Before the Buccaneers played at Minnesota last week, road teams had lost 15 of the past 18 Thursday night games. Tampa Bay didn’t succumb to that history, instead putting on a dominant performance in the Metrodome in a 36-17 win.
Now the Bucs are set to travel to the West Coast this weekend, and no amount of statistical data is going to tell them that’s a disadvantage.
Truth be told, the Buccaneers’ history on the opposite coast isn’t strong. In road games against the three California teams and the Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay is 5-23 all-time. However, the Bucs have won on two of their last three West Coast trips, beating both Seattle and San Francisco in their places in 2010. Of course, the 2012 Buccaneers don’t think those 2010 results have any more to do with their chances this weekend then do all the losses from the 1980s.
“I think it’s a state of mind,” said Head Coach Greg Schiano. “You get yourself ready for it, you identify the challenge and then you go attack it. We have a plan certainly. We have a detailed plan on how we’re going to do it and as long as the guys and the coaches are locked in and understand the vision.”
So far this season, there have been nine games in which a team from a city in the Eastern Time Zone played a game in the Pacific Time Zone (that includes three home games for the Arizona Cardinals, who are technically in the Mountain Time Zone but are essentially PDT for half of the season because Phoenix does not observe Daylight Savings Time). The home team in those games is 5-4, which really isn’t any more than what you would expect to see from normal home team advantage. Already, the Giants have won at San Francisco, Atlanta has won at San Diego and Pittsburgh has won at Oakland.
By the way, it’s almost the same story this year for teams from cities in the Pacific Time Zone play a game in the Eastern Time Zone, which some consider even more of a burden. There have been seven such meetings this year, and the home team is 4-3.
“It’s a longer plane ride, that’s what it boils down to,” said Schiano. “You take the plane ride, then you have to go play.”
Clearly, the NFL thinks that long trips are something of a disadvantage because it made a small change in its scheduling format that took effect in 2010. The rotation of home and away games for NFC teams when their division is matched up against the AFC West was tweaked so that teams wouldn’t get two East Coast-to-West Coast trips in the same year. Originally, as an example, the Buccaneers were going to play in Oakland and San Diego this year, but the rotation was flipped to bring the Chargers to Tampa and send the Bucs to Denver.
The Bucs wouldn’t have minded being sent to San Diego, however (who does?) To them, overcoming the long trip is no different than overcoming the short week and travel that came before last Thursday’s game.
“That’s yet to be seen, as far as how it will affect us,” said LB Quincy Black. “We’ll find out on Sunday.”