NFL scheduling formula

NFL scheduling formula



The NFL schedule can be difficult to understand. I see people all the time ask questions like “Why won’t there be a Super Bowl rematch this year?” Every fan should understand how the schedule works. Kansas City and San Francisco have been scheduled to play in 2022 since the league started this cycle when they expanded to 32 teams back in 2002. Every offseason I see fans complaining about their team’s opponents and wondering why other teams got “easy schedules” if that’s you, no worries, I’ve even heard sports talk radio show hosts state that they don’t know how opponents are picked. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the NFL scheduling formula. It’s really quite simple. 

The NFL has a cycle in place ensuring that all 32 teams will play each other at least once every four years. I’ll use the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs for example to show you who they’re playing and why. 

Home games:

1 Broncos (divisional rival) 

2 Chargers(divisional rival)

3 Raiders (divisional rival)

4 Patriots (AFC East) 

5 Jets (AFC East) 

6 Texans (1st place AFC South) 

7 Falcons (NFC South) 

8 Panthers (NFC South) 

Away games: 


9 Broncos (divisional rival) 

10 Chargers (divisional rival) 

11 Raiders (divisional rival) 

12 Bills (AFC East) 

13 Dolphins (AFC East) 

14 Ravens (1st place AFC North) 

15 Buccaneers (NFC South)

16 Saints (NFC South) 

As you can see, they play a complete NFC division (NFC South) as well as a complete AFC division (AFC East). They cycle through the NFC, playing each division every four years and every three years for the AFC. Along with playing each team in their own division twice, this makes up 14 of the 16 games on their schedule. 

The last two games are played in conference against the other two divisions that you aren’t already playing. These games are decided by the previous season’s final division ranking. Since the Chiefs finished first, they play the AFC North Champion Ravens and the AFC South Champion Texans. Anyone can do a little bit of research and find out the opponents for their team five years from now other than those two games because they’re the only ones that aren’t on the cycle. These depend on the outcome of the regular season standings which delays the schedule making process until January.

The NFL has a machine that makes thousands of schedules with the eligible opponents, which five of the league’s executives go over and begin the extensive process of narrowing it down to the best option. Their job is to try to maximize revenue as well as making sure that there are as few disadvantages to teams as possible. Everything from team’s traveling schedules, stadiums that are already booked for major events, international game travel and when teams have had their bye weeks gets taken into account. Prime time games are usually awarded to the teams and matchups that will garner the most viewership. There’s no such thing as a perfect schedule but I think they do a pretty decent job, considering how challenging of a task it is. It will only get more difficult due to the impending 17 game season and the quirks that come with an uneven amount of games. The one extra game won’t shake things up too much and will be implemented between 2021-2023. I hope this article gave you the “who” “why” “where” and “how” behind the all important NFL schedule. Thanks for reading and please pass this on to any fans that could benefit from this information. 

1 comment

  • Great Article!!!

    That was awesome! I learned something!!!

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