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The NFL, flex scheduling, and the Buffalo Bills

Which Bills game could we see flexed?

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

It’s been a long time since the Buffalo Bills were flexed into a nationally televised game. They haven’t been good enough to warrant it and when they were making their playoff run, they were down the list.

The last time the move was made was way back in 2007, when the hot-start Bills were blown out by the New England Patriots, 56-10. The Bills rode three straight wins to get to 4-4, were flexed, won the intervening game to get to 5-4, and then were promptly blown out.

Looking at the rest of this year’s schedule, there aren’t many candidates for a flex game with many of the Bills’ opponent being lackluster. The game against the Dallas Cowboys is already on national TV for Thanksgiving Day. The only other marquee game is likely to be against the New England Patriots.

The Patriots game already has a flexible option attached. In Week 16, five games were scheduled as “to be determined” with the idea that three of them would be moved to Saturday. These three Saturday games will air nationally on NFL Network and the decision as to which of the games will move needs to be made by Week 8.

The Bills vs. Patriots is now a lock to be a Week 16 Saturday game. The Bills and Patriots will be in the thick of the playoff race by Week 8, which is not something you can say for the other games.

Also a near-lock at this point is the game between the surging San Francisco 49ers and the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams. Even at 3-3, they are an enticing opponent for national TV.

The third game to look at is the Oakland Raiders against the Los Angeles Chargers. A large TV market for the Chargers and the Raiders playing well could get this game bumped to Saturday.

After those three games, the competition is a little less exciting. The Houston Texans are up there, but play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Detroit Lions play the Denver Broncos as probably the least-enticing game.

So the Bills will likely be moved to Saturday and could get the primetime slot that night.

Week 16 = High probability of Saturday flex

As for the traditional weeks, the Cleveland Browns would have to win their next two games in order for the game to be marque enough for a flex, but the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys are slotted in that night and Dallas is a popular national draw. To add to the improbability, the Browns play on the following Thursday night.

Week 10 = Very low probability of flex

In Week 14, Buffalo plays the Baltimore Ravens in a possible Wild Card weekend preview, but is the NFL going to bump the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams game already scheduled at night? Probably not with the Seahawks currently at 5-1.

Week 14 = Medium-low probability of flex

The rest of the games have no shot. Book your flights now.