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Friday, November 9, 2007

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 9

USA Today's Michael Hiestand confirmed some of the finer points of flexible scheduling that were not in the NFL's own information earlier in the week:

  • 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) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC.
Here's a team-by-team rundown, in the order of the new SuperPower Rankings. "PT App's" reflects each team's total number of appearances on NBC, ESPN and NFL Network under the current schedule. "On NBC" is self-explanatory. "Flexible NBC" is the number of NBC appearances that can be flexed out.
TeamPT App'sOn NBCFlexible NBC

This makes the NFL's decision to go with Pats-Bills stupefying unless CBS protected Steelers-Patriots or NBC intends to flex the Patriots out of its game with the Eagles next week. Two of the six-game teams have already been determined, assuming Pats-Eagles stays on the schedule. The Colts, Steelers, Giants, and Broncos have already hit the 5-game plateau, which might also help explain any decision to stay away from Steelers-Pats. This also explains why Redskins-Cowboys was off-limits.

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.
(Note: I have reason to believe the above rules are very incomplete.) Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 18):

  • Selected game: New England @ Buffalo.

Week 12 (November 25):

  • Tentative game: Philadelphia @ New England
  • Prospects: The Eagles are 3-5 and the Patriots make any game look lopsided. Yet Hiestand actually expects this game to keep its spot.
  • Other possible games: The Redskins took an inexplicable drop in the NBC Rankings to make Bucs (5-4)-Redskins (5-3) look more lopsided than it really is. But too many teams have other commitments on Thanksgiving or Monday night to really endorse any other games, and Texans (4-5)-Browns (5-3) is suffering with the Texans struggling. Chargers (4-4)-Ravens (4-4) is ruined by both teams losing bad. Saints (4-4)-Panthers (4-4) just may come out the winner despite both teams having worse records than either the Bucs or Redskins because it's a key divisional matchup; it needs both teams to win, however. You start to see where Hiestand is coming from.
  • Prediction: If Fox protected Bucs-Redskins it's hard to see Eagles-Patriots losing its spot, despite its lopsided nature. Chargers-Ravens (possibly also protected) and Saints-Panthers are the only other potential challengers, and both need both teams to win. Even then, they're guaranteed to be going up against an unbeaten Pats team - they have a bye this week.

Week 13 (December 2):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: Very much in trouble. The Steelers look great but the Bungles are anything but. Also a factor: the Steelers' high number of primetime games. NBC will want to flex this out for a better Steelers game later.
  • Protected games according to Hiestand: (I don't know if Hiestand knows for certain or if he's only speculating but the language implies he does know what he's talking about.) Jaguars-Colts (CBS) and Giants-Bears (Fox)
  • Other possible games: With that data, Chargers-Chiefs now takes the lead. For some reason, Hiestand takes Detroit-Minnesota, which isn't as crackheaded as it sounds when you consider how bad the Chargers' record is (4-4) and how good Detroit's is (6-2, same as the Steelers). The Chiefs are also 4-4 but the Vikings are sub-.500 - but with an electrifying running back, and still better than the Bungles.

Week 14 (December 9):

  • Tentative game: Indianapolis @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: Better than it used to be because of the protected games.
  • Protected games according to Hiestand: Steelers-Patriots (CBS) and Giants-Eagles (Fox)
  • Other possible games: Cowboys-Lions is eliminated due to the Cowboys' six primetime appearances. Chargers-Titans is the leading dark horse, followed by Jags-Panthers. But their main hope lies in the Ravens' struggles.

Week 15 (December 16):

  • Tentative game: Washington @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: Might have the best chance to keep its spot, unless things break the Ravens' way. Being in the same division as the Cowboys hurts, but these are two teams on fire (especially the G-Men) and the thrilling finish of their last meeting will help write the storyline.
  • Protected games according to Hiestand: Jags-Steelers (CBS). Hiestand mentions no Fox game but that doesn't mean there isn't one.
  • Other possible games: Eagles-Cowboys is looking too lopsided to be competitive. Seahawks-Panthers still has a chance but there are a lot of ifs involved. Titans-Chiefs is gaining real ground. Lions-Chargers could also contend. (Further updates on this front next week.) Hiestand picks Jets-Pats if the Skins and Giants collapse and the Pats are still perfect, but as you can see above, that can only happen if Eagles-Pats gets flexed out, and it's incredibly lopsided anyway.

Week 16 (December 23):

  • Tentative game: Tampa Bay @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: Very problematic, even with the Bucs' success, which just makes it look lopsided.
  • Protected games according to Hiestand: None mentioned, but Skins-Vikings, Giants-Bills, and Dolphins-Pats (the latter two restricted by high number of primetime appearances) are all unprotected.
  • Other possible games: Texans-Colts (is probably out), Packers-Bears (also in trouble but an appealing matchup regardless of respective records), Ravens-Seahawks (could fall off if the Seahawks keep struggling and/or the Ravens prove a paper tiger). There aren't a lot of attractive matchups this week. Lions-Chiefs may become less of a reach. Again, more on this next week.

Week 17 (December 30):

  • Tentative game: Kansas City @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: Awful. The Chiefs have some success finally, but that just makes the game look lopsided.
  • Other possible games: Steelers-Ravens, Titans-Colts, Cowboys-Redskins, Lions-Packers, with Panthers-Bucs a dark horse. Jags-Texans might be out. Titans-Colts and Lions-Packers are Hiestand's favorites. Playoff positioning watch starts next week because I'm in a closing computer lab and I'm in a rush to get home.


I still have no means of uploading to Freehostia at the moment. Here are the Week 9 SuperPower Rankings:
  1. *Patriots
  2. Colts
  3. Cowboys
  4. Packers
  5. Steelers
  6. Giants
  7. Titans
  8. Lions
  9. Browns
  10. Jaguars
  11. Saints
  12. Buccaneers
  13. Chargers
  14. Redskins
  15. Ravens
  16. Chiefs
  17. Seahawks
  18. Bills
  19. Panthers
  20. Texans
  21. Vikings
  22. Bears
  23. Broncos
  24. Cardinals
  25. Eagles
  26. Bengals
  27. Falcons
  28. Raiders
  29. 49ers
  30. Jets
  31. Rams
  32. Dolphins

My Upset Special for the week is the Raiders over the Bears at home, which isn't exactly a blockbuster. Other things that require a web-site update are still on hold for the forseeable future, including the Week 10 College Football Rankings, which, God willing, I will post next week along with the Week 11 Rankings. The NFL Lineal Title is updated on the web site's front page to reflect the Pats' victory but not on the Lineal Title History.

As for the SNF Flex Schedule watch, it's forthcoming, but hang on, it'll take me a bit longer than usual to prepare it, and not because of my computer situation.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


The NFL SuperPower Rankings, NFL lineal title update, SNF Flex Scheduling watch, and NFL picks are all delayed at least until Thursday and possibly Friday due to a computer issue.

The College Football Rankings will be up by 5 PM PT. Link is on a prior post.

UPDATE: The College Football Rankings are delayed as well and I may not be able to update anything web site related. If so, I will not have any more SuperPower Ranking updates for the remainder of the season. It seems at least some of the school computers may have restrictions on uploading files to the Internet. That or Freehostia is having problems at the moment.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Quick Check off the SNF Watch

CONFIRMED: Protection still exists. But looking at my Week 4 roundup, I might have found it hard to believe Fox would have protected Giants-Lions. The Giants were only 2-2 at the time and the Lions were similar. Panthers-Packers would have been a more likely protection for Fox.

Other projected protections: Bucs-Redskins Week 12; Jaguars-Colts and maybe Seahawks-Eagles Week 13; Steelers-Patriots and either Cowboys-Lions, Bucs-Texans, or Cardinals-Seahawks Week 14; Jaguars-Steelers and either Seahawks-Panthers or Eagles-Cowboys Week 15; Ravens-Seahawks and Packers-Bears Week 16; and Steelers-Ravens or Titans-Colts, and Cowboys-Redskins or Packers-Lions, Week 17.

NBC has a point when they note that the Bills are on fire. But the Pats are too far on another level for it to look competitive, in the game or the AFC East. NBC also notes that the Pats played in the two highest-rated games this season - ignoring that the Colts and Cowboys games were also two of the most-hyped, most-important games this season. It reminds me of when Sports Media Watch became so fixated with its "Cowboys were more responsible for Pats-Cowboys rating than the actual quality of the teams" hypothesis that it actually picked a lower rating for Pats-Colts, underestimating the NFL audience and failing to note that the NFL is unlike any other sports league. NBC (and the NFL) may be falling into the same trap.

The Week 10 College Football Rankings will be here shortly. They do not include ESPN's Tuesday and Wednesday games. I will also update the Web site at the same time to include the NFL Lineal Title change.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Last-Minute Remarks on SNF Week 11 picks

Week 11 (November 18):
  • Tentative game: Chicago @ Seattle
  • Prospects: In big trouble. Seattle is 4-4 and Da Bears are 3-5.
  • Other possible games mentioned in Wednesday's Watch and their records: Redskins (5-3) v. Cowboys (7-1); Panthers (4-4) v. Packers (7-1); Chargers (4-4) v. Jaguars (5-3); Chiefs (4-4) v. Colts (7-1); Giants (6-2) v. Lions (6-2).
  • Impact of Monday Night Football: None.
  • Analysis: Packers win to keep Panthers game alive, but the Panthers fail to hold up their end of the bargain. Chargers and Jaguars both lose to eliminate that game; had they both won, they got what they wanted from the Packers and Panthers as well. In any case, the Lions defeated the Broncos to set up a matchup of two 6-2 teams. There is no way for either team to be below .500 on game day.
  • Final prediction: New York Giants @ Detroit Lions.
  • Actual selection: New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills. Huh? Do I need to throw out my "lopsided" criterion? Are the Patriots that big a draw that people are willing to watch them play a sucky Bills team? Eagles-Patriots is currently listed for Week 12; why does NBC need to subject us to the Patriots in consecutive weeks? I've seen rumors of restrictions on the number of times a team can be in primetime; why would NBC restrict their ability to pick a far more appealing Steelers-Patriots matchup? Among the other rumors I've seen is the continued existence of protection; FOX protecting Giants-Lions or restrictions on Giants appearances on primetime national television are the only two logical explanations. (The Giants have primetime appearances Weeks 15 and 17 still to come, and have already had three primetime games already played. But the Cowboys have six primetime appearances on the schedule and no other Giants games look very flex-able. NFL Network is counted in these figures.) But even with that, wouldn't Panthers-Packers or Chiefs-Colts be better than this lopsided mess - the former a Fox game (thus unprotected) with the very draw-worthy Packers?