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    How Does the NFL Schedule Get Made? Everything You Need To Know About the Process

    How does the NFL create its schedule? Here's how the league crafts its 272-game slate, decides on International Games, chooses prime-time matchups, and more.

    The NFL will officially release its 2024 schedule on Wednesday, May 15, culminating months of work on one of the league’s most expansive projects: structuring 32 teams playing 272 total games over 18 weeks.

    How does the NFL schedule get made? Let’s dive into the intricate process of creating the league-wide slate.

    How Is the NFL Schedule Created?

    While the NFL doesn’t announce its schedule until May of each year, each team’s opponents for the following season are already set in stone as soon as Week 18 ends.

    The NFL uses the following formula to determine every club’s 17-game schedule:

    • 6 games: Divisional opponents
      • 2 games against each team (1 home, 1 away)
    • 4 games: Division within the same conference
      • 1 game against each team (2 home, 2 away)
      • Division rotates each season
    • 4 games: Division in the other conference
      • Division rotates each season
    • 2 games: Conference opponents from remaining divisions
      • Based on division ranking from previous season
    • 1 game: Non-conference opponent
      • Based on division ranking from previous season
      • Division rotates each season

    Let’s use the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs as an example. Patrick Mahomes and Co. know they’ll play six games against their AFC West rivals: the Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders, and Los Angeles Chargers.

    The Chiefs will face the AFC North in 2024, with home games against the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals and road matchups with the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers.

    In the NFC, K.C. will go up against the NFC South. The Chiefs will host the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and travel to play the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers.

    Kansas City finished in first place in the AFC West in 2023. Thus, they’ll play the two remaining AFC teams who also came in first in their division: the Buffalo Bills (away) and Houston Texans (home).

    Finally, the AFC West’s non-conference opponent division in 2024 is the NFC West. The Chiefs will face the San Francisco 49ers, who won that division before losing to K.C. in Super Bowl LVIII.

    Who Devises the NFL Schedule?

    A six-person panel creates the NFL schedule:

    • Vice President of Broadcasting Michael North
    • Senior Vice President of Broadcasting Howard Katz
    • Senior Director of Broadcasting Blake Jones
    • Director of Broadcasting Charlotte Carey
    • Vice President of Broadcasting Onnie Bose
    • Broadcasting Senior Coordinator Lucy Popko

    Per the NFL’s operations teams, “the schedule makers will have to work around events that are already scheduled to take place in or near NFL stadiums — events that may compete with the games, put undue stress on the playing surface, or create traffic or logistical nightmares. The league begins collecting information from the clubs in January about any events that may create scheduling conflicts.”

    Can the NFL Schedule Be Changed?

    In 2006, the NFL implemented “flexible scheduling,” allowing the league to move more enticing matchups into the Sunday Night Football slot. Flex scheduling can be used twice between Weeks 5 and 10 and at any point between Weeks 11 and 17.

    In 2023, the NFL instituted flex scheduling for Monday and Thursday night games. The league can move games out of the MNF window any time between Weeks 12 and 17. However, TNF games can only be flexed twice per season and only between Weeks 13 and 17.

    Teams flexed in or out of an SNF game must be notified 12 days in advance between Weeks 5 and 13. After that, each club requires only six days’ notice.

    All Monday night flexes must be announced 12 days in advance. Meanwhile, Thursday night changes must be made with 28 days’ notice.

    How Are International Games Decided?

    International games were added to the NFL schedule in 2007 and have only become frequent. With games in London, Mexico City, Munich, Frankfurt, Sao Paulo, and Madrid, the NFL’s International Series is a critical factor for the schedule makers to consider.

    Each NFL team will play a home game in the International Series every eight years. Clubs can also volunteer to play abroad.

    In 2022, the NFL launched the Global Markets Program, designed to “build brand awareness and fandom beyond the U.S.” Twenty-five teams have adopted countries; the complete list can be found here.

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