Scheduling and playoff teams

One might argue that the schedule makers did Dallas no favors this year. Dallas played 7 games against teams that made the playoffs this year, which was the sixth most of any team.

The record was 1-6. If we had won one more game against Phil, our record against playoff teams would have been 0-5. Philadelphia’s record would have gone from 1-4 to 1-6 against playoff teams. Of course that could also affected the wild card race and have other cascade effects.

That shows a quirk in the scheduling. Play well enough throughout the season and you play less playoff teams as other teams that did make the playoff get beat out.

Scheduling algorithm

Within a division, all four teams play fourteen out of their sixteen games against common opponents

- two games (home and away) are played against the other three teams in the division,

- one game is held against all the members of a division from the same conference and

- one game against all members of a division from the division in the other conference as determined by a rotating cycle (three years for the conference the team is in, and four years in the conference they are not in).

- The other two games are intra-conference games, determined by the standings of the previous year - for example, if a team finishes first in their division, they will play two other first-place teams in their conference, while a team that finishes last would play two other last-place teams in the conference.

In total, each team plays sixteen games and has one bye week, where they do not play any games.

Results of scheduling

That lucky team could face a maximum of 12 playoff team games

There are the division winners and two wild card playoff teams. It is possible that both wild card teams come from the same division, so three teams could make the playoffs from the same division. We saw that with DEN, KC and SD all making the playoffs.

In the worst case, a fourth place team could play six games against playoff teams in their OWN DIVISION. Oakland got that lucky prize this year with DEN, KC, and SD all making the playoffs.

The lucky team could face the division winner, and/or wild card teams in the other division of the SAME CONFERENCE.

That lucky team could face three a winner and two wild card teams in the division of the OTHER CONFERENCE they face.

Imagine the two INTRA-CONFERENCE games turn out to be the other division winners, and/or wild card teams too. This is another parity rule to even out the schedules to make the schedule 16 games instead of 14 - as you only play 6 games in your division (you don't play yourself).

BTW, the 18 game schedule would be simpler and more equitable. With 18 games, one could schedule all the teams in another conference and that would mean everyone in the division would face the same schedule.)

As it is with 16 games, if you did well last year, you face the better teams. Those teams might make the playoffs again this year. If you did badly last year, you face teams similarly situated. Yet we know that strength of schedules change dramatically each year, partly due to scheduling. Teams can also improve themselves with health, drafts, FA and better continuity and coaching.

This year’s playoff team results




Oakland got the unlucky task of playing three teams in their division that made the playoffs. Yet they did not play the most games against playoff teams.

Arizona got the booby prize, with SEA and SF making the playoffs in their division for four games, their division faced the AFC West for three games with DEN, KC, and SD, and four more games with PHI, GB, IND and CAR.

GB played the least number of playoff teams. They helped themselves by winning their division that nobody else did well in and every team in their division got a lucky draw of the other divisions they faced.

Detroit, Green Bay, Jacksonville, and Atlanta were did not beat a playoff team this year. Cincinnati won all their games against playoff teams during the regular season


DAL...1-6, win (PHI), loss (KC, SD, DEN, GB, NO, PHI)

PHI...1-4, win (GB), loss (SD, KC, DEN)

NYG...2-6, win (PHI, GB), loss (DEN, CAR, KC, PHI, SD, SEA)

WAS...1-6, win (SD), loss, (PHI, GB, DEN, PHI, SF, KC)

GB...0-3,win ( ), loss (SF, CIN, PHI)

CHI...2-3, win (CIN, GB), loss (NO, PHI, GB)

DET...0-4, win ( ), loss (GB, CIN, PHI, GB)

MIN...1-4-1, win (PHI), loss (CAR, GB, SEA, CIN), tie (GB)

CAR...3-2, win (SF, NE, NO), loss (SEA, NO)

NO...2-3, win (SF, CAR), loss (NE, SEA, CAR)

ATL...0-9, win ( ), loss (CIN, NO, NE, CAR, SEA, NO, GB, SF, CAR)

TB...0-8, win ( ), loss (NO, NE, PHI, CAR, SEA, CAR, SF, NO)

SEA...3-2, win (CAR, SF, NO), loss (IND, SF)

SF...2-4, win (GB, SEA), loss (SEA, IND, CAR, NO)

ARI...5-6, win (GB, DEN, CAR, IND, SEA), loss (SD, NO, SF, SEA, PHI, SF)

STL...2-5, win (IND, NO), loss (SF, CAR, SEA, SF, SEA)


NE...2-2, win (NO, DEN), loss (CIN, CAR)

NYJ...2-3, win (NE, NO), loss (NE, CIN, CAR)

MIA...4-3, win (IND, CIN, SD, NE), loss (NO, NE, CAR)

BUF...1-5, win (CAR), loss (NE, CIN, NO, KC, NE)

CIN...4-0, win (GB, NE, SD, IND), loss ( )

PIT...2-2, win (CIN, GB), loss (CIN, NE)

BLT...1-5, win (CIN), loss (CAR, DEN, GB, NE, CIN)

CLV...1-4, win (CIN), loss (GB, KC, CIN, NE)

IND...4-2, win (SF, SEA, DEN, KC), loss (SD, CIN)

TEN...1-6, win, (SD), loss (KC, SEA, SF, IND, IND, DEN)

JAX...0-7, win ( ), loss (KC, SEA, IND, DEN, SD, SF, IND)

HOU...1-7, win (SD), loss (SEA, SF, KC, IND, NE, IND, DEN)

DEN...4-3, win (PHI, SD, KC, KC), loss (IND, NE, SD)

KC...1-5, win, (PHI), loss (DEN, SD, DEN, IND, SD)

SD...5-1, win (PHI, IND, KC, DEN, KC), loss (DEN)

OAK...1-7, win (SD),loss (IND, DEN, KC, PHI, KC, SD, DEN)


Dallas played the sixth most playoff teams this year. Some of that is the luck of the draw, but if we beat PHI one more time, we could have helped ourselves more than the schedule.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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