A few weeks ago, the NFL released its 2013 schedule. I was flying out to Phnom Penh that afternoon so I put together a very quick NFL road trip plan, which I do every year just for fun. It took about 30 minutes to prepare and wasn't very good, as I realized after I returned to Singapore.
The main flaw was starting in Denver and moving to the West Coast without including a visit to the Arizona Cardinals. That strategy forces a return trip to Phoenix which essentially means criss-crossing the country four times. I knew that there was a better plan, so I resorted to the old standby: the roadtrip matrix. Using a spreadsheet program such as Excel, you enter the dates along the left side and the teams along the top, in roughly the order you would visit them while driving. Then you fill in the matrix when a team has a home game on that date. The entire season is thus visible at a glance. As an example, check out a portion of the full matrix below:
Den Ind Cin Cle Pit Buf Was Bal Phil NE 5-Sep Bal 8-Sep Oak Mia Ten NE 9-Sep Phi 12-Sep NYJ 15-Sep Mia Car Cle SD 16-Sep Pit 19-Sep KC 22-Sep GB Chi Det Hou TBThis shows home games for ten cities for the first three weeks of the campaign. For example, Baltimore plays in Denver on September 5th, Indianapolis hosts Oakland on the 8th, and so on. You can quickly see what the possibilities are for a trip that would allow for at least two games per week for those three weeks (one possibility: Denver, Pittsburgh, Washington in Week 1, New England, Buffalo, Cincinnati in Week 2, and Philadelphia and Baltimore in Week 3).
When looking at all 32 teams over 17 weeks though, it becomes a bit more difficult to immediately see a possible route. The next step is then to group geographically proximate locations together, highlighting a series of games that can be seen. For example, you’d want to see the Chiefs and Rams around the same time, the three Florida teams, the two New York teams, the five clubs on the West Coast, etc. When you do this, the path that you would have to take becomes a lot clearer
The Thursday and Monday night games are also key considerations. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to realize that achieving 32 stadium visits in 17 weeks means two games per week most of the time. Assuming you see a game every Sunday, you’d then need to see either the Thursday or Monday game in 15 out of the 16 weeks (there are no non-Sunday games in the final week). This really limits your choices. It might be nice to see a game in Kansas City on one Sunday and St. Louis the following week, but if that means missing the Monday and Thursday games in between, it really hampers the overall trip. So you are looking for weeks where a team with a night game is close to a team with a Sunday game. You also want to avoid seeing a team on a Sunday if it happens to have a suitable night game later in the year.
Keeping all this in mind, I was able to put together the following trip, beginning with the season opener in Denver and ending in Seattle. Note that this trip is different than the one first posted - I moved St. Louis and Kansas City earlier in the year (better opponents) and then Detroit and Buffalo after New York, with the Miami and Carolina games moved a bit later in the trip to the Southeast.
Thu Sep 5 Baltimore at Denver 6:30 Sun Sep 8 Oakland at Indianapolis 1:00 Mon Sep 9 Philadelphia at Washington 7:10 Thu Sep 12 NY Jets at New England 8:25 Sun Sep 15 Cleveland at Baltimore 1:00 Mon Sep 16 Pittsburgh at Cincinnati 8:40 Thu Sep 19 Kansas City at Philadelphia 8:25 Sun Sep 22 Chicago at Pittsburgh 8:30 Thu Sep 26 San Francisco at St. Louis 7:25 Sun Sep 29 NY Giants at Kansas City 12:00 Thu Oct 3 Buffalo at Cleveland 8:25 Sun Oct 6 Detroit at Green Bay 12:00 Thu Oct 10 NY Giants at Chicago 7:25 Sun Oct 13 Carolina at Minnesota 12:00 Sun Oct 20 New England at NY Jets 1:00 Mon Oct 21 Minnesota at NY Giants 8:40 Sun Oct 27 Dallas at Detroit 1:00 Sun Nov 3 Kansas City at Buffalo 1:00 Sun Nov 10 Dallas at New Orleans 7:30 Mon Nov 11 Miami at Tampa Bay 8:40 Thu Nov 14 Indianapolis at Tennessee 7:25 Sun Nov 17 Arizona at Jacksonville 1:00 Mon Nov 18 New England at Carolina 8:40 Thu Nov 21 New Orleans at Atlanta 8:25 Sun Nov 24 Carolina at Miami 1:00 Thu Nov 28 Oakland at Dallas 3:30 Sun Dec 1 New England at Houston 3:25 Sun Dec 8 St. Louis at Arizona 1:25 Sun Dec 15 Kansas City at Oakland 1:05 Sun Dec 22 Oakland at San Diego 1:25 Mon Dec 23 Atlanta at San Francisco 5:40 Sun Dec 29 St. Louis at Seattle 1:25There is only the one west coast trip at the end, so you are looking at just over 21,000 highway miles starting and ending in Denver. There are a couple of tough Sunday/Monday combos, particularly going from the Sunday night game in New Orleans to the one in Tampa on Monday. As well, most of the cold-weather cities would be dealt with in September and October. There are three Thursday-Sunday-Monday trifectas but two of them are in the first two weeks, which helps keep the latter part of the schedule more spaced out for relaxation and less driving.
The trip would last for 118 days and there are several good games on the slate. The Raiders and Chiefs are seen as the road team 3 times, and there is one home-and-home (Jets-Patriots). It is the best trip I've put together in the seven years I've been doing this. Most trips are 24,000 miles or more, so this is the most economical one. In fact, this is so intriguing that I am actually thinking of doing it!
Without getting into details, my personal life will be undergoing some changes and I might have a few free months at the end of the year. Why not complete the holy grail of sports road trips? I've already booked a rental car and am beginning to look at the logistics and overall cost. The final decision will be given in early July.
Update: It's July and I'm going on the trip, but not this one. I altered the schedule a bit and leave for Denver on September 4th on my NFL Stadium Journey!