The 2012 NFL schedule has officially been released, but not every game is officially set in stone. The NFL will continue to implement flexible scheduling for Sunday games, which ensures that there are quality matchups on Sunday night. This year, the NFL has the authority to use flexible scheduling in Weeks 11-17, which almost guarantees that every matchup will have playoff implications.
- Begins Sunday of Week 11
- In effect during Weeks 11-17
- Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
- The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
- The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
- No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
- The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
- Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
- The NBC Sunday night time slot in "flex" weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
- Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
- NFL schedules all games.
- Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
The NFL has selected a great slate of Sunday night matchups on paper, but let's take a look at the next best game for each of the final seven weeks.
The chances of this game being changed are slim to none, but we will look at it nonetheless. Both teams should be fighting for the top spot in the AFC North by the time this game rolls around, and this is matchup is usually one of the best that the NFL has to offer.
However, a matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs wouldn't be so bad either. (The Packers and Lions also play during Week 11, but the teams already have a Sunday night game scheduled during Week 15.)
The Bengals surprised the NFL world after they made the playoffs in 2011, while the Chiefs had a disappointing campaign that was contributed to the injuries of several key players early in the season.
This matchup has the potential of being a battle between two teams that are talented enough to compete for their respective division titles, and when you combined that with the amazing atmosphere that Arrowhead Stadium possesses, it is hard not be excited about this game.
The Packers and Giants played two great games last season, and it is hard to see this game being flexed out as well.
The 49ers and Saints, however, played one of the most exciting games in recent memory last season. San Francisco barely edged out New Orleans with nine seconds left in the fourth quarter of the NFC Divisional round in a game that constantly went back and forth.
New Orleans will actually host San Francisco this time around, and the 49ers will come into the game with a lot more firepower on the offensive side of the ball. The team's defense will be the key to the game, however, as they will try to shut down a Saints offense that averaged 41 points a game in the Superdome last season.
This game will be a strength versus strength type of battle, which is definitely something to get excited about.
The Eagles and Cowboys are scheduled to square off for the second time in 2012 during Week 13, and it is certainly a matchup that will have playoff implications.
This game has been one of the league's most consistent prime-time matchups over the past few seasons, but another matchup that the league may have to consider is the Seahawks and Bears.
The Seahawks are a team that does not get enough credit, and I definitely expect them to make some noise in 2012. The team possesses one of the league's best young defenses that is led by a vastly underrated secondary.
The Bears are a team that has Super Bowl aspirations after the team acquired running back Michael Bush and wide receiver Brandon Marshall in the offseason.
This game could have Wild Card implications when the season is all said and done.
Current Matchup: Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
Possible Flex Scheduling Matchup: New Orleans Saints at New York Giants
I really hope that this game stays where it is because that will means that the Lions will be competing for a playoff spot. The Lions have really struggled against the Packers as the teams last victory at Lambeau came on Dec. 15, 1991, when they defeated the Packers, 21-17.
This Lions team is the best team that the franchise has fielded in quite sometime, and I believe that they have enough talent to finally win in Green Bay this season.
Another quality matchup in Week 14 is the Giants and Saints. The Giants have been blown out in two consecutive meetings with the Saints that have both been played in the Superdome, but New York will be the ones that get to play host this time.
The cold weather will certainly be an advantage for the Giants as they look to revenge two embarrassing losses in a row to this Saints team.
Current Matchup: San Francisco 49ers at New England Patriots
Possible Flex Scheduling Matchup: Pittsburgh Steelers at Dallas Cowboys
The 49ers and Patriots could be a Super Bowl preview, while Pittsburgh and Dallas could be one as well.
The Steelers are a team that is hard to count out, and the Cowboys are a team that has just flat-out underachieved. The game will be played indoors, which should allow both offenses to put up some serious points.
Both teams should be contending for their respective division titles by the time this game roles around.
Possible Flex Scheduling Matchup: New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens
This is the first matchup that I can really see being changed. The Jets are a team that seems to be a mess right now, and the Chargers are as unpredictable as the weather.
A much better matchup for Week 16 would be the Giants at the Ravens. These two teams would play an extremely physical football game that would likely be decided on a big play for either team's defense.
This game could be the difference between making the playoffs and missing them for either team considering how tough their divisions are.
Current Matchup: No current matchup, this game is automatically flexed.
Possible Flex Scheduling Matchup: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos
There are a number of games that qualify for this spot, but I believe that the game that I have chosen will decide the AFC West.
The Broncos will struggle at times during the season, and they will come into this game with a 9-6 record, which will leave them tied with Kansas City for the division lead.
This will be a fierce rivalry battle between two quality teams. Can you imagine a more dramatic end to the 2012 season than Peyton Manning fighting for his playoff life? I think not.