Last year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. CBS and Fox were able to protect one game every week each but had to leave one week each unprotected and had to submit their protections after only four weeks.
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:
- 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.
- Two other rules were established earlier: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks, and can't protect any games Week 17 this year.
- Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five; the Pats and Cowboys already have six) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC.
Week 11 (November 18):
- Selected game: New England @ Buffalo.
Week 12 (November 25):
- Selected game: Philadelphia @ New England.
Week 13 (December 2):
- Selected game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh.
Week 14 (December 9):
- Selected game: Indianapolis @ Baltimore.
Week 15 (December 16):
- Selected game: Washington @ NY Giants.
Week 16 (December 23):
- Tentative game: Tampa Bay @ San Francisco
- Prospects: Very problematic, even with the Bucs' success, which just makes it look lopsided. Tell me NBC and the NFL won't settle for 8-4 v. 3-9.
- Protected games according to AA: Texans-Colts (CBS) and Packers-Bears (FOX).
- Other possible games: There aren't a lot of attractive matchups this week. Lions-Chiefs is probably out, at 6-6 v. 4-8, and as the Bills fall back to reality Giants-Bills, at 6-6 v. 8-4, is in trouble as well. Ravens-Seahawks? At 4-8 v. 8-4? Please. Skins-Vikings (5-7 v. 6-6 but likely to finish higher) might be the favorite now, and likely has an edge over Eagles-Saints (5-7 v. 5-7) for a number of reasons. At this point even Browns-Bengals has an outside shot at 7-5 v. 4-8.
- Prediction: A lot depends on the lopsidedness factor and how much it comes into play. If it doesn't look for Giants-Bills to get in with a Buffalo win. If the NFL cared avout the competitiveness of the game Skins-Vikings might have a better shot. But while there are weak matchups here there are better ones than what NBC might think it had to settle for. For Giants-Bills to be beaten, a few things needs to happen; a Bills loss woyld be a start. Skins-Vikings needs a Skins win, but that combined with a Vikings win and Bills loss might make it safe. This one could be wide open in many ways. Hard to read; this will be telling about the NFL's, and NBC's, priorities.
Week 17 (December 30):
- Tentative game: Kansas City @ NY Jets
- Prospects: Awful. This has the best chance of losing its spot.
- Other possible games/Playoff Positioning Watch:
- AFC East: Patriots clinched.
- AFC North: Two-horse race. The Steelers are leading but the Browns are just a game back. The Browns can push Steelers-Ravens to primetime if they keep it close (likely) and the Ravens are in contention for a wild card (unlikely).
- AFC South: The Colts are now two ahead of the Jaguars and three ahead of the Titans. Titans-Colts can still excite (see below) but is now vulnerable to an NFC game.
- AFC West: Chargers two ahead of the Broncos and three ahead of the Chiefs and Raiders. The Chargers are playing the Raiders; the Broncos, the Vikings. Not looking likely.
- AFC Wild Card: The Jags and either the Browns or Titans would get the nod if the season ended today, with the Bills a game back, playing the Eagles. The Texans and Broncos are two back. Note the Jags-Texans matchup, probably the only serious competitor to Titans-Colts in the AFC. As the Ravens fade, Steelers-Ravens is probably out. Dolphins cannot make the playoffs and the Jets would come down to a tiebreaker.
- NFC East: Cowboys opening a big lead on the Giants. The Giants are on NFL Network and Dallas has too many primetime appearances. Philly and Washington are both out.
- NFC North: The Pack have opened up a lead large enough to put the Lions and Vikings down to tiebreakers. The Vikings lose that but the Lions still have one to play against the Packers - guess what week that is?
- NFC South: Bucs up three on Saints and Panthers. The Saints play the Bears, and Bucs-Panthers is fading. Falcons out.
- NFC West: Seahawks have opened up a two-game lead over the Cardinals. The former plays the Falcons while the latter plays the Rams. Niners and Rams out.
- NFC Wild Card: Giants and either the Lions, Vikings, or Cardinals would get the nod if the season ended today. Wild-card implications could lend enough credence to Packers-Lions for the Favre factor to take over from there and make it the favorite. Vikings-Broncos becomes a minor dark horse. Redskins, Eagles, Bears, Panthers, and Saints are all a game back at 5-7, which means all but three teams in the NFC are within a game of the playoffs (!), lending a little credence to Bills-Eagles, Saints-Bears, Vikings-Broncos, and Bucs-Panthers. All three of the other teams are at 3-9 but still mathematically in it.