Next week marks one of the landmarks on the NFL's seasonal calendar, as flexible scheduling will kick in. Frankly, the coveted Sunday Night Football slot at NBC lucked out into some great matchups this year. All but two of their remaining 13 weekend concluders features at least one winning teams. However, should the need arise for a substitute, we have three attractive alternatives...
Week 6: San Francisco @ LA Rams
(Replacing Pittsburgh @ LA Chargers)
The Pittsburgh Steelers are 0-3 at the exact wrong time for the NFL. Three of their next four games (with a bye week wedged in during the process) will be nationally televised, and the only one subject to flexing is their October 13 showdown with the 1-2 Los Angeles Chargers (the other two are Monday night games set in stone).
This NFC West battle could be an attractive second option. Both teams sit at perfection right now as they distance themselves from the rest of the NFC playoff field. Los Angeles partook in a clunky victory over the Brows in last week's edition of SNF, and the resurgent Niners could be in a position to step up if they falter. San Francisco hasn't partaken in a Sunday night game since October 2015, when they endured a 30-27 road loss to the New York Giants.
Week 10: Buffalo @ Cleveland
(Replacing Minnesota @ Dallas)
Speaking of flexible scheduling, it's a bit of a shame the concept won't kick in this weekend. Sure, Cowboys-Saints remain an attractive matchup in spite of the Drew Brees injury, but can you imagine NBC descending upon Orchard Park, the land of Bills Mafia, for a matchup of 3-0 squads? Especially when the visitor is the mighty New England Patriots? Buffalo has the fewest SNF appearances of any team, making one appearance in 2007 (they were promptly blown out by, you guessed it, the Patriots). If they keep this streak up, their November tilt with the Browns is the best chance to be flexed. Who knows how Cleveland, or Buffalo for that matter, will be looking by that point, but a matchup featuring a pair of 2018 draft stars (Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen) might be worth the switch alone.
Even if the Vikings still struggle, NBC will be hard-pressed to lose the eyes of Texas. But giving, to take a term from the original Saturday Night Live days, the "Not Ready for Prime Time Players" a chance could be a fun experiment.
Week 17: Philadelphia @ NY Giants
Week 17, of course, brings about a Sunday night edition that goes unscheduled until the last possible minute, awaiting the matchup that carries the most potential playoff weight. In a shocking twist, what if that game brings for the next generation of the Eagles-Giants rivalry.
Dallas is currently in the driver's seat of the NFC East. The Eagles are shockingly 1-2, and face a potential must-win on Thursday night against Green Bay. No one expected the Giants to do much this season, but all it took was one start from Daniel "Dimes" Jones to reinfect New York with hope. They're not-so-surprisingly kept off the current SNF slate, but they well could back in the playoff hunt with Jones' help. NFC East games ALWAYS draw huge for NBC. Nothing speaks for to this than the multitude of Cowboys games on the network. If the two remain in the wild card conversation this long, maybe even chase each other for the division if Dallas falters, this Week 17 finale would be a no-brainer.
Other intriguing final slots that could steal the spot include Jaguars-Colts, Packers-Lions, or Jaguars-Chiefs.