The NFL’s decision to expand flexing to include Thursday nights came with a concession that should make its use more rare than it otherwise would have been.
Instead of 15 days’ notice before a game can be moved from Thursday to Sunday (and, in turn, another game moved from Sunday to Thursday), a full 28 days will be required to do a Thursday-Sunday switcheroo.
That’s significant, because much can happen in four weeks. In four weeks, the game that was dumped could end up being more attractive than the game that was moved.
Thus, the Thursday flex likely will be used only if it’s abundantly clear that both teams in the Thursday game are out of the running for the postseason — or if one of the teams has lost a high-end franchise quarterback due to injury.
That happened back in 2011, when Peyton Manning was injured and the Saints played the Colts on a Sunday night in a Super Bowl XLIV rematch. New Orleans won the game, 62-7. The ratings were less than ideal.
The Manning situation helped nudge the window for Sunday night flexing earlier in the year, to guard against the impact of another season-ending quarterback injury. That likely will be the primary motivation for a Thursday night flex in 2023, especially if four weeks’ notice is needed.
The fact that it will be used rarely doesn’t make it OK, however. Fans who buy tickets for late-season games and who make plans to personally attend those games (especially if they involve travel) will be assuming the risk of a three-day shift in kickoff.
Even if it never happens, it’s a new blip on the radar screen of stuff fans have to worry about.