Does Travel Miles Affect NFL Teams?
The National Football League has a formula to create their schedule each season as you can tell what opponents a team will play more than a full season out. However, the schedule’s excitement is seeing each team’s travel. Today, we will discuss the effect of travel miles in a season and a team’s success in a very basic format by looking at the team’s success and failures from that season.
Analysts making NFL expert picks will look at how the schedule folds out to decide which team will find success and which will struggle. More likely than not, teams like the Cowboys and Chiefs won’t have to travel as much, because the NFL wants them to win to boost ratings. Let’s look at the last few seasons and see how this played a factor.
2020 NFL Season: Seattle Seahawks & Baltimore Ravens
The 2020 season, and making NFL picks, had a lot of challenges in itself, as the entire planet was dealing with the beginning stages of a worldwide pandemic known as COVID-19. Travel was a lot more difficult as there were a lot of restrictions put on teams as they were essentially in a bubble to quarantine, which made it a lot more difficult.
The Seattle Seahawks had the most travel miles of any team in the 2020 season as they had 28,982 total miles, more than the four teams in the AFC North combined. However, the Seahawks dominated throughout the regular season with the NFC West division crown with a 12-4 record but lost their first playoff game against a backup quarterback in Los Angeles.
The Baltimore Ravens had one of the least travel miles throughout the season in 2020 as they had 6,420 miles traveled as a team. The Ravens were an AFC Wild Card team that season with an 11-5 record, so they took advantage of a less travel schedule in an ever-changing situation.
2021 NFL Season: San Francisco 49ers & Pittsburgh Steelers
The San Francisco 49ers had the largest amount of miles traveled throughout the 2021 season as they had more than 28,000 miles throughout the year. They snuck into the playoffs with a Week 18 victory and a loss for the New Orleans Saints to capture the final NFC Wild Card spot despite being third in the NFC West division.
San Francisco made the NFC Championship Game after upsetting the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers.
The Pittsburgh Steelers did not travel too much as they only had 6,442 miles throughout the entire season. They were dealing with some bigger factors throughout the season as this was veteran franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s last season for the Steelers. They managed to also slide into the postseason as an AFC Wild Card team with a 9-7-1 record and lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Wild Card Round.
Looking back at the past few years gives us one logical conclusion: there is a correlation between success and the amount of travel throughout the regular season. This will be interesting to dive deeper into, but it is important to a team’s success.
That is not saying that just because a team travels a large distance will automatically struggle, or a team that does not travel too far will be good because that’s simply not true.
However, having less travel will play a factor in how a team can perform. This also shows the ability of coaching and talent to overcome some adversity on their schedule as a long trip can throw off your circadian rhythm as you travel through time zones.
However, teams that do not need to travel (specifically staying in similar time zones) have a little advantage. It’s certainly worth keeping in mind when making NFL predictions next season. How much do you think that travel will affect an NFL team’s ability to win over the course of the regular season?
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