NFL Nation: 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.
The New York Giants' Nov. 17 home game against the Green Bay Packers, originally scheduled as an 8:30 p.m. ET game on NBC, will instead be played at 4:25 p.m. ET and air on Fox.

Adjust your tailgate plans accordingly.

Apparently, the Giants' 2-6 start to the season has left their game against the Packers less desirable as NBC's weekly national game than the one between the Broncos and the Chiefs, which will replace it. The Chiefs are the only remaining undefeated team in the league at 8-0, and the Broncos are 7-1. At the absolute worst, those teams will be 8-1 and 7-2, respectively, when they meet in Denver for that Week 11 AFC West matchup.

The decision is still something of a surprise, though, since the Giants and Packers are both traditionally teams that draw national interest and strong prime-time ratings. But the best the Giants will be on that date is 3-6, and part of the point of the league's flex scheduling plan with NBC and the other networks is to highlight games with postseason implications.

It's also interesting because the Chiefs-Broncos game was originally "protected" by CBS under the rule that allows networks to prevent their marquee games from being swiped by NBC on late-season Sundays. But after a request by the NFL, which pointed out that CBS didn't have a fully national window for that game in the late-afternoon Sunday time slot that week, CBS agreed to allow NBC to take the game. Fox gets Giants-Packers because they're both NFC teams.

Unclear about what CBS got in return for the accommodation, but Giants fans should stay tuned. The Giants have another scheduled Sunday night game against the Redskins in Washington two weeks later. There's another Chiefs-Broncos game that day, currently scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on CBS. But because six teams play Thursday that week (because it's Thanksgiving) and because Saints-Seahawks is the Monday Night Football game that week, there aren't many strong candidates to replace Giants-Redskins on Sunday night. Bengals-Chargers is the only one besides Chiefs-Broncos that looks like a winner that Sunday.

Falcons' finale gets 'flexed'

December, 24, 2011
12/24/11
9:26
PM ET
The NFL has announced that the Jan. 1 game between the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers has been “flexed’’ to 4:15 p.m. ET.

I’m guessing it’s not because the league wants to drag out Raheem Morris’ tenure for three more hours. I think it has more to do with the fact that the Falcons could be playing a game that decides where they’ll be seeded in the playoffs. The game initially was scheduled to air on FOX at 1 p.m. ET.

The league also said in the release that the Jan. 1 game between Carolina and New Orleans, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on Fox, could be flexed. But the league said no decision on that will come until after the Saints play the Falcons on Monday night.

By the way, here’s an updated list of playoff scenarios.

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