NFL owners voted Monday to modify the schedule to ease the burden of cross-country road trips.
Last year, the Patriots and the Jets had to make West Coast trips to play AFC West opponents and NFC West teams. The Patriots chose to remain on the West Coast twice last season -- for back-to-back games against San Francisco and San Diego in October and Seattle and Oakland in December -- to minimize the wear-and-tear the schedule presented.
The Jets, meanwhile, played at San Diego and then had to travel to Oakland three weeks later. In December, New York visited San Francisco, returned home to play Buffalo, then went back to the coast to play Seattle. The Jets were upset by the Raiders as part of a late-season swoon that prevented them from making the playoffs.
Under the new plan, teams wouldn't have to visit two West Coast teams, just one, along with a team closer to the Midwest. Specifically, Oakland will be paired with Denver, and San Diego will be paired with Denver. In the NFC, Arizona and San Francisco will be paired as will St. Louis and Seattle.
Since 2002 when the league expanded to eight four-team divisions, the NFL has used a rotating formula in which a team plays four opponents within its conference once every three years and four teams in the other conference every four years.
Teams that have road games against Denver and Oakland will get home games against Kansas City and San Diego. The opposite scenario will also be true. The same format of home-and-away games with the paired cities holds true for the NFC as well.
The proposal was submitted by the broadcast committee for the purpose of creating a better balance for travel to the West Coast. Currently, the AFC South and the NFC West are scheduled to play the AFC West in 2010, which is when the new plan would be starting.
Senior NFL writer John Clayton contributed to this report.