Despite the relationship between PFT and NBC, PFT never has inside information regarding what will happen with any of the decisions to flex or not to flex games into the Sunday Night Football slot. Besides, the decisions technically are made not by NBC but by the NFL.
So any speculation appearing in this space at any time regarding potential flex options is just that: Speculation. So when it comes to the first clear flexing opportunity for 2015, I know absolutely nothing.
Some of you would say I know absolutely nothing on plenty of other topics too.
With that background, let’s look at the alternatives in Week 11 to the 2-5 Chiefs visiting the 2-5 Chargers.
With the Giants and Steelers on a bye that week, a pair of teams that would otherwise be attractive for a nationally-televised game already are out of play.
The first game that jumps off the page as a replacement for the game between the teams tied for last place in the AFC West comes from the top two teams in the NFC North: Packers at Vikings. But the Vikings’ lease to play in the University of Minnesota’s stadium prohibits prime-time games while classes are in session. So that game can be scratched from the list. (It’s also possible FOX exercised its privilege to protect that game, regardless of the language of the lease.)
Bengals at Cardinals has unexpected sizzle; however, the Cardinals play the Seahawks on NBC during the preceding Sunday night. (One solution would be to flex out of Cardinals-Seahawks in Week 10 and into Bengals-Cardinals for Week 11. However, beyond Patriots-Giants, which CBS undoubtedly has protected, Vikings-Raiders is the only game that currently stands out as a viable alternative to Cardinals-Seahawks. Besides, Cardinals at Seahawks could be a very good game, despite Seattle’s struggles.)
The only other game that would be clearly better than Chiefs-Chargers for Week 11 features the Cowboys visiting the Dolphins, for the anticipated return of Tony Romo against a rejuvenated Miami team. The rules, at last check, limit prime-time appearances to six for any one team. The Cowboys currently are due to play in five prime-time games; flexing Cowboys-Dolphins to Sunday night in Week 11 would prevent another shift later in the year.
The NFL may decide not to hold that extra Cowboys’ prime-time game until the final weeks of the season. Already, Dallas hosts the Jets on Saturday night in Week 15. The Week 14 trip to Lambeau Field surely has been protected by FOX. In Week 13, the Cowboys play Washington on Monday Night Football, and Week 12 has Dallas hosting the Panthers on the afternoon of Thanksgiving.
So that leaves Week 16 (at Buffalo) and Week 17 (vs. Washington). Which means that if the Cowboys are going to have a sixth prime-time game, the best option could be Week 11, at Miami.
If the Dolphins can upset the Patriots on Thursday night, it becomes an even better choice for the Sunday night game in Week 11.
Again, I’ve got zero inside information at all regarding the decisions the NFL may make, and I’ve had no communications with anyone at NBC about the topic of whether there will even be a flex out of the Chiefs-Chargers game. This is an old-school PFT spitball, which really isn’t all that old school given plenty of the stories I write.
Given the rarity in recent years of a necessity to flex out of the games selected in April, it makes the looming decision even more intriguing.