One thing that goes under the radar when schedules get released is just how much teams will have to travel. Sure, generally every team will have eight home game and eight road games, but exactly how far teams travel can be something to worry about.
We hear about this most of the time when teams travel from the west coast to the east coast for 1 P.M. games, because the time zones are so drastically different. That means players internal clocks aren’t as use to being at their peak during that time.
However, can the amount of miles traveled by a team for the season actually impact a team’s chances of winning? John Breech of CBS Sports shows how is can maybe play a part when teams make long trips for a game.
Although flying seems pretty simple these days, flights of over 2,000 miles still seem to have a negative effect on road teams. In the 15-season period from 1997-2011, teams that traveled 2,000 miles or more for a road trip had a winning percentage of just .398, according to Grantland.com. On the other hand, teams that traveled 1,000 miles or less for a road game had a winning percentage 32 points higher at .430.
Between 2014 and 2018, road teams traveling under 2,000 miles had an overall winning percentage of .427 (486-652-4) while teams that got stuck on a one-way flight of 2,000 miles or more for a road game had a lower winning percentage of .415 (51-72). (London games don’t count in this total since both teams in London had to travel over 2,000 miles and therefore were basically on equal footing).
Breech also notes that teams that travel the least win an average of 9.8 wins per season, but the teams travelling the most only win on average 4.8 games a season. Those numbers are from the last six years when they started tracking this. It is also important to note that the team that has had to travel the most over that span has never made the playoffs (sorry Seattle).
Where do the Bengals rank in this then? They actually travel the fourth fewest miles (7,516) and are only beat out by the rest of the AFC North teams (The Ravens travel the least). As noted by Breech in his article, the NFC West usually ends up being one of the divisions that ranks fairly high in this on a yearly basis considering where their teams are located in regards to the rest of the NFL. The AFC North has an advantage that three of their teams are generally very close, and they don’t reside too far from most of the NFL.
The Bengals longest flight this year will be to play the Dolphins and the Texans and those two only come close to being 1,000 mile trips (depending on airports). The only west coast team Bengals is set to play is the Chargers and they are going to face them in Cincinnati. Having road trips to play the Colts, Eagles and Washington really don’t qualify as much more travel than divisional games.
Does this mean that Cincinnati is going to have an amazing season because they don’t travel that far? No. This is just data to keep in mind. It seems to be more useful when used as a tool that explains the disadvantage of having to make several long distance trips in a season. The Bengals still will have plenty of adversity to overcome in a very tough division as a young team that is still early in its rebuild.
At the very least, Cincinnati doesn’t have any exterior hurdles to overcome based on their schedule.