Pro Football Picks: How Traveling Can Affect an NFL Team

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Pro Football Picks: How Traveling Can Affect an NFL Team

 
Now that Brett Favre is a Jet, he'll be logging a lot of frequent-flyer miles this season.

If there is one piece of advice that I can give you from working for an NFL team that will help you with your handicapping, it's that teams despise long flights. They hate them. It screws around with their schedule and takes a lot out of both players and coaches. As a casual fan - and I'm not talking down to you because I used to think the same thing - I would bet most people probably don't consider traveling to be a huge issue because teams do it so often. However, long trips are an absolute killer to an NFL team, especially when they have to make a couple of them a year.

First of all, there are a large percentage of players that just hate to fly. I hate to fly but I had to do it for my job. The same thing holds true for players. But there are two kinds of trips. There's the two-hour flight and then there is the five-hour flight. Trust me, that three hours makes a huge difference. For an NFL team, traveling is an all-day affair. It starts with the morning walk-through, followed by the usually long bus ride to the airport. You sit on the plane for at least 30 minutes before it takes off then, after a five-hour trip, it's back on the buses to the team hotel. As soon as the players arrive, there are team and positional meetings. So, while teams are used to traveling a lot, the longer the trip, the better the chance is that the players may not be mentally and physically sharp come game time.

This season, the AFC East plays the NFC West and the AFC West, so we have a bunch of these cross country trips to evaluate. A team like the Patriots lucked out a little bit because they make four cross country trips but each time they have two of them back-to-back. New England plays at San Fran on Oct. 5 and then travels to San Diego on Oct. 12 for a night game. Then later in the year the Pats fly out to Oakland for a meeting with the Raiders on Dec. 14, before heading north to battle the Seahawks a week later, which once again is a night game. Now, in this scenario, the Patriots are going to stay out on the West Coast both times. So, while it's not the ideal situation, at least it cuts down on all the traveling back and forth.

The Jets, on the other hand, aren't so lucky. They too travel to the West Coast four times this year but unlike the Patriots, their trips aren't scheduled back-to-back. After playing New England, in what is always an emotional game, on Sept. 14, the Jets then fly out to San Diego the next week, before returning home to face the Cardinals. This isn't too bad because it's early in the year and the Jets have a bye week after playing the Cardinals.

But check out what the Jets have to deal with later in the year. They play road games at New England and at Tennessee in mid-November. They return home to face the Broncos and then fly out to battle the 49ers on Dec. 7. The Jets then have to fly all the way back to the East Coast to play the Bills at home the following week. After an important division battle with Buffalo, New York must board a plane again and fly all the way out to Seattle for a 4:00 game on Dec. 21. Talk about a brutal schedule. Four road games in the final seven weeks, with two of them being cross country trips in a three-week span. Trust me, this is the type of thing that can really give us an advantage when it comes to betting the NFL. No one knows what the Seahawks and Jets will look like on Dec. 21 but that's a spot for a possible huge play on Seattle because the Jets will be one tired football team at that point.

So, throughout the season, be sure to keep track of these traveling schedules. It may seem like it's not a big deal to the players and coaches but whenever a team makes a long trip, it's always a huge advantage for the home squad. Just something to keep an eye on as we get into the season.

  • I think the Chargers are now the deepest team in the NFL. Years of drafting well has them pretty strong on the first and second team at every position. If LT feels like playing in the playoffs this year and Norv Turner doesn't do anything stupid, they are going to be real tough. Plus, they have my boy Antoine Cason!

  • Speaking of the Chargers, that team is a wagon.  I think Rivers gained the respect of a lot of people around the NFL with his playoff performance on two bad knees last season.  They are my SB pick.

  • As impressive as the Giants' 7-1 road record was last year, consider that they did not have to travel cross country once and played back-to-back road games only one time (at Chicago and at Philadelphia, which is a very short flight).  In fact, the farthest they had to travel all year (including the playoffs) was to Phoenix for the Super Bowl.

  • Good point Matt. They will be well rested for that first trip. If you remember, the Chargers had a murderous East Coast schedule a couple of years back. The Jets is schedule this year is close to that. If they are in the hunt for the wild card spot late in the year, that tough traveling schedule they have could be the difference between making the playoffs and staying home.

  • Tom,

    Another small point to illustrate how the Pats lucked out in this is that in addition to the two sets of back to back games they have out west is the fact that the first trip to the west coast is coming off their bye-week.  There's no question they have the best of a bad situation.  

  • Great Info. Brett will KNOW what  "Jet Lag" feels Like!