebreaker over them, and the Browns and Steelers hold up their end of the bargain (and two Steelers wins might lock up strength-of-victory for the Patriots by itself), what the Dolphins and Jets do becomes less relevant, and in fact the Dolphins might need to beat the Packers to ensure the Patriots can’t end up with a playoff spot even with a loss. The Chargers are significant favorites in their next two games against underwhelming opposition, the Dolphins are slight favorites over the Packers, and ESPN considers the Patriots-Dolphins game to be evenly matched, which adds up to this game only having a .8% chance.
- Chances of Rams-Seahawks: <1 percent. Now we get to the really slim chances. If the Seahawks, Lions, and Packers all have the same record the next two weeks while Washington is at least a game worse, the Seahawks would come into the week holding the 7 seed thanks to their win over the Lions, but could fall behind the Packers if they lose and the Packers win. Whether or not they would is where things get complicated. If the Packers beat the Vikings they’d hold the edge in conference record over the Seahawks, but if the Lions beat the Bears, the Packers would need to beat the Dolphins to secure a tie in common games and then clinch the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Lions, and that would run into the same situation mentioned with Packers-Lions above where the Seahawks would enter the week with the 6 seed and could still make the playoffs with a loss. If the Packers lose to the Vikings but beat the Dolphins, the Lions would have to lose to the Bears to keep from having the edge in division record, and the Packers would need to clinch the strength of victory tiebreaker over both the Lions and Seahawks, and the Lions would have enough of a head start in this scenario with two pairs of teams they beat playing each other over the next two weeks that that’s not actually possible. So this game’s only shot is for the Lions to beat the Panthers and the Dolphins beat the Packers this week, and then for the two NFC North teams to reverse those results next week.
- Chances of Chiefs-Raiders: <1 percent. There’s a chance the Chiefs would hold the first-round bye with a win but would fall behind the AFC North winner with a loss, but that would probably send this game to Saturday. On the other hand, if the Raiders win their next two, the Dolphins lose their next two, and the Jets split, the Raiders, Jets, and Dolphins would all be sitting at 8-8 with the Raiders holding the edge over the other two in common games, and would have beaten the Patriots directly if the Pats lose to the Bengals. (If the Pats beat the Bengals, the Chargers would need to lose their next two to open up their playoff spot, in which case the Raiders would hold the edge over them in division record.) Then the Chiefs would just need to be locked into their seed, though if we need to avoid an AFC North division title game, that would likely mean the Chiefs need to win their next two while the Bills lose their next two, clinching the first-round bye for Mahomes and company. (Patrick Mahomes is enough of a star that this game might be able to displace Ravens-Bengals with enough Saturday candidates, but that would likely require both teams to have something to play for.)
- Chances of Giants-Eagles: <1 percent. This would require the Giants to lose their next two (including to the Colts) while Washington wins their next two (including against the Niners), thus falling to the 7 seed; then the Giants would be in the same situation as Washington would be with their game above if the Packers, Lions, and Seahawks have the same results as in that situation. Oh, and the Eagles would need to have already locked up the first-round bye, and I’m assuming this game can’t displace Ravens-Bengals. All that adds up to very slightly worse chances than Chiefs-Raiders.
52 thoughts on “Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 15”
Week 17: With the Jets losing, Jets-Seahawks is now firmly out of the running for SNF.
Panthers-Bucs will be SNF if the Pats lose, or if it decides who’s in 1st place in the NFC South come week 18.
Dolphins-Pats will be SNF if the Patriots win, and Panthers-Bucs doesn’t decide who’s in 1st place in the NFC South going into week 18.
Believe it or not, the Saints could be flexed into SNF two straight times. If everybody in the NFC south besides them loses week 16, and the Pats lose, Saints-Eagles will be SNF.
Week 18: Panthers-Saints will be SNF if the above scenario happens, including the Saints & Panthers winning Week 17.
Bucs-Falcons will be SNF if the Falcons win their next two, then the Saints and Panthers need to lose once.
Titans-Jags will be SNF if the Titans lose once, or the Jags need to beat the Texans.
Lions-Packers will be SNF if the Seahawks and Commanders lose out, both teams have at least 8 wins, and the above scenarios don’t happen.
Ravens-Bengals will be SNF if the Ravens are tied or one game back to the Bengals, and the above scenarios don’t happen.
Had the NFL played the bulk of its games in Week 16 on Monday 12/26 instead of Saturday 12/24 (with HOU-TEN and DAL-PHI standalone Christmas Eve games and LV-PIT and TB-AZ the Christmas Day games), I suspect we would have had ESPN/ABC with a flex option for MNF with the originally scheduled game being DEN-LAR (being scheduled for MNF instead of Christmas Day) and likely flexed out for CIN-NE.
Week 17: I still think what winds up happening because of it being New Year’s Day is local authorities in many instances in the Eastern and Central time zones request the NFL have their scheduled games in the late afternoon window because especially with personnel shortages in some areas, there may be situations where personnel have to work until 2:00 AM or later local time on New Year’s Eve and then wheel right back to work the game in question on New Year’s Day, plus there are cases (most notably Atlanta where the Peach Bowl, the second College Football Playoff semifinal is taking place with an 8:00 PM ET kickoff New Year’s Eve) where they may need more time to get the stadium ready for an NFL game. With that in mind, I think we see a rare reverse doubleheader where 1:00 PM is the doubleheader slot with Dolphins-Patriots on CBS as the main game and Colts-Giants cross-flexed to FOX as their sole 1:00 PM ET game and all other games (other than SNF and MNF) put in the 4:05/4:25 PM ET window that could in this case be pushed back to 4:35/4:45 or 4:55 (to assure on CBS Dolphins-Pats finishes before the regional games start, and this could include Jets-Seahawks if at 4:35 remaining on FOX to give New York a double-doubleheader that has been done with the Rams and Chargers a couple of times since both moved to LA) with SNF pushed back from an 8:20 to an 8:40 PM ET kickoff. This again would NOT be unprecedented as back in the 1980’s, CBS and NBC would from time-to-time have their main game at 1:00 PM ET with the regional games at 4:00 PM ET.
Panthers-Bucs to me still looks like the frontrunner for SNF EXCEPT there is a potential problem with moving THAT to SNF: Raymond James Stadium, the Bucs home, has the ReliaQuest (formerly Outback) Bowl at Noon on Monday 1/2 and it’s possible stadium officials would not want CAR-TB moved to SNF because it severely shortens the time to get the stadium ready for the Bowl game with if CAR-TB moved to SNF that bowl game (scheduled to air on ESPN2) having to be moved to the evening (likely an 8:45 PM ET kickoff after the Rose Bowl on ESPN2 with the main MNF telecast being an ABC-only vehicle and the Peyton and Eli simulcast moved from ESPN2 to ESPN). That might prevent that game from being flexed to SNF.
If Panthers-Bucs can’t be flexed to SNF due to the ReliaQuest Bowl the next day, assuming CBS protected Dolphins-Pats (or that game is absolutely needed for 1:00 PM on CBS because that is the doubleheader slot due to what I noted above) if the Eagles lose to the Cowboys this week and need it to be the #1 NFC Seed while the Saints win this week and will be in contention regardless of the Bucs-Cardinals game on Sunday, then Saints-Eagles could be SNF as that I also think is a game local authorities would want to be played later due to the Mummers Parade taking place during the day. Ravens-Steelers potentially comes into play if the Steelers win this week (and especially if the Pats and Seahawks both lose this week) since the Steelers might very well suddenly control their playoff destiny in that scenario.
Week 18: In spite of what some people have said, I do think the NFL COULD have the Bengals play BOTH Monday in Week 17 and Saturday in Week 18 because both games are at home and no travel would be involved, offsetting any disadvantages the Bengals would have playing that way because the Ravens would be on the road both weeks. I also do believe you must have one AFC AND one NFC game on Saturday, meaning if the Lions continue to win, their game with the Packers regardless of whether or not it means anything to the Pack could be the 4:30 PM ET Saturday game with Ravens-Bengals at 8:15 on Saturday.
As for SNF, I do think if Titans-Jaguars is for the AFC South, I suspect that is the SNF finale because it would be the first SNF game for Trevor Lawrence, the #1 pick a year ago. I suspect the NFL and NBC would want to get Lawrence an SNF game and I believe if the Jags win next week OR the Titans lose either this week to the Texans OR on Thursday to the Cowboys, that game is for the AFC South regardless of what the Jags do on New Year’s Day. That right now to me is the frontrunner for Week 18 SNF.
Walt: I don’t think ESPN will have a problem with having an ABC exclusive broadcast of MNF for one week.
I would think it would actually come down to if the ReliaQuest Bowl had to be moved to after the Rose Bowl due to Panthers-Bucs being SNF is would the NFL, not Disney care if they wound up with a bowl game opposite MNF even if said bowl game was on ESPN2 (as I’m sure the station managers of ABC affiliates would be very happy that MNF’s main feed would be ABC-only and the Peyton/Eli feed would be on ESPN).
Walt: I don’t think that having a bowl game at the same time as MNF will affect the viewership of MNF that much. Its a sacrifice the NFL will probably make if Panthers-Bucs is the best game for Week 17 SNF.
At halftime of the 1pm games in Week 16, It’s looking like Bucs-Panthers will be on Sunday Night Football
Spence: you’re probably right
Week 17: Panthers-Bucs is all but going to be Week 17 SNF with the Panthers winning and the Pats losing.
Week 18: If the bucs lose the next two, and the Panthers & Saints win week 17, Panthers-Saints will be for the nfc south
Jags-Titans will be for the AFC South.
Isaiah, you are correct. I wouldn’t be shocked if we saw the announcement of Panthers-Bucs moving to SNF in the next couple hours. Somehow, there is only one matchup of two winning teams in week 17 – that is bills vs. bengals on MNF, so NBC doesn’t have much to work with.
With Jags-Titans guaranteed to be for the AFC south, that will either be Saturday night or Sunday night, depending on whether ravens-bengals is for the AFC north. Ravens-Bengals will take SNF priority over Jags-Titans for obvious reasons.
Ravens-Bengals is for the AFC north if the ravens win next week or both the bengals and ravens lose next week. Bengals will clinch with a win and ravens loss. I’d say >85% likely this happens.
For the last Saturday game, I highly doubt panthers-saints will be for the NFC south but if it is, then that’s guaranteed. Otherwise, the best options are lions-packers or chiefs-raiders. Maybe jets-dolphins if the jets are still alive but I think the dolphins will probably play on Sunday to avoid possibly eliminating teams before their week 18 game.
I think, Titans-Jags is week 18 SNF only of Ravens-Bengals isn’t for the AFC North, otherwise it is a lock for Saturday on ESPN/ABC. I think it probably ends up as the first game at 4:30 ET, with the late game being either Lions-Packers or Cowboys-Commanders.
We now know Titans-Jags is guaranteed to be for the AFC South, however, depending on what’s going on elsewhere if both win next week, the Jags could still sneak in as the last Wild Card depending on how . That could force that game to Saturday.
I meant to say depending on how things go next week and in Week 18. If the Jags can sneak in as a wild card in the AFC at 8-9 (or the Titans at 8-8-1), then I suspect this will be the 4:30 PM ET Saturday games.
Week 17….TB/CAR and GB/MIN were both protected.
Hi, Jeff. We’ll see if the panthers vs bucs game get flexed to SNF week 17 or not. Also, if GB loses today, we may have to tolerate Vikings vs Packers game week 17 Lambeau field on CBS get flexed out of 3:25 pm and switch it to noon with a cross flex to FOX. Fingers crossed.
We will definitely see what the NFL has in store for us next week. However TB/CAR was protected and won’t be on SNF. Interesting protection.
Merry Christmas To All!
With that news Jeff, I think that Saints-Eagles will be SNF if the Dolphins win.
Dolphins-Patriots will be SNF if the Dolphins lose.
Merry Christmas! Definitely was a good decision to not decide the Week 17 SNF game in the usual time frame.
Dolphins-Patriots will most likely be SNF now, but if the Bucs lose tonight, Saints-Eagles becomes an option. Philly fighting for the 1 seed, and the Saints fighting for a chance to win the NFC south. I wouldn’t be surprised with either scenario.
Merry Christmas, everybody. It makes WAY more sense that the Packers vs. Vikings game at Lambeau Field week 17 next Sunday stays at 3:25 pm on CBS tv channel thanks to the Packers win against the dolphins at Miami today, 26 to 20.:)
NFL did flexing some NFL week 17 matchups today.
1. Rams vs. Chargers got flexed out of SNF and got switched to 3:25 pm.
2. Steelers vs. Ravens at Baltimore, Maryland got flexed to SNF next Sunday night.
We will find out which matchup will be flexed to SNF at the conclusion of week 17 next weekend.
I actually really like this move, Steelers Ravens is always a fun matchup, and I don’t think anyone expected it.
Not surprised by any of what happened:
Steelers-Ravens makes perfect sense for SNF here.
Surprised CAR-TB got protected given at the time the decisions had to be made, the Panthers were reeling and Matt Ruhle had just been fired by the Panthers. I suspect that wasn’t really a “protection” but more Raymond James Stadium, ReliaQuest Bowl officials and Disney (as that game is Monday at Noon on ESPN2) telling the NFL if CAR-TB had been flexed to SNF, their game would have had to been pushed back to an 8:45 PM ET kickoff and moved to ESPN2 and the NFL didn’t want the bowl game opposite what is the biggest MNF game in years between the Bills and Bengals. Vikings-Packers was likely saved as a 4:25 PM national game on CBS by the Pack winning today and making that game very meaningful towards the playoffs. Otherwise, I think we would have seen a reverse doubleheader with Dolphins-Pats at 1:00 by itself on CBS, Colts-Giants cross-flexed to FOX, Jets-Seahawks cross-flexed to CBS and all games other than the two at 1:00, SNF and MNF being at 4:05/4:25 PM ET (possibly pushed back to 4:35/4:55 as noted and SNF pushed back to 8:40 PM ET).
Correcting myself in the last post:
I meant the ReliaQuest Bowl if moved to 8:45 PM ET also moved to ESPNU (maybe with a simulcast on FreeForm to accommodate those who don’t have ESPNU on their cable systems) or remaining on ESPN2 with the main MNF telecast ABC-only and “Peyton and Eli” on ESPN instead of ESPN2.
It was a protection Walt. I hear this from a very good source. And the choice for SNF in Week 17 shows how reticent the NFL was to put on 2 teams with losing records. Seems to me, they’ll only do that in the final week of the season. But knowing that the Steelers can be eliminated before their game next week, still makes this a surprise decision.
They should’ve waited till the end of the bucs game to see if they lost. If so they should’ve put on saints eagles. If not, pats Dolphins
Question, because I couldn’t find the answer. Since the Ravens-Steelers was just flexed, can Ravens be flexed again against the Bengals in week 18?
Very surprised FOX would have protected CAR-TB given at the time those decisions had to be made (after Week 5) the Panthers looked to be going nowhere fast (and possibly headed towards the #1 overall pick in the draft) and the Bucs looked like even as bad as they were they’d win the division easily with the rest of the division really bad. I wonder if FOX was asked to use one of their protections on that game to prevent the NFL from potentially moving it to SNF by Raymond James Stadium and ReliaQuest Bowl officials knowing they have their bowl game on Monday at Noon and it would likely have had to either become an 8:45 PM ET kickoff on Monday 1/2 (and if so, moved to ESPNU) OR move to Tuesday 1/3 at 7:00 PM ET, possibly moving college basketball games on ESPN2 to ESPNEWS. This sounds like it may have been a requested “protection” from outside sources as the bowl game might have prevented it from being moved anyway (this simply put at the time those protections had to be made was NOT a game that looked it it would be protected).
As for Week 18: If the Commanders and Seahawks both lose on Sunday AND the Lions and Packers both win on Sunday, then I think Lions-Packers becomes SNF since then it’s a winner-take-all for the last playoff spot in the NFC. Otherwise, I think it’s Titans-Jags as the SNF Finale since we already know that will be for the AFC South no matter what happens this week (you could almost make the the Sunday Night Finale NOW) UNLESS there are scenarios after Week 17 where the Jags at 8-9 losing the finale OR if that game is a five-quarter tie the Titans at 8-8-1 are the last AFC Wild Card.
I’m quite surprised that steelers-ravens was flexed in. They are eliminated with a dolphins and chargers win, which could very well happen before kickoff. Panthers-bucs would’ve been great but I guess it was protected? Also, the timing of the flex made sense, so that they could market the upcoming snf game during the current one. It’s kind of ironic that the steelers are getting flexed into a game this late in the season when they were flexed out only 6 weeks ago.
Brian: Surprisingly enough, vikings-packers is now the second best gam e of the week behind bills-bengals. Funny that we were saying that it should be flexed out of the main CBS game for so long but now it’s a really important game.
Onto week 18. Candidates:
Titans-Jags is a lock for one of the three slots. Might be the first Saturday slot considering their small markets.
Ravens-Bengals will be SNF if the ravens win or both the bengals and ravens lose. I highly doubt they put this game on Saturday.
If the jets win, jets-dolphins could become a Saturday game. Dolphins clinch next week with a win and jets loss. Depending on scenarios, this game might stay on Sunday to avoid an early elimination of a team like the Steelers or Patriots.
Lions and packers wins definitely would cause a move to Saturday also barring other elimination scenarios.
Chiefs-raiders will move if a third game is still needed and the bills and chiefs both win, allowing the chiefs to possibly play for the 1 seed.
If none else works, giants-eagles might be a copout option even if they both rest starters.
Something to keep in mind for the Saturday games — if last year’s any indication, market size/brand recognition will be as important a factor as playoff relevance. We had a total of one team in last year’s Saturday games that really had anything to play for (Chiefs still had an outside chance at the #1 seed, but Broncos were totally out and Cowboys and Eagles were both essentially locked into their seeds). And those games were still flexed in because Mahomes and Dallas/Philadelphia — those were also 2 of the 3 most-watched games of the weekend, so definitely nothing viewership-wise that would dissuade that strategy this year.
Won’t make any firm predictions one way or another because they’ll probably be wrong, just wouldn’t be surprised at all if TEN/JAX remained in the 1 PM window (assuming BAL/CIN is for the AFC North title).
Last year the Cowboys were playing for the 2 seed and the Chiefs were playing for the one seed. Plus, There wasn’t any other elimination games that didnt effect other games. There is a scenario I saw where Washington,Detroit, Green Bay wins and Jets Win where Dolphins-Jets is for the 7 seed. Packers-Lions is for who gets a wildcard if Washington loses to Dallas Where you have 4 games that are defacto play in games.
In that scenario you would have
Sat 4:30pm Jets at Dolphins
This game would be for the 7 seed
Sat 8:15pm Packers at Lions
The winner of this game would root for the Cowboys to beat the Commanders on Sunday Night Football. In that scenario Titans-Jags is the one left off
However, I don’t think Jags-Titans would get booted of Saturday for a game like Raiders-Chiefs.
Hi, Spence. That is a good prediction that the Packers vs. Lions game at Lambeau can be a Saturday night Monday night football game on ESPN/ ABC. That being said, there’s a good chance that both the Lions and the Packers go 8-8 on week 17 next Sunday and face each other with that 8-8 record thanks to the Packers playing better football this season after a atrocious months of October and November to GB.
If it’s a scenario where Lions-Packers is a meaningful game and the winner of that game has to await the winner of Cowboys-Commanders for the final playoff spot, then yes, I can see it where Lions-Packers is one of the two Saturday games and Cowboys-Commanders is SNF (also if all three and the Seahawks lose this week though then it opens up a possibility if the Panthers and Saints both win this week a scenario where the Panthers or Bucs), however that also means the Jets would have to beat the Seahawks this week as well for Cowboys-Commanders to be SNF. Whether Cowboys-Commanders is SNF largely depends on all three of the Packers, Lions and Commanders all winning AND the Seahawks losing this week.
Titans-Jags could be penciled in now as the SNF finale but the Titans are in serious freefall and the Jags could win that game easily at this point. Also, there could be scenarios depending on what happens this week where the Jags or Titans can sneak in as a wild card if both win this week and the Titans win next week (Jags as the 7 seed) OR that game ends in a tie (in that scenario, Jags win the division and Titans the 7 seed). This is also why I could see this now being the 4:30 Saturday game with Lions-Packers at 8:15 PM ET.
Sun 10 AM:
Sun 1:25 PM
Well It Might Be Ravens Bengals For The Final SNF Game for the 2022 Regular season finale if we are all correct but i could be either Right or Wrong. Because Next season the 2023 NFL season will begin sept 7. The SNF game for that week will likely be moved to Saturday because of Christmas Eve Falling on Sunday and Christmas Day falls on a Monday Next Year. Because Fox if they choose to air the Christmas Day game as the early game and then the late game which is the standard MNF game On ESPN. Because Next Year New Year’s Eve falls on Sunday and then New Year’s Day falls on Monday Because there will be no MNF Game on January 1. Will have to find out when the schedule is released this spring.
Hello NFL SNF Flex Scheduling lovers,
Here’s my take on things after Week 16.
Main Flex period:
Week 18 – no scheduled SNF game and 2 games moving to Saturday
N.E.(7-8) @ Buff.(12-3) <—can't move to Saturday and likely wouldn't anyway because of the Pats needing to play at the same time as other teams in the playoff race, though the Pats could be eliminated this week.
N.Y.J.(7-8) @ Mia.(8-7) <—The Dolphins are just hanging on to the 7th seed and have a HUGE game vs. the Patriots this week and Tua's in concussion protocol. This could be a good option for a Saturday game if the Jets lose to the Seahawks and the Patriots beat the Dolphins.
Balt.(10-5) @ Cin.(11-4) <—can't move to Saturday, but it's my current #1 for SNF. It's possible that this game determines who's the 3 seed and who's the 5 seed and no other seeding possible. If that ends up being the case, then this game is a great pick to be game 272 on SNF.
Clev.(6-9) @ Pitt.(7-8) <—not looking like a move to Saturday unless the Steelers win on SNF against the Ravens…..hmmm
Hou.(2-12-1) @ Ind.(4-10-1) <—not a good candidate to even be played, as this game sucks!
Tenn.(7-8) @ Jack.(7-8) <—if this is a win and in, lose and out of the playoffs game, then it could sneak into SNF
L.A.C.(9-6) @ Den.(4-11) <—not a good Saturday game candidate
K.C.(12-3) @ L.V.(6-9) <—not a good Saturday game candidate, unless a miracle happens and the Raiders are still in the playoff picture. Though if the Chiefs and Bills are tied going into Week 18, then they must play at the same time.
N.Y.G.(8-6-1) @ Phil.(13-2) <—looking good to be a Saturday game, but if the Giants have to play at the same time as others because of playoff seedings….my current #3 for SNF
Dal.(11-4) @ Wash.(7-7-1) <—starting to gain on potentially moving to Saturday and quickly!….unless the Commanders need to play at the same time as others fighting for the last playoff spots….my current #2 for SNF
Minn.(12-3) @ Chi.(3-12) <—will be in the early slot on Sunday I believe
Det.(7-8) @ G.B.(7-8) <—heck this game could be on Saturday, it could sneak into SNF as a win and in & lose and out or it could be in the early slot of games on Sunday. A ton can happen for this game this week.
T.B.(7-8) @ Atl.(5-10) <—likely to get stuck in the Sunday early window
Car.(6-9) @ N.O.(6-9) <—somehow, some way this could be for the NFC South….maybe and wouldn't a 3 way tie for the NFC South be fun going into Week 18? Though the Saints playing the Eagles this week lessen the chances.
Ariz.(4-11) @ S.F.(11-4) <—not a good Saturday game candidate
L.A.R.(5-10) @ Sea.(7-8) <—not looking good to move to Saturday
Remember, due to Buffalo and Cincinnati playing on MNF in Week 17, they will not be able to play on Saturday in Week 18.
As I said last season, the NFL did itself no favors by adding the 2 Saturday games to the Week 18 schedule.
This could be a real challenging week for the NFL schedule makers, as Week 17 is going to be so pivotal in many aspects.
As for next season:
I suspect what happens is unless NBC is contractually obligated to air “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Christmas Eve, we will for the first time see NBC have SNF on Christmas Eve, but possibly with it agreed there is no flex that week because some areas possibly can’t host a game Christmas Eve night.
One thing I suspect the NFL may be under pressure from elected officials to do is have Week 17 be entirely on Saturday, Dec. 30 as the last time New Year’s Eve was a Sunday night if you remember there was no Sunday night game at all, likely IMO because local authorities in a number of cities wouldn’t allow it because it takes resources away from New Year’s Eve celebrations. We could see where ESPN gets it’s Monday night game on Friday 12/29 with NBC getting its game Saturday 12/30 and ESPN having the New Year’s Six Bowl games on Sunday 12/31 and Monday 1/1 as the Rose and Sugar Bowls are the College Football Playoff Semifinal games in 2024 and we know the Rose Bowl won’t move off its traditional slot (the two times it did when it was the National Championship Game in 2002 and ’06 when it was NOT in its traditional time slot many older people were up in arms over that to the point that the current deals require unless the Rose and Sugar Bowls are the playoff semis, those have to be played New Year’s Eve or earlier). I suspect elected officials, especially in parts of the country where college football is bigger than the NFL will make that demand to the NFL so that the Rose and Sugar Bowls are in the late afternoon.
Walt: 2017 had no Week 17 SNF game because all the important games that week were intraconnected with other games.
I remember hearing later several cities would not allow the NFL to have a Sunday night game on New Year’s Eve because it diverted resources from New Year’s Eve gatherings. In Baltimore, the Ravens complained about their game against the Bengals (which they LOST that allowed the Bills into the playoffs) being at 4:25 because many didn’t go because of New Year’s Eve celebrations (they wanted their game at 1:00 for that reason). There was talk then the next time this came up the NFL should have games on Sat. 12/30 instead of New Year’s Eve and yield that Sunday to college football because of this. Also, now NBC has Miley Cyrus doing her New Year’s Eve special, so it’s possible there’d be no Sunday night game anyway on New Year’s Eve because of that OR if the NFL had to play on New Year’s Eve, the NFL would have to move up the early games to Noon and the late games to 3:05/3:25 PM ET with Sunday Night Football having an early kickoff at 7:10 PM ET to accommodate that special. That’s also why it would be better if the NFL played Sat. 12/30 and yielded New Year’s Eve to the New Year’s Six Bowl Games.
This is what 2023 should look like:
TNF on prime: weeks 2-11, Black Friday week 12 November 24, 13-16 or 17.
My concern is whether there will be a week 17 TNF game. The NFL is already giving the cowboys and titans two short weeks (though at least it’s a Saturday-Thursday turnaround). With a black friday game, I expect them to do the same, but having a TNF game in week 17 would give four teams short weeks with both Sunday-Thursday turnarounds. Maybe they omit the week 17 game.
MNF on ESPN: weeks 1-16, including a Christmas finale for week 16. There will be three doubleheaders, I expect early in the season. We will see if there is a MNF game week 17 on January 1. They will also have their Saturday week 18 doubleheader.
SNF: Kickoff September 7, weeks 1-18, Thanksgiving.
Since it’s CBS’s turn to host the cowboys on Thanksgiving, I predict that we will see Jets at Cowboys. FOX will host the Lions, whom I think the Vikings or Packers will play, as none of their other home opponents are very appealing(Bears, Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks/Rams).
There will be another Christmas tripleheader. Since CBS gets the late window on Thanksgiving, they will have the early game on Christmas and FOX will have the late afternoon game. I wonder if they will put the Packers and Cardinals on Christmas for the third straight year.. maybe it becomes tradition?
Week 15 should have a Saturday flex option. Week 16 could as well but due to the fact that Sunday is Christmas Eve, they might just assign the Saturday games at schedule release. Both will be on NFL Network.
Total # of primetime games to assign at schedule release: 14 TNF, 16 ESPN, 19 SNF(not counting week 18). Thanksgiving/Christmas day games don’t count as primetime(including Black Friday). Every playoff team must get at least one SNF game.
I will be making a mock schedule after the season ends. I made one this past February but there were some flaws and hope to do better. Here is the link to it. “Z” indicates the main doubleheader game from each week.
Those are good predictions of the NFL schedule release next season, Walt’s lover. And yes, next season on thanksgiving, Dallas Cowboys will be on CBS and Detroit Lions will be on tv channel FOX. Maybe it’ll be Packers vs. Lions at ford field on thanksgiving next season on FOX. Who knows? I’ll be predicting a few games for the Packers on CBS with Jim Nantz and Tony Romo announcing of next season.
1. Packers vs. Chargers at Lambeau Field
2. Packers vs Vikings at Lambeau Field
As long as the Packers still have Aaron Rodgers, I expect them to have 5 primetime games. We haven’t seen Packers vs. Lions on Thanksgiving since 2013, so maybe it’s time.
Packers headlined 5 doubleheaders this year. I do think that number will be less, maybe 3.
I think we get Bears vs. Packers SNF early in the season. I think both home games against AFC west teams (Chiefs and Chargers) will be showcased, with one having Romo/Nantz on the call and the other being SNF. If Packers vs. Lions isn’t Thanksgiving, I think it would be a good MNF game. Their away game against an NFC East opponent (cowboys or giants) should be a FOX main game. Packers at Vikings will also be another FOX main game and the other will be MNF. I think they’ll have a TNF game against AFC north opponent or raiders.
I think we can make a more clear guess once we know exactly who they’re playing. Hope we see the Packers in the playoffs!
I do know this: The Titans vs Jaguars game won’t be a Sunday at 1pm game week 18. It will either be a Saturday Night, Sunday at 4pm (east coast time) or Sunday Night.
If the Jets and Dolphins win this week, then the Patriots, Steelers, Raiders, Jaguars and Titans are ALL is eliminated from the final wild card spot, and the Jets-Dolphins game will be winner 7 seed and loser out affecting no other games. Probanbly a Saturday evening game (nice weather in Miami)?
Good scenarios on what could possibly happen to those teams on week 17.
Good predictions on the packers schedule of next season. You might be right on the Packers vs. Bears game at Lambeau SNF early next season. It may happen on week 1. Maybe the packers will get 3 SNF games next season in which it could be Packers vs. Bears game at Lambeau field possibly week 1, Packers vs. Chiefs game at Lambeau Field, and one of the road games for the Packers on SNF.
Perhaps it’ll be Packers vs. Detroit lions at Lambeau Field Monday night football next season because it appears that matchup at Lambeau Field would be on Monday Night Football every other season. Maybe next season it’ll be Packers vs. Lions at Ford Field on Thanksgiving. I also predict that Vikings vs. Packers game at Minneapolis US Bank Stadium will be on Fox. And perhaps Packers vs. Chargers game at Lambeau and Packers vs. Vikings game at Lambeau will be on CBS Nantz/Romo announcing next season.
With some time to think, here’s what I think happens:
Amazon Prime gets the same number of games as this year with Black Friday (11/24) being in lieu of a Week 17 Thursday nighter (I believe the Week 17 Thursday night game was in place this year because originally, Amazon Prime was supposed to get Black Friday BUT due to the US playing a World Cup match against England at the time that game would have taken place declined to do that this year).
As noted, CBS gets the late game with the Cowboys on Thanksgiving and likely the early game Christmas Day while FOX gets the opposite. I think the Cowboys game comes down to whom the Jets intend to have at quarterback next season, otherwise, I would not be surprised if CBS gets Eagles-Cowboys on Thanksgiving OR the Eagles play on Thanksgiving night on NBC and then play (and possibly host) the Cowboys the following Thursday night on Amazon Prime. Also, I could see a flip-flop Christmas Week where ESPN gets Christmas Eve night (or Saturday 12/23) and NBC gets Christmas Night (Monday 12/25) to allow ESPN and ABC to again have the now-traditional NBA Christmas quintupleheader on both networks as was the case this year.
As also noted, I could see Week 17 being on Saturday, Dec. 30 to make sure NBC has a flex available because I suspect local authorities in a lot of cities (especially where there are shortages in law enforcement) would rather have games Saturday 12/30 to avoid taking resources away from New Year’s Eve celebrations. There is also the situation with Miley Cyrus and her New Year’s Eve special on NBC that if the NFL tried to play New Year’s Eve as noted above could force the NFL to move all timeslots up an hour (Noon and 3:05/3:25 PM ET on FOX/CBS and 7:10 PM ET on NBC) if they did play on New Year’s Eve (also to help local authorities as noted), so playing Saturday 12/30 and yielding Sunday 12/31 and Monday 1/1 to the New Year’s Six Bowl Games (with MNF likely Friday 12/29 or if Monday 1/1 played with a special 12:30 PM ET kickoff ahead of the Rose and Sugar Bowls (at 4:30 and 8:30 PM ET respectively) that are the College Football Playoff semifinals next year).
Walt, do you think they will continue the tradition of AFC teams alternating between lions and cowboys? I know that the FOX and CBS deal is going to change this year so maybe we do see Eagles-Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but it’s quite likely they will stick with one NFC team and one AFC team, so this year will be Jets or Patriots. I think the main reason why we haven’t seen Eagles-Cowboys on Thanksgiving in a while is because both games are major ratings draws and Cowboys will get ratings on Thanksgiving regardless, so it’s smart for the NFL to put eagles-cowboys on two random weeks during the year and have the cowboys play whoever they can. I see them playing the Jets because the patriots were on this year and I couldn’t tell you when the Jets were last on Thanksgiving. They will put patriots-cowboys on another Sunday and make it a spotlight doubleheader game. But if they disband all of this I think it would be interesting, maybe they even have the Lions play an AFC team like the raiders on FOX since FOX is no longer strictly assigned to NFC.
It hasn’t been a requirement for quite a few seasons that an AFC team be involved in the 2 games between the Cowboys/Lions. They just have happened to do so recently. When the TV contracts were signed last time, is when this changed and was no longer a requirement.