NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For Weeks 10-15, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-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 1:00 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.
- 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.
- 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 17 (January 1):
- Tentative game: None (NBC will show game with guaranteed playoff implications).
- Possible games: Cowboys-Giants, Lions-Packers, Chargers-Raiders. Tiebreakers eliminate Titans-Texans and Ravens-Bengals.
- Chances for Cowboys-Giants: 80 percent. Here are the scenarios for this game not to be picked: 1) One team loses their next two games and the other team wins their next two games. 2) The Cowboys beat the Bucs tonight, but lose to the Eagles next week while the Giants win their next two, as the Giants would hold the common-games tiebreaker even with a loss to the Cowboys in that situation. 3) and this is a maybe, considering the division winner doesn’t even have a good enough record for the wild card at the moment and the paucity of other options: the loser of the game still has a chance to make the playoffs. Any other scenario, and this game is for the NFC East crown with the loser likely out of the playoffs, and that would be by far the most TV-friendly game NBC could hope for. Those other scenarios are very possible, but the return match is looking very likely for a return to NBC.
- Chances for Lions-Packers: 10 percent. The Pack have already locked up the division, so a) they would have to be gunning for 16-0, b) preferably the Lions wouldn’t be fighting for a playoff spot or at least their game wouldn’t have an impact on other teams’ playoff hopes even if they’re knocked out by the end of the day, and c) preferably Cowboys-Giants runs into one of those conditions that make it irrelevant. What saves it is that if situation c) happens, this is pretty likely to be the best game available.
- Chances for Chargers-Raiders: 10 percent. What makes this game a long shot is that neither team is in the playoffs at the moment, but if the Broncos collapse this could luck into being an AFC West title game, and while the Jets and preferably Titans and Bengals would need to collapse it could conceivably be for the wild card as well. If the Broncos lose their next two, and the Chargers and Raiders win their next two, and Cowboys-Giants is irrelevant, and (maybe) the Packers lose one of their next two, this game is getting flexed in because the Chargers’ divisional record would trump the Raiders, and if necessary, their head-to-head record would trump the Raiders and Broncos. But that’s a lot of ifs, so if Cowboys-Giants becomes irrelevant NBC may well find itself stuck, especially if the Packers aren’t 15-0.