Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

04 Oct 2013

ESPN: Tough Travels for Seattle Seahawks

There's no denying the Seattle Seahawks are a much different team on the road than at home, but can it all be placed on their location forcing them to travel more than any other team? Travel from west-to-east has been a debated topic in the NFL and we have found data that is certainly interesting, though not largely conclusive on whether or not the Pacific teams are at a significant disadvantage.

Keep in mind the longest road winning streak in NFL history belongs to the 1988-90 49ers, who actually won 21 consecutive games away from Candlestick Park when including the playoffs.

Regardless of whether or not you think there's a problem here, it shouldn't be that hard on the NFL to schedule more of these West/East games for 4:15 p.m. ET.

Posted by: Scott Kacsmar on 04 Oct 2013

20 comments, Last at 07 Oct 2013, 10:02am by Ranbonamus


by Zev Wolf (not verified) :: Fri, 10/04/2013 - 4:38pm

Seattle has 5 away games outside of its division. All 5 are to be played at 10am PT. I contend that the 10am start is more onerous than the travel.

I suspect no other team is so harshly impacted.

The league schedulers did the Hawks dirty.

Btw, Cougars, Texans, Colts, Falcons are 4 of 5 of those games. The fifth is the currently down Giants. They were a lot more ominous when the schedule was drawn up.

Carroll must have really pissed off the league.

by Bobman :: Fri, 10/04/2013 - 5:13pm

Well, if they are playing Washington State that's just a few hour drive, really. And I'm sure they'd relish the opportunity!

Was "Cougars" supposed to be "Jaguars"?

I agree, that appears to be an unfair burden. I always felt that way when Indy had a late Sunday road game and then a Thursday road game against a playoff caliber opponent, who was either home the prev week or had a bye, etc. I suspect all playoff teams (which have added prime time games) have some schedule spots where they can claim they were screwed. But this one does seem rough for the Hawks. Do they have a bye before or after or between these early road games? That might have been looked upon as a mitigating factor.

by EricL :: Fri, 10/04/2013 - 6:10pm

No. The Seahawks' bye week comes between two home games, and the one after the bye is Monday night vs. the Saints.

The schedule is:

Away: 10am Sun
Home: Sun night
Home: 1pm Sun
Away: 10am Sun
Away: 10am Sun
Home: 1pm Sun
Away: Thurs night
Away: Mon night
Home: 1pm Sun
Away: 10am Sun
Home: 1pm Sun
Home: Mon night
Away: 1pm Sun
Away: 10am Sun
Home: 1pm Sun
Home: 1pm Sun

by Zev Wolf (not verified) :: Fri, 10/04/2013 - 7:11pm

Oops. Carolina Panthers. Not Carolina Cougars.

None the less, Seahawks were pitted against five good to excellent teams starting at 10am PT. Giants have declined since scheduling.

Was it by design? Probably.

by Noah Arkadia :: Sun, 10/06/2013 - 10:01am

10am only seems early if you work all week and then party on Saturday, but as the schedule for the one day a week you do work, I don't see a problem with it.

The man with no sig

by Dilf (not verified) :: Fri, 10/04/2013 - 5:11pm

Love the "Cougars"!!!

by BaronFoobarstein :: Fri, 10/04/2013 - 6:24pm
by Jerry :: Fri, 10/04/2013 - 6:18pm

Why are 10AM games for Western teams more onerous than 4PM games for Eastern teams?

by EricL :: Fri, 10/04/2013 - 6:36pm

It's been frequently discussed that it is more often harder for the body to adjust to traveling west-to-east than east-to-west. Adding the earlier start into the equation seems to add to the difficulty level.

That said, there's a definite lack of proof around this - it's mostly anecdotal data. It's believed widely enough that some of the pundits were using the fact that the Seahawks have five 10am games, while the 49ers have two (one in London against JAX), to make this the deciding factor in picking the 49ers to win the division.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Fri, 10/04/2013 - 6:44pm

Some studies have shown late afternoon is the time for peak athletic performance. So an Eastern team playing at 4pm is no big deal at all.

Now one thing I'd like to study more is the idea that Pacific teams have an advantage over East teams in prime-time games since no matter if they're the home team or visitor, those late starts put the Pacific team in peak performance while the East team should be getting "tired." The MNF records look convincing of that, but we need a lot more. I also think the Walsh/Montana 49ers can really skew the data.

by Perfundle :: Fri, 10/04/2013 - 10:09pm

Can't you just compare prime-time performance against non-prime-time performance to unskew the data? The Montana 49ers were presumably great whenever the game started.

by Noah Arkadia :: Sun, 10/06/2013 - 10:19am

Two questions. First, are these peaks truly significant? Are they slight differences, or big ones?

Second, and more interesting, about "late afternoon", is it defined in the studies by the position of the Sun? Or is peak performance a certain number of hours after waking up? What I'd guess is that jet lag, including the biologic confusion over what time it truly is, contributes more to a drop in performance than not playing at the ideal hour.

Edit: Or maybe I should read the link further down the page, first.

The man with no sig

by Scott Crowder (not verified) :: Fri, 10/04/2013 - 8:14pm


Cold hard football facts had a great study looking at how 10AM games impacted west coast teams. Especially when combined with travel all the way out to the east coast where the other teams body cycles enjoyed the greatest advantage.

"The big news is the Eastern teams dominating the six Western teams, going 44-15 (.746) against Pacific, and 24-11 (.686) against the Mountain. Combined, that is a staggering 68-26 (.723) record against Western teams."

by Scott Kacsmar :: Sat, 10/05/2013 - 2:26am

Yeah, I wrote that.

by Scott Crowder (not verified) :: Sat, 10/05/2013 - 3:56am

Why yes, you did :) And very good research it was.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Sat, 10/05/2013 - 6:21pm

Thanks. This was basically the 2012-13 update to it.

by Ferguson1015 :: Fri, 10/04/2013 - 8:59pm

In addition to the difficulty of traveling from West to East for games is the fact that NFC and AFC West teams habitually travel much farther then any other divisions in football.

I have no idea what this does to the body of an athlete, if anything, but it certainly means more time spent traveling rather than spent on other things.

I wonder if that would impact logistical things like studying tape or practicing. I tend to think not since you could potentially have more time studying alone instead of in the film room, but I do know that many West coast teams will fly out early in the practice week and practice on an unfamiliar field in order to adjust to the time change.

Also, I just wanted to add: Which Daylight Savings Time do you find harder to adjust to in the short term? Fall back or Spring forward. As a frequent traveler myself I can say for certain that West Coast to East Coast is much harder to adjust to for me.

by Ranbonamus (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:02am

It was several years ago but I remember a graphic comparing the most miles traveled to the least miles traveled. It was something like 25,000 miles traveled by the Seahawks to 6,000 for the Steelers.

by Ferguson1015 :: Fri, 10/04/2013 - 9:00pm

Sorry, double post. Don't know how that happened.

by mmeiselman :: Sat, 10/05/2013 - 10:23pm

West coast road teams have only won both east coast games 4 out of 17 times? The odds of winning 2 consecutive games in any situation is 25%. Slightly less for road teams because of home field advantage. Not sure what you're trying to say with this stat because it produces exactly the expected results for the average situation.