The 2014 NFL schedule was released last week, which means we now have an idea of how far the 49ers will be traveling for the upcoming season. The layout of the league requires the NFC West and AFC West to get the most travel miles, and the addition of games in London have not helped that.
A year ago, the San Francisco 49ers had a travel schedule of nearly 33,000 miles because they had the London game against the Jaguars. They were far and away the most traveled team, with a 6,000 mile edge on the second-place San Diego Chargers. The 49ers did solid work on the road in spite of the schedule, finishing 6-2.
This season, the 49ers will travel approximately 20,200 miles. This appears to be good for seventh most travel miles. The Raiders have the huge edge at the top of the list this year because of their own London trip. Teams with more miles than the 49ers include the Raiders, Seahawks, Dolphins, Cowboys, Jaguars and Chargers. Only the Seahawks and Chargers are not playing in London from that group.
We do not yet know if the 49ers will have a stop in Youngstown, Ohio this season. Their one opportunity for such a layover is between Week 10 and 11 when they travel to face the New Orleans Saints and then New York Giants. It's not a simple process relocating a sizable chunk of the organization for eight or nine days of travel, so it's not a lock the 49ers will end up in Youngstown during that stretch.
The 49ers schedule is sort of middle to top heavy in terms of travel. They close out the season with four of six games at home, and the two road games involve travel to Oakland and travel to Seattle. Playing on the road is difficult wherever the location, but limiting the travel to the same region or coast makes life a lot easier. If the 49ers can come into that home stretch in solid shape for a run at the division, they'll be in position to make good things happen.
According to the link above, the AFC West and NFC West top the travel schedule, with the AFC East and NFC East coming in behind them. The two East divisions are so high because they have to face the two West divisions in intra-conference play.
The West divisions will always get the short end of the stick because of the general layout of the NFL across the country. There are just so many more population centers in the east and midwest, those teams will always have the edge in travel. Of course, the NFL still has a chance to relocate a team or two to Los Angeles. The league benefits from LA remaining open because it creates a bargaining chip in negotiations for public concessions on stadium projects. But at some point I think the team adds one or two teams to the monster TV market.
If the league does that, it could provide a nice little benefit to the West divisions. If it's the Raiders and/or Chargers moving it doesn't change anything, but if teams like the Rams, Jaguars or Bills were to eventually move there, it could change things up. If the Rams move, they remain in the West but decrease travel for the other teams. If a Jaguars or Bills squad moves there, it likely results in one of the current West teams moving to a new division.