The NFL Sunday Night games go to the flex schedule for Week 11. Of course, this doesn’t just mean the NFL will switch games each week. There are a myriad of rules set up to govern what games can be flexed, and the other two networks that televise Sunday games get to protect games. Let’s take a look at the currently scheduled matchups and try to assess what games we may be treated to over the last seven weeks.
First, let’s review the rules that the NFL uses. Games are already scheduled into the Sunday Night slots. Fox and CBS can both protect a game in 5 of the 6 weeks from week 11 to week 16. No games can be protected in week 17. Also, teams can only appear on Sunday Night Football four times, and a maximum of three teams can appear in all primetime matchups a total of six times, all others are limited to five appearances.
According to the 506.com, CBS and Fox have protected the following matchups, and these will not be eligible to be moved to Sunday Night:
FOX: Packers at Vikings (week 11), Eagles at Bears (week 12), Cowboys at Colts (week 13), Eagles at Giants (week 15), Giants at Packers (week 16)
CBS: Colts at Patriots (week 11), Jaguars at Giants (week 12), Patriots at Bears (week 14), Jets at Steelers (week 15), Jets at Bears (week 16)
That leaves the following matchups currently scheduled for Sunday Night:
Week 11- New York Giants at Philadelphia. This one won’t be moved, and should be set in stone (they need to announce 12 days or more in advance any moves other than week 17, where they need only 6 days notice). NBC will get to keep this matchup for first place in the NFC East.
Week 12- San Diego at Indianapolis. The Chargers are 4-5, and won’t play any more games until the NFL decides whether to keep this one, but are still in contention and have been an exciting team, and these two teams have played some memorable games in recent years. I think the NFL will keep the Manning vs. Rivers matchup in primetime. The other option would be to go with Green Bay at Atlanta, which could be a matchup for a top seed in the NFC. I would be fine with either of those games.
Week 13- Pittsburgh at Baltimore. I would be stunned if this wasn’t the Sunday night matchup. This game will be for the AFC North, and potentially, the #1 seed in the conference. The other options would be Atlanta at Tampa Bay, or Oakland at San Diego, but this one seems like a lock right now to stay.
Week 14- Philadelphia at Dallas. Yuck. Because it’s Dallas, though, I’m sure there is a chance that the NFL will not move it. This one should be flexed out, though. The options: Kansas City at San Diego-could be a battle for the division lead by then; Miami at Jets (but this would be Jets sixth prime time game and lock them out from any more); Tampa Bay at Washington-but only if these teams are both in contention; Rams at New Orleans-if Rams are still above .500, it would give us a look at Bradford. I think the Chiefs-Chargers showdown is most likely right now, but as someone who watches all the games in primetime regardless of who is in it, I would much rather take any of those other four over another Dallas primetime game.
Week 15- Green Bay at New England. There are some potentially big matchups in week 15, including this one. It is likely to stay in primetime, as the Jets-Steelers is off the board, but New Orleans at Baltimore could also be moved here. This one could depend on who is playing best out of these two potential AFC-NFC showdowns as the game approaches.
Week 16- San Diego at Cincinnati. Given that the Bengals may be long out of it by this point, this one has a decent chance of being changed. Tennessee at Kansas City may be an option if the teams are still in playoff contention, depending on whether the Chiefs were flexed in to the Sunday Night slot two weeks earlier or not. Indianapolis at Oakland would be another option if the Raiders are still in it. Not alot of great matchups here.
Week 17-No matchup is set. We have all divisional matchups this week, and since the NFL can switch a game on Monday, we will get a showdown game heading into the final week. Tennessee at Indianapolis looks like a good option today. Chicago at Green Bay could still be in play, though that game was already on Sunday night early this year. Tampa Bay at New Orleans, St. Louis at Seattle, New York Giants at Washington, and Miami at New England are all games that may have playoff implications for both teams.