NFL Flexible Scheduling Watch: Week 12

I thought I might have a chance to get this post up before we got too far into the Thursday night game, but the NFL caught me off guard by announcing Week 15 flexes for both Saturday and Monday night on Thursday afternoon. Possible this was driven by the desire not to cut it too close to announce the Saturday games, but regardless there wasn’t any reason not to announce this as early as Tuesday. I think I’m going to have to commit to posting these on Wednesday at the very latest from now on, at least until only six-day flexes are left, if I can find a way to bring myself to do that and have my brain in sufficient working order to do so. I’m going to try to capture my thinking prior to this announcement (and the chart also doesn’t reflect today’s news) and why that makes it all the more surprising.

How NFL flexible scheduling works: (see also the NFL’s own page on flex schedule procedures)

  • Up to two games in Weeks 5-10 (the “early flex” period), and any number of games from Week 11 onward, may be flexed into Sunday Night Football. Any number of games from Week 12 onward may be flexed into Monday Night Football, and up to two games from Week 13 onward may be flexed into Thursday Night Football. In addition, in select weeks in December a number of games may be listed as “TBD”, with two or three of those games being assigned to be played on Saturday. Note that I only cover early flexes if a star player on one of the teams is injured.
  • Only games scheduled for Sunday afternoon, or set aside for a potential move to Saturday, may be flexed into one of the flex-eligible windows – not existing primetime games or games in other standalone windows. The game currently listed in the flex-eligible window will take the flexed-in game’s space on the Sunday afternoon slate, generally on the network that the flexed-in game was originally scheduled for. The league may also move Sunday afternoon games between 1 PM ET and 4:05 or 4:25 PM ET.
  • Thursday Night Football flex moves must be announced 28 days in advance. Sunday and Monday Night Football moves must be announced 12 days in advance, except for Sunday night games in Week 14 onward, which can be announced at any point up until 6 days in advance.
  • CBS and Fox have the right to protect one game each per week, among the games scheduled for their networks, from being flexed into primetime windows. During the early flex period, they may protect games at any point once the league tells them they’re thinking of pulling the flex. It’s not known when they must protect games in the main flex period, only that it’s “significantly closer to each game date” relative to the old deadline of Week 5. My assumption is that protections are due five weeks in advance, in accordance with the 28-day deadline for TNF flexes. Protections have never been officially publicized, and have not leaked en masse since 2014, so can only be speculated on.
  • Supposedly, CBS and Fox are also guaranteed one half of each division rivalry. Notably, some Week 18 games (see below) have their other halves scheduled for the other conference’s network, though none are scheduled for primetime.
  • No team may appear more than seven times in primetime windows – six scheduled before the season plus one flexed in. This appears to consider only the actual time the game is played; Amazon’s Black Friday game does not count even though the rest of their TNF slate does, and NBC’s Saturday afternoon game Week 16 doesn’t count but their Peacock game that night does. This post contains a list of all teams’ primetime appearances entering the season.
  • Teams may play no more than two Thursday games following Sunday games, and (apparently) no more than one of them can be on the road.
  • In Week 18 the entire schedule, consisting entirely of games between divisional opponents, is set on six days’ notice, usually during the previous week’s Sunday night game. One game will be scheduled for Sunday night, usually a game that decides who wins the division, a game where the winner is guaranteed to make the playoffs while the loser is out, or a game where one team makes the playoffs with a win but falls behind the winner of another game, and thus loses the division and/or misses the playoffs, with a loss. Two more games with playoff implications are scheduled for Saturday on ABC and ESPN, with the remaining games doled out to CBS and Fox on Sunday afternoon, with the league generally trying to maximize what each team has to play for. Protections and appearance limits do not apply to Week 18.
  • Click here to learn how to read the charts.

Read moreNFL Flexible Scheduling Watch: Week 12

Cantonmetrics: 2024 Semifinalists

Offseason Snapshot | Senior/Coach/Contributor Semifinalists | All-Snub Team

Each November, the Pro Football Hall of Fame names at least 25 modern-era players (more if there’s a tie for the last spot), narrowed down from the nominees named in September, who played at least part of their careers in the past 25 years and have been retired at least 5, as semifinalists for induction to the Hall of Fame. No more than five modern-era players are inducted each year, so most of the players listed below won’t be inducted this year and some won’t necessarily be inducted at all, but it’s still important to see what players the Hall of Fame voters consider most worthy of induction into the Hall among the currently-eligible players, and we can look at their relevant honors and argue over which players are worthy of induction. 

Read moreCantonmetrics: 2024 Semifinalists

Last-Minute Remarks on NFL Flex Scheduling Decisions Following Week 12

I ended up putting out the Week 11 Flex Schedule Watch post about halfway through Sunday’s early games, so if you haven’t read it, do. I have a lot of thoughts about Mike North’s comments on various platforms over the weekend, including his insistence that flex scheduling is there to ensure games with playoff implications in every window, seemingly to the point that one of the worst teams in the NFL would keep its spot if the team they’re playing is in the thick of the playoff hunt. What we’ll be paying attention to over the last month-plus of the season is how much that actually reflects the league’s approach. In the meantime, this post covers both the Monday night flex scheduling situation for Week 14 and the Thursday night flex scheduling situation for Week 17. 

Read moreLast-Minute Remarks on NFL Flex Scheduling Decisions Following Week 12

NFL Flexible Scheduling Watch: Week 11

Note: This post does not incorporate the result of any of the Thanksgiving or Black Friday games, or the first half of the early Sunday games.

There’s a good reason for my lateness this week: NFL Vice President of Broadcast Planning Mike North made the rounds with appearances on a pair of relatively prominent national podcasts on Tuesday, taking interviews on both the Peter King Podcast and Jimmy Traina’s SI Media Podcast with some revealing tidbits about the NFL’s thinking with regards to flex scheduling… but I’m not sure how thankful I am of them. I’m going to take the unusual step of putting my thoughts after the jump, which also will mean after the breakdown of the flex schedule rules.

How NFL flexible scheduling works: (see also the NFL’s own page on flex schedule procedures)

  • Up to two games in Weeks 5-10 (the “early flex” period), and any number of games from Week 11 onward, may be flexed into Sunday Night Football. Any number of games from Week 12 onward may be flexed into Monday Night Football, and up to two games from Week 13 onward may be flexed into Thursday Night Football. In addition, in select weeks in December a number of games may be listed as “TBD”, with two or three of those games being assigned to be played on Saturday. Note that I only cover early flexes if a star player on one of the teams is injured.
  • Only games scheduled for Sunday afternoon, or set aside for a potential move to Saturday, may be flexed into one of the flex-eligible windows – not existing primetime games or games in other standalone windows. The game currently listed in the flex-eligible window will take the flexed-in game’s space on the Sunday afternoon slate, generally on the network that the flexed-in game was originally scheduled for. The league may also move Sunday afternoon games between 1 PM ET and 4:05 or 4:25 PM ET.
  • Thursday Night Football flex moves must be announced 28 days in advance. Sunday and Monday Night Football moves must be announced 12 days in advance, except for Sunday night games in Week 14 onward, which can be announced at any point up until 6 days in advance.
  • CBS and Fox have the right to protect one game each per week, among the games scheduled for their networks, from being flexed into primetime windows. During the early flex period, they may protect games at any point once the league tells them they’re thinking of pulling the flex. It’s not known when they must protect games in the main flex period, only that it’s “significantly closer to each game date” relative to the old deadline of Week 5. My assumption is that protections are due five weeks in advance, in accordance with the 28-day deadline for TNF flexes. Protections have never been officially publicized, and have not leaked en masse since 2014, so can only be speculated on.
  • Supposedly, CBS and Fox are also guaranteed one half of each division rivalry. Notably, some Week 18 games (see below) have their other halves scheduled for the other conference’s network, though none are scheduled for primetime.
  • No team may appear more than seven times in primetime windows – six scheduled before the season plus one flexed in. This appears to consider only the actual time the game is played; Amazon’s Black Friday game does not count even though the rest of their TNF slate does, and NBC’s Saturday afternoon game Week 16 doesn’t count but their Peacock game that night does. This post contains a list of all teams’ primetime appearances entering the season.
  • Teams may play no more than two Thursday games following Sunday games, and (apparently) no more than one of them can be on the road.
  • In Week 18 the entire schedule, consisting entirely of games between divisional opponents, is set on six days’ notice, usually during the previous week’s Sunday night game. One game will be scheduled for Sunday night, usually a game that decides who wins the division, a game where the winner is guaranteed to make the playoffs while the loser is out, or a game where one team makes the playoffs with a win but falls behind the winner of another game, and thus loses the division and/or misses the playoffs, with a loss. Two more games with playoff implications are scheduled for Saturday on ABC and ESPN, with the remaining games doled out to CBS and Fox on Sunday afternoon, with the league generally trying to maximize what each team has to play for. Protections and appearance limits do not apply to Week 18.
  • Click here to learn how to read the charts.

Read moreNFL Flexible Scheduling Watch: Week 11

Last-Minute Remarks on NFL Week 13 Flex Scheduling Decisions

Week 13: Given the name value that both teams in the Sunday night game bring, the Packers’ win likely shuts the door on what little chance there was that it would be flexed out, leaving the Burrow-less Bengals against the Jaguars on Monday night. You could make the argument that the three-game gap between the Lions and Saints isn’t disqualifying and that it’s silly for me to think it would be better for the team with the better record to be worse when the worse team is still .500. The bigger problem, though, is that with Washington’s loss to the lowly Giants, flexing in Lions-Saints would leave Falcons-Jets and Dolphins-Trumps as Fox’s best options in the early window.

The other option would be to see if CBS can be convinced not to protect Broncos-Texans; the rest of the CBS slate is weak enough that Bengals-Jaguars might well be the best game on their slate if it’s flexed to them, but I’m not sure it’s worth it for any of the parties involved, especially since CBS would need a replacement 4:05 game. (In fact that might be the best argument in favor of a flex, as Broncos-Texans is clearly the second- or third-best of the Sunday afternoon games, and the best CBS game by a mile, but is limited in its distribution in the late singleheader; perhaps the LA teams can switch networks to improve Niners-Eagles’ distribution?) I could be wrong but I’m not sure the league is quite satisfied with the options available to them to pull the trigger on the first Monday night flex in a purely speculative move, even if we have pretty good reason to think the Bengals will stink without Burrow; the league has always been pretty conservative in its flexing decisions. Final prediction: No changes.

NFL Flexible Scheduling Watch: Week 10

Note: This post does not incorporate the result of the Thursday night game… mostly. See the Week 13 section for how late-breaking news could affect flex decisions in the very near term.

On Tuesday 49ers beat reporter Matt Maiocco tweeted that Fox “plans to protect” the Week 13 Niners-Eagles game. This was noteworthy not so much for the news itself – considering the game was already slated to be Fox’s lead late doubleheader game even before last year’s NFC Championship Game participants became the last two unbeaten teams in the league and remain the top two teams in the conference, it was pretty much an inevitability – as the timing of the tweet, coupled with the “plans to protect” phrasing indicating that Fox hadn’t already done so.

Based on my reading of the words of Mike North and Michael Mulvihill – especially North’s claim that CBS and Fox submit protections “before we even start to think about” flexing out games – I had figured that while protections in the main flex period were no longer due in Week 5, they weren’t necessarily due at the same time the league needed to make the decision like with the early flex. At minimum, I figured that with TNF flexing in place, protections in the main flex period had to kick in at the same time as the deadline for that, five weeks in advance. But if Fox only “plan[ned] to protect” Niners-Eagles now, less than 19 days before game time, that suggests that the deadline for protections is no earlier than three weeks in advance, and more likely runs right up to the point where the league itself needs to make a decision.

I don’t know how this interacts with the TNF flex, though it is notable that the league’s contracts with CBS and Fox were negotiated without any assumption that the TNF flex (still first publicly floated less than a year ago) would be a thing, and recent history has shown that the NFL prefers to make sure all three of the Sunday afternoon windows – the early doubleheader as well as the singleheader and late DH – have at least half-decent games anchoring them even though the doubleheader network still has only one protection, so CBS and Fox could well be protected against losing games that are too good without any formal protections at all, especially given the restrictions on what games can be flexed into TNF. But that seems doubtful, so does this mean the league can force CBS and Fox to protect games earlier than they’d otherwise like by floating the possibility of a TNF flex, or does it mean CBS and Fox can change what game they elect to protect, so they can protect one game from TNF and another game from SNF and MNF even if the game protected from TNF isn’t in the running to be flexed in? And how does this interact with the six-day SNF flex, do networks still need to protect games two weeks in advance or can they still do it right up until a decision has to be made?

I’m going to keep waiting on any more clarification on how protection works now before committing to any changes to the Flex Schedule Watch until the start of next season’s Watch, and I’m actually still going to adhere to the five-week window for the remainder of this season, but absent any further information I am going to work under the assumption of a two-week protection window starting next season, without any firm protection commitments associated with the TNF flex.

How NFL flexible scheduling works: (see also the NFL’s own page on flex schedule procedures)

  • Up to two games in Weeks 5-10 (the “early flex” period), and any number of games from Week 11 onward, may be flexed into Sunday Night Football. Any number of games from Week 12 onward may be flexed into Monday Night Football, and up to two games from Week 13 onward may be flexed into Thursday Night Football. In addition, in select weeks in December a number of games may be listed as “TBD”, with two or three of those games being assigned to be played on Saturday. Note that I only cover early flexes if a star player on one of the teams is injured.
  • Only games scheduled for Sunday afternoon, or set aside for a potential move to Saturday, may be flexed into one of the flex-eligible windows – not existing primetime games or games in other standalone windows. The game currently listed in the flex-eligible window will take the flexed-in game’s space on the Sunday afternoon slate, generally on the network that the flexed-in game was originally scheduled for. The league may also move Sunday afternoon games between 1 PM ET and 4:05 or 4:25 PM ET.
  • Thursday Night Football flex moves must be announced 28 days in advance. Sunday and Monday Night Football moves must be announced 12 days in advance, except for Sunday night games in Week 14 onward, which can be announced at any point up until 6 days in advance.
  • CBS and Fox have the right to protect one game each per week, among the games scheduled for their networks, from being flexed into primetime windows. During the early flex period, they may protect games at any point once the league tells them they’re thinking of pulling the flex. It’s not known when they must protect games in the main flex period, only that it’s “significantly closer to each game date” relative to the old deadline of Week 5. My assumption is that protections are due five weeks in advance, in accordance with the 28-day deadline for TNF flexes. Protections have never been officially publicized, and have not leaked en masse since 2014, so can only be speculated on.
  • Supposedly, CBS and Fox are also guaranteed one half of each division rivalry. Notably, some Week 18 games (see below) have their other halves scheduled for the other conference’s network, though none are scheduled for primetime.
  • No team may appear more than seven times in primetime windows – six scheduled before the season plus one flexed in. This appears to consider only the actual time the game is played; Amazon’s Black Friday game does not count even though the rest of their TNF slate does, and NBC’s Saturday afternoon game Week 16 doesn’t count but their Peacock game that night does. This post contains a list of all teams’ primetime appearances entering the season.
  • Teams may play no more than two Thursday games following Sunday games, and (apparently) no more than one of them can be on the road.
  • In Week 18 the entire schedule, consisting entirely of games between divisional opponents, is set on six days’ notice, usually during the previous week’s Sunday night game. One game will be scheduled for Sunday night, usually a game that decides who wins the division, a game where the winner is guaranteed to make the playoffs while the loser is out, or a game where one team makes the playoffs with a win but falls behind the winner of another game, and thus loses the division and/or misses the playoffs, with a loss. Two more games with playoff implications are scheduled for Saturday on ABC and ESPN, with the remaining games doled out to CBS and Fox on Sunday afternoon, with the league generally trying to maximize what each team has to play for. Protections and appearance limits do not apply to Week 18.
  • Click here to learn how to read the charts.

Read moreNFL Flexible Scheduling Watch: Week 10

NFL Flexible Scheduling Watch: Week 9

Note: This post does not incorporate the result of the Thursday night game.

On this week’s “Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast”, SportsBusiness Journal’s John Ourand explained how the rule guaranteeing CBS and Fox one-half of each division rivalry is hindering the league’s ability to flex out of bad games by seemingly confirming that CBS and Fox don’t have to protect games if they’re the only half of a division rivalry they’re scheduled to get:


Now, I’m not sure how much that rule has to do with the bad primetime games we’ve already gotten. Besides a number of games not falling in flexible windows, even with the guaranteed-division-rivalry rule it’s not like the league was lacking in alternatives to Bears-Chargers Week 8. It would have required some back-and-forth crossflexing to accommodate both the Rams and Chargers without giving CBS too many games in the late window, but that shouldn’t have been too much of an obstacle unless, as I’ve decided, the early flex is meant to be a very rare exception to the games it applies to being non-flexible, to be used only when an injury to a star player makes it truly dire and not as marketable as it used to be. But that may not be as much the case as I’ve thought: this week’s Jets-Raiders game apparently got to the point of the networks issuing protections, with Fox reportedly protecting Niners-Jaguars despite not moving it to the late window or otherwise moving away from Giants-Cowboys as their lead late game, because the Cowboys-Giants half of the rivalry had already aired on NBC. (On that note, shortly after the bit in the clip Marchand and Ourand were reminded that there are three games between teams with winning records this week, including Niners-Jaguars… and all three are in the early window, and in fact all three are on Fox so no one will be getting more than one of them without Sunday Ticket.) And the rule certainly is greatly limiting the league’s options in the main flex period, as we’ve had plenty of opportunity to explore in this space.

What would I do about it? Really, there’s not much that can be done beyond taking more care in the construction of the schedule. One thing I would do is space out divisional games as evenly as possible across the season. Each division has 12 divisional games, two of which have to be played Week 18; multiply by eight divisions and that’s 80 games over 17 weeks, or about five a week with five weeks getting four. Those five weeks, if possible, should all be in the main flex period. In addition, for any division game scheduled for one of the primetime packages, CBS or Fox’s half of those games should be scheduled for September or October before the main flex period kicks in, and games with one half scheduled for Week 18 should have the other half scheduled either in the first half of the season, or very late in the season, around Week 15-16, so the league has some idea of the likelihood that the Week 18 game will be suitable/desirable for a move to NBC or ESPN. Balancing all of that is not necessarily practical, and might not be desirable for CBS or Fox, but I feel like it should be a goal the league should aspire towards.

Of course, there’s a reason Fox didn’t back out of a game involving the woeful Giants as its lead late game in favor of Niners-Jaguars or any of the other games involving teams with winning records: how good a team is doesn’t necessarily correlate that well with how desirable the games involving them are.

How NFL flexible scheduling works: (see also the NFL’s own page on flex schedule procedures)

  • Up to two games in Weeks 5-10 (the “early flex” period), and any number of games from Week 11 onward, may be flexed into Sunday Night Football. Any number of games from Week 12 onward may be flexed into Monday Night Football, and up to two games from Week 13 onward may be flexed into Thursday Night Football. In addition, in select weeks in December a number of games may be listed as “TBD”, with two or three of those games being assigned to be played on Saturday. Note that I only cover early flexes if a star player on one of the teams is injured.
  • Only games scheduled for Sunday afternoon, or set aside for a potential move to Saturday, may be flexed into one of the flex-eligible windows – not existing primetime games or games in other standalone windows. The game currently listed in the flex-eligible window will take the flexed-in game’s space on the Sunday afternoon slate, generally on the network that the flexed-in game was originally scheduled for. The league may also move Sunday afternoon games between 1 PM ET and 4:05 or 4:25 PM ET.
  • Thursday Night Football flex moves must be announced 28 days in advance. Sunday and Monday Night Football moves must be announced 12 days in advance, except for Sunday night games in Week 14 onward, which can be announced at any point up until 6 days in advance.
  • CBS and Fox have the right to protect one game each per week, among the games scheduled for their networks, from being flexed into primetime windows. During the early flex period, they may protect games at any point once the league tells them they’re thinking of pulling the flex. It’s not known when they must protect games in the main flex period, only that it’s “significantly closer to each game date” relative to the old deadline of Week 5. My assumption is that protections are due five weeks in advance, in accordance with the 28-day deadline for TNF flexes. Protections have never been officially publicized, and have not leaked en masse since 2014, so can only be speculated on.
  • Supposedly, CBS and Fox are also guaranteed one half of each division rivalry. Notably, some Week 18 games (see below) have their other halves scheduled for the other conference’s network, though none are scheduled for primetime.
  • No team may appear more than seven times in primetime windows – six scheduled before the season plus one flexed in. This appears to consider only the actual time the game is played; Amazon’s Black Friday game does not count even though the rest of their TNF slate does, and NBC’s Saturday afternoon game Week 16 doesn’t count but their Peacock game that night does. This post contains a list of all teams’ primetime appearances entering the season.
  • Teams may play no more than two Thursday games following Sunday games, and (apparently) no more than one of them can be on the road.
  • In Week 18 the entire schedule, consisting entirely of games between divisional opponents, is set on six days’ notice, usually during the previous week’s Sunday night game. One game will be scheduled for Sunday night, usually a game that decides who wins the division, a game where the winner is guaranteed to make the playoffs while the loser is out, or a game where one team makes the playoffs with a win but falls behind the winner of another game, and thus loses the division and/or misses the playoffs, with a loss. Two more games with playoff implications are scheduled for Saturday on ABC and ESPN, with the remaining games doled out to CBS and Fox on Sunday afternoon, with the league generally trying to maximize what each team has to play for. Protections and appearance limits do not apply to Week 18.
  • Click here to learn how to read the charts.

Read moreNFL Flexible Scheduling Watch: Week 9

Last-Minute Remarks on TNF Week 14 Flex Scheduling Decisions

Week 14 (TNF only): Will the first test of TNF flexing involve taking out the mighty Patriots and Steelers in favor of the name-value black hole known as the Houston Texans? Will the first flex decision of the year involve moving the Rodgers-less Jets into a primetime window? I’m… not sure.

The problem is that the Los Angeles Rams ended the Packers’ four-game losing streak over the weekend in a game that wasn’t particularly competitive, raising the prospect that their game against the NFC South-leading Saints in two weeks won’t be particularly competitive either. The Texans’ relative success means that their game against the Browns that week is improving its prospects, but there are a few problems with it. At the most basic level, the Rams have three wins to the Pats’ two, but I’m willing to ignore that since the Pats and Steelers have significantly more name value. Moreover, the league might be unwilling to feature the Browns and DeShawn Watson too much considering the controversy swirling around him. But they haven’t entirely kept them out of standalone windows even with the increase in the TNF appearance cap meaning they don’t have to schedule them there, which brings me to the big problem: the Browns’ TNF game against the Jets is the following week, and if the Jets are at or above .500 without Rodgers that probably isn’t being flexed out. The NFL could have the Browns and Jets play a game with a three-day rest mismatch, but my inclination is that they’ll avoid that if it’s at all possible.

So if that’s not an option, where does that leave this week? As much as the Texans don’t have any name value, they do have a potential Rookie of the Year candidate in C.J. Stroud, and currently sit just a game behind the three non-Baltimore AFC North teams for a playoff spot. That’s a team you might want to give some showcase to (remember when the NFL’s schedule-makers said they didn’t want people’s first exposure to a playoff team to come in January?), and as it stands the Texans aren’t scheduled for any featured windows, not even TNF. In the past, NFL broadcasters have indicated that they value name value over the actual quality of the teams when deciding what games to keep and which to try to replace them with; would Amazon prefer to have even the current woeful Pats playing the always-popular Steelers over two teams with significantly less name or star power in the Texans and Jets? Would the NFL be willing to pull the trigger in this situation? I don’t know, and we’re in uncharted territory here trying to figure out how willing the league is going to be to pull a TNF flex. For all I know the league is going to treat TNF flexing as the same sort of “break glass in case of emergency” scenario the SNF early flex has turned out to be; worth noting that there’s one fewer flexible week on the TNF schedule than there are SNF early flex week. A flex could be mighty tempting in this scenario simply because it would allow the league to replace the Packers-Giants MNF game with any game it wants, but that’s probably two teams with more name value than the Pats and Steelers, and right now the only viable game not involving a team below .500 is Jags-Browns.

The Jets play a struggling Chargers team at home on Monday Night Football tonight. A loss would raise a lot of questions about how good a team the Jets really are without Rodgers. A win wouldn’t do that much to the Jets’ perception (though the Chargers are favored), but it would suggest the Texans and Jets are two teams that are at least decent. If the NFL wants to get their test of TNF flexing out of the way, they probably won’t have a better opportunity this season than this (though keep an eye on Colts-Falcons as an alternative to Saints-Rams).

Final prediction:

  • Houston Texans @ New York Jets to TNF (if the Jets win tonight).
  • No changes (for now) (if the Jets lose tonight).

NFL Flexible Scheduling Watch: Week 8

Note: This post does not incorporate the result of the Thursday night game.

I decided to wait and see what the Vikings did at the trade deadline before I began writing this post, to inform what I say in the Week 11 section (and as it happens, Kirk Cousins’ injury has an impact on several other weeks as well), but in retrospect I should have at least written this opening section as soon as I came up with it because now I’m struggling to remember what I was going to say here. I know I was going to say something about how there were some more upsets this past week but perhaps the ones that most stood out to me were a pair of teams going in opposite directions, one of which was the Broncos. After beating up on the Chiefs without Taylor Swift (and how weird it is to think that that’s as notable an absence as any player), the Broncos have now won two straight and might be, possibly, climbing up to respectability, with the Broncos defense showing up in a way they never did against the Dolphins and Russell Wilson having a respectable, even good, day.

Then again, the other team they’ve beaten in the past two weeks was the Green Bay Packers, which have now lost four straight after a 2-1 start, including a loss to a Raiders team that just fired their coach. I’m not certain the Packers were the other team I was going to mention, but they do have a couple of games in featured windows that are now looking very vulnerable.

How NFL flexible scheduling works: (see also the NFL’s own page on flex schedule procedures)

  • Up to two games in Weeks 5-10 (the “early flex” period), and any number of games from Week 11 onward, may be flexed into Sunday Night Football. Any number of games from Week 12 onward may be flexed into Monday Night Football, and up to two games from Week 13 onward may be flexed into Thursday Night Football. In addition, in select weeks in December a number of games may be listed as “TBD”, with two or three of those games being assigned to be played on Saturday. Note that I only cover early flexes if a star player on one of the teams is injured.
  • Only games scheduled for Sunday afternoon, or set aside for a potential move to Saturday, may be flexed into one of the flex-eligible windows – not existing primetime games or games in other standalone windows. The game currently listed in the flex-eligible window will take the flexed-in game’s space on the Sunday afternoon slate, generally on the network that the flexed-in game was originally scheduled for. The league may also move Sunday afternoon games between 1 PM ET and 4:05 or 4:25 PM ET.
  • Thursday Night Football flex moves must be announced 28 days in advance. Sunday and Monday Night Football moves must be announced 12 days in advance, except for Sunday night games in Week 14 onward, which can be announced at any point up until 6 days in advance.
  • CBS and Fox have the right to protect one game each per week, among the games scheduled for their networks, from being flexed into primetime windows. During the early flex period, they may protect games at any point once the league tells them they’re thinking of pulling the flex. It’s not known when they must protect games in the main flex period, only that it’s “significantly closer to each game date” relative to the old deadline of Week 5. My assumption is that protections are due five weeks in advance, in accordance with the 28-day deadline for TNF flexes. Protections have never been officially publicized, and have not leaked en masse since 2014, so can only be speculated on.
  • Supposedly, CBS and Fox are also guaranteed one half of each division rivalry. Notably, some Week 18 games (see below) have their other halves scheduled for the other conference’s network, though none are scheduled for primetime.
  • No team may appear more than seven times in primetime windows – six scheduled before the season plus one flexed in. This appears to consider only the actual time the game is played; Amazon’s Black Friday game does not count even though the rest of their TNF slate does, and NBC’s Saturday afternoon game Week 16 doesn’t count but their Peacock game that night does. This post contains a list of all teams’ primetime appearances entering the season.
  • Teams may play no more than two Thursday games following Sunday games, and (apparently) no more than one of them can be on the road.
  • In Week 18 the entire schedule, consisting entirely of games between divisional opponents, is set on six days’ notice, usually during the previous week’s Sunday night game. One game will be scheduled for Sunday night, usually a game that decides who wins the division, a game where the winner is guaranteed to make the playoffs while the loser is out, or a game where one team makes the playoffs with a win but falls behind the winner of another game, and thus loses the division and/or misses the playoffs, with a loss. Two more games with playoff implications are scheduled for Saturday on ABC and ESPN, with the remaining games doled out to CBS and Fox on Sunday afternoon, with the league generally trying to maximize what each team has to play for. Protections and appearance limits do not apply to Week 18.
  • Click here to learn how to read the charts.

Read moreNFL Flexible Scheduling Watch: Week 8