NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For Weeks 10-15, the games are determined on 12-day notice, six-day notice for Week 17.
The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.
Here are the rules from the NFL Web site (note that this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it contradicts the above—and the page it comes from, for that matter):
- 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 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 six 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 (six days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
- NFL schedules all games.
- Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
- Rules NOT listed on NFL Web site, but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 the first year of flexible scheduling, but are now protected after Week 5; however, they are back to Week 4 this year, probably for the same reason as that first year: NBC hosting a Christmas night game and the other games being moved to Saturday. Listed protections courtesy reganBuffalo at the506.
- Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in prime time on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. At this writing, no team is completely tapped out at any measure; five teams have five prime time appearances each, but all of them have at least one game that can be flexed out. NBC appearances for all teams: NO 2, GB 3, DAL 3 (1 flexible), NYJ 3 (1 flexible), PHI 3 (1 flexible), ATL 2, PIT 3 (1 flexible), IND 3 (1 flexible), BAL 3 (1 flexible), MIN 1, CHI 2, NE 2 (both flexible), NYG 2 (both flexible), KC 1 (flexible), SD 1 (flexible). All prime time appearances for all teams: NO 4, GB 4, DAL 5 (1 flexible), NYJ 5 (1 flexible), PHI 5 (1 flexible), ATL 4, PIT 5 (1 flexible), IND 5 (1 flexible), BAL 5 (1 flexible), MIN 2, CHI 4, NE 4 (2 flexible), NYG 4 (2 flexible), KC 3 (1 flexible), SD 4 (1 flexible), MIA 2, OAK 2, DEN 2, STL 2, WAS 1, TB 2, DET 1, JAX 3, SEA 2, SF 2, CLE 1, HOU 1.
- Last year’s selection of prime time games was weighted rather heavily towards Fox games. This year, the selection currently leans CBS 22, FOX 20 (though if I miscounted one game it may be even). My guess is that the balance will continue to lean towards the AFC. Weeks 10, 12, 13 and 15 are all CBS games, while Weeks 11 and 14 are FOX.
Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:
Week 10 (November 13)
- Tentative game: New England at NY Jets.
- Prospects: 4-1 vs. 2-3; this is becoming one of the hottest rivalries in the AFC, but this game could be in trouble if the Jets keep losing.
- Protected games: Saints vs. Falcons (FOX).
- Other possible games: Giants vs. 49ers, Steelers vs. Bengals, Texans vs. Bucs and Bills vs. Cowboys, with Lions vs. Bears as a dark horse.
Week 11 (November 20)
- Tentative game: Philadelphia at NY Giants.
- Prospects: 3-2 vs. 1-4. If the not-so-Dream Team continues to be a nightmare, this has a pretty good chance to be flexed out, despite the NFC East factor.
- Protected games: Cowboys vs. Redskins (FOX) and Chargers vs. Bears (CBS).
- Other possible games: Bucs vs. Packers has the lead, followed by Bengals vs. Ravens. Titans vs. Falcons and Chargers vs. Bears are dark horses.
Week 12 (November 27)
- Tentative game: Pittsburgh at Kansas City.
- Prospects: 3-2 vs. 2-3. Time will tell if the Chiefs are about to rally from their disastrous start. It might not take much for this game to keep its spot.
- Protected games: Patriots vs. Eagles (CBS) and Bears vs. Raiders (FOX).
- Other possible games: Thanksgiving weekend, paucity of good games (Packers vs. Lions is an especially bad loss). Bills vs. Jets, Bucs vs. Titans and Bengals vs. Browns are the only remotely viable options. After the protections, NBC isn’t left with very attractive matchups in terms of drawing power.
Week 13 (December 4)
- Tentative game: Indianapolis at New England.
- Prospects: It’s the Colts and the Patriots, the NFL’s biggest current rivalry! What’s that? Peyton Manning’s injured and the Colts are 0-5? Yeeeeah, this is getting flexed out unless Manning comes back before then, and even then this would have to be the very game he comes back, which probably won’t be known two weeks in advance.
- Protected games: Jets vs. Redskins (CBS) and Packers vs. Giants (FOX).
- Other possible games: Lions vs. Saints has the early lead; Bengals vs. Steelers, Titans vs. Bills and Ravens vs. Browns are also options and Falcons vs. Texans is a dark horse.
Week 14 (December 11)
- Tentative game: NY Giants at Dallas.
- Prospects: NFC East clash, with both teams moderately good. A flex isn’t out of the realm of possibility, but one or both teams would have to completely collapse and the other game would have to sweep the NFL off its feet. Combine that with a paucity of good NFC road games, and no wonder Fox left this week unprotected.
- Protected games: Patriots vs. Redskins (CBS).
- Other possible games: Bills vs. Chargers, Raiders vs. Packers, Saints vs. Titans and Texans vs. Bengals.
Week 15 (December 18)
- Tentative game: Baltimore at San Diego.
- Prospects: Not NBC’s biggest late-season matchup, but the only one with both teams over .500 (not at it). Good chance to keep its spot.
- Protected games: Jets vs. Eagles (CBS) and Redskins vs. Giants (FOX).
- Other possible games: Lions vs. Raiders. That's it. Yeah, I’d say Ravens vs. Chargers is keeping its spot.
Week 17 (January 1)
- Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.