The NFL (National Football League) regular season starts early September and ends in late or early December. The NFL Regular Season has a total of 256 games, 32 teams, and 16 games and is played within 17 weeks. Each team is given off for a week. This one week of break gives the players an opportunity to relax. The first game takes place on the night of Tuesday from 8:25 pm and several games take place on Sunday from 1:00 pm. Sometimes, it may take place in the afternoon from 4:05 Pm. There should be a night game on Sunday that kicks off from 8:30 pm each week apart from the beginning of the week. Two-night games are played on Monday, the second game held on West Coast. Additionally, some games are played on Saturday either afternoon or evening and sometimes Thanksgiving Day games. During the last week of the season, all the games take place on Sunday.
Since 2006, the NFL has contracted with broadcast companies. All Sunday games that take place in the afternoon are shown at Fox or CBS. These rights of television are costly but lucrative for any sport in America. Fox and CBS mostly air NFC and AFC games respectively. NBC and ESPN air Sunday and Monday night games respectively. Thursday night games are aired on NBC, NFL, and CBS.
How does the NFL schedule work?
NFL has a strict schedule of the algorithm to select teams playing against each other each season. It is usually based on final standings in the league table from last season and current division alignments. This formula was used from 2002 when the NFL expanded its membership. Six games are played against divisional components, twice per team, one away and another one at home. Four games played against teams from a single division in its conference, twice at home and twice away. Four games played against a team from a single division from another conference, twice at home and twice away. Two games played against teams from a separate division from another conference, once at home and one away game. Overall, teams that play against each other are based on previous season league standings. Once the formula has been set up, the experts plan on when and where the games will take place.
The scheduling formula is not predetermined regarding final dates and time until spring. The NFL requires a lot of time to coordinate the whole season. Apart from the primary goals, the league needs to consider secondary objectives such as reaching to conclusions of conflicts that arise during the scheduling process ad the chance of maximizing rating from broadcasting networks. From 2010, the final matchup of regular-season games come out last week before the start of the game to eliminate a case of playoff-bound teams or using the reserves players.
Traditionally in the 1920s, NFL had few memberships, and they had no set formula. They could sometimes play less than eight games and at most 16 games. Many of the teams came from colleges, independent professionals or amateurs’ teams. Since then, the NFL expanded to 11 and 14 games every regular season basing on the number of teams. Between 1947 and 1960, NFL teams rise to 12 games each season. NFL follows the steps of the America Football League in 1960 by airing fourteen games each season, and it started officially in 1961.
In 1961, the US Congress bans the NFL from playing against college teams because college and football games mainly took place on Saturday and Friday. It allows the NFL to sell all the existing rights of the postseason and regular season to broadcasting networks. NFL evolves and currently has 32 teams with a well laid set formula each year.
Location outside from the United States
Currently, many NFL regular-season games take place outside the United States. In 2005, the first outside games took place in Mexico City. It was between San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals. In October 2005, the club owners decided two games each season should be international starting from 2007. Miami Dolphins and New York Giants played against each other in Wembley Stadium in October 2007. Another game was between the Los Angeles Chargers and New Orleans Saints that took place at the same stadium. The international schedule plan ensures that there is a rotating formula. Each team is guaranteed to play twice in the 16-year rotating plan, one home team and one away team.
MLB vs NFL
Many times, the set schedule can be disrupted due to some reasons. The main reason is the disputes with other sports organizations and leagues. Since the start of the NFL, they share various stadia with other leagues such as baseball teams. Major League Baseball is usually given the top priority due to their leases. Many times NFL games are given short notice requiring them to disqualify schedule when baseball teams go for a playoff. The disrupted teams will play on Monday or Sunday. The worst scenario took place in 1973 when the New York Jets were to play at Shea Stadium. It forces the team to play six games away from home. Lately, the problem has been resolved and the only stadium that appears a challenge is Oakland in Alameda County. The Act guiding sporting activities in the United States has warned the NFL not to schedule their games the same day with high school or college games.
Labor disputes are another challenge that disrupts the NFL schedule. It occurred in 1982 and 1987. The labor dispute in 1982 lasted for 57 days. NFL games that were to take place in week 3 to week 10 were canceled. It forces club owners to add another nine weeks to compensate the same. It also forces the NFL to use conference standings only in schedule matchups. 1987 strike lasted for 24 days but fortunately, one week was disrupted. The NFL has made their schedule flexible for easy postponement or cancellations in case of any unforeseen circumstances. Several games have also been affected due to natural disasters. For instance, in 2005, Louisiana was damaged by the hurricane. The games were relocated to other places such as Giants Stadium, San Antonio, and Alamodome. Several issues usually come up disrupting the schedule. The scheduling process is challenging, but the NFL has offered fans and partners with entertaining and exciting games each week.