Release Date: April 19, 2016
BUFFALO, N.Y. – You may not have known it, but NFL schedulers caught a break earlier this year when the Denver Broncos squared off against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, says Mark Karwan, an NFL scheduling expert at the University at Buffalo.
That’s because the two teams, which don’t play each other often, were already scheduled for a game in the upcoming 2016 regular season due to how the NFL creates its schedules.
“Teams rotate every four years which division of opponents they will face in their opposing conference. For example, the Buffalo Bills (and every other AFC East team) will play against each team in the NFC West this upcoming season,” says Karwan, PhD, Praxair Professor of Operations Research and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor in UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
It just so happened that Denver’s division (AFC West) was in line to match up against Carolina’s division (NFC South), he says. As a result, NFL schedulers have Denver and Carolina opening the season in a rematch of Super Bowl 50.
“The scheduling team really caught a lucky break, making scheduling the season opener a no-brainer,” says Karwan. “This gives Cam Newton and the Carolina offense an immediate rematch with that great Denver defense which carried the day in Super Bowl 50.”
Karwan, who has previously spoken with NFL schedule makers, says the process of creating the league schedule is daunting.
“There are literally 70 trillion different ways that each team can be scheduled,” he says, adding that making the league schedule is complicated by television requests, stadium availability, holidays and other variables.