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Wednesday - 8/15/2001

nfl logoThe NFL announced today the regular-season scheduling rotation for the next eight seasons (2002 through 2009) under the realignment plan that will take effect next season.

The interconference and intraconference divisional matchups � comprising 14 of each season�s 16 regular-season games -- for the next eight seasons were determined following extensive analysis and discussion with NFL clubs. A key factor in deciding the initial schedules was the displacement of certain teams from their traditional divisions in the new alignment.

These eight season schedules will take each team through a cycle of games � home and away � against every other team in the league. In these eight seasons, every team will play every other team at least twice � once home and once away. After the 2009 season, a decision will be made on whether to continue with the same rotation or modify it.
"The new scheduling formula is one of the most positive aspects of realignment," Commissioner PAUL TAGLIABUE said. "The new formula guarantees that NFL fans will see every team play each other on a regular, rotating basis. The formula will eliminate the many aberrations of the past in which teams either did not play for long periods of time or did not play in another team�s stadium for many years."
In determining how to begin the divisional rotation in 2002, the displacement of teams from their old divisions in the new alignment was taken into account. Preference was given to scheduling games with former division rivals and other regional opponents for clubs realigned from otherwise intact divisions.
For example, in 2002 the new NFC West will play the AFC West to match Seattle with its old rivals from the AFC West (Denver, Kansas City, Oakland, San Diego). The NFC West also will play the NFC East in order to match Arizona with its old NFC East rivals (Dallas, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Washington).

Also in 2002, the AFC North and AFC South are matched so that Jacksonville and Tennessee will play their former rivals from the old AFC Central (Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh). The NFC North and NFC South pairing in 2002 will give Tampa Bay games against its former NFC Central rivals (Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota).
Other regional 2002 matchups include Dallas visiting Houston in the Texans� inaugural season (NFC East vs. AFC South) and San Francisco at Oakland (NFC West vs. AFC West).

Games matching other previous division rivals or regional rivals that could not be scheduled in 2002 were put into the rotation as early as possible. Indianapolis will play its former AFC East rivals (Buffalo, Miami, New England, New York Jets) in 2003 with the AFC East-AFC South matchup. The New York Jets will host the New York Giants in 2003 when the AFC East plays the NFC East. San Francisco and St. Louis will meet their old NFC West rivals (Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans) in 2004 when the NFC West and NFC South meet.

The new scheduling format includes the following elements:

  • There will be an increased common-opponent emphasis with every team in a division playing against 14 common opponents.
  • All teams will play each other on a regular basis, home and away, for a more consistent presentation of attractive games, eliminating the many schedule aberrations of the past.
  • Teams are guaranteed to play all nondivision opponents in their conference at least once every three years, and at home at least once every six years.
  • Every AFC team will play every NFC team once every four years, and at home once every eight years.
  • A team�s record from the previous year will have less of a bearing on its schedule, with only two (rather than four) opponents being based on the previous year�s standing. Thus, the so-called "easy" fifth-place schedules are eliminated.
  • The division in which a team resides will be less of a factor in a team�s won-loss record with 10 of 16 games each year being against non-division teams.

Under the new scheduling formula, every team within a division will play 16 games as follows:

  • Home and away against its three division opponents (6 games).
  • The four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (4 games).
  • The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (4 games).
  • Two intraconference games based on the prior year�s standings (2 games). These games will match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place, and fourth-place teams in a conference will be matched in the same way each year.

    NOTE -- Following are past schedule aberrations that no longer will occur under the new formula:

    • Oakland did not play in Pittsburgh from 1981 through 1999.
    • Miami and Denver played once between 1983-1997 when Dan Marino and John Elway were in their primes.
    • Green Bay and Washington did not play from 1989-2000 and have not played in Washington since 1979.
    • Atlanta and the New York Giants did not play from 1989-1997.
    • Pittsburgh and Kansas City have played five consecutive times in Kansas City.
    • Green Bay played in Dallas four years in a row from 1993-96.
    • Tampa Bay has never played in Buffalo.

    * * *

    To assist teams making the transition into new divisions, realignment in 2002 also means an expanded role for the Commissioner�s office in the scheduling of preseason games.
    The NFL clubs approved a resolution at last May�s league meeting in Chicago in conjunction with realignment that gives the league, through the Commissioner�s office, a broader role in making the preseason schedule for the next five seasons, 2002-2006.
    The primary intent is to facilitate the transition of clubs to the new divisional structure, especially those teams leaving multiple long-term divisional rivalries.
    Following are the key elements:

    • The Commissioner�s office will work closely with the clubs in scheduling preseason Weeks 1, 2 and 3.
    • Each team is obligated to schedule Week 4, including location. Teams must inform the NFL by this September 1 of their respective Week 4 matchups, including site.
    • Preference will be given to scheduling games with former division rivals and other attractive opponents for those clubs realigned from otherwise intact divisions.
    • The Commissioner�s office will make every attempt to take into account traditional preseason matchups as well as existing game commitments (made prior to the May league meeting) between individual teams for the 2002 preseason and beyond.
    • After September 1, the Commissioner�s office will begin formulating the 2002 preseason schedule that will include such factors as the regular-season rotation, American Bowl games, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
    • The 2002 preseason schedule is expected to be presented to the clubs prior to or at the October 29-31 league meeting in Pittsburgh.