In a fascinating article published by Bill Barnwell and Grantland in 2012, longitudinal data revealed the correlation between travel mileage and road team’s win percentage in the NFL. This year, on top of the weakest strength of schedule in the league, the Baltimore Ravens will also travel the fewest miles of all 32 teams. Here’s what was found:
“an interesting trend splits itself out if we separate the travel distances for each game into three distinct groups. Based upon games played over the past 15 seasons, teams seem to play better on the road and win more frequently against nearby opponents than they do against faraway ones”
As the adage goes, “correlation does not equal causation,” meaning that travel does not dictate wins and losses, but the data suggests there is a connection.
This is relevant to the Baltimore Ravens this year as they will travel only 6, 310 miles as reported by Field Yates on Twitter:
The Seahawks are scheduled to travel the most miles in the NFL this season at 29,203, followed by the Rams (26,104) and 49ers (25,507).— Field Yates (@FieldYates) May 8, 2020
The Ravens will travel just 6,310 miles in 2020, the fewest by any NFL team in the past four seasons.
The obvious takeaway here is that the Ravens gain mild advantages over other teams due to their light travel schedule: (1) they avoid the challenges teams face when traveling extended distances, and (2) they enjoy the benefits of having short road trips that provide more time to rest, recuperate, or game plan for the following week.
Playing the NFC East this year was a huge factor in traveling the fewest miles by any team in four years. The Ravens will face the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants at home, meaning they’ll only travel to the nearby Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, both of which are likely to be bus trips and not flights.
For visual learners, or all of us, here’s a mock up of how out-of-division travel will be different for Ravens players and personnel in 2020 compared to 2019. Anyone who has traveled for work with any regularity or has even just experienced a busy month visiting friends and family knows that Ravens players are rejoicing over this.
Measuring the impact of travel is imperfect. Every year we see teams go across the country and defeat heavy favorites, as the Ravens did in Seattle last year. That said, there’s a real human element to travel that anyone can understand has an impact — the question is to what extent?