In this series of articles on the effects of accumulated travel, I’m 0-for-2 in discovering a fantasy impact with research related to total miles traveled over a season and miles traveled to date relative to a team’s opponent. This week, I’ll complete the trilogy with an investigation of road trips.
In the NFL, road trips don’t exist like they do in other sports. It’s uncommon for a team to have three consecutive away games. Since 2009, only 26 teams have faced that challenge in a season, which is about three per season. Atlanta, Buffalo, Denver, and the Rams are the only teams who have done so twice in that period of time. That’s why, for the purposes of this research, I’m calling three consecutive games that involve travel for teams a road trip, even if one of the legs of that travel takes them back home. My theory is that the rigors of the travel itself is enough to potentially decrease player performance, even if he can spend some of those nights in his own bed.
Since 2009, there have been 1,270 such road trips, and since I co-mingled home and road games in my definition, I decided to run weighted average comparisons that compare team quarterback performance in weeks 1, 2, and 3 of road trips to the team’s seasonal quarterback performance either at home or on the road, whichever matches their situation in the weeks in question. That should create apples-to-apples comparisons.
I had grown pessimistic for my chances of discovering any travel-related fantasy impacts, and this research again proved fruitless.
|Change in Passing Performance on Extended Road Trips|
|Trip Week||Sample Size||Comp%||Yards / Att||TD / Att||INT / Att|
In aggregate, quarterbacks show no change in their completion percentages or yards, touchdowns, or interceptions per pass attempt as they progress through a road trip.
That exhausts the primary research ideas I had related to accumulated travel, and all of them were busts. I’m not completely surprised by that result. I took special care to try to remove external factors like home vs. road from this research, and that one specifically seems likely to be collinear with many of my travel theories. In other words, teams appear to perform worse when they go on extended road trips or when west coast teams travel east for early games, and it’s easy to find specific examples of games that match those preconceptions. However, teams play worse on the road no matter the circumstances, and when you adjust player expectations accordingly, this research suggests that other travel concerns create no additional penalty.