NFL 2011

Preseason: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4

WEEK DATE   DH SNF MNF Other National Byes
1 Sept. 11 Map Link FOX DAL @ NYJ NE @ MIA
NO @ GB (Thurs, NBC)  
2 Sept. 18 Map Link CBS PHI @ ATL STL @ NYG    
3 Sept. 25 Map Link FOX PIT @ IND WSH @ DAL    
4 Oct. 2 Map Link CBS NYJ @ BAL IND @ TB    
5 Oct. 9 Map Link CBS GB @ ATL CHI @ DET   BAL, CLE, DAL, MIA, STL, WSH
6 Oct. 16 Map Link FOX MIN @ CHI MIA @ NYJ   AZ, DEN, KC, SD, SEA, TN
7 Oct. 23 Map Link FOX IND @ NO BAL @ JAX   BUF, CIN, NE, NYG, PHI, SF
8 Oct. 30 Map Link CBS DAL @ PHI SD @ KC   ATL, CHI, GB, NYJ, OAK, TB
9 Nov. 6 Map Link FOX BAL @ PIT CHI @ PHI   CAR, DET, JAX, MIN
10 Nov. 13 Map Link FOX NE @ NYJ MIN @ GB OAK @ SD (Thurs, NFLN)  
11 Nov. 20 Map Link CBS PHI @ NYG KC @ NE NYJ @ DEN (Thurs, NFLN) HOU, IND, NO, PIT
12 Nov. 27 Map Link CBS PIT @ KC NYG @ NO GB @ DET (Thurs, FOX)
MIA @ DAL (Thurs, CBS)
SF @ BAL (Thurs, NFLN)
13 Dec. 4 Map Link FOX DET @ NO SD @ JAX PHI @ SEA (Thurs, NFLN)  
14 Dec. 11 Map Link CBS NYG @ DAL STL @ SEA CLE @ PIT (Thurs, NFLN)  
15 Dec. 18 Map Link CBS BAL @ SD PIT @ SF JAX @ ATL (Thurs, NFLN)
DAL @ TB (Sat, NFLN)
16 Dec. 24 (Sat.) Map Link FOX CHI @ GB ATL @ NO HOU @ IND (Thurs, NFLN)  
17 Jan. 1, 2012 Map Link CBS/FOX DAL @ NYG (none)    
*subject to change due to flex scheduling

All maps and information are unofficial and subject to change. I am not affiliated with any network or the NFL.

NFL TV Rules at a Glance

The basics

Who airs what:

  • CBS: Sunday afternoon games in which the visiting team is in the AFC*
  • FOX: Sunday afternoon games in which the visiting team is in the NFC*
  • NBC: Sunday night games, plus the opening week 1 game on Thursday night
  • ESPN: Monday night games
  • NFL Network: Late-season Thursday and Saturday night games

*This is no longer an iron-clad rule. A Broncos @ Vikings game in 2011 was moved from CBS to FOX to assure a more equitable distribution of that game. A clause allowing the NFL to move games between networks has been written into the new TV contracts, which will take effect in 2014.


With the exception of week 17, only one of CBS or FOX gets to air a doubleheader on Sunday. In most areas (see below), one network airs 2 games on Sunday while the other only airs one.

Primary and Secondary Markets

  • A television market, in layman's terms, is the general viewing area of a set of local stations....i.e. the Cincinnati TV market is the area served by that city's stations.
  • A primary market is the one in which the team is physically located....for instance, the Bengals' only primary market is Cincinnati.
  • Most teams also designate secondary markets. In order to be designated as a secondary market, a portion of it must be located within 75 miles of the stadium. Not all teams designate all markets within 75 miles as secondary markets. For instance, the Bengals designate Dayton, Ohio and Lexington, Kentucky as their secondary markets, although not Louisville even though Louisville stations reach within 75 miles of Cincinnati.
  • Primary and secondary markets are required to air all road games of the team in question, and are not allowed to air blacked out home games (see below).
  • Just because all (or most) games of a given team air in a given market does not necessarily mean it is a designated secondary market. Again, the ONLY markets that can be designated secondary are those whose stations reach within 75 miles of the stadium. For instance, all stations in Texas air Cowboys games whenever possible, but only those whose signals reach within 75 miles of Cowboys Stadium are officially secondary markets.
  • If the local team is playing at home and the game is sold out, it is the only game allowed to be televised in that primary market at that time, even if the opposite network has a doubleheader. That means if the Cardinals are playing at home on FOX while Patriots-Colts is on CBS at the same time, Patriots-Colts does not air in Phoenix. There are occasional exceptions, such as in selected markets during week 17, or in Washington DC, which is also a Ravens secondary market and airs their road games whenever possible.
  • Milwaukee is also designated a "primary market" for the Green Bay Packers, but only in the sense that ESPN and NFL Network games are broadcast on an over-the-air station in that city.
  • There are occasions, such as in Orlando with the Jaguars or in Harrisburg PA with the Ravens, where the team that claims secondary market status is not the most popular in the area, leading to viewer frustration when their road games air over those of the more popular team. The NFL does not take fan support into account when enforcing secondary market rules, only geography.


  • If a game is not declared a sellout within 72 hours of kickoff, it is declared "blacked out" and cannot be shown in the home team's primary or secondary markets. 
  • In addition, the affiliate of the doubleheader in the primary market is only allowed to air one game. The doubleheader network first determines which game of theirs will air in the market, forcing the singleheader network to air a game in the opposite timeslot. In effect, this means there are two games aired in a market of a blacked-out game - one early game on one network and one late game on the other, regardless of which one has the doubleheader.
  • In secondary markets, stations simply air another game in place of the blacked out game, and both games of the doubleheader are still shown.

To make sense of all these rules above, here's an example:

Detroit: primary market for the Lions
secondary market for the Lions as Lansing stations can be seen within 75 miles of Ford Field
Grand Rapids:
not a primary or a secondary market, but one with a strong Lions following.

Imagine this is a partial game schedule on a hypothetical Sunday in which FOX has the doubleheader:

Arizona @ Detroit (FOX)
Seattle @ Green Bay (FOX)
NY Jets @ New England (CBS)

Dallas @ NY Giants (FOX)
Denver @ Oakland (CBS)

If the Lions game is blacked out:

  FOX early FOX late CBS
Detroit NO GAME Dal @ NYG NYJ @ NE
Lansing Sea @ GB Dal @ NYG NYJ @ NE
Grand Rapids Az @ Det Dal @ NYG NYJ @ NE

Since the Lions were blacked out, FOX could only air one game in Detroit. Since they feel Giants-Cowboys is a major matchup that would garner large ratings, they decided that would be the one game that would air in Detroit. CBS is then forced to air an early game. Lansing is still allowed to air two games on FOX, the only caveat is that one of them cannot be the Lions game. Grand Rapids has no restrictions and thus can air the Lions game.

If the Lions game sells out:

  FOX early FOX late CBS
Detroit Az @ Det Dal @ NYG Den @ Oak
Lansing Az @ Det Dal @ NYG either game
Grand Rapids Az @ Det Dal @ NYG either game

CBS is not allowed to compete with a sold-out Lions home game in Detroit, meaning they have to air the Denver-Oakland game. CBS is not bound by that restriction in Lansing (let alone Grand Rapids), meaning they pick whichever game they feel will get the best ratings.


Now, if CBS had the doubleheader:

Arizona @ Detroit (FOX)
Seattle @ Green Bay (FOX)
NY Jets @ New England (CBS)

St. Louis @ San Francisco (FOX)
Denver @ San Diego (CBS)

If the Lions game is blacked out:

  FOX CBS early CBS late
Detroit StL @ SF NYJ @ NE NO GAME
Lansing Sea @ GB NYJ @ NE Den @ SD
Grand Rapids Az @ Det NYJ @ NE Den @ SD

CBS, with the doubleheader and the first pick, decides to air the Jets-Patriots game in Detroit. This forces FOX to air a late game, as unappealing as it is to a Detroit audience. Lansing still gets its full complement of 3 games (none of which are the Lions), while Grand Rapids still gets the Lions game.

If the Lions game sells out:

  FOX CBS early CBS late
Detroit Az @ Det NO GAME Den @ SD
Lansing Az @ Det NYJ @ NE Den @ SD
Grand Rapids Az @ Det NYJ @ NE Den @ SD


In-Game Switches

  • In the case a national game becomes a blowout, CBS and FOX have the right to switch audiences to a more competitive game. It must be in the second half and the lead must be 18 points or more. The decision to switch is solely at the network's discretion.
  • Due to technical limitations and satellite capacity at FOX control in Los Angeles, FOX designates one game beforehand in a timeslot (usually their most widely distributed game) that can be switched in case of a blowout. CBS has more capacity at its disposal and can designate more games, but rarely more than two at a time. If the game you are receiving is not one of the designated games, you will receive it to the end regardless of how (un)competitive it is.
  • All stations in a team's primary and secondary markets, as well as other stations that are nearby or otherwise have an interest in a given team, can receive a "constant" feed of that team's games, which remains with a game if the national audience is switched.
  • If the local team is playing in the second game of a doubleheader, the affiliates in primary and secondary markets, as well as a small number of other markets that request it, must switch out of the early game if it goes past 4:10 PM ET, in order to get to the kickoff of the local game. This is known as a "mandatory pullout".

National Broadcasts

  • NBC, ESPN and NFL Network are deemed the national primetime broadcasters for NFL games, as all their games air to 100% of the country. (The NFL Network's cable carriage woes are irrelevant to this discussion.) Although CBS and FOX sometimes air games that also go to the entire country (such as Thanksgiving), they do not play into this section.
  • Most teams can air in primetime a maximum of 5 times a year, a maximum of 3 of which can be on NBC. The Thursday Night game in Week 1 with the defending Super Bowl champion counts toward this total.
  • Three teams can air 6 times a year. These teams are not pre-determined, they just depend on how the schedule is drawn up.
  • ESPN and NFL Network games are also simulcast on an over-the-air station in the primary markets of the two teams only. Stations in secondary and other markets are not allowed to air these games, even if the NFL Network is not widely available in the market.
  • There is no restriction on having both games of a divisional rivalry air on NBC, although it is rare. The only modern example is Cowboys-Giants in 2011.

Flex Scheduling

  • Between weeks 11 and 16, the scheduled (or "pencilled-in") NBC Sunday Night game may be replaced with a "flex" game, depending on competitiveness or ratings concerns. It is the NFL and not NBC that makes the decision to flex a game. The decision is made at least 12 days in advance, and the limits on national broadcasts described above are still in effect. The NFL may also simply decide to make the originally scheduled game official. (Note: in 2011, as Christmas falls on a Sunday and most games are on Christmas Eve instead, flex scheduling does not apply to week 16.)
  • In week 17, the NBC game is determined only one week in advance (and usually first announced during the week 16 Sunday Night game), and no game is pencilled in on the original schedule.
  • CBS and FOX can each protect five games between weeks 11 and 16 from being flexed to Sunday night. Their decisions are made after week 6. They cannot protect any week 17 games.
  • CBS and FOX games may also switch timeslots with 12 days notice (or 6 in week 17) for ratings concerns. These may or may not be called a "flex" depending on who you talk to.
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