The purpose of the National Football League's "flexible scheduling" option, first introduced in 2006, is to "highlight games with strong playoff implications during the seasons' final seven weeks."
It's a very good sign, then, that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have now been flexed twice in a row.
On Monday, the NFL announced that Tampa Bay's Week 13 home game against the Atlanta Falcons has been moved from its original 1:00 p.m. slot to 4:15 p.m. ET. It will still be broadcast on FOX. That is the only game the league elected to move that weekend.
The Bucs already had their travel plans for this coming weekend altered when the NFL announced last Tuesday that it had moved the Tampa Bay-Baltimore game in Week 12 from 1:00 to 4:15. The Buccaneers' subsequent shutout win in San Francisco on Sunday, which improved the team's record to 7-3, provided more motivation to get the Bucs-Falcons showdown into the later time slot.
Indeed, both the Buccaneers and Falcons were impressive on Sunday, as Tampa Bay's win was matched by Atlanta's 34-17 victory at St. Louis. The Falcons improved to 8-2, one game ahead of both the Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints in the NFL's strongest division, the NFC South. Depending upon the outcome of the Bucs' game in Baltimore and the Falcons' home date with Green Bay this coming Sunday, the Week 13 Tampa Bay-Atlanta game could be a battle for first place.
For each of the flexible scheduling weeks with the exception of Week 17, the NFL will announce the start times of games on Sundays no later than 12 days prior to that weekend. To ensure a Sunday night game and doubleheader games with playoff implications in Week 17, the flexible scheduling decision for that Sunday may be made on six days notice.
The Buccaneers' original 2010 schedule called for 14 of the team's games to kick off at 1:00 p.m. ET, with only their two West Coast games – at Arizona and at San Francisco – starting in the four o'clock time slot. It is possible that additional Tampa Bay games will be flexed after Week 13, as the Bucs still have upcoming matchups with such playoff contenders as New Orleans, Washington and Seattle.