The NFL schedule formula that is currently in place began in the 2001 season.
NFL schedule formula incorporates interconference and intraconference matchups. Since 2001 the NFL schedule formula has each team playing every other team in the league at least twice, home and away. The NFL schedule formula guarantees that every NFL city will see every other team in the league on a rotating basis. The NFL schedule formula has teams playing teams in their own division, home and away in addition to playing another division. What this means in terms of the NFL schedule formula is that some former division rivals still play each other.
Tennessee is in the AFC South but will still have games against former rivals Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The same thing happens in the NFL schedule formula with Tampa Bay. They still get to play their former NFC rivals Green Bay, Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit. The NFL schedule formula also presents the opportunity for regional rivalry games like San Francisco at Oakland, Dallas at Houston, Pittsburgh at Philadelphia, etc.
The current NFL schedule formula really places an emphasis on playing common opponents. Teams will play all teams outside of their division in their conference at least once every three years. Every AFC team will play every NFC team once every four years. The schedule is not based as much on last year’s record as the 2008 NFL schedule would indicate. Look at the New England Patriots. They went unbeaten in the 2007 regular season, yet they have the easiest 2008 NFL schedule.
The NFL schedule formula means that 10 of a team’s 16 games each season will be outside of the division. Every team within a division will play 16 games with home and away against their three division opponents for six games total, four teams from another division within the conference on a rotating three year basis for another four games, four more games against teams from a division in the other conference and two intraconference games based on last year’s standings. This is how the 2008 NFL schedule was made.