The Dolphins landed Friday morning in London preparing for their Sunday showdown with the Saints continuing their nomadic last couple of weeks. A trend of recent NFL teams heading to the U.K. shows that going early to acclimate doesn’t give you an advantage. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
First, here’s local coverage of the Dolphins arriving after their Thursday overnight journey from South Florida:
— Richard Graves (@RichardGraves1) September 29, 2017
Their opponent from New Orleans elected to leave last Sunday night from their decisive road victory in Charlotte over the Panthers and spend all week in practice and preparation from the U.K. Obviously, it would appear on the surface that getting used to being six hours ahead of New Orleans time, used to the climate difference, etc. would give the Saints an edge.
Alas, just look a week ago when the Ravens played the Jaguars at Wembley and compare the team’s travel/prep time and the result.
Baltimore had beaten the Browns at home and John Harbaugh and Co. decided to follow the Saints plan and be there early, acclimate and prepare. Meanwhile, the Jags, after being thumped at home by Tennessee. decided to do what they have always done, which is practice and prepare in North Florida. Then, leave overnight Thursday to arrive Friday in London and prepare on the weekend.
Now, we’re not saying that’s the only or even, the main reason why the Jaguars blew the Ravens out, but it’s definitely compelling.
This is especially, when you consider that each of the previous two years, Jacksonville traveled the same way on Thursday overnight and beat the Bills (2015) and the Colts (2016) in London that Sunday.
Further, the Giants did the Thursday overnight routine a year ago, and promptly beat the Rams 17-10 in their meeting in the U.K. last October.
Now, in Miami’s case, they did the “weekend travel routine” to London previously in 2014, as did their opponent the the Jets, and New York won the game decisively 27-14. So, early travel was no consequence in that game.
But, consider the travel differences in 2011, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played the Chicago Bears in London for more proof that acclimating early means zero.
The Bucs had beaten the Saints at home to go to 4-2 and chose to leave that night for a week in the outskirts of London preparing and actually, practicing on a local rugby pitch. Meanwhile, Lovie Smith’s Bears traveled the overnight Thursday routine arriving in the U.K. Friday morning. The Bucs slept walk through much of the game and Jay Cutler and teammates completely outplayed them in a 24-18 victory.
Again, there are other factors involved (talent level, who has the better coaching staff, key injuries or not, etc.) but clearly, you don’t have a built in advance by going to London for an NFL game 4-5 days early.
We’ll see if, this time the Dolphins make that apparent, again, against a Saints club Sunday that’s been waiting for them all week.