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NFL schedule: From 500,000 possibilities to a final one

Want a headache? Try making the NFL schedule.'s Clark Judge broke down the nuances that go into the construction of the weekly schedule. A four-man committee led by Howard Katz, NFL senior vice president of broadcasting and media operations, basically is locked into a room for two-and-a-half months with password-encrypted computers, key-card entry and frosted windows. There are 500,000 complete or incomplete mock schedules created then knocked down to 500, 100 and 12 before a final one is presented to commissioner Roger Goodell.

"It's a bunker is what it is," Mike North, the league's director of broadcast planning, said. "It isn't clean. It doesn't smell good. But we lock ourselves in there for 10 weeks and do not emerge for anything other than to go home, get some clean clothes and come back and do it again."

Let's bullet point the considerations. (Teams can request exceptions based on special circumstances.)

  • The league attempts to avoid more than a three-game road trip or a three-game home stand. The Tennessee Titans were unlucky with that this year. No back-to-back cross country trips, and no teams cross three time zones for a Thursday game. Teams must have a home game before a road Thursday game. The Pittsburgh Steelers requested an exemption for this due to re-sodding after high school games at Heinz Field.

Teams that share the same television market cannot be on the air at the same time or appear on the same network the same afternoon.

No team gets more than five prime-time television appearances, not including flexed games.

There is a conscious effort to avoid two road games to start a season, two to finish the season, road games after "Monday Night Football" and multiple opponents coming off byes.

The league attempts to avoid conflicts with other sporting events.

There also are specific requests by all five of the league's network partners.

Head throbbing yet? There's going to be a few shortcomings every year that upset fans, but it seems virtually impossible to construct the perfect schedule.

Follow Kareem Copeland on Twitter @kareemcopeland.

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