After the release of the Patriots' schedule last night, a few fans e-mailed the question: How come the team is playing Indianapolis on the road for the third straight season?
This isn't the first time this has happened in the series between the teams; the Colts visited the Patriots three years in a row from 2004-2006.
The reason is that the NFL adopts a rotating schedule formula. The rotating schedule formula ensures that every team within a division plays 16 games as follows:
Home and away games against 3 division opponents (6 games).
Four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle.
Four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle.
Two intraconference games based on the prior year's standings. These games will match a first-place team against 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.
Under the current scheduling formula, here is the history of the Patriots-Colts matchups: @ IND 11/30/03 -- AFC South Rotation
@ NE 9/9/04 -- Matchup of first-place teams
@ NE 11/7/05 -- Matchup of first-place teams
@ NE 11/5/06 -- AFC South Rotation
@ IND 11/4/07 -- Matchup of first-place teams
@ IND 11/2/08 -- Matchup of first-place teams
@ IND 11/15/09 -- AFC South Rotation
If the NFL continues its current scheduling formula (and the Patriots and Colts continue to finish in corresponding places in their divisional standings), the Colts will come to Foxborough in 2010, 2011 and 2012.