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Bears Are Big Part of Flexible Schedule

October 18, 2006|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

The popularity of the undefeated Chicago Bears, coming off a dramatic, come-from-behind victory over the Arizona Cardinals Monday night, figures as a key element in the NFL's new flexible schedule involving NBC's Sunday night games.

The network's schedule is set only through Week 9, giving it flexibility in the latter part of the season to televise potentially better games.

For Week 10, NBC has earmarked the game involving the Bears and the host New York Giants to be shown Nov. 12.

Fox and CBS are each allowed to protect five games during the seven weeks the flexible schedule is in effect. The deadline to declare which games would be protected for Weeks 10 through 15 was last week. CBS declined to say what games it chose.

Fox has chosen not to protect any games during Week 10 but has protected the Bears' game the next week at the New York Jets.

Other games specified by Fox are: Dallas at the New York Giants during Week 13; Philadelphia at Washington, Week 14; and Philadelphia at the Giants, Week 15. There is no Sunday night game during Week 16 because that falls on Christmas Eve.

For Week 17, the last weekend of the season, Fox and CBS do not have to declare what games they are protecting until six days before.

Besides the Bears vs. Giants on Nov. 12, other games earmarked as Sunday night NBC telecasts are: Washington at Tampa Bay, Nov. 19; Philadelphia at Indianapolis, Nov. 26; Seattle at Denver, Dec. 3; New England at Miami, Dec. 10; Kansas City at San Diego, Dec. 17, and Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, Dec. 31.

This is not a definitive schedule, nor are the protected games definitive, according to Tony Pettiti, executive producer of CBS Sports. Nothing is definite until 12 days before a game is to be played.

"We have assurances that no network will have an advantage over another," Pettiti said. "The NFL has told us that all of its television partners are equally important."

The Bears' 24-23 victory over the Cardinals on ESPN Monday night got a 10.3 overnight Nielsen rating, which ties ESPN's best overnight rating of the season. The New Orleans Saints' return to the Superdome on Sept. 25 also got a 10.3 overnight rating.

larry.stewart@latimes.com

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