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, Broncos-Chiefs. Chargers-Raiders is out because a Broncos win Week 17 would lock up the division no matter what else happens these next two weeks.
- Cowboys-Giants will be picked if: The Giants win OR the Cowboys lose AND the situation below doesn’t happen. A Giants win Week 16 knocks the Eagles out of the playoffs. If the Giants lose, a Cowboys win locks up the division for them, while a Cowboys loss leaves open the possibility that the Giants would already be eliminated before primetime.
- Broncos-Chiefs will be picked if: The Giants lose AND the Broncos lose AND the Chiefs beat the Raiders AND the Chargers lose. It’s a lot to have happen, and the Broncos are playing the floundering Bills, but if the Chiefs beat the Broncos they would win even a three-way tiebreaker, thanks in large part to what would be a sweep of the Raiders. Because NBC hasn’t had the Tebow fill they wanted, they might choose this game even if the Giants win, but you know Fox is salivating more at the prospect of Cowboys-Giants than CBS is salivating at the prospect of Broncos-Chiefs. If neither of these scenarios happen? NBC is screwed. That’s why I think they might go with Cowboys-Giants even if the Cowboys haven’t done so much as clinch the division. NBC will be rooting hard for the Giants on Saturday, and if they lose we’ll learn a lot about the NFL’s priorities and contingencies.
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