Over the last half-decade, the Kansas City Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes have become one of the NFL’s greatest draws. When it comes time for the league’s schedule release each year, it is easy to anticipate the Chiefs will be given a maximum number of primetime games.
That was again the case in 2023, with Kansas City scheduled for six. The Chiefs will host the Lions in the Thursday night season-opener before playing on “Sunday Night Football” twice in three weeks, traveling to face Aaron Rodgers’ New York Jets in Week 4 before hosting the Denver Broncos in Week 6.
Kansas City’s first game after its Week 10 bye is a “Monday Night Football” Super Bowl rematch with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Chiefs’ primetime schedule wraps up with a Week 13 “Sunday Night Football” away game against the Green Bay Packers — before visiting the New England Patriots for “Monday Night Football” in Week 15.
On Friday, the NFL’s representatives confirmed that teams could be scheduled for a maximum of six primetime games but awarded a seventh through flex scheduling, which occurs from Weeks 12 to 17.
“I think when we talked [about] the Chiefs in giving them their schedule, I think they have one Noon start in Kansas City the whole season,” explained NFL vice president of broadcasting Onnie Bose via Zoom. “Between them, the Cowboys, the Eagles — a handful of teams — these are teams that are going to appear in our biggest windows whether it’s primetime or 3:25 p.m. doubleheader windows, so I think that occupies most of where they’re going to appear.
“Are [the Chiefs] eligible for flex? Any game that’s not in primetime is technically eligible. We have the ability to get to — if they’re scheduled for six — to a seventh primetime via flex, but the Chiefs clearly will be one of the teams that CBS down the stretch are likely to protect depending on what else they have in their window, so it really comes down to what’s at play in that specific week. What are the specific games? And what the possibilities may be.”
CBS and FOX are reportedly able to protect one game every Sunday, as further defined by NFL vice president of broadcast planning Mike North.
“One of the most limiting factors is going to be our commitment to the number of Chiefs games that have to remain on CBS at some point in the season — whether that’s early in the season or late in the season or all the way through to Week 18,” he said. “We’ve got a commitment to CBS. They’ve got an understanding and an expectation of a certain number of Chiefs games, so can we flex into another Chiefs game? Yes. We can. Can we flex into multiple Chiefs games? Probably not.”
“Particularly as you look down the stretch, as Onnie mentioned, most of their games are in national windows already anyway, so when CBS gets to exercise a protection on a Sunday afternoon, they’re going to protect Buffalo-Kansas City. They’re going to protect Cincinnati-Kansas City.”
The bottom line
From Weeks 12 to 17 (the flex window), the Chiefs visit the Raiders in the late CBS window (Week 12), are already scheduled for “Sunday Night Football” while visiting the Packers (Week 13), hosting the Bills in the late CBS window (Week 14), already scheduled for “Monday Night Football” while visiting the Patriots (Week 15), locked into their Christmas Day Monday game at Noon on CBS (Week 16) and hosting the Bengals in the late CBS window (Week 17).
Like every other game to close the season, the specific day and time of Week 18’s Chiefs-Chargers game in Los Angeles has yet to be determined.
As North describes, it is likely CBS protects both Week 14 and Week 17 — when the Chiefs play the Bills and Bengals. And if that pans out, that would leave one single possibility for a flex: the Chiefs visiting the Raiders in Week 12. In order for the game to be flexed, CBS would have to be inclined to protect another Week 12 game — and the flexed game would have to replace either Sunday night’s Ravens-Chargers matchup or Monday night’s Bears-Vikings matchup.
In conclusion, it appears way more likely the Chiefs are flexed out of a primetime game (Week 13’s “Sunday Night Football” matchup visiting Green Bay or Week 15’s “Monday Night Football” game visiting New England) than flexed into another.