Why NFL flexes games and how changing the schedule works

Why NFL flexes games and how changing the schedule works originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The NFL schedule release is one of the most exciting moments of the offseason. While it’s great to see all 272 games lined up months before anyone takes the field, the initial plan is not likely to become the final product.

The league sets up the schedule with intriguing primetime matchups in mind. However, once the season starts, a once-promising showdown can turn into a dud. On the other side, a Sunday afternoon matchup that didn’t stand out on the initial schedule could later become a highly anticipated contest worthy of its own time slot.

That’s where “flexible scheduling” comes in.

Here’s a look at the NFL’s procedure for moving games around during the season.

What is NFL flex scheduling?

The NFL introduced flex scheduling in 2006 as a way to make sure there was a quality matchup on NBC’s Sunday Night Football each week.

While the NFL had the ability to move games through postponements prior to the founding of flex scheduling, the system allows the NFL and networks to move games around from their kickoff times based on intrigue.

How does NFL flex scheduling work?

Flex scheduling can be used twice between Weeks 5-10 and anytime between Weeks 11-17 to move games in and out of Sunday Night Football.

A Sunday afternoon game with a kickoff time of 1 p.m., 4:05 p.m. or 4:25 p.m. ET time can be moved into the Sunday Night Football slot, while the tentatively scheduled primetime game would be moved to the afternoon. Games can also be moved from 1 p.m. to either 4:05 p.m. or 4:25 p.m. ET, and vice-versa.

The NFL decides which games will be flexed after consulting with NBC, CBS and FOX.

How far in advance can the NFL flex a game?

For games from Weeks 5-17, the league must provide 12 days notice before flexing a game.

When it comes to Week 18, the league wants to ensure Sunday Night Football has a game with meaningful playoff implications. Since those playoff implications will not be fully known until the conclusion of Week 17, Week 18 flex scheduling only requires six days notice. The two Saturday games in Week 18 must also be decided by the prior Monday.

How does flex scheduling affect fans?

Fans need to be mindful of the NFL’s flex scheduling policies. Tickets do not change even if the NFL moves a game’s kickoff time.

What will NFL flex scheduling look like in 2023?

Flex scheduling will expand to Monday Night Football beginning in 2023.

Games will be able to move from Sundays to Mondays, and vice-versa, from Week 13 and beyond. The NFL will need to make those switches with at least 12 days notice.

The change to the NFL’s flex scheduling will lead to major travel and logistical challenges for teams and fans who made arrangements for a specific date.