Typical strength of schedule based on the previous year’s win-loss rate have proven to be inconsistent and ineffective. But there are some useful variables to explore before the season begins. Warren Sharp of sharpfootballstats.com has one of the better approaches in predicting next year’s competition by using Vegas odds instead of trying to predict the future with a team’s past, which rarely works. Another important piece of every team’s schedule is travel time.
There are a couple of tricky scenarios that are intertwined with a team’s away schedule. For instance, New Orleans has one of two three-game road trips in the league. They will travel to take on the Denver Broncos, Atlanta Falcons, and Philadelphia Eagles Weeks 12 to 14.
Teams on three-game road trips since 2017 have combined for only a 40% win rate at 12-16. However the third game, which used to be the most dreaded of such a road trip, has recorded a 60% win rate for the visiting team in that time. For the record, the opening trip has proven to be the toughest with only a 30% win rate in the last three seasons while the second game has reported 50%
Despite the complexities of a three-game road trip, the Saints still have some favorable elements in their travel schedule in 2020.
A large factor in road games is the travel distance ahead of the game. The common threshold has been 2,000 air miles in a one-way trip. CBS Sports reported that in the 15-year span between 1997 to 2011, teams have recorded only a 39.8% win rate when traveling beyond that threshold.
For the Saints in 2020, there are no such trips. Which is part of the benefit of not being in the NFC West for instance who play both the NFC and AFC East this season and will make multiple trips beyond the 2,000 air mile mark.
In breaking down the Saints upcoming travel schedule, New Orleans’ longest flight from MSY will cover “just” 1,500 air miles. That trip also comes early in the season as it is the Week 2 Monday night bout against the Las Vegas Raiders. Which is thankfully followed up with a Sunday night home game, as opposed to an early Sunday away game, which is another dreaded nuance in scheduling.
After that, New Orleans will only see two more 1,000+ air mile road trips, but they do unfortunately fall during their tight three-game road stretch. 1,069 miles to Denver. 1,090 miles to Philadelphia. Although, there is a way to cut down the travel to the Eagle by not returning to the Big Easy after their Week 13 matchup in Atlanta.
The Saints had a similar situation last year with a 2,000+ mile trip to Seattle that they mitigated by heading to the Pacific Northwest directly from Los Angeles. If the Saints did that again from Atlanta, they would cut out their return trip from the rival city (roughly 422) and shorten their flight to the City of Brotherly Love by about 425 miles. Here is how that would affect the entire travel picture for New Orleans. Keep in mind that air miles shift by a handful daily. So these are approximations.
Approximate 2020 travel miles: 13,954
If traveling to PHI from ATL: 13,107
In 2019, that would have put the Saints with the 11th fewest travel miles in the league. So despite having that inconveniently placed three-game road trip ahead of taking on the reigning Super Bowl champs, the Saints away schedule shook out about as favorably as it could with a team in their situation.
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