Flex scheduling allows the NFL to show better games in primetime packages, and has been in use since 2006. This year will be no exception.
The NFL’s flex scheduling has changed for the 2023 season, with Monday Night Football games also now eligible to be flexed.
Up to two Sunday Night Football games can be flexed between Week 5 and Week 10. The NFL can flex as many Sunday Night Football games as they want between Week 11 and Week 17, and as many Monday Night Football games as they want between Week 12 and Week 17.
Here are the five games that seem most likely to be flexed this season, listed in chronological order.
Chicago Bears @ Los Angeles Chargers (SNF Week 8)
I think this one is probably safe unless the bottom falls out from one or both of these teams, given the two large markets and how early in the season it takes place, but it wouldn’t shock me at all if the NFL bumped this one to the afternoon. No matter how exciting Justin Fields may be, I don’t think the NFL would be too happy with the Bears in primetime if they get off to a 2-5 (or worse) start. Given that they lost their final ten games of last season, I don’t think that’s out of the realm of possibility.
There are also plenty of potentially better games earlier on the slate Sunday. Even taking network protections into account, Patriots-Dolphins, Jaguars-Steelers, and Vikings-Packers could all be on the table for Sunday night.
New York Jets vs Las Vegas Raiders (SNF Week 10)
By Week 10, we should have a pretty good idea of what the Jets are with Aaron Rodgers. If expectations are met or exceeded, I don’t think this game is going anywhere. If Rodgers gets off to a poor start and the Jets disappoint, NBC cutting bait on the team’s *fourth* primetime game of the season would make all the sense in the world.
As for the Raiders, they’re coming off an aggressively mediocre season, and if they’re not more than aggressively mediocre after the first two months of the 2023 season, I don’t think they’ll be much of a consideration as to whether or not to flex this game. It’s all about the Jets and the Rodgers show.
Minnesota Vikings @ Denver Broncos (SNF Week 11)
The Vikings were great last season before a playoff upset by the Giants, and unless they fall off a cliff in 2023, this game is probably more about the Broncos. Specifically, it’s about Russell Wilson and if he’s back to his Seattle best or not. If Wilson and the Broncos are cooking, the game probably stays put. If they’re as bad as they were last year, NBC is probably begging to get out of this potentially lopsided matchup.
What might help this game a lot is the fact that Sunday’s schedule is pretty bad. We’re looking at Chargers-Packers early, Jets-Bills late, and….Steelers-Browns? Titans-Jaguars? Raiders-Dolphins? The first two games will be protected be the networks, so it’s not the best slate of games to choose from and as a result, this game could be safe.
Tennessee Titans @ Miami Dolphins (MNF Week 14)
I have no idea if ESPN can flex one of the doubleheader games. If they can’t, ignore this. The Titans fell apart in the second half of last season, while the Dolphins were one of the league’s streakiest teams. The range of potential outcomes for this game are all over the map. Two possible playoff teams? A one-sided mismatch? Even more aggressive mediocrity? All seem quite possible.
Because there’s another game going on at the same time, ESPN might also just roll with this game on the other network. As long as both games aren’t duds, ESPN will probably be fine with the two game Monday.
Baltimore Ravens @ Jacksonville Jaguars (SNF Week 15)
The Ravens don’t have a primetime game until Week 11 (though they do have a London game in Week 6), so as long as Lamar Jackson is healthy, I can’t see NBC depriving their viewers of watching him in action. But Jackson has missed significant time down the stretch in each of the last two seasons, and if he’s not ready to go, NBC probably won’t be too pleased with featuring Tyler Huntley in primetime (again).