NFL Betting Tip: Will Cross-Country Travel Affect Chargers in Baltimore?


Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers

Jan 04, 2019, 11:20 AM EST
  • The Los Angeles Chargers will travel cross-country to take on the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday (1:05 p.m. ET, CBS).
  • Using Bet Labs, we analyze how West Coast teams have performed against the spread when playing on the East Coast.

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Chargers will travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens (1:05 p.m. ET, CBS). There is a three-hour difference between Baltimore and Los Angeles. When the game begins at 1:05 p.m. ET, it will feel like 10:05 a.m. for the Chargers.

A common held belief among NFL bettors is that West Coast teams struggle when traveling cross-country. The theory is that long flights, road games and time zone changes, which can confuse players’ internal body clocks, impact performance on the field.

Since 2003, West Coast teams have gone 80-133 (37.6%) straight up when playing on the East Coast per Bet Labs. This seems significant, but against-the-spread (ATS) performance is a better indicator of how well a team performed compared to pregame expectations.

In that same time, West Coast teams are 102-105-6 (49.3%) ATS when playing on the road against an East Coast team. The losing ATS record suggests West Coast teams underperform, but there is a stark split in the data.

From 2003 to 2012, West Coast teams were 57-71-3 (44.5%) ATS when playing in the Eastern time zone, but since 2013 West Coast teams have had a winning ATS record in this situation. These teams have gone 45-34-3 (57.0%) ATS.

There are two reasons for the change. First, teams have become better at managing their travel. And second, as this trend became popular among bettors, the oddsmakers adjusted knowing gamblers would want to fade teams traveling west to east.

Some bettors might read this and think there is value wagering on the Chargers since the public overestimates the impact of cross-country travel. That would be unwise. In our six-year sample since 2013, West Coast teams have seen their performance on the East Coast fluctuate:

  • From 2013 to 2015: 24-13-1 (64.9%) ATS
  • From 2016 to 2018: 21-21-2 (50.0%) ATS

The takeaway is that there is no longer value fading West Coast teams traveling east and profitable betting trends lose value over time as they become popular among gamblers, forcing bookmakers to adjust.

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