Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 16

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):

  • Selected game: Pittsburgh @ Baltimore. What the hell? Okay, I get why you wouldn’t pick Panthers-Bucs despite the NFC South games being eliminated from contention for Week 18 standalone windows; it was pointed out that Raymond James Stadium hosts the ReliaQuest Bowl the following day at noon ET (just ignore the craziness in the rest of that thread), and if the Las Vegas Bowl had to be moved to the late afternoon window to allow time to turn around the Allegiant Stadium field for a Raiders home game moved to the late afternoon window, going from a primetime game to a noon game, a 12-hour turnaround before factoring in things like warmups, would have definitely been too close for comfort. (I get the sense that bowl games typically wait for the NFL to release its schedule to set their dates and times – the Las Vegas Bowl didn’t announce its date and original time until two weeks after the NFL schedule came out – but with bowl season coinciding with the thick of flex season, and more explicit six-day flex periods coming with the new contract, maybe it should be the NFL that works around the bowls’ preferred dates and times instead of the other way around.) I get that the Steelers now have the same record as the Patriots and are improving while the Pats and to a lesser extent the Dolphins are in freefall, and I could have understood if Niners-Raiders had been chosen if the Raiders had beaten the Steelers, but there was absolutely no reason not to pick Dolphins-Patriots, which is less lopsided and, with that game and the former tentative now being played in the afternoon, there’s a very good chance the Steelers are eliminated from the playoffs before primetime, which isn’t a factor with Dolphins-Patriots. If it’s good enough for SNF it’s good enough for the lead game in the early doubleheader window, when the Steelers wouldn’t have already been eliminated, so with both games coming from CBS you could have just as easily made the same switch with Dolphins-Patriots in Steelers-Ravens’ place. It doesn’t even make sense from the perspective of determining the Week 18 game(s); Jets-Dolphins needs a decent number of things to happen to be in contention for a move to Sunday night, while Bengals-Ravens is disproportionately likely to be the SNF game, giving the Ravens SNF games in two straight weeks, because of the Bengals playing on Monday. (I did see a suggestion that this was partially motivated by cutting down the rest discrepancy between the teams as much as possible, potentially allowing the game to move to Saturday after all, but that seems unlikely. What may be more plausible is the league giving the Dolphins as much rest as they need ahead of a potential Saturday tilt with the Jets, which is a bit more likely than Sunday night.) There isn’t as much risk of the Steelers resting players (especially without any key players having serious injuries) as there would be if they had locked up a playoff seed or were completely out of it, and this is a rivalry game, but I have to imagine this was partly driven by the disappointing ratings (by NFL standards) for the recent flexed-in games, and more specifically the disappointing ratings for Dolphins-Chargers suggesting Tua isn’t a big enough draw yet to carry a window on his own.

    This is actually making me reconsider what happened the last time the league pulled a “six-day hold”; I had thought the league had announced Chiefs-Bears was being kept during the late afternoon window, during a game that would ultimately eliminate the Bears from the playoffs and before a Sunday Night result that would have ensured Saints-Titans had maximum implications for both teams, to avoid putting off the decision too late or to ensure whatever game ended up on Sunday night wouldn’t affect the Sunday night game the following week, but now I think they were just looking for an excuse to keep the matchup with the larger fanbases. Most bewildering flex decision I’ve seen in a while, since at least Chiefs-Broncos in 2016 (mostly puzzling because the SNF and lead late DH games basically switched places, which seemed pointless to me) and more likely Cardinals-Eagles in 2015, which I called possibly the worst flex decision I’d ever seen; this is not making me feel better about continuing this feature next year if I don’t get a lot more clarity as to how flexing is going to work under the new TV contracts, because I’m ultimately grasping at straws trying to figure out what to take away from this for future years. (That’s especially the case because according to ProFootballTalk, Fox protected Panthers-Bucs, not Saints-Eagles or nothing at all. That makes a little more sense than you’d think – the Panthers were 1-4 when protections needed to be submitted while the Eagles were unbeaten, but the Saints weren’t much better at 2-3 and accounted for the Panthers’ only win, making it not that much of a stretch especially when you consider past confirmed protections – but it’s serendipitous enough that it raises the question of whether this protection really did need to be submitted Week 5 or if we still don’t quite understand how protections work.)

Week 18 (January 8):

  • Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications, with ABC and ESPN showing two such games on Saturday).
  • Possible games: Ravens-Bengals, Jets-Dolphins, Lions-Packers, Titans-Jaguars; [to Saturday only: Cowboys-NotIndians, Panthers-Saints (!), Giants-Eagles, Rams-Seahawks, Browns-Steelers, Chiefs-Raiders, Vikings-Bears, Cardinals-49ers]. Patriots-Bills could be a win-and-in, lose-and-out game for the Patriots if they and the Jets both win, as the Pats would hold the tiebreaker over the Jets-Dolphins winner, but it probably can’t move to Saturday because the Bills play on Monday night, and it can probably only move to Sunday night if the Bills’ seed is locked in, which would require them to beat the Bengals in said Monday night game, which in turn would ensure Ravens-Bengals was also in the running, and I think it’d get the nod over Pats-Bills as a game with meaning for both teams. It’s only because the Bengals are in the same “probably can’t move to Saturday” situation that Ravens-Bengals is in contention for Sunday night; Titans-Jaguars is guaranteed to decide the AFC South, and the league would probably prefer to pick a win-and-in, lose-and-out game over one where the loser would only fall to the wild card. Technically that could be the case for Titans-Jaguars as well, but it would require the Titans and Jaguars to win and the Dolphins and Jets to lose, which would be sufficient to at least create a potential “tie so we both make the playoffs” situation like last year – and there’s a chance that would lead the league to pick a game I haven’t identified as a potential Sunday night candidate. As with last year, conditions in brackets apply only to a Sunday night move and don’t need to apply for the game in question to move to Saturday.
  • Ravens-Bengals will be picked if: The Ravens win OR the Bengals lose, AND no more than one Saturday situation (not counting Titans-Jaguars) happens. See above. The Ravens beat the Bengals the first time, so if the teams remain a game apart the Ravens can still win the division with a win.
  • Jets-Dolphins will be picked if: The Jets win [AND the Dolphins beat the Patriots, AND if the Ravens-Bengals situation happens, at least one other Saturday situation happens]. I may have been too hasty last week in dismissing this game’s chances, because I misread my own cheat sheet; it was actually the Jets who won the first time these teams met, so if the teams are a game apart and the Patriots aren’t a factor, the Jets would win the head-to-head tiebreaker with a win. The Jets beat the Steelers and the Titans-Jaguars loser wouldn’t be a factor here, so the situation where this game would be win-and-in, lose-and-out seems pretty simple.
  • Lions-Packers will be picked if: The Lions win AND the Packers win AND the Seahawks lose [AND Washington loses, AND if the Ravens-Bengals situation happens, at least one other Saturday situation happens]. Bit more complicated here, but this would put the Lions and Packers at 8-8 with Washington at 7-8-1 and Seattle, who beat the Lions and so would win a tiebreaker against them, a game back. Alternately, if Washington wins but the Seahawks still lose the winner of this game would be set up to go to the playoffs if Washington loses to the Cowboys; see below. In the event both this game and Jets-Dolphins are candidates for SNF (both are dependent on the Jets beating the Seahawks), I would expect this game to have the edge because Packers and Aaron Rodgers, but I’m listing it after the other game because it needs more results to fall its way.
  • Titans-Jaguars will be picked if: None of the above SNF situations happen, OR at least two other Saturday situations happen AND Ravens-Bengals is the only SNF situation listed above that happens; otherwise it will be moved to Saturday. As mentioned, this game is already guaranteed to be for the division. There’s a chance that even if there are enough Saturday candidates that this game isn’t needed there, NBC might still want Ravens-Bengals ahead of it as two relatively name teams with star quarterbacks as opposed to two of the weakest brand names in the NFL, even if this is a loser-out game while the loser of Ravens-Bengals would still make the playoffs; that’s especially the case if the “tie and we both make the playoffs” situation happens, which could create a situation where the Jaguars would hold a wild card with a win. However, if Ravens-Bengals is hinging on the Monday night game and Saturday is covered, I’d definitely expect this game to be the Sunday night game.
  • Cowboys-NotIndians may be moved to Saturday if: Washington wins AND the Lions win AND the Packers win AND the Seahawks lose AND (the Cowboys lose OR the Eagles win). This would be a win-and-in, lose-and-out game for Washington with the Lions-Packers winner rooting for a Washington loss, which ordinarily would be a candidate for Sunday night except that that’s likely to require the Cowboys to have nothing to play for and the league would probably prefer to avoid a game like that. The Seahawks result is because this game would have to be played after Lions-Packers, and the Seahawks beat the Lions but would lose a conference record tiebreaker to the Packers. Note that if the Seahawks win, but also the Titans and Jaguars win, the Dolphins lose, and another game can join Titans-Jaguars on Saturday, there is a chance for this game to move to SNF if the league wants to avoid the “tie and we both make the playoffs” potential with Titans-Jaguars; the Cowboys play the Titans so they’d already be eliminated from the division in this scenario.
  • Alternately, Cowboys-NotIndians may be moved to Saturday if: Washington loses AND the Seahawks win AND the Packers lose. This would be a scenario where Washington would effectively move to the back of the line in the wild card race, potentially jumping ahead of the Lions (if they win) and Seahawks with a win and losses by the teams ahead of them. If the Lions and Packers both win one of them would be guaranteed to finish ahead of Washington, but if the Lions win and Packers lose the Packers would lose the tiebreaker even with a win so would be eliminated from the playoffs regardless of what Washington does, while if both teams lose the game between them can be played earlier in the day before Cowboys-NotIndians. On that note…
  • In addition to the scenario above, Lions-Packers may be moved to Saturday if: The Packers lose AND the Lions and Washington have the same result (or either the Lions win or Washington loses while the other ties) AND if those results are wins, the Seahawks also win. The situation if the Lions and Washington both lose, while the Seahawks win, was covered above. If the Lions, Seahawks, and Washington all win, the Lions would be last in the pecking order among teams still alive for the playoffs by virtue of their loss to the Seahawks. If all four teams lose, now the Seahawks would hold the common-games tiebreaker over the Packers as well, so Lions-Packers can be the first game in the wild card race… except that would potentially open the door for the Bucs or Saints to steal the wild card. The Bucs would actually be in the best position of any non-Washington team with the best conference record backed up by the win over the Seahawks, but while the Saints also beat the Seahawks and would hold a tiebreaker over the Lions in common games, the tiebreaker with the Packers would be decided by strength of victory where the Packers would currently lead. On that note…
  • Panthers-Saints may be moved to Saturday if: (The Panthers beat the Bucs AND the Saints lose AND at least one of the Lions and Packers lose) OR (the Saints win AND the Lions and Packers lose AND Lions-Packers is the other Saturday game AND the Packers have not clinched the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Saints) AND Washington loses. The Panthers could clinch the division with a win, but if Washington and either the Lions or Packers lose, the Bucs can still get a wild card if they play at the same time as all the teams ahead of them. This might be something of a last resort; it occurred to me before the Bucs-Cardinals game that if this game ended up being for the division, NBC might actually prefer Titans-Jaguars if it came down to that, as the market sizes are comparable and the Jaguars have the biggest star of the four teams in Trevor Lawrence (and the Titans might have the second-biggest star in Derrick Henry).
  • Giants-Eagles may be moved to Saturday if: The Giants lose AND at least one of the Seahawks, Lions, and Packers win AND (the Eagles win OR the Cowboys, Vikings, and 49ers lose). The Giants have not yet locked up a playoff spot and would still be in jeopardy of losing it in this scenario. An Eagles win would lock up the division and first-round bye, so if they’re still in jeopardy of losing it they need to play at the same time as one of the teams that can catch them.
  • Rams-Seahawks may be moved to Saturday if: The Seahawks lose AND Washington loses AND the Lions and Packers lose AND Lions-Packers is the other Saturday game. If the Seahawks lose to the Jets they need at least one of the Lions or Packers to lose, but then if they win against the Rams whichever NFC North team lost would be eliminated, so you’d need to have the Lions and Packers play first. If Seattle, Washington, and Detroit all win, a Seattle win would eliminate the Lions, which would still force Lions-Packers to be played first, but if the Packers win this week a Packers win would eliminate the Seahawks, while if the Packers lose this week losses by the Seahawks and Lions would clinch a playoff spot for Washington.
  • Browns-Steelers may be moved to Saturday if: The Steelers win AND the Patriots beat the Dolphins AND the Jets lose. The Steelers were swept by all four AFC East teams, so they can’t have two teams from that division that play each other tied with them at 8-8. (I suppose the Steelers could win and the Jets and Dolphins tie, but that’s not exactly the sort of thing you can count on, or at least it’s not the sort of thing that makes for a compelling game on its own.)
  • Chiefs-Raiders may be moved to Saturday if: The Chiefs lose. If the Chiefs and Bills win they’d be the only team that can catch the Bills for the first-round bye, so if they lose the Bills have nothing to play for; whereas if the Bengals win the Chiefs would have the outright lead for the first-round bye, so if they lose the Bills would only have the 2 seed to play for. The Chiefs lost to both teams so if there’s a three-way tie entering the final week a Chiefs win would still allow either team to catch them for the bye. Conversely, if the Bills win and Chiefs lose the Bills would lock up the 1 seed while the Chiefs would need to defend a one-game lead for the 2 seed from the Bengals, but even if the Chiefs win the Bengals would still need to win the division from the Ravens. The end result is that if the Chiefs lose this game would have playoff implications even if the Raiders are eliminated (and fortuitously for the league, before the Monday night game is played, allowing the Saturday games to be set Sunday night), but for the record, the Raiders’ playoff hopes hinge on any 8-8 playoff teams losing, so the Jets can’t be one of them since the Dolphins have to be one of them, and unlike with the Steelers a tie between them won’t help the Raiders; thus for this game to have meaning for them, the Raiders would need to win, the Patriots need to beat the Dolphins, and the Jets need to lose. The Steelers beat the Raiders, but that’s not necessarily eliminating; if the three AFC East teams, the Steelers, and the Raiders are all at 8-9, the Steelers would be eliminated with an inferior conference record and then the Raiders’ win over the Patriots would be the determining factor.
  • Vikings-Bears may be moved to Saturday if: The Vikings win AND the Cowboys win AND the Eagles lose. In this scenario, the Vikings would still be alive for the first-round bye, but if they lose the Eagles and Cowboys could still play at the same time for the division. Note that only one of Vikings-Bears and Cowboys-NotIndians can go in a standalone window.
  • Cardinals-49ers may be moved to Saturday if: The Niners win AND the Vikings win AND the Eagles lose. Did you know that the Niners are still alive for the first-round bye? If they win out and the Eagles lose out, their conference record would trump that of the Eagles and, if necessary, Vikings and Cowboys. If the Vikings were to lose this week a Niners win next week would lock them into the 3 seed, so instead the Vikings need to win and then they can play after the Niners do (either later on Saturday or simultaneously with the Eagles), knowing if the Niners win, a loss would knock them all the way down to the 3 seed.

123 thoughts on “Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 16”

  1. SirTinDoom–

    You’re right, MIA is favored over NYJ. I had that gam as a Jet win in my mind with Miami starting Thompson, but the books have Miami favored.

    I suspect MIA @ CIN would also be a MNF game in the WC round, as the clear second-choice AFC game in a year where Fox and NBC will likely claim all three NFC games. From a competitive standpoint, it also gives Tua an extra day.

  2. Kevin:

    It would be USA Network that would get SEA-LAR if there are two SNF games (with that game on NBC in those areas as per NFL broadcast rules, all games MUST air over-the-air in the home markets of the teams playing, something that comes up with Amazon Prime/NFL Network games as well as ESPN (unless also airing on ABC in that case). They would use CNBC IMO in addition to NBC to air DET-GB since that game would be going to most of the country on NBC in a two-game SNF scenario (and CNBC isn’t quite as widely available as USA Network). I also suspect NBC would also use it’s DT-2 (COZI-TV for SEA-LAR) and DT-3 (NBCLX for DET-GB) Channels to show the games in this case.

  3. Lions vs Packers Sunday night. Everyone is kissing Aaron Rodgers butt and he’s not the reason the Packers are winning.

  4. This would be my best educated guess.

    IF BUF WINS TONIGHT…
    1 PM:
    NYG/PHI FOX
    DAL/WAS FOX
    MIN/CHI FOX
    TB/ATL FOX
    CAR/NO FOX (CROSSOVER TO CBS?)
    CLE/PIT CBS
    NYJ/MIA CBS
    HOU/IND CBS

    4 PM:
    DET/GB FOX
    LAR/SEA FOX
    ARZ/SF FOX
    BAL/CIN CBS
    LAC/DEN CBS

    SNF – NE/BUF NBC

    IF BUF LOSES TONIGHT…
    1 PM:
    DAL/WAS FOX
    MIN/CHI FOX
    TB/ATL FOX
    CAR/NO FOX
    CLE/PIT CBS
    NYJ/MIA CBS
    HOU/IND CBS

    4 PM:
    NYG/PHI FOX
    LAR/SEA FOX
    ARZ/SF FOX
    NE/BUF CBS
    BAL/CIN CBS
    LAC/DEN CBS

    SNF – DET/GB NBC

    If Buffalo wins tonight, I think the NFL will hope KC takes care of LV on Saturday and create a matchup of Buffalo needing to win for #1 seed and high probability of NE needing to win to make the playoffs. If Buffalo loses tonight, I think they just roll with Rodgers and the Packers and hope that DET comes with a game even if they are out of it. If they get a SEA loss, they are in business. Don’t see how the SNF game is anything other than these two. You could make a case for a NYG/PHI ratings grab I suppose but NYG are locked in at their spot. I would imagine they will be resting at some point during that game, especially Jones and Barkley.

  5. Well Lions Packers is the SNF But you don’t have to watch it Because i’m sick of the packers they have too many star players to attract But i was hoping for Ravens Bengals. Well after the Divisonal Round On NBC it will be time for the NFL”s Version of Gone Fishin. See You In 2023 For More Sunday Night Football See you next season.

  6. Hi, Jeff. Happy New Year. Even though you find the Packers vs lions game at Lambeau week 18 SNF matchup decision by the NFL very stupid and unfair, it is what it is. But this season on the NFL playoffs this month, the NFL divisional round playoffs should have an AFC vs AFC game on primetime NBC this month because last season on the NFL Playoffs divisonal round, it was an NFC vs. NFC game Buccaneers vs. Rams game at Tampa Bay. This month on the NFL divisonal round playoffs, it should be an AFC’s turn to have a SNF NBC on the divisonal round playoffs. Also, this month on NFL conference championship, at first it should be NFC vs. NFC on FOX and 2nd it’ll be AFC vs. AFC CBS with Jim Nantz and Tony Romo announcing because last season on the NFL conference championship, it was AFC Chiefs vs. AFC bengals at Kansas City with Nantz/Romo announcing that matchup and 2nd, it was NFC 49ers vs. NFC Rams at LA, California on FOX.

  7. Hasty move to release before tonight’s game. Feels like they made a schedule centered seeding (specifically PHI and DAL), which I honestly think is a mistake. DAL/WAS really has no business in the 4 PM window as PHI and SF have control over them. Should have used that game in the 1 PM window to draw a rating and create a draw-in to the PHI and SF games. From the second half of the Sunday 4 PM window through that night, people could be shutting it down in droves. Probably sabotaged the final NFC playoff spot as DET will know if they are out less than an hour before game time. They won’t be up for that game if that’s the case. Should have been done as a last resort. They really badly need to have a BUF victory tonight to save the week and create juice for their 1 PM window and have BAL/CIN to potentially save their 4 PM window. If they had just waited for that BUF victory, they could have potentially hit a home run in Week 18.

  8. Hi Brian,

    Happy New Year! We’ll see what happens tonight and then next Saturday and Sunday. Should be good stuff.

  9. If it was me, this is how I would’ve drawn it up as of 8:50 p.m. EST of the Bills vs. Bengals game…

    Saturday

    Chargers vs. Broncos
    Cowboys vs. Redskins

    Sunday – 1 p.m.

    Browns vs. Steelers
    Jets vs. Dolphins
    Ravens vs. Bengals
    Vikings vs. Bears
    Buccaneers vs. Falcons
    Texans vs. Colts
    Panthers vs. Saints

    Sunday – 4 p.m.

    Patriots vs. Bills
    Lions vs. Packers
    Rams vs. Seahawks
    Chiefs vs. Raiders
    Giants vs. Eagles
    Cardinals vs. 49ers

    Sunday – SNF

    Titans vs. Jaguars

  10. – Cowboys vs. Redskins and Vikings vs. Bears are basically interchangeable, but I bet Disney would want the former in the Saturday night primetime slot…

    – If the Bengals win, then the Ravens vs. Bengals and the Patriots vs. Bills can be swapped as well. Keep in mind I did this without knowing who will win between Bills vs. Bengals, so the above posted scenario is based on the assumption the Bills could win…

  11. Okay guys, decision has been made on snf. Address why cant Seahawks and rams be a 515p pst start. Get off all the other coulda woulda, the snf has been decided.

  12. Simple. Where would you air Rams vs. Seahawks opposite of Lions vs. Packers? The idea is to get the most eyeballs possible to the game with the most at-stake, not to take eyeballs away from it even if it was to air on the USA Network…

  13. Cheng:

    You put Rams-Seahawks on USA Network and regionally on NBC in LA and Seattle and other parts of the west. Here’s how I would do it:

    NBC (most of the country), CNBC and NBCLX (NBC’s DT-3 Channel): GB-DET
    NBC (LA, SEA and other areas), USA Network and COZI-TV (NBC’s DT-2 Channel): SEA-LAR

    That’s how I would do it (as ESPN and ABC are often airing the same game, it would work).

    The bigger question now is, what happens with Bills-Bengals? The only logical solution if the game is postponed is to bring it back by itself, played in its entirety as a standalone Week 19 game and the playoffs are moved back a week. That to me is how it may have to be done.

  14. Walt,

    It’s the last regular season game of the year. You want a NATIONAL audience, not a regional audience. That’s what CBS and FOX are for. Also, you just said it, ESPN and ABC are airing the SAME game. Rams vs. Seahawks and Lions vs. Packers are two different games…

    Bills vs. Bengals has to be played tonight or tomorrow … unless the NFL and its TV partners wants to push everything back a week by burning the bye week in between the conference title games and the Super Bowl. I doubt that happens…

  15. Remaining respectful of Damar Hamlin, with the game being postponed until later this week is it likely that the last game of the regular season will now be Bengals v Ravens on Monday night?

  16. If possible, have this game played tomorrow or Thursday.
    Have the Bills and Bengals play their Week 18 games Monday. It would look like this:
    Mon 1:30 PT: Patriots-Bills
    Mon 5:00 PT: Ravens-Bengals

  17. @SirTinDoom I do not think NFL can have MNF next week as it is CFB final slot.
    And problem is that is finished tomorrow then bot only CIN-BAL but BUF-PIT also need to be oushed back to Monday. And then what you do with PIT-CLE and MIA-NYJ?

    Looks like having week 19 and scrapping rest week before SB is only option if they can’t complete this game today.
    Unless NFL goes really creative and say play BUF-NE & CIN-BAL in Friday(can’t play Thursday bacuase BAL played SNF), complete suspended game following Wednesday and push WC round game for whoever does not get 1st round bye to Tuesday. This all assuming KC does not gets this bye.

  18. This is precisely why you don’t announce the schedule ahead of time. All of this is going to be decided appropriately based on Hamlin’s condition. Going to be wait and see probably for at least a few days.

  19. Isaiah:

    They can’t play any games Monday night due to the College Football Playoff Championship game. EVEN UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES, if the NFL attempted to play opposite the CFP Championship, there would be elected officials all over the NFL for doing that, in particular in areas where College Football is bigger than the NFL. The NFL would never hear the end of it from those types EVEN IF that happened.

    The more likely scenario is the Week 18 games are played as scheduled and Bills-Bengals is rescheduled as a new Week 19 game with the playoffs moved back a week (and the Pro Bowl, which is now a flag football game moved to Saturday 2/5 with the conference title games on Sunday 2/6.

  20. Here’s what I think happens:

    Week 18 is played as scheduled.

    BUF-CIN is made up Week 19 on Friday 1/13 or Saturday 1/14 at 8:15 PM ET on ESPN and ABC

    Wild Card playoffs start with a Wild Card playoff game Friday 1/20 at 8:15 PM ET on ESPN and ABC. Rest of Wild Card round is as otherwise would be played Saturday 1/14,

    Divisional Round is simply played as scheduled but one week later (1/28-29)

    Conference Championship games are Saturday 2/5 at 3:45 and 7:30 PM ET. This allows one extra day on a one-week turnaround before the Super Bowl and also does the least amount of mess with the “February Sweeps.”

    Super Bowl is as scheduled.

  21. Just to clarify:

    I meant the rest of the wild card round would be as it is scheduled the weekend of 1/14-15, but obviously one week later.

  22. Walt: Maybe due to Sunday Ticket concerns, Ravens-Bengals and Pats Bills start at 1 PM PT Monday on CBS.

  23. Isaiah:

    More likely if they have to move those games to Monday, they would start at 4:00 PM to not PO Wall Street.

    One other thing that could happen if the NFL had to move games to Tuesday because elected officials in areas where college football is much bigger than the NFL would raise holy hell even under these circumstances if the NFL played next Monday (1/9) due to the CFP championship is the NFL could wind up with a Wild Card playoff week, with those games spread out over Monday-Friday, January 16-20 with:

    ESPN getting its WC game as scheduled Monday 1/16.
    FOX and CBS have games Tuesday 1/17 at 6:00 PM ET (FOX) and 9:40 PM ET (CBS)
    FOX also gets Wednesday 1/18 at 7:30 or 8:00 PM ET.
    NBC gets Thursday and Friday 1/19 and 1/20 at 8:20 PM ET.

    The Divisional Round would be Saturday-Sunday 1/28-29 with the normal start times.

    Conference Championship Games would be Saturday 2/5 at 3:45 and 7:30 PM ET so the coaches have an additional day to prepare for the Super Bowl (Pro Bowl would still be Sunday 2/6), this as when the Super Bowl is one week after the conference title games instead of two, the teams go straight to the Super Bowl site and the extra day would be important to the staffs.

  24. Isaiah:
    I do not think Tuesday is an option as according to reports part of Bills team is taking bus/flying home on Monday. Surelyy they can’t come back and play next day.

  25. Isaiah:

    What I think they do is play Week 18 as normal, then make up Bills-Bengals Friday 1/13 on ABC and turn wild card weekend into wild card week, stretching the wild card round as noted above through the week of January 16-20 and moving the rest of the playoffs back a week.

  26. Looks like the NFL will not reschedule the Bengals v Bills for this week and will leave the Week 18 schedule as is. Not sure what this means for Bengals v Ravens KO time as that was dependent on last night’s result.

  27. Sir Tin Doom:

    Bengals-Ravens I believe is 4:25 PM ET on CBS since the Ravens and Chargers are going for the 5 and 6 seeds in the AFC playoffs.

  28. This may be why the NFL may not be able to push the playoffs back to accommodate a rescheduled BUF-CIN game:

    There is a home and remodeling show scheduled for US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis the weekend of February 3-5, which would be the weekend of any rescheduled conference championship games. There could be all kinds of lawsuits galore if the Vikings were in a position to host the game and the Home Show was kicked out to accommodate an NFC Championship Game there: https://www.usbankstadium.com/events/detail/mpls-home-remodeling-show-2

  29. It looks like the NFL could not reschedule BUF-CIN that would not open up the NFL to lawsuits if it happened the Vikings wound up in a situation where they were hosting the NFC Championship Game.

    Rescheduling BUF-CIN would have left the NFL with a ton of undesirable options due to a Home Show that is I believe the largest in the country that is scheduled for US Bank Stadium (Vikings home stadium) the weekend of February 3-5 when rescheduled conference title games would take place. Forcing that home show to postpone to a later date likely leads the NFL to be sued by such organizers for $1 Billion+ as it would not be just THAT Home Show suing, but also other Home Shows that would find themselves having to reschedule as well as a ripple effect of the show in US Bank Stadium having to be rescheduled for the NFC Championship Game: https://www.usbankstadium.com/events/detail/mpls-home-remodeling-show-2

    The only way the NFL would have been able to reschedule BUF-CIN without the possible threat of lawsuits from Home Show officials would have been to have that game next Friday (1/13), then spread out the Wild Card round over 5-6 nights the week of January 15-20, then have the Divisional Playoffs over Monday-Thursday, January 22-25 with the NFC Championship Game on Wednesday, Februrary 1 and the AFC Championship Game on Thursday, February 2. That likely then leads to all kinds of other problems with the NFL’s broadcast partners because of there being playoff games virtually every night for two weeks, hurting some stations with local news considerably in some cases (especially ABC affiliates). That is why the NFL had to do it as they did.

  30. had absolutely nothing to do with the Vikings and the 1 pct chance both philly and sf lose at home you dope

  31. To “Walt’s Fact Checker:”

    EVEN IF THE CHANCES of the Vikings hosting the NFC Championship Game were only 1 percent, they NFL still would have had to proceed AS IF the Vikings could host that game (3 seeds have hosted the conference title games before). And there have been bizarre results in the Divisional Round before that didn’t make sense to where the NFL had to allow for that.

    Postpone the postseason a week, the Eagles (or Cowboys) and 49ers LOSE in the Divisional round (or earlier) AND the Vikings win, the Vikings are hosting the NFC Championship Game (likely against the NFC East loser) and the NFL likely is sued by Home Show Officials for $2 Billion+ as postponing THAT particular Home Show has a MASSIVE ripple effect as other Home Shows that are scheduled for what would be a rescheduled date at US Bank Stadium would then have to be postponed and so forth. That is why the NFL would be faced with $2 Billion+ in lawsuits as the Home Show industry would have been that negatively affected by this.

  32. Walt, I think if the Vikings ended up hosting the NFC Championships then the NFL’s solution would have been to play the game at Huntington Bank Stadium. The Vikings played their home games there in 2014 and 2015.

    I think the NFL’s bigger problem was disadvantaging the Bills and Bengals by having them enter the playoffs playing against teams coming off a bye, which would have been the case if they delayed the wild card round by a week. The NFL could not wait until completion of Week 18 to decide what to do so I think their decision was the fairest possible, and I say that as a Bengals fan whose team might have to play their WC home game against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

  33. SirTinDoom:

    Sorry, but the NFL could have scheduled Bills-Bengals for FRIDAY 1/13 and moved the playoffs back a week. That way, the Bills, Bengals or both would have had at least eight days before their first playoff game (and you could have intentionally scheduled one of them for Monday to give them 10 days) which would have offset the advantage of the bye week. As neither would have had to play the 1 seed in the Divisional Round (if not the 1 seed themselves), the issue with that would NOT have come up until the AFC Championship Game.

    As for the Vikings, I believe the University of Minnesota would not have allowed the NFL to take over Huntington Bank Stadium for the NFC Championship if it got to that point because it would have disrupted student activity on the University of Minnesota campus (this is famously why the Vikings were forced into a 1:00 PM Sunday slot against the Seahawks a number of years ago when a playoff game was there and with the conference title games now at 3:00 and 6:40, the University of Minnesota, even if the game was on Saturday would still not allow it.

    The other problems are that Sunday (2/5) is the Grammy Awards (though I would have had the conference title games on Saturday 2/4 so the coaches got eight days before the Super Bowl) and that weekend CBS has the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. That event is the biggest on the PGA Tour outside of The Players and The Majors because of the celebrities it attracts to the Pro-Am (to where if I ran the PGA Tour I would move it to Memorial Day weekend as a Friday-Monday tournament with all four rounds in prime time on CBS), and I suspect the PGA Tour and Pebble Beach officials would have also been filing lawsuits if it had to air opposite the NFC Championship Game on FOX. Then there is the Grammys, which even if that had to be postponed ONE DAY to Monday 2/6 would have resulted in lawsuits against the NFL and possible blowback from artists who have worked with the NFL in the past seeing their big event being moved because of conference title games being a week later than scheduled. Some would likely refuse to ever work with the NFL again over that and have the leverage to do it. That is on top of the situation noted with the Vikings.

    Basically, had the NFL rescheduled BUF-CIN and moved everything else back, the NFL likely IMO was facing potentially $5-7 BILLION in lawsuits against them.

  34. Adding:

    It now appears Saturday 2/4 was ALSO off limits to the NFL for rescheduling the conference title games because Clive Davis, who is a GIANT in the music industry (going back to at least the mid-1970’s) has a MASSIVE pre-Grammys party that night that would have been adversely affected. Mr. Davis has such influence within the industry to where if the NFL had rescheduled BUF-CIN and moved the playoffs back a week he might very well have told artists to completely stop working with the NFL on things like Super Bowl-related events, concerts and so forth, including the halftime show of the Super Bowl in retaliation for ruining HIS big event. EVEN IF THAT WERE NOT TRUE, the NFL STILL could not risk PO’ing Mr. Davis over that.

  35. Further adding:

    It now appears the only way the NFL could have made up BUF-CIN would have been to go entirely with weeknight playoff games in the following manner:

    The BUF-CIN game would have been made up on FRIDAY, January 13 on ESPN/ABC.

    The NFC would have had its Wild Card playoff playoff games spread out over Sunday-Tuesday, Jan 15-17 (all 8:20 PM ET). Sunday 1/15 would have been on NBC, Mon. 1/16 would have been on ESPN/ABC and Tues. 1/17 would have been on FOX. The AFC Wild Card games (all 8:20 ET) would have been Wednesday-Friday January 18-20, with FOX getting the game involving the AFC South Winner on Wed. 1/18, CBS getting its WC game Thurs. 1/19 and NBC getting its second WC game Fri. 1/20.

    The Divisional playoffs would have had to have been Monday-Thursday, Jan. 23-26 (again all 8:20 PM ET), with the NFC games Mon 1/23 (FOX) and Tues 1/24 (NBC) and the AFC games Wed 1/25 and Thurs 1/26 (both CBS). Conference title games (both 8:20 PM ET) would have been Wed. 2/1 for the NFC (FOX) and Thurs. 2/2 for the AFC (CBS).

    This would have presented a BIG problem for the NFL as the producers of many prime time shows, especially those that air on ABC would have been up in arms and likely looking to sue the NFL over their shows in some cases fatally affected by that while the station managers of ABC affiliates likely cry foul over losing viewers of local news for three weeks with many not coming back as a result of the NFL having to have ALL of its playoff games during the week just to make up BUF-CIN due to the weekend of February 4-5 apparently being entirely off limits to the NFL for rescheduling the conference title games because of not only the Grammys on Sunday 2/5, but a MASSIVE pre-Grammys party hosted by Clive Davis (an icon in music going back to at least the mid-1970’s) that would have been adversely affected by the conference title games being on Saturday 2/4 to where the NFL could face losing cooperation of artists who help the NFL with many concerts related to big events, including the Super Bowl and so forth in retaliation for the pre-Grammys party being affected (not to mention the Grammys 2/5). This is why the NFL would have had to go with an all-weeknight playoff schedule of one game per night if the NFL had rescheduled BUF-CIN and why the NFL could not do that.

  36. Is that Walt guy on his own Fantasy Island or what? Jiminy crickets what a spaz.

    Anyway let’s talk possible neutral sites for AFC Championship Game.

    Since it would involve kc vs. Buf or Cin, the obvious regional spots would be Indy or Detroit.

    My sleepers would be Chicago (if they want to keep outdoor element) or LAS VEGAS (party town + dry run for next year’s Super Bowl)

    I will now concede the floor to Walt who will tell you that Chicago isn’t available because the Polish Fuller brush convention is scheduled for 2 blocks down and they might do a billion dollar law suit if the NFL takes their parking spots 🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️

  37. My playoff schedule predictions:
    Sat: 1:35 NBC: Chargers/Jags if Jags win, but if not, #7 seed/Bills
    Sat 5:15 CBS: Ravens/Bengals
    Sun 10:00 FOX: Giants-Vikings
    Sun 1:30 CBS: Packers-49ers
    Sun 5:15 NBC: Cowboys-Bucs
    Mon 5:15 ABC: #7 seed/Bills if Jags win, but if not, Chargers-Titans

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