Back when NBC got the rights to Sunday Night Football back in 2006, The NFL added flexible scheduling... What it means is that if a scheduled game looks to either be a blowout or non-competitive, they (the NFL) can "flex" it out to a better game.
As of right now, the current TV contracts allow it only in weeks 11-17, and they have to announce if they plan on changing the game 12 days ahead of time with the exception of week 17, they can announce it with 6 days notice, The game listed for Sunday Night Football is in effect penciled in for every week between 11-16 and no game is actually scheduled for week 17 as they want a game with playoff implications.
NBC and the NFL have a lot of say in which game they show, but CBS and FOX can "protect" 1 game a week and 5 a year (meaning there is 1 week that is not protected) from being moved. While there is no official list of "Protected games" Adam Schefter of ESPN somehow got the list this year...
(Note: The week 11 KC-DENVER game was flexed due to the NFL pressuring CBS to "Unprotect" it. and tonight's game was Manning-Brady so there was no chance of it being "flexed out"")
There is talk of changing the rules for next year, including being able to switch games from one network to the other (ie. FOX to CBS and vise versa), but that can be discussed in the off season as the rules have not been set yet.
Now, why is this important? This year the Saints were only scheduled for 1 game on SNF, (the Dallas game), Flexible scheduling allows teams to play their way on to SNF, and one could argue that the Saints have done that. In week 14 (December 8th) the game that was scheduled to air was the Falcons and Packers, and one has to think NBC does not want that to be the headline game of the week. Atlanta is... well we know what has happened to them, (cant keep beating a dead horse) and Green Bay has been without Arron Rodgers which has hurt them badly in the playoff race..
The other games that week include IND-CIN and SEA-SF, both of which are protected so that now leaves as Follows, BUF-TB, DET-PHI,, OAK-NYJ, CVE-NE, MIN-BAL, KC-WSH, MIA-PIT, TEN-DEN, STL-ARZ, NYJ-SD, and CAR-NO.
Out of those games it appears that the best possible match up is our game with the Panthers. Given how they have played the last couple of weeks and the way the Saints have played, I see no way the NFL does not pull the Falcons-Packers and put the Saints and Panthers in it's place. while it is possible that they have different idea, but it looks very possible that we hear that our game is the one being flexed the first of this week...
Here is a good link from the NFL's website that explains the process: Flexible Scheduling
I will be happy to answer any questions yall might have below in the comment section..
Bob Costas announced NBC will show the Saints / Panthers game December 8th. The game will move from noon to 7:30 pm.— Doug Mouton (@DMoutonWWL) November 25, 2013
The Saints-Panthers Week 14 game on Dec. 8, originally scheduled for Noon on FOX, has been flexed to @SNFonNBC!— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) November 25, 2013
Bob Costas made it official... We have been flexed into Sunday night.....