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When the league went to 32 teams, they set the schedules through 2009. After 2009, the NFL will evaluate the current system and make changes if necessary. Here's how it works:

Each team plays the teams in their division twice, one home and one away game. That's a total of 6 games.

Each team in a division will play the four teams in another division within their conference. For example, in 2008 each team in the NFC North will play each team in the NFC South. This is on a rotating schedule every 3 years. That's another 4 games.

Each team in a division will play the four teams in a division in the other conference.

In 2008, each team in the NFC North will play each team in the AFC South. This is on a 4-year rotating schedule. That's another 4 games.

The final 2 games are based on record. These games will match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place, and fourth-place teams in a conference will be matched in the same way each year.

When the NFL released this system, they suggested the following benefits:

* There will be an increased common-opponent emphasis with every team in a division playing against 14 common opponents. * All teams will play each other on a regular basis, home and away, for a more consistent presentation of attractive games, eliminating the many schedule aberrations of the past. * Teams are guaranteed to play all nondivision opponents in their conference at least once every three years, and at home at least once every six years. * Every AFC team will play every NFC team once every four years, and at home once every eight years. * A team's record from the previous year will have less of a bearing on its schedule, with only two (rather than four) opponents being based on the previous year's standing. Thus, the so-called "easy" fifth-place schedules are eliminated. * The division in which a team resides will be less of a factor in a team's won-loss record with 10 of 16 games each year being against non-division teams.

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Q: How does the NFL regular season schedule work?
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