Deadspin recently did an article on a Stanford study about sleep patterns and how they might help to explain the outcomes of primetime NFL games. The general idea is that the body is wired to perceive the difference in day and night and its sleep patterns adjust accordingly. For west coast teams playing in primetime, it feels like 5:30pm wherever they are. For east coast teams, it feels like 8:30om at gametime.
By halftime, it's feeling like bed time for east coasters and that's going to affect players. The study found that this seemed to give west coast teams a distinct advantage.
The Stanford researchers dug through 25 years of Monday night NFL games and flagged every time a West Coast team played an East Coast team. Then, in an inspired move, they compared the final scores for each game with the point spread developed by bookmakers in Vegas. The results were stunning. The West Coast teams dominated their East Coast opponents no matter where they played. A West Coast team won 63 percent of the time, by an average of two touchdowns. The games were much closer when an East Coast team won, with an average margin of victory of only nine points. By picking the West Coast team every time, someone would have beaten the point spread 70 percent of the time.
The Eagles, thankfully, have no such games this season. But I looked back over the last 10 years to see if this pattern holds true. I looked at all Eagles primetime games, not just Monday Night, because if sleep patterns are the issue, then it shouldn't matter the day of the week right?
Here were the results
Thursday, Dec 1, 2011 - Eagles 14 @ Seahawks 31
Sunday, Oct 10, 2010 - Eagles 27 @ 49ers 24 (49ers were winless at that point)
Thursday, Nov 27, 2008 - Eagles 48, Cardinals 20
Monday, Dec 5, 2005 - Eagles 0, Seattle 42
Monday, Nov 25, 2002 - Eagles 38 @ 49ers 17
Interestingly, there aren't actually many of these games. Usually if the Eagles are in primetime, its against a division rival like the Giants or Cowboys. Same for most of these West Coast teams.
But combing through the Eagles recent history, there actually isn't compelling evidence to say that sleep patterns played any notable affect on the outcomes of their games.
It should be interesting though, after seeing this, to see how things shake out this year. There are no east coast vs west coast Monday night games this year.
The Packers play the Seahawks, but the Pack are based in the central time zone.
The Lions, who are not east coast but are in the eastern time zone, will play San Fran on Sunday night. The 49ers will play the Patriots in week 15 and the Chargers will play the Jets in week 16. Those are both flex games though... So that could be a chance to see whether this advantage holds.
Football Outsiders looked at some historical records and found that indeed, west coast teams have been dominant.
Clearly, the MNF trend continues to this day: West coast teams over the past 17 years had a 16-5 record against east coast teams, with an average victory of 18.5 points (32.6-14.1) and a 76.2% winning percentage against the spread. They're currently on a four-game winning streak of the 37.0-11.5 variety.