Y’all can pontificate forever about what went wrong in London on Sunday when the Buffalo Bills lost more than a game to the kryptonite Jacksonville Jaguars. The 25-20 loss by Buffalo also included devastating injuries to Matt Milano and DaQuan Jones (and maybe more players). Dissect this game however you wish.
Naturally, I have a few things to write about what looked like a jet-lagged Bills team sleepwalking through an NFL game. I’ll leave the analysis about why the running game didn’t work and the rest of the x’s and o’s to the guys over at Cover One.
What I would like to address is something I’ve researched and blabbered about for years in my psychotherapy practice. There is a solid body of evidence that shows an inverse relationship between quality of sleep and performance in athletes.
If the findings of evidence-based research bores you, how about we boil it down to simply this… traveling across the pond requires more time to adjust to the time change than arriving on a Friday morning (London time) for a game on Sunday afternoon.
Whoever thought this was a good idea… um, not.
Sean McDermott and staff no doubt did their own research with respect to the best way to play an NFL game in London. However, research studies do have limitations and they sometimes fail to include confounding variables that may profoundly impact results.
Let me begin by asking you the following questions:
Is it more difficult for you to wake up in the morning when it is still dark outside this time of year?
Do you find yourself more sluggish feeling during the autumn months (October/November)?
If you went to the game in London, how did you feel adjusting to the time change?
The reason the earlier autumn months affect a human’s natural biorhythms more than during December or January is because there is a greater delta (or change) in the amount of light from day to day during the early autumn months than during the late autumn and winter months. This causes the human body to react in a different manner than during the spring months when the amount of daylight is rapidly increasing.
What in the blazes am I babbling about here?
It’s highly unlikely researchers considered the time of year (early vs late autumn) and amount of daylight as confounding variables that may impact the outcome of their studies on ‘best practices’ for athletes making major changes in time zones. If McDermott relied on studies that did not consider the time of year (shorter or longer daylight hours), he may have made his plan for the team based on faulty information.
However, these variables regarding the time of year and time changes may play an important role in athletic performance and must be considered when conducting this type of research study.
Furthermore, how many of you can relate to having poor quality sleep the night before you traveled, had surgery, or any other big event? Josh Allen mentioned during one of his press conferences last week the players had been given a suggested “sleep schedule’ for the London trip. Anyone ever have trouble ‘sleeping on demand’ or according to a set schedule?
This blabber is not to disparage the effort made by McDermott & Co. to find the best practice for adjusting to a major time change. However, this “experiment” was a massive failure from my point of view and will hopefully be jettisoned the next time the team has to travel overseas to play a game.
Bear in mind I write about the ‘intangibles’ because this was my area of expertise as a working professional. There may be a hundred different factors contributing to Buffalo’s poor performance on Sunday in London. However, there’s little doubt in my mind adjusting to the time change played a significant role in the outcome of the game.
Furthermore, there are also studies showing an increase in injuries among athletes because of the change in “daylight savings time”. So… toss in what was likely a less than ideal situation in terms of field conditions because of artificial turf and you have significant challenges to overcome to win a game. And significant sacrifices were made in the form of losing more starting players on defense for the rest of the season.
What is the correct way to schedule a Trans-Atlantic trip for NFL teams playing in London or wherever there are significant time changes?
I don’t have a clue.
What I can state with confidence is the way the Buffalo Bills made this trip across the pond this season was a failure in terms of helping players adjust to the time change playing in London. Allegedly the players told others they felt “jet lagged” after landing there. They certainly looked ‘knackered’ on the field, as the British would say.
All psychobabble aside, I’m not the least bit surprised by the injuries we saw take out Bills’ defensive starters either. Tired players are at greater risk of injury. It is understood players must find a way to perform in less than ideal circumstances. However, it may be necessary to perform more research to refine best practices for athletes making significant changes in time zones.
That… and find out who stole the Buffalo Bills’ running game.
Editor’s babble: You knew I couldn’t get through another autumn without nagging about the effect of light deprivation and/or time change on player performance. Ha! If you got through to the end of this blabber and want more reasons to flog yourself, you can also find me on Xwitter @RobynMundyWYO.