We are less than a month away from the opening kickoff of the new 2012 NFL season. It is well-known fact that under the current NFL format each team plays 16 regular season games, 8 of those on the road. Geographically speaking, NFL teams are unevenly distributed across the United States of America and teams located far West, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Arizona Cardinals, have to travel a lot more than the rest and are among teams that each year have a high total of miles traveled.
Last season, it was the San Francisco 49ers who led the NFL with 29196 miles traveled. The 49ers stayed in Youngstown, Ohio between Week 3 and Week 4 when they played the Bengals and the Eagles on the road, so their actual total miles traveled in 2011 is a bit lower, but never the less, San Francisco still was a team with second-most total miles traveled, only behind division rival Seattle Seahawks.
I put up a list of teams’ total miles traveled from last season (source: NFL.com) and this upcoming season. I analyzed 2012 NFL schedule and calculated total miles traveled for each team using this great site – Sports Map World. As already mentioned, teams from the West, members of AFC West and NFC West division in particular, have to travel most. This season, it will be the Oakland Raiders with most miles traveled, followed by Seahawks, 49ers, Chargers, Rams, Cardinals, …
Patriots and Rams will play in the 2012 NFL International Series in London. Rams will be the home team, but both teams, obviously, will have to travel to London. One other note, since the Rams are located much closer to the East Coast their total miles traveled are significantly lower compared to 3 other NFC West teams, as we can see from the list of total miles traveled in 2011. In 2012 Rams’ total is higher than ‘normal’ due to their scheduled trip to London.
In 2012, teams of the NFC West division will have to travel a combine total of 104074 round-trip miles, which is more than twice as much as teams from AFC North, NFC North or AFC South for that matter. Here’s a complete list of 2012 total miles traveled by each division.
There’s one other interesting aspect of analyzing NFL schedule within divisions. Out of 8 road games that each NFL team has to play each season, 3 of those games are divisional. For example, St. Louis Rams have to travel to San Francisco, Seattle and Glendale, Arizona for their 3 divisional games on the road. The Rams have to travel a total of 9491 ‘divisional’ miles. That’s the most in the NFL. Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland with a total of only 1138 miles, the lowest in the NFL and only 12% of what the Rams have to travel each year when visiting their division rivals.
It would make things a lot easier for teams from NFC West if the Rams never moved to St.Louis and stayed in LA. Just for speculation purposes I calculated total ‘divisional’ miles for each NFC West team as if the Rams moved back to LA and became Los Angeles Rams again. The difference, in terms of miles traveled within division, would be huge.