As we await Wednesday night's reveal of the 2014 NFL schedule, NFL.com reports that tweaks are coming to the league's flex procedure for Sunday night games. Kickoffs scheduled for Sunday afternoon can now be bumped up to the coveted prime time slot beginning Week 5. In previous seasons, the league did not have have the flex option until Week 11.
The new flexibility comes with a minor caveat: Games can't be flexed every week from Weeks 5 to 10. The NFL can only flex two games total over that six-week span, so it will have to choose wisely if it hopes to maximize ratings. Beginning Week 11, every Sunday afternoon game of every week can potentially be bumped into prime time.
The process of flexing a Sunday game remains the same. An announcement can come no later than 12 days prior to the kickoff of the Sunday night game, and can only be made after consultation among the NFL and the television networks. Week 17 gets special consideration, with only a six-day window needed before announcing the final Sunday schedule of the regular season.
Flex scheduling is great for the NFL and NBC, which holds the contract for Sunday night games. Plucking a lucrative game from the early- and late-afternoon slates hurts Fox and CBS, however, hence the two games only mandate prior to Week 11. Note that Thursday, Saturday and Monday games are not eligible to be flexed into the Sunday night timeslot.