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Travel might be overrated as a game changer

>Q: As you mentioned in the season preview, the Bills' schedule this year is quite unusual. This is the first time ever we get all four West Coast teams in Orchard Park in one season. Has there ever been a scientific study on the effects of cross-country travel on a team's performance? Are there statistics that quantify the time-zone-travel handicap?

-- Dave Meinzer, Buffalo

A: Here's what my quick research has found. It's harder for West Coast teams to come East than vice versa. This makes sense. For a 1 p.m. East Coast game, a West Coast player's body feels like it's 10 a.m. That seems like a bigger adjustment than an East Coast team playing at 1 p.m. Pacific time. Last season, when West Coast teams traveled across three time zones to play on the East Coast, they went 2-15. This year, West Coast teams have started off 0-3 on the East Coast. I say the effect of travel isn't quite as great as the numbers suggest. A big factor is the NFC West is historically weak and the NFC East is historically strong.

Going the other direction, East Coast teams are 49-70 when they travel to the West Coast since 2000. This includes games at Arizona, even though Phoenix is on Mountain time. (I include it because it's still a very long flight.) That's a success rate of 41.2 percent. Overall last year, road teams went 112-144. That's a success rate of 43.75 percent. So the difference in traveling to the West Coast does not seem statistically significant.

The Bills are 9-24 traveling to the West (this includes Arizona) since 1970. But I'm not sure this says much beyond a bunch of bad Bills teams have been whipped by a bunch of better Raiders and Chargers teams on the road over the years. The Bills are 1-6 at the Raiders and 2-8 at San Diego in that stretch.


>Q: Who are the good tight ends who could help the Bills next year who we should be watching for on college football telecasts this fall?

-- Brent Jackson, Cleveland

A: Great tight ends are very hard to find. The Bills seem determined to have tight ends who can at least block a little, but the college game is producing many more who are finesse pass-catchers. The Bills didn't want a glorified wideout in April's draft. So we have to keep that in mind.

The top senior probably is Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew (No. 87). He's 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds. He caught 54 passes last year and he can block. But character is a question. He was arrested for assault in January. The top junior is Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham (No. 18). He's 6-foot-6 and 250 but he's used mostly split out wide and doesn't block a lot.

A senior to watch is Fresno State's Bear Pascoe (No. 85). He's 260 and with good hands and he's a good blocker. Fresno is on ESPN on Nov. 7 versus Nevada. Williamsville North product Dan Gronkowski, No. 13 for Maryland, is rated eighth among tight ends by He is an all-around player. Boston College's Ryan Purvis (No. 80) is 258 pounds and caught 54 passes last year. But he's a tad soft as a blocker.


>Q: Did the Bills make a good decision in not trying to retain Jonas Jennings? How is he doing in San Francisco?

-- George Whittier, Buffalo

A: Jennings still has not been able to shake the injury bug since leaving Buffalo. He has been out the past two games with a shoulder injury and coach Mike Nolan ruled him out for this week's game against the Pats. An ankle injury limited him to only five games last season. So over three-plus seasons, Jennings has played in only 23 of 53 games for San Francisco.

Question Mark appears in Football Friday every week. Mark Gaughan will answer questions about the Bills or any other NFL issue. Send your questions by e-mail to or mail to Question Mark, The Buffalo News Sports Department, One News Plaza, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240. And you can chat with Mark live today, around 11 a.m. Go to BillBoard at

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