It's almost fitting that Jon Gruden signed a $100 million contract with the Raiders this year, because that's roughly how many miles his team will be traveling in 2018. OK, that's an exaggeration, but that's probably what it's going to feel like for the Raiders, who will be flying more miles this season than any other team in the NFL.
The Raiders will be traveling a total of 31,732 miles in 2018, which is more than the Panthers, Falcons and Bengals will travel combined in 2018 (24,496). The Raiders are the only team in the NFL this year that will travel more than 30,000 miles on the season.
It's really too bad the Raiders don't have a plane that can fly at light speed because that would really cut down all the travel time they're going to have this year. Al Davis definitely should have hammered out a deal for a light-speed vehicle when he was hanging with Darth Vader a few years ago.
A big reason the Raiders will be racking up the frequent flier miles this year is because they'll be making a total of nine trips, while most other NFL teams will only be making eight. The Raiders have an extra trip this year thanks to the fact that they agreed to play a "home" game in London, which is basically on the other side of the world from Oakland.
Speaking of London, the Raiders might need a jumbo jet for the their flight to England because the total distance covered on that one round trip alone will be 10,714 miles. That means the Raiders will travel more for their one London game than the Bills (10,222), Jets (9,358), Bengals (8,308), Falcons (8,250) and Panthers (6,938) will travel all season.
Don't feel sorry for the Raiders, though, because they're not the only West Coast team that has to deal with the long flight to the UK. The Chargers and Seahawks will also be taking the never-ending flight from the left coast to England. As a matter of fact, the top five most traveled teams in 2018 will all be playing in London this year. The only team playing in London this season that didn't crack the top five in travel miles is the Titans, who will be traveling the 11th-most miles of any team in 2018.
So all of this obviously begs the question: Is jet lag going to cause your favorite team to go winless on the road this year?
The answer to that question is maybe, but only if they have a lengthy flight on their 2018 schedule.
Although flying is pretty glamorous these days, flights of over 2,000 miles still seem to have a negative effect on road teams. In the 15-season period from 1997-2011, teams that traveled 2,000 miles or more for a road trip had a winning percentage of just .398, according to Grantland.com. On the other hand, teams that traveled 1,000 miles or less for a road game had a winning percentage of .430.
The numbers were actually worse in 2017 for teams that had to take a long one-way flight to get to a game. Last season, road teams went 10-17 (.370) in games where they traveled 2,000 or more miles. (London games don't count in this total, since both teams in London had to travel over 2,000 miles and therefore were basically on equal footing).
In all other road games for 2017 -- where the team didn't have to travel 2,000 miles -- teams went 98-127 for a winning percentage of .435, which is a full 65 points better.
The crazy thing is that these numbers basically hold up if you look back at the past few seasons. Over the past four years (2014-17), teams that got stuck on a one-way flight of 2,000 miles or more for a road game had a winning percentage of just .398 (43-65). The winning percentage for all other road teams in that span was 40 points better at .438 (395-507-2).
So what's so magical about the 2,000-mile mark?
Well, if you're on a 2,000-mile flight, you're looking at roughly five hours in a plane, which isn't very exciting. The first problem is that you have to spend most of that time sitting. The second problem is that it's basically impossible to sleep on a plane unless you have Ambien and well, I think we all learned an important lesson about Ambien this year.
The third problem is, well, have you ever had airplane food?
Although NFL flights these days are catered with things like Angus beef hamburgers and steamed jasmine rice, the players aren't picking the food, which means they're eating things they might not like. I mean, just look at the Patriots' menu for their flight to the Super Bowl. I don't see any TB12-approved foods on there. Did the person who planned that menu even read Tom Brady's book? Maybe that's why they lost.
Menu aboard Patriots team plane “AirKraft” from Providence to Minneapolis today — 2 hour & 45 minute flight pic.twitter.com/wrl49iA8ms— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) January 29, 2018
Basically, being in a plane for five or more hours is a perfect recipe for disaster: Your sleep schedule is thrown off, your eating schedule changes and your joints get stiff from sitting down for so long.
All of this is bad news for the Raiders, who will have to deal with three one-way flights of at least 2,000 miles in 2018 (not including London). That number is tied with the Chargers for the most in the NFL this season. No other team in the league will have more than one game with that kind of travel.
Here's a look at each team's travel miles for the upcoming season. (The Dolphins will be traveling the most miles of any team that doesn't have an international trip this year).
2018 NFL travel miles
(Road games where team travels more than 2,000 miles in parentheses)
1. Raiders: 31,732* (3)
2. Seahawks: 29,068* (1)
3. Chargers: 29,055* (3)
4. Jaguars: 20,278*
5. Eagles: 20,262* (1)
6. Rams: 19,594** (1)
7. Dolphins: 18,532
8. 49ers: 18,354 (1)
9. Chiefs: 17,936**
10. Texans: 17,608
11. Titans: 16,804*
12. Cowboys: 16,404
13. Broncos: 16,134
14. Cardinals: 15,724
15. Giants: 15,054 (1)
16. Lions: 14,486 (1)
17. Vikings: 14,328
18. Browns: 13,888 (1)
19. Steelers: 13,180 (1)
20. Redskins: 12,936
21. Packers: 12,890
22. Bears: 12,836
23. Colts: 12,560
24. Buccaneers: 11,908
25. Saints: 11,834
26. Ravens: 11,548 (1)
27. Patriots: 11,042
28. Bills: 10,222
29. Jets: 9,358
30. Bengals: 8,308
31. Falcons: 8,250
32. Panthers: 6,938
(*) = playing in London
(**) = playing in Mexico City
Note: The "home" team in each international game will have traveled to a total of nine games in 2018 -- all other teams travel for eight games -- which means the home international teams will generally have a higher mileage total than most other teams.
Note II: Following their Week 6 game against the Browns, the Chargers are expected to travel from Cleveland to London for their Week 7 game against Tennessee, instead of going back to L.A. That mileage has been taken into account.