There has a been a lot of debate about the Chicago Bears arriving in London (located six hours ahead of Central Standard Time) this morning as opposed to getting there earlier in the week like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did on Monday. I couldn’t help but immediately react and say, “Who really cares what day they arrive?” But all the reaction on both sides of the argument has made me think about it.
Most teams travelling from the west coast to the east coast of the United States (which is three hours ahead) have historically not fared too well. The four teams in the Pacific time zone (Seahawks, 49ers, Raiders, Chargers) were a combined 6-25 over the past three seasons when travelling to an Eastern time zone city. Most times, these teams would arrive in the host city late in the week.
This year, those four teams are 4-3 when heading east (one win can be discounted because the 49ers stayed on the road for games against the Bengals and Eagles and did not have to travel far for the second game). While the trend over the last few years looks to confirm the advocates for an early arrival, you can also say that those west coast teams haven’t been very good over the past few years, no matter where they were playing.
I’m not yet convinced that an extra four days overseas is a good idea.
So, I began to think about how the Bears and Bucs have fared on the road, in general, this season. The Bears are 0-2 this year, losing to the 5-1 Lions and 4-2 Saints, and the Bucs are 1-1, losing to the 5-1 49ers and beating the 1-5 Vikings. And again, not much help there.
Maybe Tampa Bay is getting used to Wembley Stadium by practicing on it all week. Nope, upon doing some research, they have been practicing at Pennyhill Park in Surrey, about an hour outside of London.
Hmm. So, maybe the true “X” factor in this game will be that the Bears won’t be able to adjust to the time change and will be tired from the flight, while Tampa Bay will be rested and ready to go. Sounds reasonable, right?
I don’t know about you, but it still sounds ridiculous to me. These guys are fine-tuned, highly trained athletes. A flight across the Atlantic and a few less hours of sleep two days before a game aren’t going to completely throw everyone off their game.
Do you want to know what the “X” factor will be? The number 62.
No, Super Bowl guard Mark Bortz isn’t going to come out of retirement and save the offensive line. I’m talking about the weather. As of right now, the weather forecast says that it’s going to be a high of 62 degrees (low of 52 degrees) on Sunday in London, and Tampa Bay is known for be a notoriously bad cold weather team.
Do you know what happened last time they played in 62 degree weather outside of sunny Tampa Bay? They lost to the 49ers, 48-3.
So, I’ll tell you this. If the mercury drops below 60 during the game, expect the “well-rested” Bucs’ play to suffer more than King Henry VIII’s wives. There is a big difference between Tampa Bay and London when it comes to the weather, so the Bears will have the home-field advantage.
The Bucs are going to need more than a cup of tea to prepare themselves for a chilly game. And despite their flaws, the Bears are just a better team. (Bucs starting RB LaGarrette Blount is also out for the game.) Intangibles aren’t going to be the deciding factor. The Bears have more playmakers and they will show up on Sunday. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the Melee in the UK on Sunday.
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