NFC East: flex scheduling

The NFL announced Monday that the Dec. 1 game between the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., will be played at 8:30 pm ET as originally scheduled and not "flexed" out of prime time in favor of a game between teams with better records.

In the second half of the season, the NFL is allowed to change the Sunday night NBC game if it finds another matchup it likes better than the one it originally scheduled. This happened this past week, as the Giants' game against the Packers was moved up from 8:30 pm ET to 4:25 pm ET so that NBC could air the AFC West game between the 9-0 Chiefs and the 8-1 Broncos.

There is another Chiefs-Broncos game scheduled for Dec. 1, but that will air at 4:25 pm ET on CBS. The league took this past week's Chiefs-Broncos game away from CBS and did not want to do that for a second time in three weeks, nor did they want to force the Broncos to play in the prime-time Sunday slot three weeks in a row (since they play the Patriots this coming Sunday in prime time).

Now, there was still a chance Giants-Redskins on Dec. 1 could be moved, especially since neither team will have a winning record at kickoff. The Giants will be either 5-6 or 4-7, and the Redskins will be either 4-7 or 3-8. So the strong possibility is that it's a dud of a matchup on its face. But the weak state of the NFC East means that the Giants will be a half-game out of first place if they do beat the Cowboys this week to move to 5-6. Add in the size of the media markets in which the Giants and the Redskins play, plus the star power of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III even through his 2013 struggles, and the case can be made to keep the game in prime time.

There's also the question of which game would be worthy of replacing it. That is Thanksgiving week, which means three of the league's 16 games will already have been played on Thursday. The Saints-Seahawks matchup that week is the "Monday Night Football" game on ESPN, which cannot be flexed. And with Chiefs-Broncos protected form flexing, the pickings were slim. There was some chatter Sunday that the replacement prime-time game could be the Eagles-Cardinals game, as the Eagles will be a 6-5 first-place team and the Cardinals will still be in the hunt at either 6-5 or 7-4. But that game is staying at 1 pm on Fox. The only other game in which it's even possible that both teams will have winning records at kickoff is Dolphins-Jets, but it's also possible they could both be 5-6.

Giants' Week 16 game moves to 4:25 p.m.

December, 10, 2012
The New York Giants' Dec. 23 game against the Ravens in Baltimore, originally scheduled for 1 p.m. ET, has been changed to a 4:25 p.m. ET game as part of the NFL's "flex" scheduling program. All other NFC East games that week will remain at their originally scheduled times.

The NFL had originally scheduled a Jets-Chargers game for the prime time Sunday night game in Week 16, but it decided instead to move that game between two teams with losing records to 1 p.m. ET and move the 49ers-Seahawks game to prime time. Because they play in the same market, the Giants and the Jets are almost never scheduled to play at the same time. So the Giants-Ravens game, between two teams playing for spots in the playoffs, gets the more prestigious 4:25 p.m. slot while Jets-Chargers becomes one of the week's early games.

Just letting you Giants fans know, in case you were headed down to Baltimore for that game. You can sleep in a little bit now.

The only remaining week whose flex scheduling is undecided is Week 17, and the league can wait until Dec. 24 to announce that week's prime time Sunday game. Since they try to pick a game with playoff implications, there remains a strong chance that week's Giants-Eagles game or Cowboys-Redskins game could move to prime time on Dec. 30. But we won't know that for a while.