Bengals-Chargers wasn't flexed, but games against Ravens, Chiefs could be

·4 min read

The Cincinnati Bengals entered the 2021 season with just one prime-time game scheduled - the Thursday night game they won against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 30.

But with a 7-4 start that has the Bengals in second place in the AFC North and currently in position for an AFC playoff spot, Cincinnati is likely to have another game currently scheduled to start at 1 p.m. on a Sunday flexed to a 4:05, 4:25 or Sunday night start - in addition to the game against the San Francisco 49ers - scheduled for Dec. 12 - that was flexed from 1 p.m. to a 4:25 start, per an announcement Tuesday.

Of the Bengals' six remaining regular-season games, four are scheduled to start at 1 p.m. Their Week 15 game against Denver is scheduled to start at 4:05 p.m. because it's being played in the Mountain Time Zone.

The Bengals-Chargers showdown Dec. 5 appeared to be a candidate for Sunday night, but Chiefs-Broncos was flexed instead:

NFL.com shares details that are important to keep in mind when considering which games are eligible to be flexed:

Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game will be moved to an afternoon start time. Flexible scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights.

Just as the six major college football conferences have done for many years, the NFL has the flexibility to move the start times of games on Sundays, using a 12-day notice format.

For example, a game scheduled for a Sunday could move from a 1:00 p.m. ET kickoff to an 8:15 p.m. start, but the change would be made and announced no later than the prior Tuesday, 12 days prior. Sunday afternoon games, as in the past, can still be moved between 1:00 and 4:05 or 4:25 p.m. ET.

In Week 17, in order to ensure a Sunday night game with playoff implications, the decision to move the start time may be made on six days notice.

Former Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert (left) and ex-LSU quarterback Joe Burrow at the NFL draft combine in February.
Former Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert (left) and ex-LSU quarterback Joe Burrow at the NFL draft combine in February.

And the following procedures are in place for 2021:

"Flexible scheduling" will be used in Weeks 11-18. Additionally, in Weeks 5-10, flexible scheduling may be used in no more than two weeks. In Weeks 5-17, the schedule lists the games tentatively set for Sunday Night Football on NBC. Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game would be moved to an afternoon start time.

For Week 18, two Saturday games and the Sunday night game will be announced no later than six days prior to January 9. The schedule does not list Saturday games or a Sunday night game in Week 18, but games with playoff implications will be moved to those time slots. Flexible scheduling ensures quality matchups in all Sunday time slots in those weeks and gives "surprise" teams a chance to play their way into primetime.

So which games might be most likely to be flexed based on opponent, given that things could could change over the next few weeks?

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Week 16: Ravens at Bengals Dec. 26

Current Sunday Night Football game: Washington at Cowboys

Yes, the Bengals cruised past Baltimore in the second half of the first meeting between the two AFC North rivals. But the Ravens are in first place at 8-3, and they've got the Browns, the Steelers and the Packers before the flex opportunity would arise. If these two teams are tied for first in the AFC North in mid-December, it'd be tough to see them playing at 1 p.m.

Week 17: Chiefs at Bengals Jan. 2, 2022

Current Sunday Night Football game: Vikings at Packers

The Chiefs started 3-4. Now they're 7-4. And their schedule the rest of the way includes home games against the Broncos, Raiders and Steelers in addition to a road game against the Chargers. A lot can happen over the next month, but this game easily could be flexed if both teams are in playoff contention.

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This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Which games on Bengals' schedule are most likely to be flexed?

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