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How is the NFL Schedule Created?

NFL VP of Broadcast Planning Mike North joins the Ross Tucker Football Podcast to give a behind-the-scenes look at how the NFL schedule is made.

The 2023-24 NFL schedule has officially dropped, and it’s time for an exclusive look at the process that goes into crafting it.

Ross Tucker is joined by Mike North, the NFL’s VP of Broadcast Planning to break down how the schedule was put together this offseason.

The two kick things off by pointing out that Ross and Mike have actually been doing these schedule breakdowns for years, with North giving Tucker credit for being the FIRST person to have him on as a guest for this exact topic.

The two address a common misconception right off the bat — at no point does Mike or his team actually determine which teams play each other, or even typically the location. In reality, the schedule is formulaic and follows a specific plan.

The 272 matchups were known back in January. As Mike says, “the packages were delivered months ago, all we’re doing is opening them.”

Mike expresses gratitude for the excitement that has been built up my fans over the years around the schedule release.

Ross asks Mike if anything new went into the database that determines the schedule, laying out the basics, and North breaks down a unique twist regarding television broadcasting networks for this year’s games. Check it out here:

This change provided a ton of flexibility, and it also created a multitude of intriguing finalists for the schedule. Mike highlights the variability among the options generated by the computer, including different teams playing on holidays.

North offers a fascinating breakdown of how travel plays a challenging role in the computer’s scheduling program, as they have to be fair with cross-country road trips and not stretching teams thin in that regard.

Ross points out that the Giants are particularly upset about their road/home game split, with New York having seven away games in the first 10 weeks of their season. North acknowledges that the Giants will be on the road quite a bit early, but highlights the benefits that this creates for the second half of New York’s season.

When it comes to crafting the primetime schedule, there’s only so much the computer can do. As Mike explains, the program can churn out a basic plan, but then it’s put into human hands to determine what makes sense. Fortunately, the league has flexible — known more commonly as “flex” — scheduling, which gives Mike and his team an opportunity to adjust on the fly.

North dives into flex scheduling for the various primetime games. Typically, flexing occurs once or twice on Sunday nights and even less on Monday nights. Ownership is currently in the process of deciding whether Thursday night flexing will be allowed, and in the event it is approved, it would be used on a very rare basis. There are a lot of limiting factors for Monday and (potentially) Thursday night flexing possibilities.

Tucker and North discuss the interesting addition of Amazon Prime as the host of Thursday Night Football. Mike expresses gratitude towards legacy channels like NBC and CBS for supporting the league over the years, but stresses the importance of incorporating streaming platforms as the television industry changes.

“At some point, you gotta fish where the fish are,” North says.

The two wrap things up by discussing outside conflicts for scheduling, with North highlighting Taylor Swift concerts as an unforeseen hurdle they had to address.

For more insight from North and Tucker on the schedule-crafting process, check out their full interview below.


How is the NFL schedule made? Mike North Interview

  • On today’s show, Ross is joined by Mike North, the NFL’s VP of Broadcast Planning and the man behind the NFL schedule, to discuss the process behind how this season’s schedule was put together.

Watch more below!


Be sure to check out every episode of the Ross Tucker Football Podcast on Tucker’s official YouTube channel and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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