Miles separating NFC West from the rest

Each NFL team played eight regular-season road games in 2008, same as every season.

The Seattle Seahawks traveled 29,912 air miles for their road games. The Pittsburgh Steelers traveled 5,682 air miles for theirs.

Grantland's Bill Barnwell explores what those disparities can mean for NFL teams. He does not directly address how kickoff times compound travel issues for Western teams, but his research is welcome to those hoping to affect positive change in that area. It's good to have someone without an NFC West address carrying the conversation.

Of course, there is no remedy beyond franchise relocation for some of the travel headaches. As Barnwell writes, "Pittsburgh accrues about 1,122 miles in traveling to and from its divisional rivals, while Seattle's round-trips to their NFC West brethren clock in at a whopping 7,024 miles."

The San Francisco 49ers have fought the mileage deficit by remaining on the road between two-game swings. They did it last season and plan to do so again in 2012, this time between visits to the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets. They won close games against Cincinnati and Philadelphia during their two-game trip in 2011.

NFC West teams appear to be improving, particularly on defense. That should help them become more competitive at any time or place.

Note: I'm told ESPN.com is working to restore functionality to the comments sections.