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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 13

NBC's Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, 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 last season in mind):
  • 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. (Note: Last year, NBC listed a tentative game for Week 17; they are not doing so this year.)
  • 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. (Note: Again, excluding Week 17.)
  • 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 could not protect any games Week 17 last year. Unless I find out otherwise, I'm assuming that's still the case this year, especially with no tentative game listed Week 17, and that protections were scheduled after Week 4.
  • 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. A list of all teams' number of appearances is in my Week 4 post.
Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 16):
  • Selected game: Dallas @ Washington.
Week 12 (November 23):
  • Selected game: Indianapolis @ San Diego.
Week 13 (November 30):
  • Selected game: Chicago @ Minnesota.
Week 14 (December 7):
  • Selected game: Washington @ Baltimore.
Week 15 (December 14):
  • Selected game: NY Giants @ Dallas.
Week 16 (December 21):
  • Tentative game: San Diego @ Tampa Bay
  • Prospects: 4-8 @ 9-3? Good lord is this game lopsided.
  • Likely protections: Panthers-Giants or Eagles-Redskins (FOX) and Steelers-Titans (CBS).
  • "That's my story and I'm sticking to it"'s protections: Eagles-Redskins (FOX) and Steelers-Titans (CBS)
  • Other possible games: Cardinals-Patriots is still strong and Bills-Broncos and Falcons-Vikings are still at least close. If TMS&ISTI is right all this is moot because the Panthers and Giants would have to collapse to give up the spot (the Panthers did lose this week), but if it was Panthers-Giants protected Eagles-Redskins would be in it as well. Even if Panthers-Giants had been protected, Cardinals-Patriots is a strong enough game it probably would have gotten the spot anyway.
  • Analysis: If Panthers-Giants isn't protected I might as well pick it now. If it is, there are four games that are very close, and Falcons-Vikings is probably the leader in the clubhouse at 8-4 v. 7-5. Cardinals-Patriots is next at 7-5 @ 7-5, then Eagles-Redskins at 6-5-1 @ 7-5, then Bills-Broncos at 6-6 @ 7-5. For any of these games to have a shot, Panthers-Giants must be protected and the Falcons, at the very least, must lose. A Falcons loss, a Vikings win, and wins by the Cardinals and Patriots would put those two games on even footing; Bills-Broncos needs a perfect scenario (Falcons and Vikings losses, Bills and Broncos wins), but Eagles-Redskins might get close enough to pull a pretty good case that the Eagles should have won "The Tie" and the accounting should be even.
Week 17 (December 28 Playoff Positioning Watch):
  • Note that not only is there no longer an NBC tentative game, there's no NFL Network game. Apparently the league learned their lesson from last year's Patriots-Giants debacle.
  • AFC East: Anyone's game. All four teams within two games of one another, with the Jets leading, the Pats and Dolphins a game back, and the Bills a game behind that. The Pats and Bills play each other, as do the Dolphins and Jets.
  • AFC North: The Steelers and Ravens are the only two teams still in it; Steelers have a one-game edge. The Steelers play the Browns while the Ravens play the Jags.
  • AFC South: The Titans are running away with it, with the Colts the only other team with a shot. No matter the standings, if the Titans remain undefeated Titans-Colts could be a lock.
  • AFC West: Chiefs out, Raiders hanging on by a tiebreaker. Broncos and Chargers the main contenders, and play each other. Hmm. However, the gap is three games, advantage Broncos, and the Raiders are only a game behind the Chargers.
  • AFC Wild Card: The Ravens and Colts would get the nod if the season ended today. The Dolphins and Patriots are a game back, and the Bills are waiting in the wings. Both East games and Titans-Colts are the main AFC contenders. Raiders, Chiefs, Bengals out, Chargers, Jags, Browns need a tiebreaker.
  • NFC East: The Giants have a three-game lead over the Cowboys, with the Redskins hanging on by a tiebreaker and the Eagles out by half a game. The Giants play the Vikings while the Cowboys face the Eagles.
  • NFC North: Vikings lead, Bears a game back, Packers two, Lions out. The Bears play the Texans and the Packers play the Lions, but the Vikings play the Giants.
  • NFC South: Every team still in it, with the Panthers and Bucs leading, the Falcons a game back, and the Saints three back. The Panthers play the Saints, but Tampa Bay plays the Raiders and the Falcons play the Rams.
  • NFC West: The Cardinals are running away with it and the 49ers are the only other team with a shot. Cardinals play the Seahawks. Hardly must-see TV.
  • NFC Wild Card: The Panthers-Bucs loser and either the Cowboys or Falcons would get the nod if the season ended today. Redskins a game back, Eagles 1.5 back, Bears and Saints waiting in the wings. Packers three back, 49ers need a tiebreak. Giants-Vikings, Cowboys-Eagles, and Panthers-Saints are strong games, but that may be it in the NFC and the last one could be fading. Those could be competitive games for the NBC pick, though.

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