NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For Weeks 10-15, the games are determined on 12-day notice, with a 6-day notice for Week 17.
The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot; there was 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 1:00 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 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.
- The 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 in 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 primetime appearances each, but all of them have at least one game that can be flexed out. A list of all teams’ primetime appearances is in my first two posts for Weeks 4 and 5.
- Last year’s selection of primetime 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):
- Selected game: New England @ NY Jets.
Week 11 (November 20):
- Selected game: Philadelphia @ NY Giants.
Week 12 (November 27):
- Selected game: Pittsburgh @ Kansas City.
Week 13 (December 4):
- Selected game: Detroit @ New Orleans.
Week 14 (December 11):
- Selected game: NY Giants @ Dallas.
Week 15 (December 18):
- Tentative game: Baltimore @ 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? There aren’t many alternatives, but…
- Protected games: Jets-Eagles (CBS) and Redskins-Giants (FOX).
- Other possible games: Lions-Raiders and Patriots-Broncos are the only remotely good options, unless you consider the unbeaten Packers beating up on the 4-7 Chiefs “remotely good."
- Analysis: However, we’ve seen an increasing polarization of the league to the extent that “remotely good” pretty much means “good” (there is only one team in the league at 5-6, the Bills). Lions-Raiders is 7-4 vs. 7-4, but the real attraction may be Patriots-Broncos, at 8-3 vs. 6-5 and the prospect of Tom Brady vs. Tim Tebow. Compare that to Ravens-Chargers at 8-3 vs. 4-7. None of the teams involved are close to maxing out, so a flex is a very real possibility. If the Broncos beat the Vikings—and why wouldn’t they?—there’s almost no reason not to put Patriots-Broncos on Sunday night, which would have been unthinkable a month and a half ago. Unless the Chargers can salvage something by beating the woebegone Jags Monday night…
Week 17 (January 1):
- Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
- Possible games: Cowboys-Giants, Titans-Texans, Lions-Packers, Ravens-Bengals. Bills-Patriots is looking like a dark horse more than anything, and the AFC West and NFC South just don’t pair up right.