The NFL will release the 2014 schedule tonight at 8pm ET. Included in that release is a minor change that could have big impacts on the weekly game schedule. According to NFL.com's Around the League, Sunday afternoon games can now be flexed into the Sunday Night Football time slot as early as Week 5. Previously, only games in Week 11 or later could receive the preferential treatment of a primetime move.
The change, however, does not mean every week will see games moving around. According to the report, only two games between Weeks 5 and 10 will be allowed to be flexed. If a game is moved in Week 5 and Week 6, no more games can be flexed until Week 11.
Changing game times still follow the same rules as previously used for the flex scheduling. Specifically, the league and television companies will decide to flex a game no later than 12 days prior to kickoff. Week 17's Sunday Night Football game will not be slotted until six days prior to kickoff, as the league will move around games in the final weekend to try to ensure playoff implications are best covered (i.e., making sure two teams with playoffs on the line play at the same time, rather than a team know its fate based on an earlier played game).
The new rule allows the league to move interesting games into the Sunday night slot earlier in the season, ensuring key matchups are receiving Sunday's headline time slot, even if that contest did not appear to be an inticing game on paper in April.