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 and 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 website 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.
- Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime 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. A list of all teams’ prime-time appearances is in my first two posts for Weeks 4 and 5.
- Last year’s selection of prime-time games was weighted rather heavily toward 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 toward 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 12 (Nov. 27):
- Selected game: Pittsburgh at Kansas City
Week 13 (Dec. 4):
- Selected game: Detroit at New Orleans
Week 14 (Dec. 11):
- Tentative game: N.Y. Giants at Dallas
- Prospects: NFC East clash, with both teams moderately good and both teams tied for the division lead. For a flex to have ever been in the realm of possibility, one or both teams would have had to completely collapse and the other game would have to sweep the NFL off its feet. Combine that with a paucity of NFC road games, and no wonder Fox left this week unprotected.
- Protected games: Patriots-Redskins (CBS).
- Other possible games: Texans-Bengals and Raiders-Packers are the only games involving two teams over .500; Saints-Titans and Broncos-Bears are also in the mix. Games involving 4-6 teams (Bills-Chargers and Chiefs-Jets) aren’t worth considering.
- Analysis: Probably the Giants and Cowboys would have to both lose to get this game flexed out, and even then it’d still be for the NFC East lead. But that would be an all-6-5 game, three of the other games I mentioned involve teams at 7-3 already, and the fourth is 6-4 vs. 10-0. Although Texans-Bengals is potentially the best game overall, in terms of not being lopsided, Raiders-Packers may be the game most able to overcome the Cowboys’ and Giants’ TV-friendliness, and Broncos-Bears is up there is well because of the Bears and the Tebow factor. Given the tentative game bias, the TV-friendliness of the teams, and the stakes, I have a hard time seeing this game flexed out, but I can’t quite bring myself to pull the trigger early.
Week 15 (Dec. 18):
- Tentative game: Baltimore at San Diego
- Prospects: At one point this game was the only one of NBC’s tentatives involving two teams above .500. Might the Chargers’ midseason swoon be putting this one in flex jeopardy? Maybe not, given the alternatives.
- Protected games: Jets-Eagles (CBS) and Redskins-Giants (FOX).
- Other possible games: Lions-Raiders, Packers-Chiefs and Patriots-Broncos are the only remotely good options, with Seahawks-Bears starting to emerge as a dark horse, and Lions-Raiders is the only one involving two teams over .500.
Week 17 (Jan. 1):
- Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
- Possible games: Cowboys-Giants, Titans-Texans, Lions-Packers, Ravens-Bengals, Bucs-Falcons, Bills-Patriots, Chargers-Raiders and Chiefs-Broncos.