Currently, the NFL using “flex scheduling” from week 11 through the end of the regular season. During those weeks, an afternoon game may be “flexed” into the Sunday night slot and the Sunday night slot bumped back to the afternoon; Monday and Thursday night games are not moved due to the logistical problems of doing so. The NFL will make the announcement for the schedule changes no later than twelve days prior to the game for weeks 11-16, and six days in advance for week 17 depending on playoff implications.
CBS and FOX are allowed to protect five games each from being flexed during this window – though on rare occasions (more on that in a moment) the NFL may decree that a rule isn’t really a rule, but merely a suggestion.
These were the games originally protected by CBS and FOX
CBS: Kansas City-Denver
FOX: San Francisco-New Orleans
CBS: Denver-Kansas City
FOX: Seattle-San Francisco
CBS: New England-Miami
FOX: Green Bay-Dallas
So why did both networks leave week 12 as their unprotected game? Simple: because that week the Broncos come to Foxboro to play the Patriots, and there is no way in the world that game would be flexed out.
Here is a week-by-week look at which games are most likely to be flexed by the NFL in 2013:
Kansas City (9-0) at Denver (7-1) has been flexed in from 4:25 ET to Sunday Night Football
Packers at Giants has been flexed out from SNF to 4:25
San Diego at Miami moves from 1:00 to 4:05 so that CBS has a late game
The end result is New York City – television’s largest market – gets to see both of their teams, plus the Chiefs-Broncos game. CBS had to have received some sort of nice concession to have given up that game. Th bottom line is that the NFL got the game that they wanted to showcase on Sunday night, despite it having been a protected game. My guess is that next year CBS gets an extra game that would have otherwise gone to NBC.
Current SNF game: Broncos (7-1) at Patriots (7-2)
This is a FOX doubleheader, with Dallas at the Giants currently as their only late game. FOX wants to keep that game regardless of the team’s records because they represent the largest and 5th largest television markets. There are no more compelling games than a Peyton Manning-Tom Brady matchup, so there won’t be any flex scheduling here.
Current SNF game: Giants (2-6) at Redskins (3-5)
CBS has the doubleheader, with the Patriots-Texans and Bengals-Chargers currently in the late slot. Even though the NFC East is a dumpster fire right now FOX would be happy to take back Giants at Washington as both teams have lots of fans across the US, and they represent the 1st and 9th largest television markets. Denver-KC is currently on at 1:00 and will likely move to the late afternoon slot. The Jets and Giants cannot play at the same time, so if NYG-Washington gets flexed out it probably moves to 4:05 since the Jets play Miami at 1:00. My guess is that Cincinnati-San Diego gets flexed to SNF. The Pats-Texans would have been a solid game, but not now after Houston has fallen apart and has lost six in a row; this game may be moved to 1:00 so the Broncos-Chiefs becomes the only late game for the entire country on CBS. If the Chargers lose badly on Sunday then the Titans-Colts game becomes a possibility of being flexed rather than Cincinnati-San Diego.
Current SNF game: Falcons (2-6) at Packers (5-3)
FOX doubleheader, with 49ers at Seahawks the marquee late game. Since the NFL gave one CBS-protected game to NBC, will they do the same with a FOX game? The appeal of an Atlanta-Green Bay game has dropped dramatically; first because the Falcons are playing so poorly, and now more so within Seneca Wallace replacing Aaron Rodgers at QB for the Packers. If FOX won’t relinquish the San Francisco-Seattle game, then I would expect Carolina at New Orleans to be flexed to Sunday night on NBC. The Colts at Bengals is another possibility, but exchanging an NFC/FOX game for an AFC/CBS game opens up a can of worms – plus Cincinnati is already scheduled to play the following Sunday night.
Current SNF game: Bengals (6-3) at Steelers (2-6)
FOX doubleheader with Green Bay at Dallas late on FOX. Cincinnati at Pittsburgh is the SNF game, and while the Steelers still have name power and a large following, this is no longer a compelling matchup. The problem here is that there aren’t any other games that really jump out at you as must-see. New England at Miami is a possibility but that is protected; I can’t see the NFL taking two protected games away from CBS. Similarly the Packers-Cowboys is protected; that leaves just the Jets at Carolina as the most likely potential candidate to be moved to Sunday night. My guess is that they stick with the Bengals and Steelers.
Current SNF game: Patriots (7-2) at Ravens (3-5)
This one is a bit far away to predict, but I am guessing that New England at Baltimore stays put. The game with the highest potential to be flexed into Sunday night is Indianapolis at Kansas City. Another possibility is New Orleans at Carolina (if they are not flexed in week 14), but that becomes a bit murkier because then you are swapping a game on FOX for a CBS game. Do look for the Colts-Chiefs to move from 1:00 to 4:25 and become the nearly-nationwide late game, with Pittsburgh-Green Bay being shifted to an earlier 1:00 kickoff.
Current SNF game: none (open)
This all depends on games with playoff implications, which is too far off to predict right now; Green Bay at Chicago is as likely as any game right now.
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