What Games Will the NFL Flex to Thursday Night Football?
The NFL owners approved the Thursday Night Football flex schedule was approved by a vote of 24-8. The move allows the league to flex games into the Thursday Night Football slots in weeks 13 through 17. The decision for flexing games has to be made 28 days in advance and no team can play more than two Thursdays during a season. So which games will the NFL flex to bolster Amazon's streaming package this season? Breaking it down week by week, it seems obvious.
First, here are the five TNF games that are potentially on the block.
Week 13: Seattle @ Dallas
Week 14: New England @ Pittsburgh
Week 15: Los Angeles Chargers @ Las Vegas
Week 16: New Orleans @ Los Angeles Rams
Week 17: New York Jets @ Cleveland
You're not flexing Week 13 or 14. No matter how bad the Cowboys are, they're popular. Sometimes it's even more interesting to watch them when things are going poorly. So even if Geno Smith and the Seahawks regress to the mean, that's still an attractive matchup.
Week 14 is between the Steelers and Patriots, who will both be battling for Wild Card spots. And if not then no matter how bad they are they'll still be teams with diehard fanbases convinced they just need to make a change at quarterback to contend again.
Week 15 brings a matchup of a star quarterback and a theoretical star quarterback in Justin Herbert and Jimmy Garoppolo. Jimmy G went 7-3 as the starter in San Francisco last season. Herbert was second in passing. This seems like a keeper.
Week 16, however. You've got middling teams. The Saints have added Derek Carr and the Los Angeles Rams get Matthew Stafford, 35, back after he suffered concussions in two games in three weeks last season. This screams of two teams whose seasons could be going sideways by Thanksgiving, which is when Amazon and the NFL have to decide if they're going to flex the Week 16 matchup.
In Week 17 you could have two playoff-bound AFC teams jockeying for position with the Browns and Jets. A high-profile showdown between Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson. Or one or both of those quarterbacks could be hurt and this would look like you imagine a traditional Jets - Browns game. Will both those teams still be surviving at the end of November?
So the most likely weeks to get flexed are 16 and 17. Week 16 is Christmas, which means there are not many choices. In addition to Thursday Night Football, there are two Saturday games, the usual Sunday Night Football game, and a triple-header on Christmas, which falls on Monday. Fox will not be giving up Dallas at Miami under any circumstances so you've got eight games to choose from.
Week 17 comes with many more options as there are ten 1pm games alone scheduled for New Year's Eve with the no-brainer choice being the Miami Dolphins at the Baltimore Ravens.
Final predictions: The NFL will flex the Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings to TNF in Week 16 and the Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens to TNF in Week 17. These predictions are subject to change based on record and player availability, which is why flexing four weeks out brings just as little guaruntee of a good game as the schedule release in May.
If you are a fan of any of these teams, beware of the TNF flex. The second one of these game changes gets announced, somebody is going to suffer a regular season-ending injury and get saddled with a battle between Mike White and Tyler Huntley. The only lesson the NFL will take from this is going back to the original 15-day proposal.