For the first time in NFL history, the league is allowed to flex Monday night games and we could see the NFL utilize its new power at some point over the next few weeks.
When it comes to flexing Monday games, the league has to follow two rules:
1. The NFL can only move a game that’s being played between Week 12 and Week 17.
2. If the league is going to utilize flex scheduling, the decision has to be made at least 12 days in advance.
Based on how the rest of the Monday schedule breaks down, it seems that there’s only one game that really has a chance to be flexed and the NFL’s VP of Broadcast Planning, Mike North, revealed that game during a recent interview on the SI Media Podcast.
First, let’s take a look at the remaining Monday night games:
Week 12: Bears at Vikings
Week 13: Bengals at Jaguars
Week 14: Titans at Dolphins, Packers at Giants
Week 15: Chiefs at Patriots
Week 16: Ravens at 49ers
Week 17: Lions at Cowboys
The Bears-Vikings game can’t be flexed, because we’re already inside the 12-day window for making a decision. According to North, the game most likely to be flexed will come in Week 14, when the Giants play host to the Packers as part of a Monday night doubleheader.
The problem with moving the game is that the Jets play at home on Sunday afternoon, so the NFL can’t simply move the Giants to Sunday since the two teams share a stadium. The way to solve that problem would be to have the two teams flip games. In that situation, the Giants would take the 1 p.m. slot on Sunday that is currently occupied by the Jets, and the Jets would get the Monday night game.
The reason the NFL is considering this move is because the Jets are playing the Texans, which is one team the league definitely wants to flex into prime time this year, if it’s possible.
“I’m not sure we’d do it,” North said of flipping the two games. “But the Texans have played their way into national television. We’re looking for an opportunity [to feature them].”
According to North, the Packers and Giants threw a wrench into the league’s Week 14 flexing plans when they both won in Week 11.
“A week ago, I would have told you, ‘Yea, that’s certainly a possibility, we might flip those two,'” North said of the Jets and Giants games. “Now, of course, Green Bay and the Giants both [won in Week 11].”
Since the Packers could still be in the playoff hunt at that point, North said the league will have to give the decision some more consideration.
“There’s still to be a conversation about ‘should we flip the Giants and Jets games on Monday night in Week 14,'” North said. “That decision is still to be made.”
Since the game is being played on Dec. 11, the league has until Nov. 29 to make a decision.
One other thing that could throw a wrench into the league’s plans to flex Texans-Jets is that Week 14 features a Monday doubleheader and the NFL isn’t sure how much “value” would be gained by flexing the second game of a doubleheader.
Even if the Giants game doesn’t get flexed, North did promise that a Monday move will eventually happen.
“We’re going to do a Monday night flex some day, it’s going to happen,” North said.
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As far as the rest of the schedule goes, it seems that Packers-Giants is the only true candidate to be flexed. The NFL is also allowed to flex Thursday games this year, but the league has to make that decision 28 days in advance, which is why we likely won’t see any “TNF” games get flexed.
“Making that decision four weeks out is a tough one,” North said. “I think Thursday flex with that long of a runway is going to be tough.”
North also noted that the NFL does its best NOT to flex games early in the season. North was asked about that after the NFL made the decision to keep Bears-Chargers on Sunday night in Week 8.
“The object of flexible scheduling is never about getting the best game in prime time, it’s about getting out of a game that has fallen short of expectations,” North said. “It’s hard to say anybody’s season is over in Week 8, 9 or 10.”
Basically, the NFL tries not to use its flexing power unless it’s later in the season and both teams are out of the playoff race.
“If we’ve got a game in prime time that clearly no longer has playoff implications, and there’s a game on Sunday afternoon on CBS or Fox — that isn’t there very best game, we don’t want to be gutting them completely — that’s where you’ll see a flex along the way,” North said. “We’re looking for games with playoff implications in every window. That’s where you’ll probably see us make a move if we make one.”
One other thing North noted is that the NFL probably won’t be flexing any games in Week 16. With games being played on both Christmas Eve and Christmas, the league doesn’t want to mess with anyone’s schedule.
“The holiday weekends are a challenge,” North said. “I don’t expect any changes to the Week 16 schedule.”
If the Texans-Jets doesn’t get moved to Monday night, then it’s likely we’ll only see one game get flexed this year and that will come in Week 18 when the NFL selects a game to put in prime time to close out the 2023 regular season.