How is an NFL Teams Schedule decided?

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Now that the NFL regular season has concluded, I have seen many tweets by reporters tweeting their respective team’s 2020 regular season schedule. Fans have been asking “How do you know this already??”, and that’s what this article is going to answer. I’m going to go through how the NFL decides who each team is going to play in the upcoming season.

The NFL has the best scheduling process of any of the four major sports (MLB, NBA, NHL) in my opinion, but we’ll do those sports later. There are 16 games and it’s a clear-cut answer about who each team will play, the NFL only has to decide when each team will play. I’ll walk through section by section how schedules are decided and follow an example of a team, which will be the Patriots in this case.

First off,  each NFL team plays everyone in their division twice. The Patriots are in the AFC East and therefore will play home and road games against the other AFC East teams – Bills, Dolphins, and Jets. Six games down, ten left.

Next, the AFC East will play an entire other AFC division, not including their own. This rotates yearly and will be cyclical. Those games will be against the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs and the Las Vegas Raiders. These will be split two home and two away. Typically, where they play will depend on where they played the last time the teams faced each other in the regular season, but there are exceptions to the rule. That is four more games, ten games down, six games left.

Next, each AFC division will then play an NFC division. In 2020 the AFC East will match up with the NFC West. That will include games against the Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, and Seattle Seahawks. Similar to playing another division in your conference, these will be split two home and two away, and where they play will depend on where they played the last time the teams faced each other in the regular season. That is four more games, and now two left.

Lastly, each team will play inter-conference games against the two teams that finished in the same position in the standings in their respective divisions. For example, since the AFC East is playing the AFC West next year, the team that finished first in the AFC East will play the teams that finished first in the same year in the AFC North and South. There will be one road and one home game coming from this. Because the Patriots finished first in the East, they will play the Ravens (North champs) and the Texans (South champs) in their 2020 regular season.  This is how the NFL accounts and makes sure the better teams have tougher schedules and bring in more money. Sign me up for Sunday night Patriots vs Ravens!

In conclusion, the Patriots will play the following home and road games next year:
Home: Bills, Jets, Dolphins, Broncos, Raiders, Cardinals, 49ers, Ravens
Away: Bills, Jets, Dolphins, Chiefs, Chargers, Rams, Seahawks, Texans

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to reach me on twitter @jaredbrinn with any questions!

 

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