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Certain stadiums have apparently given their teams a huge home field advantage over the last three years. Others have little or no advantage. Inquiring point spread geeks want to know which is which.
If we seek causes for home teams succeeding, we might look for physical characteristics such as the thin air in Denver or the humidity in Miami. We might look for the crowd acting as a 12th man at Arrowhead Stadium. We might look for piped-in fake crowd noise used only when the visiting team’s offense is on the field, such as Bill Polian engineered in Indianapolis.
I took my own exclusive “stick a fork in them” near-final scores for the past three years and compared average victory margins at home with average victory margins on the road, for all 32 teams. Because I believe that home advantages change as coaches change, as the rest of the NFL figures out one team’s particular advantage and as the commissioner bans unfair tactics, I weight my home-field margins to favor recent seasons. I gave the 2011 season a weight of 1.00, the 2010 season a weight of 0.70, the 2009 season a weight of 0.49, and so on. Before 2009, I assumed Jeff Sagarin’s standard victory margin for a home game versus an away game, 3.11 points each way.
Here are my results for each team. Divide by 2 to get each team’s home game margin or away game negative margin.
First, I notice nothing special about Denver. The humidity advantage in Miami and Tampa Bay is pretty much gone, and there’s nothing special about Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. However, Green Bay, the icebox of the NFL, might have a legitimate climate claim as a great home field. Chicago isn’t that much warmer in winter, and Chicago isn’t that far down the list.
On the bottom of the list, Philadelphia almost looks like Eagles fans boo and backbite their own team. Andy Reid is notorious for getting off to a slow start. That may have something to do with the fans.
Near the top is Baltimore. Baltimore plays a physical game filled with 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. I wonder if a key part of Baltimore’s game is the home crowd working the refs so that Baltimore players can more easily intimidate their various visitors.
I’m curious as to why west coast teams such as San Francisco, San Diego and Seattle dominate the top of the list. It could be because of their geographic isolation. Dozens of teams east of the Mississippi all have to fly out 2000 to 3000 miles, through three time zones, and all of these teams’ away games are just as far away. Distance and jet lag really can slow a team down. This is a prime argument for not expanding the NFL to London. The place might see 8 home victories and 8 road losses every single year.
I’ve added all of these home game and away game figures into my point spreads for the regular season. If I can get an extra 1.0-points of net accuracy out of these new home-field numbers, I’ll be happy. For New England’s away game at Tennessee on 9/9, I take a raw point spread based on the two teams’ power ratings, then I add 1/2 of Tennessee’s home field advantage to Tennessee’s side, and I also subtract 1/2 of visitor New England’s home field score because they’re the away team. For week 1 I get -2.2 points, slightly favoring visitor New England. Tennessee is an average #16 team.
Note that, with the new scoring, New England sank to #2 in my power ratings behind San Francisco. This happened because New Orleans has been a wimp on the road away from their southern dome, so playing New Orleans in Foxboro is a losing proposition from the word go. New England hasn’t played a road game yet, and remember that there’s a notoriously low signal to noise ratio in preseason games.