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Bucs, NFL's East Coast teams at disadvantage when traveling west

In the Bucs' last visit to San Francisco five years ago, the 49ers thumped them 48-3. In 14 trips to the City by the Bay, the Bucs have won only twice. [Times (2011)]

In the Bucs' last visit to San Francisco five years ago, the 49ers thumped them 48-3. In 14 trips to the City by the Bay, the Bucs have won only twice. [Times (2011)]

One of a head coach's many responsibilities is game-clock management. When it comes to body-clock management, however, Dirk Koetter admits he's no expert.

"There's a lot of stuff in the universe I cannot explain," the Bucs coach said Wednesday when asked why East Coast teams struggle when they play on the West Coast.

Will Tampa Bay be able to shake off the jet lag when it takes on the 49ers late Sunday afternoon in San Francisco? The coast-to-coast trip has been an obstacle for previous Bucs teams.

Since 2002 (when the NFL last realigned), Tampa Bay is 5-15 (.250) against West division opponents. Only Detroit has a lower win percentage (.130) among teams with homes in the Eastern Standard Time zone.

The Bucs have lost five straight road games against West division opponents. Their last win came in November 2012, a 42-32 win in Oakland in which Doug Martin rushed for 251 yards and four touchdowns. In 14 visits to San Francisco, they've earned just two wins.

A counterpoint might be that the Bucs have played poorly regardless of the setting. But they're not alone — EST teams as a whole have struggled against West division opponents, winning 41 percent of their games since the start of the 2002 season. Only four of 17 teams have managed to win more games than they've lost (Colts, Panthers, Patriots and Falcons).

EST teams vs. West division teams (overall)

Team Games Wins Losses W-L%
Indianapolis 20 12 8 .600
Carolina 20 12 8 .600
New England 22 13 9 .591
Atlanta 22 12 10 .545
Philadelphia 20 10 10 .500
New York Giants 20 10 10 .500
Miami 22 11 11 .500
Washington 20 9 11 .450
Buffalo 22 9 13 .409
Baltimore 22 9 13 .409
Cincinnati 22 9 13 .409
Pittsburgh 22 7 15 .318
New York Jets 23 7 16 .304
Jacksonville 20 6 14 .300
Cleveland 22 6 16 .273
Tampa Bay 20 5 15 .250
Detroit 23 3 20 .130
362 150 212 .414
Source: Pro Football Reference

The time of day matters, too. EST teams have won 48 percent of games that start around 1 p.m. In those cases, the opponents (Chiefs and Rams) were technically from the Midwest, where the difference between Eastern time and Central time is an hour.

EST teams vs. West division teams (early afternoon)

Team Games Wins Losses W-L%
Philadelphia 2 2 0 1.000
Baltimore 2 2 0 1.000
Miami 5 4 1 .800
Indianapolis 4 3 1 .750
New York Giants 3 2 1 .667
New England 2 1 1 .500
Buffalo 6 3 3 .500
Cincinnati 6 3 3 .500
Carolina 4 2 2 .500
Washington 3 1 2 .333
Cleveland 6 2 4 .333
Jacksonville 6 2 4 .333
Tampa Bay 3 1 2 .333
Atlanta 3 1 2 .333
New York Jets 4 1 3 .250
Pittsburgh 4 1 3 .250
Detroit 2 0 2 .000
65 31 34 .477
Source: Pro Football Reference

When games start between 4 and 4:30 p.m., EST teams' share of wins decreases to 42 percent. The Bucs are 4-10 in late afternoon games. Only the Steelers (1-7), Lions (3-15) and Browns (4-12) have worse records.

EST teams vs. West division teams (late afternoon)

Team Games Wins Losses W-L%
New England 12 8 4 .667
Carolina 15 10 5 .667
Atlanta 17 11 6 .647
Indianapolis 10 6 4 .600
New York Giants 14 7 7 .500
Baltimore 15 7 8 .467
Cincinnati 13 6 7 .462
Washington 16 7 9 .438
Philadelphia 14 6 8 .429
New York Jets 15 6 9 .400
Buffalo 15 6 9 .400
Miami 15 5 10 .333
Jacksonville 14 4 10 .286
Tampa Bay 14 4 10 .286
Cleveland 16 4 12 .250
Detroit 18 3 15 .167
Pittsburgh 8 1 7 .125
241 101 140 .419
Source: Pro Football Reference

The difference is greatest in evening contests, where West division teams have won nearly 70 percent of their games against EST teams. The Bucs are one of eight teams to go winless in that span (three others haven't played an evening game against a West division team). Five teams — the Dolphins, Steelers, Patriots, Colts and Eagles — have managed .500 or better records.

EST teams vs. West division teams (evening)

Team Games Wins Losses W-L%
Miami 2 2 0 1.000
Pittsburgh 10 5 5 .500
New England 8 4 4 .500
Indianapolis 6 3 3 .500
Philadelphia 4 2 2 .500
New York Giants 3 1 2 .333
Baltimore 5 0 5 .000
New York Jets 4 0 4 .000
Cincinnati 3 0 3 .000
Tampa Bay 3 0 3 .000
Detroit 2 0 2 .000
Atlanta 2 0 2 .000
Buffalo 1 0 1 .000
Carolina 1 0 1 .000
Cleveland 0 0 0 .000
Jacksonville 0 0 0 .000
Washington 0 0 0 .000
54 17 37 .315
Source: Pro Football Reference

The effects of circadian rhythms on football games might be hard to explain, but they're real.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.

Bucs, NFL's East Coast teams at disadvantage when traveling west 10/20/16 [Last modified: Thursday, October 20, 2016 7:10am]
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