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. In 2014 that was extended so that games between Weeks 5 and 17 could be affected by flex scheduling. However, only two games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Week 5 and 10.
Flexible scheduling ensured quality matchups on Sunday night in those weeks and gave surprise teams a chance to play their way onto primetime. The NBC Sunday night time slot for “flex” weeks lists the game tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game will be moved to an afternoon start time. Flexible scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights.
Just as the six major college football conferences have done for many years, the NFL has the flexibility to move the start times of games on Sundays, using a 12-day notice format.
For example, a game scheduled for a Sunday could move from a 1:00 p.m. ET kickoff to an 8:15 p.m. start, but the change would be made and announced no later than the prior Tuesday, 12 days prior. Sunday afternoon games, as in the past, can still be moved between 1:00 and 4:05 or 4:25 p.m. ET.
In Week 17, in order to ensure a Sunday night game with playoff implications, the decision to move the start time may be made on six days notice.