It's an underrated factor when attempting to determine the winner and loser of a given NFL game. We tend to concentrate on players, matchups and coaching strategies in said deductions. But the simple fact of the matter that's often left out of the equation is this: it's really hard to travel three time zones and win a football game.
The Bills have played in three such games this season. Two of those games took place in the comforts of Ralph Wilson Stadium; the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders made the trip across the country, and both came away with losses. The Bills themselves made one trip across three time zones, and got blasted in Arizona by the Cardinals.
This Sunday, the Bills take on the San Diego Chargers in their third straight west-coast-host home game. The Bills need to make good on what amounts to their greatest advantage in this matchup.
Cross-country trips in 2008
It's quite remarkable, really, just how determinant a factor the cross-country trip is this season in the NFL. Thirteen such games have been played, and the road team is a dismal 3-10 in those matchups. The Chargers themselves were victimized by the east-coast Carolina Panthers in a 26-24 opening day loss. The San Francisco 49ers have lost consecutive home games to the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. Those three cross-country wins stand out in what has otherwise been an unflinchingly rigid trend.
For further breakdown: when an East Coast team travels west, the road team is 3-4. When a West Coast team travels east, the road team is 0-6.
San Diego on the east coast
This Chargers team, as talented as they've been over the past three seasons, aren't immune to this trend, either. The Chargers - a combined 28-10 over the past two-plus regular seasons (since 2006) - have dropped some unexpected Ls on the east coast as they've gone 2-4. The team hasn't won on the east coast since the 2006 season, and have lost three straight.
Unfortunately, one of their two wins came in Buffalo, when the Marty Schottenheimer-led Chargers beat the Bills 24-21 at The Ralph en route to a 14-2 season and yet another quick playoff exit. They also won a barnburner in Cincinnati that season, 49-41, over what was then a potent Bengals attack led by Carson Palmer.
Otherwise, heading east has been a fruitless endeavor for San Diego. The team lost a close game to Baltimore in 2006; they were handled by the Patriots and Jaguars in 2007; they traveled to Miami just two weeks ago and got beat by the Wildcats Dolphins.
The trends and the comfy confines of Ralph Wilson Stadium are on Buffalo's side this Sunday. Keep this in mind throughout the week - and if you're going to the game on Sunday, realize it's your duty to accentuate this advantage by screaming until you know you'll be worthless at work on Monday. The Chargers have good players, have advantages in key matchups, and have a good coaching staff. But they're also facing stiff odds.