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Examining The NFL's Time Bandits

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are more fearsome in their own time zone than outside of it. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are more fearsome in their own time zone than outside of it. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images.

Periodically you will hear football commentators talk about a team on the East Coast taking a road trip to the West Coast to play a foe and how the travel may affect their performance (or vice versa).

To see if there is any significant difference between teams playing in their own time zone versus traveling to other time zones to play, I looked at the last five seasons in the NFL and tracked how well teams played within their own time zone and how well they played outside their time zone.

The findings? There is a difference. Case in point: Look below at the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers, who play in an eastern time zone city, were 49-17 (a .742 winning percentage) in games they played in the eastern time zone. But when the Steelers had to travel out of their time zone, they were only 4-10 in those five years, a .286 winning percentage. That’s a difference of .456 percentage points. That difference was the largest of any team in this five-year analysis.

All total, of the 32 NFL teams, 26 played better in their own time zones versus playing outside their time zone. To quantify it, NFL teams in the last five season were 951-832-3 (.533 winning percentage) when they played in their own time zone and 327-446-1 (.423 winning percentage) when they played outside their time zone, a difference of .110 percentage points.

Following is a look at each NFL team and their win-loss record when they played games in their own time zone and their record outside their time zone in the last five seasons (2008-12).

EASTERN TIME ZONE In time zone Outside time zone Difference
Atlanta 45-17 11-7 + .115
Baltimore 46-20 8-6 + .126
Buffalo 23-42 6-9 -  .046
Carolina 27-34 8-11 + .022
Cincinnati 31-36-1 6-6 -  .037
Cleveland 20-48 3-9 + .044
Detroit 18-34 4-24 + .203
Indianapolis 37-23 12-8 + .017
Jacksonville 23-37 4-16 + .183
Miami 31-33 7-9 + .046
New England 50-15 10-5 + .102
New York Giants 37-24 11-8 + .028
New York Jets 38-27 5-10 + .252
Philadelphia 35-26-1 7-11 + .184
Pittsburgh 49-17 4-10 + .456
Tampa Bay 23-36 10-11 + .086
Washington 24-40 9-7 -  .188
CENTRAL TIME ZONE In time zone Outside time zone Difference
Chicago 31-24 14-11 + .004
Dallas 27-21 15-17 + .094
Green Bay 40-16 13-11 + .172
Houston 31-19 14-16 + .153
Kansas City 16-28 9-27 + .114
Minnesota 31-24 10-15 + .164
New Orleans 34-15 18-13 + .113
St. Louis 11-35 8-25-1 -  .011
Tennessee 29-22 13-16 + .121
MOUNTAIN TIME ZONE In time zone Outside time zone Difference
Arizona 24-16 13-27 + .275
Denver 21-20 20-19 -  .001
PACIFIC TIME ZONE In time zone Outside time zone Difference
Oakland 17-29 13-21 -  .012
San Diego 29-17 16-18 + .159
San Francisco 29-15-1 16-19 + .199
Seattle 24-22 10-24 + .228