What We Know Now: SBM Explains the NFL’s Flex Scheduling Procedures

Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth discuss the next step in their plan to shit on our brains.

Flex scheduling will be here before you know it, and here at SBM we figured that we’d go ahead and break down what that really means.  For that, we go to the fine folks at NFL.com to help you the fan understand just how it works.  However, before you go any further, there are two things you need to know here:

1)  The rules are broken down into two sections – A summary of what the flex scheduling means to you, and another portion which is called “NFL Flexible Scheduling 101”

2)  The only reason for the second section is because the league assumes you (the fan) are stupid. 

Since the second section is the more insulting portion of the two, we’ll take care of the first one and summarize what you need to know that isn’t in the “NFL for Dummies” half.  There are really only three points that are even worth mentioning, and two of them are almost exactly the same.  Go ahead and hold that theme in your head, because there’s a whole lot more of that where this is coming from.

“Allows teams to play their way onto the Sunday night schedule”

“In 2006 the NFL implemented a primetime “flexible scheduling” element on Sundays in Weeks 10-15 and in Week 17.”

“Flexible scheduling ensured quality matchups on Sunday night in those weeks and gave surprise teams a chance to play their way onto primetime.”

The second point is simply giving us the history of how the flexible scheduling ended up being a part of the modern NFL.  It’s simply informative and nothing more.

The first and third points however are not only saying essentially the same thing, they are also leaving out one important fact:  That this mystery team who has the ability to “play their way” onto the primetime schedule will be playing another team that is good enough for the NFL to put that game on in primetime.  That’s more than just a minor oversight.  I don’t care how unexpected of a run you’ve had this year, if you’re playing Tampa in week 13 and win every game on your schedule up until then (I’m looking at you Carolina) there’s no way that you’re going to “play your way” onto shit because nobody wants to watch the Buccaneers.

Except for this guy, but seriously fuck him…

So basically, the idea that you “control your own destiny” when it comes to being on at 8:30 is total bullshit.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a look at the way NFL.com has dumbed it down so that you can understand it.  These are verbatim bullet points from the “NFL Flexible Scheduling 101” link that can be found on any week of the schedule at NFL.com.  The bullet points are in bold, and the snarky commentary is beneath it in regular print.

NFL Flexible Scheduling 101

Begins Sunday of Week 11

That’s fair – I understand it.  It’s clear, concise, and there should be no confusion whatsoever as to when the flex scheduling will start.

In effect during Weeks 11-17

So when does it actually start, though?

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.

This I didn’t understand at first because I was viewing it from a fan’s perspective and not that of a businessman.  I guess a better way to word that is – I viewed it from the perspective of someone who only watches the games on television and doesn’t buy tickets to the actual games.  Now I get it.

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.

I’ll summarize:  This is the fourth bullet point, and the second one where the previous point had already explained the one that follows it.  You just covered this…stop trying to confuse people by repeating the same logic.  Some of these people live in Mississippi and there are only seven days in a week, so let’s not fuck their brains to death by explaining this two separate ways.

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.

12 days is plenty of time, but that’s not what jumps out at me here.  CBS has the AFC – those games occur during the day.  Much in the same way that FOX has the NFC – games which also occur during the day.  But the NBC games (aside from the first two weekends of the playoffs) only occur at night, so the whole “after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC” thing is total bullshit.  And not just the lip service that they’re feeding you about NBC – all of it.  But since that’s the most obvious, let’s start there…

What exactly do they have to discuss with NBC anyway?  Does some asshole actually get on a conference call with Dick Ebersol and say “OK, here’s the deal…we know you guys have the Giants and the Redskins as the Sunday Night game in week thirteen, but we were going to see if it would be okay with you if we moved the Broncos-Chiefs game to your broadcast instead.  Would that be okay with you?”  Of course they aren’t going to have a problem with it…they get the better game.  They shouldn’t even need to have a conference call.  NBC has all of the bargaining power amongst the networks.  They’re right under the NFL.  Which leads me to my next point…

Some of you may be reading this and thinking “That doesn’t seem fair to CBS or FOX because NBC can just snatch whichever game they want.”  To that I would answer:  You’re absolutely right.  But think about this for a moment – who’s got the ultimate bargaining power?  Out of the networks it’s NBC, but when it comes to the overall scope of things – it’s the NFL.  What are CBS and FOX going to do – just tell the league to go fuck off as they lose one of the most marketable products in the world?  I highly doubt it.
As for the 12 day rule, that’s totally fair.  These guys are all over the country anyway and if it affects them being able to see their kids all over this great nation of ours, maybe we’d better start having a conversation about using condoms instead of rescheduling football games because that’s the real issue here.

The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.

Now maybe I just haven’t caught this, but I really don’t remember this happening all that much beforehand.  I don’t think it’s detrimental to the level of play involved, I just don’t seem to have it in my memory bank as something that’s been a regular occurrence so I’ll give the league the benefit of the doubt and assume that’s because for the most part I live in NFC country.

Another thing:  I have to take issue with this here – Why do we need two separate times for the second round of games?  There’s hardly any of them, they are rarely as important as the games which are happening at one o’ clock, and there’s no 1:10 games.  I say just move all of the second games to a 4:15 start time and be done with it.  That way everything remains consistent, and it gives us time to watch the coverage of everything that happened in the first set of games.  We can go grab a sandwich in the kitchen while we listen to Terry Bradshaw use Garth Brooks references that nobody understands and…

Actually on second thought, maybe they should move all of those games back to 3:55.

Or just fire this asshole. Either one will work.

Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.

That kind of goes with saying doesn’t it?  I mean, it would be pretty impossible to decide on this in week four wouldn’t it?

I love how they state this as if in the nonstop era of social media and constant news crawls that the league would have to actually inform the teams when they’re playing.  These guys get a lot more of their information from Twitter than they do from their coaches and teammates so they aren’t going to miss anything.

The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.

Now this I get because they have to put something in the time slot.

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.

Here again you have to view this from a business standpoint, and you can’t really look at it from a human perspective at all.  If Daddy works third shift and the game that he’s promised to take his son to gets moved to the night game, he will want to know why he doesn’t get to go to the game.  He’ll probably say something like “But you promised if you didn’t get caught hitting mommy all year that we’d go see a football game”, and that guy’s going to have to come up with some kind of retort such “Well, it looks like Daddy’s going to need to be able to exercise restraint during the next twelve months or mommy’s going to have to move out”, depending of course on how much daddy drinks in the next calendar year.

It’s absolutely impossible to avoid such scenarios as the one above when you’re selling a multi-billion dollar product.  Somebody’s going to get cut out of the mix somewhere, and you can’t make everybody happy all of the time.  Essentially for the most part, a lot of times you get the product free on network television anyway so it’s hard to bitch about the start time of a game changing when they warn you that might happen right on the ticket itself. 

NFL schedules all games.

This hilarious, and by far my favorite one on the list.  Well, no shit.  If I were writing this, I would have added “As opposed to in previous years, when all scheduling was done by the Cambodian Postal Service”.  Of course the NFL schedules all games, like I said earlier they’re the top of the scrotum pole when it comes to overall control of the games.

If you really think that the teams schedule the games, I’d like a three page essay on my desk Monday morning about why the Broncos don’t play the Raiders the entire month of November ever year.  Come on guys, get it together here…

I think that they have to know we know that the NFL is always in control, but this might simply be a reminder (just in case you’ve had a few too many Crown and Cokes) that eventually the NFL will own your house.

Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.

Well I sure as shit hope so!  If anybody needs to know when they’re going to be playing, my guess is it would be…I don’t know…the teams that are playing?  But like I’ve already stated, they’ll probably find out from Adam Schefter’s Twitter anyway.  That is, if they can get it out of the “Sports Science” guy’s mouth.

How the flex will affect what games you could see on Sunday Night this year

By now, I’m sure you’re saying to yourself “Wow, this is a really poorly written article and all…but how will this affect me?”  Thanks, asshole.  I’m about to tell you, and shame on you and your impatience.  Here are a list of the games in that time period and how they might be flexed.

Week Eleven

Game that is scheduled:  Green Bay Packers at New York Giants

The odds that they aren’t going to flex this game out of the night spot are about the same as the odds the original Guns N’ Roses lineup will reunite and release an entire record of Debby Boone covers.  As enticing as that sounds (I’m assuming everyone reading this has considered suicide at least once) there’s almost no chance this game remains in this time slot, especially when you consider it will only be moving another game three and a half hours out of when it’s currently scheduled…

Game that is most likely to be flexed:  Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos

If you don’t understand why this game is likely to be flexed, it’s high time you took a look at the standings and how both of these teams virtually dominated the first third of their schedule.  The Chiefs are one of the most talked about teams in football, you’ll get that when by the end of week six you’ve already tripled your win total from the previous year.  And as for the Broncos if you don’t like it, get used to it:  In the last years of Peyton Manning’s career they will be taking every opportunity to get him on television as much as possible because you never know when someone might take out his knee and it’ll all be over.  (Note to self:  Be looking for Lions/Broncos games on the schedule the next couple of years)

Watch out, Peyton…

Week Twelve

Game that is scheduled:  Denver Broncos at New England Patriots

Well, obviously…

Game that is most likely to be flexed:  Yeah, right.

See “Week Eleven”.  Aside from the fact that the league will do everything in its power to bring us every chapter of the seemingly never-ending Tom Brady/Peyton Manning saga, you have to look at this objectively and realize that every other game that’s taking place this week is complete shit.

Week Thirteen

Game that is scheduled:  New York Giants at Washington Redskins

Since the Giants have completely fallen off of the face of the earth, the “Major market” argument is unlikely to work here because there still has to be some inkling that this will be a good game, which I doubt it will.

Game that is most likely to be flexed:  Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs

See “Week Twelve”.  And keep in mind – one out of the two Sunday Night games here (in week eleven and week thirteen) will DEFINITELY be flexed because the New York Giants are playing in both of them.  I’ll go over the idea behind why that needs to be corrected here in a second…

Week Fourteen

Game that is scheduled:  Atlanta Falcons vs. Green Bay Packers

Remember that all of these games were scheduled before we realized which teams were good and which teams were not.  I’m actually kind of impressed with the Packers so far, but the Falcons are at death’s door and like I’ve been saying this whole year they were probably overrated anyways.

Can I go back to Kansas City now? Please?

Game that is most likely to be flexed:  Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

I can’t see any reason this game doesn’t end up in the 8:30PM slot.  This is the game that everyone wants to see, and it’s also the NFC Championship game that everyone wants to see so I can’t give you any reason why it shouldn’t be on at night.

Week Fifteen

Game that is scheduled:  Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers

The Bengals are one of the better teams in the league this year and the Steelers tend to play them tough, but I don’t want to watch the Steelers struggle through a football anymore than I want to watch Paris Hilton try to finish a book.

Game that is most likely to be flexed:  None or New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins

While it seems hypocritical now to flip on the Dolphins, they don’t pose much of a threat to the Patriots in the long run.

Week Sixteen

Game that is scheduled:  New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens

This one actually might end up staying the night game, but just in case I’ve proposed an alternative solution.

Game that is most likely to be flexed:  None or Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs

By this point, I can see the Patriots having everything pretty much wrapped up and Colts/Chiefs is going to be the more exciting matchup.  Plus, who knows what Baltimore’s record will be by that point?

Week Seventeen

Game that is scheduled:  None

Game that is most likely to be flexed:  Whatever horseshit game will end up deciding which team that will get crushed the following week will sneak its sorry ass into the playoffs…In other words Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

This probably isn’t going to come as much of a surprise to anybody that can read, but I’m looking at Philadelphia at Dallas because I can’t think of any other division that sucks even half as much as the NFC East.

Note how packed the stands are in this photograph


With as much as we bag on different aspects of the National Football League and some of the bozos who pull the strings, the flex schedule is one of the better rule changes that has been implemented.  It’s my own personal opinion (although probably not that of some of the other writers on this panel) that it’s the best rule change that has been enacted since they added the two point conversion.  And seeing as how there are some Sundays that I work, I love it because in the last seven weeks of the season I’m pretty much guaranteed to see a good game.

Now don’t get me wrong…there are still issues here.  I have stood by the fact (and still continue to repeatedly mention) that this can start at least two weeks earlier in week nine.  How do I know this?  Let’s take this as an example:  How long into the year did it take us to find out that the Houston Texans are shit?  Four or five games?  Week nine will give us a Sunday Night matchup of whoever is piloting that likely interim coached ship by that point in time and the Indianapolis Colts who are going to tear them limb from limb.  In the current flex scheduling structure, that’s not a game that can be changed.  They’ll get away with it here because the other games that week aren’t very good, and they’ll get away with it the next week too because they’ll have the Saints and the Cowboys.  But that isn’t going to happen every year, and I think we can all agree it should start earlier.



Filed under Sports

2 responses to “What We Know Now: SBM Explains the NFL’s Flex Scheduling Procedures

  1. Chiefs at Broncos in Week 11 is the Sunday Night game. I believe they cannot move the Week 13 Broncos at Chiefs game for some odd reason not listed in the many fucked up rules the NFL has. Expect Bengals at Chargers to be flexed that week.

  2. “I can’t think of any other division that sucks even half as much as the NFC East.”

    Have you looked at the AFC south lately? They have the Colts. And THAT. IS. IT.
    Jacksonville being winless (until a couple of hours ago at time of writing) isn’t a surprise but that division has fewer total wins that the NFC East. Tennessee wasn’t really going to be anything a trap game for the two big contenders but then Houston went on Epic Collapse.
    So yeah. I can. Also the Cincinnati Bengals are the only team in the AFC North with a winning record.

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