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Harbaugh brothers manage players' body clocks

How important is each game during an NFL regular season? The Baltimore Ravens medical staff is currently examining military studies of sleep patterns to see if the team should adjust its travel and practice schedules prior to trips to the West Coast.

How many games will the Ravens play in the Pacific Time Zone during the regular season? Thanks to the NFL owners voting to modify the "West Coast" formula in 2009, just the one, a November 25 game against the San Diego Chargers that is scheduled to kick off at 1:05 p.m. PST.

"We're turning over every stone, looking at everything in our program, to find any way to get better," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said of the studies, according to

In terms of travel schedules this season, Harbaugh has it a little easier than his younger brother Jim, whose San Francisco 49ers will travel across to the east coast twice (they play at the New York Jets and New England Patriots) in 2012. As shown by Football Freakonomics in April, both Harbaughs are open to the idea that a players' body clock can have an impact on his performance.

The 49ers, who were 5-0 in 10 a.m. PST games a season ago, are considering another stay in Youngstown, Ohio as two of their three games with 10 a.m. PST starts fall in back-to-back weeks early in the 2012 season. But they shouldn't have to go to such extreme lengths.

According to Cold Hard Football Facts, the four teams from the west coast have a 32-57 record in 10 a.m. PST starts over the past five seasons. Five of those wins were by the 49ers in 2011.

Given the overwhelming evidence that teams from the west coast are at a competitive disadvantage when traveling east, and that scientific studies shows that an athlete's performance is at its peak late in the afternoon, the NFL should accommodate these west coast teams by scheduling games in the the Eastern Time Zone for the late afternoon time slot on Sundays.

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