Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

20 Dec 2013

Safe at Home

Our old friend Bill Barnwell updates a study he did for Football Outsiders Almanac 2011, showing which teams truly have the strongest home-field advantage over the past decade. The answer: the NFC West, the Ravens (surprise!) and not the Saints (surprise again!). However, the gigantic difference between each team's home-field advantage from 2002-2010 and their home-field advantage from 1990-2001 makes you wonder how "real" these differences truly are. Why would the Broncos and Jaguars have advantages that were so much bigger in the 90s than in the 00s?

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 20 Dec 2013

18 comments, Last at 21 Jan 2014, 10:13am by Cheap mlb Jerseys


by Hurt Bones :: Fri, 12/20/2013 - 11:52am

Apologies in advance. Holidays and all. People passing around the purple eggnog. I'm not going to predict the Ravens winning the Super Bowl again. I haven't drunk that much eggnog, but I can layout a scenario where they do. Even if it's extremely unlikely.

1. Though it may be hard to fathom the Ravens OL is beginning to gel. It's taken most of the year, but I wouldn't be surprised if there is significant improvement in the running game.

2. They have an outside chance at the 2 seed, which gives them a bye and home field. If the Chiefs get the No. 1, I can see them getting knocked off and Baltimore hosting the AFC Championship.

3. They'd be underdogs against most NFC opponents, but if the weather is bad? Who knows?

It's Christmas time. I can dream, about a fabulous gift even though I'm probably getting boxer shorts.

by Ryan D. :: Fri, 12/20/2013 - 12:22pm

The Ravens are still mathematically capable of winning the 2 seed!? That's incredible.

by Hurt Bones :: Fri, 12/20/2013 - 12:31pm

2.2 % right now, but it could go up dramatically this week with an Indy loss and a Ravens win (coupled with a likely increase in weighted DVOA).

by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 12/20/2013 - 12:22pm

I don't know about the Seahawks and others, but I believe the reason the Dolphins had such a nice home advantage before and don't anymore has to do with how loud the crowds used to be and how much home support has dwindled in recent years. Remember that Monday night where the home crowd was mostly Eagles fans? Nightmare.

But I also think it has to do with the players. I'm certain some teams perform comparatively better in the elements than others. Marino, for example, didn't like the cold much, and he pretty much was the team.

Which leads me to another point: in some cases it's not how much better the team is at home, but how much worse it is on the road, if you know what I mean.

My point is I strongly believe this is not random, even if it is hard to fathom the whys.

The man with no sig

by Boots Day :: Fri, 12/20/2013 - 1:26pm

The biggest surprise to me in the whole study - and Barnwell for some reason didn't even mention it - is that the Saints rank pretty low in terms of home field advantage. It sure seems to me like they always struggle away from Poydras Street, especially in less-than-optimal weather.

by Perfundle :: Fri, 12/20/2013 - 4:20pm

That they struggle away from home is amplified by their last two successful seasons, 2011 and 2013, where they've gone a collective 15-0 at home and 9-8 on the road, and their playoff record, which has been 4-0 at home and 0-3 on the road under Brees. They've had their struggles at home in 2012, 2010, 2006, and even their Super Bowl-winning year of 2009.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Fri, 12/20/2013 - 4:29pm

"Why would the Broncos and Jaguars have advantages that were so much bigger in the 90s than in the 00s?"

There are a few likely explanations for the Jaguars. They were new in the 90s, and they were also good. That probably results in a larger and more enthusiastic crowd. They didn't always have to cover up those seats.

I'm not sure about the Broncos, but they did build a new stadium in 2001. I've never been there, so I have no idea, but perhaps there's something about the building itself that lessens the home field advantage. I am convinced this is the case of Lucas Oil Stadium compared to the old Hoosier Dome.

by Red :: Fri, 12/20/2013 - 5:44pm

The old Mile High was definitely louder than Sports Authority. The fans were closer to the field, and the place literally shook when the crowd was in full throat. The new stadium is still relatively loud and still makes the TV cameras shake, but not as much.

Also, the Broncos have been a finesse team for the last 15 years, so the outdoor elements probably hurt them more now than it did the teams of the early to mid 90's.

by Hurt Bones :: Fri, 12/20/2013 - 6:26pm

Like Sports Authority, Heinz Field isn't nearly as loud as Three Rivers which may account in the drop in the Steelers HFA.

by Insancipitory :: Fri, 12/20/2013 - 11:05pm

A lot of the old-new disparity is probably attributable to the rise of the silent snap count. It is much MUCH harder to get a false start off a team now with crowd noise.

I would bet that if someone looked at it they'd see team by team, or even OC by OC, changes corresponding to a decrease in false start rate over time from say the late 90s early 00s to the mid to late 00s. The false starts not being the end all and be all of the damage, but rather an indicator of how well teams deal with the environment.

Now, I think the crowd noises just complicates adjustments, and may contribute to procedure penalties like shifts and what not. It just presses on an offense and makes them more vanilla. The false starts I've seen over the last few years really are due to guys anticipating getting beat or just simply screwing up more than not knowing when the ball is going to move.

by Hurt Bones :: Fri, 12/20/2013 - 11:19pm

If that were the case, you'd expect the average HFA to have decreased over the two time periods, and it doesn't appear to.

by justanothersteve :: Sat, 12/21/2013 - 9:56pm

Someone really does need to invent a sarcasm font.

by Hurt Bones :: Fri, 12/20/2013 - 10:53pm

There are a lot of things going on that may account for the differences. Though I don’t think any explain the Jets.

1. Changes in venue. Barnwell did not differentiate between old and new stadiums. Many of the teams with the greatest variances played in different stadiums even if just one year out of a 10 year sample (Panthers, Giants, Jets). Take the Ravens who have a 2.1 point swing, but in the 6 years they played in the 90-01 sample two were at Memorial Stadium. So Barnwell has the Ravens with a 3 HFA but the HFA 98-01 at the new stadium is 3.5. That brings the difference down from 2.1 to 1.6. Personally, I think a maturation in the fan base may account for a lot of the rest.

2. Fair weathers fans. I emphasize fair weather here. A number of the cities at the top of the variance are warm weather locations where the team’s fortunes have changed between the two time frames. When Miami is in a down period, fans may stop going. Conversely fans of northern teams take the opportunity to go on Stub Hub get some tickets and take a little mini vacation in a sunny clime and watch their team in a winnable game.

Below are the teams listed in order of greatest swing either plus or minus. Asterisks indicate teams that played in more than one stadium. Notice that a number of cold weather teams that have remained in the same stadium have some of the smallest variances (Pats, Bears, Bills, Pack).

Seahawks* 3.3
Jets* 2.8
Panthers* -2.4
Broncos* -2.2
Ravens* 2.1
Dolphins -2
Washington* -1.8
Giants* 1.7
Raiders -1.7
Saints 1.7
Colts* -1.6
49ers 1.4
Buccaneers* -1.4
Jaguars -1.4
Bengals* -1.3
Chargers 1.2
Chiefs -1.1
Cardinals* 0.9
Eagles * -0.8
Falcons* -0.8
Vikings 0.8
Steelers* -0.7
Lions* -0.6
Bears -0.4
Cowboys* -0.4
Bills 0.3
Browns* -0.3
Patriots -0.2
Packers -0.1
Rams* -0.1
Titans* -0.1

by Insancipitory :: Fri, 12/20/2013 - 11:10pm

Just remember that over the span Barnwell looked at the Seahawks had legitimately 3 of the worst 5 QBs to ever play in the NFL. Stan Gelbaugh being easily the best of them, Dan McGwire (who Behring insisted on drafting over Brett Favre; not bitter), and Kelly Stouffer. Why no mention of Rick Mirer you may ask? He was that much better than the other three. So much suffering....

by BigWoody (not verified) :: Sat, 12/21/2013 - 12:34pm

And when the Seahawks were a good team in the '80s, the Kingdome was every bit as loud as Qwest/Clink is now. The refs even stopped play and called delay-of-game penalties on the crowd a couple of times. Boy, did that backfire!

I think Barnwell dismisses team quality too easily.

by Luigi (not verified) :: Sat, 12/21/2013 - 8:01pm

Excuse me but what study?

This article is a joke, not a study. The difference between point differential is toally meaningless.

If you go on the road to beat Jacksonville by 40 then win a close game at home against Denver you get a negative score?
What kind of sick joke is this?

How a team performs at home is not as relevant as how the opponent performs when visiting a given team compared to how that same opponent performs when VISITING all the other teams and adjusting by opponent too.

Then you might get an idea of how important the venue is regardless of schedule and results that won't matter.

This was not a study, it was a joke and the results are as meaningless as the bunch of nonsense written to analyze the results.

by BengalFaninIN :: Sat, 12/21/2013 - 8:37pm

I think I'd like to see a bit more statistical analysis of the numbers for one thing. How much of the variance is produced by a few outlying games, the difference between the median points for and against at home and how that distribution is different for teams in general might be interesting.

by Cheap mlb Jerseys (not verified) :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 10:13am

Nonetheless, what they will don