One of the storylines to be watching in the next couple of weeks will be the NFL flex schedule. Starting in Week 5, the NFL can flex afternoon games out of their normal slots and into Sunday Night Football. This is a ratings reason as no one wants to watch two sub-par teams fight for nothing other than draft positioning in the middle of the season on prime time.
This concerns the San Francisco 49ers because A: they are 3-0 and B: in Week 6 they have a divisional matchup against the Los Angeles Rams; who they are right now tied with for first place in the NFC West. A lot can change in the next two weeks.
For starters, the Rams schedule can change their positioning. In Week 4, they have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Los Angeles (come on, you know how that’s going to go) and then they travel to face the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday Night Football. That second game is going to be huge. It might be a Thursday night Game but it could be game of the week with everything else on the schedule. Green Bay Packers-Dallas Cowboys and the 49ers’ own Monday Night Football game against the Cleveland Browns are the only other two games I can see shaping up contenders for that award. If the Rams can hold on against the Seahawks and the Buccaneers don’t do anything ridiculous, they could be staring at 5-0 when the 49ers come to town.
Meanwhile, the 49ers have their bye week and then host the Browns in that aforementioned Monday Night Football game. First of all, that game is going to be fun. Second, the 49ers can win that. Now, if they do that turnover-happy, lollipop catching that they did against the Pittsburgh Steelers they will get blown out by the end of the first quarter, but if they can limit the mistakes, they can win that game. If the game was in Cleveland, I’d give the edge to the Browns and have them winning by three. The game being in San Francisco makes me think the 49ers can beat the Browns. Regardless of if the 49ers win on Monday or not, it would lead to a matchup with huge implications on the division.
So what is on the slate for the week the 49ers can get flexed into? Pittsburgh Steelers at Los Angeles Chargers. Yes, the very same Steelers who are 0-3 after getting five turnovers from the 49ers and failing to put the game away. Meanwhile, the Chargers are 1-2. They have the Miami Dolphins (just cancel the game and give the Chargers the win before someone gets hurt), and then host the Denver Broncos. So they can go to 3-2 at best heading into that game. The Steelers are pretty much done with Ben Roethlisberger out for the year, but they get the Cincinnati Bengals (who the 49ers did major pwnage to already), and host the Baltimore Ravens. So one win? Ugh. That does not sound like attractive Sunday night TV. I might watch Dance Moms instead of that. If that’s not on, I’ll go play Superman 64 or something.
The divisional matchup with the Rams has to be something juicy for the ratings department. Even if the Rams are one game ahead of the 49ers going into there, that would be a far more interesting game. It also would save me from watching Dance Moms instead. Everybody wins!
That said, they may not have much luck. Pulling money-maker games off their original network is something FOX and CBS (understandably) aren’t fans of. FOX is stuck with The Atlanta Falcons vs. Arizona Cardinals if the NFL pulls the game and I can’t think the executives would be pleased having Steelers-Chargers on in place of a divisional game.
The rules for flexible scheduling are below. I think it’s a no-brainer. Regardless of what the networks say, no one wants Pat to watch Dance Moms.
Or play Superman 64.
NFL Flexible Scheduling 101
- Begins Sunday of Week 5
- In effect during Weeks 5-17
- Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:25 p.m. ET.
- Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
- The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
- 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.
- NFL schedules all games.
- Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.