Patriots 2009 schedule: a peek under the hood, Part II

In Patriots 2009 schedule: a peek under the hood, Part I, we learned that the NFL schedule isn't some random decision by the NFL and/or the competition committee.  In fact, there's a carefully thought out formula to insure teams play each other on a predictable and regular basis.  Let's recap how a team's opponents are decided:

  • Each team plays the other three teams in their division twice: once at home, and once on the road (six games).
  • Each team plays the four teams from another division within its own conference once on a rotating three-year cycle: two at home, and two on the road (four games).
  • Each team plays the four teams from a division in the other conference once on a rotating four-year cycle: two at home, and two on the road (four games).
  • Each team plays once against the other teams in its conference that finished in the same place in their own divisions as themselves, not counting the division they were already scheduled to play: one at home, one on the road (two games).

You may recall me wondering why we play the Colts so dang much; it seems every year we have our arch nemesis on the schedule.  Don't get me wrong, I love these games because it's some of the best football around, but it's a curiousity why we seem to have them on our schedule every year.  The intra-conference rule (bullet #2) would have us matching up against the Colts once every three years.  This season, they're on our schedule for exactly that reason: our intra-conference division opponent is the AFC South.  But, what about previous years?

As it turns out, even if the AFC South wasn't on our divisional opponent rotation, we'd be playing the Colts this season.  Why?  Bullet #4.  Since we both were second place in our respective divisions, we would be back battling the horse...again.

The table below outlines why we played Indy in a particular season.  The matchup reason will reference the corresponding bullet numbers (remember, matchup reason of 4 is based on the previous season).  In each team's column, I'll indicate whether or not they won their division.

Season Patriots Colts Matchup Reason 
2002 2nd Y Didn't matchup
2003 W W 2
2004 W W 4
2005 W W 4
2006 W W 2,4
2007 W W 4
2008 2nd 2nd 4
2009 2,4

The reason for our incessant matchups has little to do with ratings or everyone and they're mother wanting to see Tom and Peyton duke it out.  The reason for our continual matchups is because both teams are just that good, plain and simple.  If we weren't matched up because of intra-conference divisional rotation, we were matched up because of identical positioning within our respective divisions in the previous season (ah, namely OWNING our division).

So, why the heck are we playing in Indy...AGAIN...this season?  Well, I can't seem to find a reason why other than Indy came to Foxboro in 2004, 2005, and 2006 so we're heading to the Midwest for 2007, 2008, 2009.  Based on bullet #2, we play two intra-conference divisional opponents at home and two away; I guess Indy is one of those away games this year to balance us out.  I'd assume 2010, if we matchup, would be in Foxboro.

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