Every year, NFL teams travel to play eight games on the road. In a 16-game regular season, that would mean teams are in equal circumstances (barring those that participate in the NFL’s international games in London or Mexico, of course). However, teams are far from being in equal circumstances when traveling. After all, not all travel the same number of miles.
Take the 2020 NFL season for example. According to CBS Sports, the Seattle Seahawks will travel a total of 28,982 miles. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens will travel only 6,420 miles. The Ravens will have zero games in which they travel more than 2,000 miles while the Seahawks will have to do it five times.
It’s difficult to assess how much this actually impacts NFL teams, but statistics suggest it does have some effect on how well teams have done in the past six seasons.
“The team that travels the fewest miles has averaged 9.8 wins per season over the past six years, which is how long we’ve been tallying travel miles. On the other hand, the team that travels the most miles has averaged just 4.8 wins per season over the past six years.” John Breech on travel-related advantage.
It’s also worth noting, no team that’s traveled the most has made the playoffs in the past six years. But you have to wonder, how confident can you be in data from six seasons and how relevant is it? The CBS post also suggests that between 1997 and 2011, teams that traveled less than 2,000 miles for a road game had a higher winner percentage (.430) than those that traveled over 2,000 miles (.398).
As far as the NFC East is concerned, the Dallas Cowboys will be the team to travel the most miles in 2020 with 19,286. They’ll have the 9th most travel miles in the NFL while being the only team in the Top 10 to have zero individual games in which to travel over 2,000 miles.
The New York Giants are second in the division (13th in the league) with 15,928 miles. However, the Giants would have to be one of the year’s biggest surprises in order to have a legit shot at taking the division. They have bright things to look forward to, but 2020 won’t be their year.
With 14,890 miles ahead of them, the Philadelphia Eagles come in at third place in the division (17th), who are expected to battle it out with the Cowboys in order to defend their division title. But here’s where it gets tricky.
Despite the fact that they’ll travel 4,396 more miles than Dallas will, they’ll have two travels of over 2,000 miles while the Cowboys will have none. It’s not clear what would be a preferable scenario, especially considering both teams are facing one of the toughest divisions in the AFC this year. Dallas will visit the Baltimore Ravens while Philly will visit the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In a division race that’s expected by many to be a close one once again, it’ll be interesting to see how this affects the two favorite teams to win the NFC East.
Finally, the Washington Redskins, who aren’t expending a winning season in 2020 do rank 20th in the NFL in travel miles. If their defensive front pays off and Dwayne Haskins steps up his play, expect Washington to be a tough rival to beat twice.