The NFL will utilize a primetime flexible scheduling element for the 2016 season on Sundays in Weeks 5-15 and 17. Flexible scheduling ensures quality matchups on Sunday nights throughout the season and gives surprise teams a chance to play their way into primetime.
The NFL has the ability to change the start times of games on Sunday afternoon to 8:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, using a 12-day notice format in Weeks 5-15 and a six-day notice format in Week 17. For example, a game scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 13 at 1:00 p.m. ET could be moved to 8:30 p.m., but the change would be announced no later than Tuesday, Nov. 1. The game originally scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 13 at 8:30 p.m. ET would then be moved to an afternoon time slot at 1:00, 4:05 or 4:25 p.m. ET.
During Weeks 5-9, flexible scheduling can be used in no more than two weeks by shifting a Sunday afternoon game into primetime and moving the Sunday night game to an afternoon start time. In Weeks 10-15 and 17, any Sunday night game can be flexed.
For the 2016 season, flexible scheduling has the potential to affect Panthers' games at New Orleans on Oct. 16, versus Arizona on Oct. 30, at Los Angeles on Nov. 6, versus Kansas City on Nov. 13, at Oakland on Nov. 27, at Seattle on Dec. 4, versus San Diego on Dec. 11 and at Tampa Bay on Jan. 1.
Only Sunday afternoon games may be changed, and flexible scheduling does not apply to games on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights. As a result, Panthers' games versus Tampa Bay on Oct. 10, versus New Orleans on Nov. 17 and at Washington on Dec. 19 cannot be flexed. However, Sunday afternoon games can still be moved between 1:00 and 4:05 or 4:25 p.m. ET.
Also, a select number of games can be "cross-flexed," moving between CBS and FOX to bring potentially under-distributed games to wider audiences.