If one thing has been made clear over the past few weeks, it's that the 2020 NFL season is going to be a lot different than any other season in recent memory. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the league and its teams will be making a lot of changes this year, and it appears one of those changes will involve how teams travel to games.
According to Pro Football Talk, there are multiple teams that plan to complete all their travel for road games on gameday. Basically, some teams are now planning to fly to their road games on Sunday for a Sunday game, which is something that's almost unheard of in the NFL. For the most part, when a team is playing on the road, it will usually fly to the opponent's city on the Friday or Saturday before a Sunday game, depending on how far the flight is and whether a time zone adjustment is needed.
The idea behind the plan to fly on the day of the game is to cut down on any possible exposure that players and team personnel might have to the virus. If a team were to fly on a Saturday for a Sunday game, they would have to stay at a hotel where exposure could be high. If a team flies on Sunday for a Sunday game, each team would almost completely control all outside contact. Players would be taken on a team bus to a team flight. After the plane lands, another team bus would take the team to the stadium, and because the team is controlling every move, there would be a much smaller risk of players being exposed to the virus.
Although PFT noted that "multiple" teams plan to do the same-day travel thing this year, it's not clear which teams will be doing this. For some teams, like the Seattle Seahawks, it's going to be nearly impossible. In five of their eight road games, the Seahawks will have to make a one-way flight of more than 2,000 miles, and for a flight that long, it's just not feasible to pull off same-day travel. For the 2020 season, the Seahawks will travel more miles than any other team.
On the other hand, a team like the Ravens would seem to benefit the most from same-day traveling. Not only will the Ravens be traveling the fewest miles in the NFL this year, but they'll only be playing one game outside of the eastern time zone all year (Week 2 at Houston). Basically, Baltimore's schedule is set up so that it could easily pull off a same-day travel schedule for seven of the team's eight road games.
The team that travels the fewest miles has averaged 9.8 wins per season over the past six years, so this could be another advantage for the Ravens. The team that travels the most miles has averaged just 4.8 wins per season over the past six years.
One thing that makes this new travel plan interesting is the fact that it adds an element of risk. If a team plans to fly Sunday for a Sunday game, what happens if the flight gets delayed due to weather or a mechanical problem? Would the game be delayed or would the team have to forfeit? And for the record, mechanical issues do happen -- just ask the Dallas Cowboys, who got stuck on a tarmac in Philadelphia for three hours back in December.
The bottom line is that the gameday travel is going to be one of many things that's going to change for the 2020 season. The NFL has already made multiple changes, including canceling half the preseason and ordering teams to place a tarp over the front six to eight rows in each stadium. The league is also considering having fans sign a liability waiver if they want to attend games this year.