Schedules often determine a team's fate

An NFL team plays just 13 of a possible 31 opponents. Which 13 a team faces makes a huge difference.

Updated: July 18, 2003, 11:06 AM ET
By By Ryan Early | NFL Insider
In baseball, basketball and hockey, teams play so many games in such a balanced schedule that any comparison of schedule strength has more to do with the length of the road trips or the frequency of games than which opponents are coming up.

In the NFL, with a season of just 16 games, things are quite different.

Each NFL team faces its three division rivals twice (six games), each team in another division within its conference once each (four games) and each team in a particular division from the other conference once each (four games). The final two games are determined the previous season's finish in a small attempt to make the better teams face a more difficult schedule.