The Packers are 8-1 in regular-season games on the West Coast since 1995. There it is, folks, conclusive evidence that the whole Circadian rhythm thing is a myth. Well, at least it's a myth for a team coming from the Midwest and only needing to fly across two time zones.
Circadian rhythm? Where have you been? It's the latest in excuses for losing for teams having to fly across the country.
Jim Mora was big on Circadian rhythm when he was the coach of the Seattle Seahawks. It's a body clock thing that says your body is still in the time zone it left and Mora tailored his team's travel schedule to accommodate time changes, since the Seahawks seldom enjoyed a short-hop road trip. It's important to note that Mora never found the right schedule.
Folks, I've been doing this for a long time and for all of the years previous to this year, it was from the Eastern Time Zone. I've covered teams that left for the West Coast on Friday, to use Saturday to get their bodies on Pacific Time, and I can think of two of those instances that resulted in embarrassing defeats.
I also remember that in Bill Cowher's rookie year as a head coach, he dared to be different and flew his team into San Diego late on a Saturday, so that it arrived just a few hours before bedtime. The next day, they blew the Chargers out. The theory was to get in and out so quickly that the body didn't have time to know where it was.
Whatever the Packers have been doing the past decade and a half, it's worked. By the way, I didn't include Arizona in my West Coast stats for two reasons: 1.) It's not on the West Coast. 2.) I'm never sure what time zone Arizona is in.
Good teams are above body talk. They will themselves to win. They find ways to overcome challenges and, by the way, the Chargers are facing a rather stiff challenge this week and it has nothing to do with Circadian rhythm and everything to do with six days rest coming off a demoralizing loss in Kansas City. Next up for the Chargers are the undefeated Packers.
Imagine Vince Lombardi standing in front of his team the week of a trip to the West Coast. "Men, we're facing a tough opponent this week, and I'm not talking about the Rams, I'm talking about our Circadian rhythm. We must defeat our internal body clocks."
What would Paul Hornung have said to that: "Coach, does that mean curfew is gonna be earlier this week?"
I decided to check Lombardi's West Coast record. It's 10-5-2.
You know what's gonna make Sunday's game in San Diego tough for the Packers to win?
A Chargers team that is desperate for a win that'll make them forget the game they blew in Kansas City.
Philip Rivers, a really good quarterback who has really good receivers.
Qualcomm Stadium, which can be a very loud and difficult place to play if it gets excited.
A Chargers defense that is No. 6 overall and No. 4 against the pass.
Yeah, playing on the West Coast is a tough thing to do when you're playing against a veteran team the caliber of the Chargers, but it has nothing to do with jet lag. Forget about that. It's an excuse the Packers have never had reason to use.
Looking at the Packers' recent history, it's tough to make a case for West Coast malaise, or whatever you want to call it, but I still say beware.
Since 1988, when the Packers have traveled to Arizona, San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego, Oakland or Los Angeles, the team is an impressive 17-6. What troubles me, though, is that two of those losses have come in seasons like this one – when the Packers have possessed legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.
The two losses, of course, were the unforgettable heartbreakers in the playoffs in San Francisco and more recently in Arizona on game-ending touchdowns by Terrell Owens and Karlos Dansby, respectively. Yes, the Packers did win in Seattle in 1996 in the regular season when they were on top of the NFC and everyone's favorite to go all the way, which is more analogous to the current situation, but the 2011 Chargers are a much stronger playoff contender than the '96 Seahawks were.
A look at the league-wide results this season makes one pause, too.
Through the first three weeks of the season, western teams hosting a team traveling two time zones or more were 5-1. Through six weeks the mark was 8-4. Teams traveling two or more time zones to the west have turned things around the past two weeks with a 4-1 mark, but three of those losses by West Coast hosts have been by teams treading water through current quarterback troubles (Oakland, Denver and Seattle). San Diego has no such issue.
Moreover, both the wins and losses by some of these West Coast hosts are eye-opening. A month ago, playoff-contending Tampa Bay traveled to San Francisco and got absolutely thumped, 48-3. The week before that, a heavily favored Atlanta team squeaked out a 30-28 decision over struggling Seattle, and the New York Giants were in the same type of dogfight against underdog Arizona, winning 31-27. Nothing comes easy out there. Something about turning the clocks back a couple of hours just seems uncomfortable.
To be honest, the only times I've seen a West Coast trip possibly impact a Mike McCarthy-coached Green Bay team, the effect was probably the week after the long travel.
In McCarthy's first season, 2006, the Packers went to Seattle for a Monday night game and lost a tough battle. Coming back home on a short week, they were whipped at Lambeau Field by the New York Jets, 38-10, one of the most lopsided losses in McCarthy's tenure.
The other time was 2009 and the aforementioned Arizona playoff game, which came one week after the Packers had just traveled to Arizona to conclude the regular season. Green Bay fell behind 31-10 before rallying valiantly.
Does any of that mean anything? Who knows? The week-after effect should be mitigated this year because the Packers play on Monday night following the San Diego game, giving them an extra day after the long trip. So they've got that going for them. Plus, the Chargers are in the midst of a three-games-in-11-days stretch the Packers are soon to embark on, so that would seemingly favor the rested visitors on Sunday.
But with Daylight Savings time ending Saturday night, the Packers are actually turning their clocks back three hours before playing this one, so I still say beware.
What do you think?