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Old 04-27-2001, 05:12 AM   #1
Anthony
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The NFL could be facing a serious problem arising from the realignment and schedule changes that will take effect in 2002.

With many teams switching divisions, some of the new divisions may be much stronger - or much weaker - than others. This could lead to massive disparities in strength of schedule for the 2002 season.

There is, however, a simple means to prevent this from occurring - and it involves the use of a seeding procedure to determine the divisional pairings for the 2002 season (remember that under the new schedule format that has already been approved, all four teams from the same division will be playing all four teams from two of the other seven divisions - one in its own conference and one in the other conference).

In each conference, the four new divisions would be ranked 1 through 4 based on the combined 2001 records of the four teams being placed in the same division under the new alignment (with Houston's "2001 record" being reckoned as 0-16). The divisions would then be matched up as follows:

The #1 ranked division in its conference plays the #3 division in its own conference, plus the #4 division in the other conference.

The #2 ranked division in its conference plays the #4 division in its own conference, plus the #2 division in the other conference.

The #3 ranked division in its conference plays the #1 division in its own conference, plus the #3 division in the other conference.

The #4 ranked division in its conference plays the #2 division in its own conference, plus the #1 division in the other conference.

Assuming that the most likely realignment scenario is adopted by the owners next month, and using the final 2000 standings as a model, each team's schedule difficulty for 2002 under this procedure is listed below.

AFC Division 1
Team Record Strength of Schedule
MIA 11-5 123-133
NYJ 9-7 123-133
BUF 8-8 116-140
NE 5-11 115-141

AFC Division 2
Team Record Strength of Schedule
OAK 12-4 124-132
DEN 11-5 121-135
KC 7-9 125-131
SD 1-15 127-129

AFC Division 3
Team Record Strength of Schedule
TEN 13-3 122-134
IND 10-6 124-132
JAC 7-9 121-135
HOU 0-16 128-128

AFC Division 4
Team Record Strength of Schedule
BAL 12-4 123-133
PIT 9-7 124-132
CIN 4-12 130-126
CLE 3-13 122-134

NFC Division 1
Team Record Strength of Schedule
NYG 12-4 128-128
PHA 11-5 124-132
WAS 8-8 130-126
DAL 5-11 129-127

NFC Division 2
Team Record Strength of Schedule
MIN 11-5 124-132
GB 9-7 127-129
DET 9-7 121-135
CHI 5-11 123-133

NFC Division 3
Team Record Strength of Schedule
NO 10-6 129-127
TB 10-6 123-133
CAR 7-9 129-127
ATL 4-12 128-128

NFC Division 4
Team Record Strength of Schedule
STL 10-6 119-137
SEA 6-10 126-130
SF 6-10 120-136
ARI 3-13 120-136

NOTE: Strength of schedule totals do not add to .500 due to Houston being counted as 0-16. Green Bay is listed ahead of Detroit as per actual tie-breaking procedures; New Orleans is listed ahead of Tampa Bay due to better conference record in 2000; Seattle is listed ahead of San Francisco due to greater strength of schedule in 2000 (in the latter two examples the tied clubs are not currently in the same division).

As shown in the above chart, the difference between the most difficult schedules (Cincinnati and Washington, 130) and the least difficult (New England, 115) is 15 games - less than half the difference than in every year since the present schedule format was implemented in 1995.

It must be emphasized that the seeding procedure outlined above would be used to determine divisional pairings for the 2002 season only; in 2003 and thereafter, divisional assignments would be rotated to ensure one meeting every three years between divisions in the same conference, and one meeting every four years between divisions not in the same conference.
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