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NFL Schedule 2014: How They Make The Sausage

Peter King's MMQB site has a behind-the-scenes look at how the NFL makes the schedule.

Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Every year when the schedule comes, almost every team has something to complain about. Some teams have more legitimate gripes than others. But it's inevitable, every year some team will feel like it got screwed. We all look at something on the schedule and think: "Why in the hell would the NFL do that?"

It turns out that creating a schedule is not an easy task. I mean, I think we all knew that, but do you know how hard it is, how long the NFL works on it? To find out you should check out Peter King's behind-the-scenes look at the making of an NFL schedule. The article is from a couple days ago, but I wanted to make sure to mention it here. It's pretty fascinating. The NFL has four guys who work on 40 computers for 70 days, and they sift through close to half a million permutations of a schedule until the find the single best one.

There are plenty of interesting nuggets in the article, and of course a few obligatory Dallas ones. One thing the NFL wanted to do this year was to shake up Thanksgiving Day.

A different Thanksgiving. Three games, six NFC teams, three rivalries: Chicago at Detroit, Philadelphia at Dallas and, in the nightcap from California, Seattle at San Francisco. "We decided to make a statement on Thanksgiving," Katz said. "It sounds corny, but it’s our most traditional national holiday. Let’s play great traditional rivalries game on Thanksgiving."

The Cowboys were kind of in the running for the opener against the Seahawks, but were passed over partly because of the Texas Rangers.

The league obviously thought a Denver-Seattle opener was risky—based on the outcome of the Super Bowl. Those are my words, not theirs. "We thought there were three likely possibilities for the opener: San Francisco, Denver and Green Bay," Katz said. "I guess we could’ve played Dallas, but we really liked Dallas for the FOX doubleheader for Week 1. Dallas also had Texas Rangers conflicts the first month of the season. Putting them on the road in Week 1 might have doomed them for four or five road games in the first few weeks."

And about that crazy Thursday Thanksgiving game followed by a Thursday night game the next week?

Have two teams ever played back-to-back Thursday games? This year, Chicago and Dallas will. Each plays on Thanksgiving, and the NFL has matched them against each other at Soldier Field the following week, on Dec. 4. "We have a rule that says each team can only play one short-week Thursday game," Katz said. "It’s about player health and safety. Week one doesn’t count. So if you take three games on Thanksgiving, we can play 13 other Thursdays. That’s 16 Thursday games; with 32 teams, everyone plays one. In this new package, we had to figure out how to create one more. So we took two of the six teams playing on Thanksgiving and playing them against each other the following Thursday. They’re playing on full rest, and then 10 days after that.’’ Turns out it’s not the first time, as Pro Football Talk reported today: Green Bay and Dallas faced off the Thursday after they both played on Thanksgiving in 2007.

And if you thought One Direction was a problem for the Cowboys in preseason, the league had to deal with six One Direction concerts at league venues during the season. You just never know what will come into play when making an NFL schedule.

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