Biggest Home-Field Edge in NFL Belongs to ... Well, it Depends

Jay Pryce

Sunday, June 10, 2018 1:10 PM UTC

Sunday, Jun. 10, 2018 1:10 PM UTC

What NFL teams own the best home-field advantage over the last decade? It depends on how you measure it, while dually figuring out the source(s). Neither is an exact science.

Since 2008, home teams in the NFL win 57.5 percent of the time, a rate consistent over the years. They outscore visitors by 2.6 points per game. This number fluctuates between 1.5 points and 3.0 depending on the season.

The following table measures a generic home-field edge for each team in this span. It shows home-away splits for each team based on average scoring margin divided by two:

Team Home Rec. (Margin) Road Rec. (Margin) Split/2
Seahawks 59-27-0 (7.00, 68.6%) 36-48-1 (-1.94, 42.9%) 4.47
Packers 62-22-1 (9.16, 73.8%) 46-44-0 (0.56, 51.1%) 4.30
Bills 41-35-0 (1.79, 53.9%) 27-53-0 (-5.81, 33.8%) 3.80
Ravens 61-21-0 (8.33, 74.4%) 42-49-0 (0.77, 46.2%) 3.78
Saints 58-25-0 (7.81, 69.9%) 40-44-0 (0.60, 47.6%) 3.61
Vikings 55-27-0 (4.41, 67.1%) 30-51-1 (-2.78, 37.0%) 3.60
Cardinals 56-27-1 (3.55, 67.5%) 35-48-0 (-3.63, 42.2%) 3.59
Jets 43-37-0 (2.02, 53.8%) 34-50-0 (-4.69, 40.5%) 3.36
Colts 55-30-0 (2.84, 64.7%) 41-43-0 (-3.52, 48.8%) 3.18
49ers 47-34-1 (2.94, 58.0%) 34-49-0 (-3.41, 41.0%) 3.18
Texans 49-35-0 (2.51, 58.3%) 32-50-0 (-3.20, 39.0%) 2.86
Lions 38-42-0 (0.12, 47.5%) 26-55-0 (-5.49, 32.1%) 2.81
Chargers 47-35-0 (5.26, 57.3%) 36-46-0 (-0.12, 43.9%) 2.69
Steelers 63-24-0 (7.25, 72.4%) 50-34-0 (1.95, 59.5%) 2.65
Patriots 79-15-0 (11.93, 84.0%) 52-27-0 (6.67, 65.8%) 2.63
Eagles 49-35-0 (5.55, 58.3%) 44-39-1 (0.29, 53.0%) 2.63
Falcons 56-28-0 (5.19, 66.7%) 43-41-0 (-0.04, 51.2%) 2.62
Broncos 56-31-0 (3.87, 64.4%) 41-39-0 (-1.26, 51.2%) 2.57
Bengals 47-33-2 (2.71, 58.8%) 36-47-0 (-2.22, 43.4%) 2.47
Bears 41-41-0 (0.73, 50.0%) 30-48-0 (-4.15, 38.5%) 2.44
Giants 46-36-0 (2.16, 56.1%) 36-45-0 (-2.59, 44.4%) 2.38
Panthers 53-32-0 (3.14, 62.4%) 36-45-1 (-1.60, 44.4%) 2.37
Titans 40-41-0 (-0.28, 49.4%) 33-49-0 (-4.50, 40.2%) 2.11
Browns 24-55-0 (-5.11, 30.4%) 14-66-0 (-8.71, 17.5%) 1.80
Rams 28-50-0 (-4.03, 35.9%) 25-54-1 (-7.50, 31.6%) 1.74
Jaguars 31-45-0 (-3.63, 40.8%) 20-62-0 (-7.09, 24.4%) 1.73
Cowboys 45-38-0 (2.86, 54.2%) 44-37-0 (-0.52, 54.3%) 1.69
Dolphins 40-39-0 (-0.38, 50.6%) 34-45-0 (-3.75, 43.0%) 1.69
Raiders 33-44-0 (-4.35, 42.9%) 28-53-0 (-6.69, 34.6%) 1.17
Buccaneers 31-47-0 (-3.15, 39.7%) 28-52-0 (-4.97, 35.0%) 0.91
Chiefs 41-41-0 (-0.07, 50.0%) 37-46-0 (-1.72, 44.6%) 0.83
Redskins 36-46-0 (-2.61, 43.9%) 28-51-0 (-4.11, 35.4%) 0.75

The Seahawks (4.5), Packers (4.3) and Bills (3.8) have enjoyed the best home-field success, while the Redskins (0.8), Chiefs (0.8), and Buccaneers (0.9) have not. Some of these teams may play worse on the road than others, perhaps obfuscating any significant edge.

Another way to measure home-field advantage is look at how well a team performed against the spread on familiar grounds in the betting market. One can use a team’s average line as a gauge to determine its probability of winning among the public. How many points they win or lose to the number can provide a sampling of how well a team performed above or below market expectations. Including the playoffs, here’s a look at the differences:

Team Avg. Line (Home) ATS Margin ATS Rec. (Home)
Patriots -8.3 3.6 56-37-1 (3.58, 60.2%)
Ravens -5 3.3 41-40-1 (3.32, 50.6%)
Packers -6.2 3 48-35-2 (2.97, 57.8%)
Seahawks -4.7 2.2 51-33-2 (2.29, 60.7%)
Saints -5.7 2.2 48-32-3 (2.16, 60.0%)
Vikings -2.4 2 50-30-2 (2.04, 62.5%)
Steelers -5.3 2 46-38-3 (1.99, 54.8%)
Cardinals -1.8 1.7 44-38-2 (1.73, 53.7%)
Eagles -4.1 1.5 40-44-0 (1.45, 47.6%)
Falcons -3.8 1.4 45-38-1 (1.43, 54.2%)
Bills -0.5 1.3 39-35-2 (1.26, 52.7%)
Chargers -4.4 0.9 36-46-0 (0.90, 43.9%)
49ers -2.2 0.8 40-37-5 (0.76, 51.9%)
Jets -1.4 0.6 41-37-2 (0.64, 52.6%)
Panthers -2.6 0.6 44-41-0 (0.59, 51.8%)
Colts -2.7 0.2 45-39-1 (0.17, 53.6%)
Bengals -2.6 0.2 42-38-2 (0.15, 52.5%)
Broncos -4.2 -0.3 39-47-1 (-0.30, 45.3%)
Lions -0.6 -0.4 37-42-1 (-0.43, 46.8%)
Bears -1.2 -0.5 32-43-7 (-0.52, 42.7%)
Texans -3.3 -0.8 39-41-4 (-0.75, 48.8%)
Dolphins -0.6 -1 30-44-5 (-0.99, 40.5%)
Giants -3.2 -1 38-44-0 (-1.01, 46.3%)
Cowboys -3.9 -1 33-49-1 (-1.04, 40.2%)
Chiefs -1.5 -1.6 36-46-0 (-1.56, 43.9%)
Rams 2.2 -1.8 34-42-2 (-1.83, 44.7%)
Titans -1.6 -1.9 35-44-2 (-1.90, 44.3%)
Redskins 0 -2.6 34-45-3 (-2.60, 43.0%)
Raiders 1.6 -2.7 31-45-1 (-2.72, 40.8%)
Jaguars 0.8 -2.9 27-48-1 (-2.88, 36.0%)
Browns 2.2 -2.9 32-46-1 (-2.91, 41.0%)
Buccaneers 0.1 -3.1 29-47-2 (-3.06, 38.2%)

The Patriots (3.6), Ravens (3.3), and Packers (3) perform the best over the last 10 years, while the Buccaneers (-3.1), Browns (-2.9), and Jaguars (-2.9) come up shortest.

Home-Field Factors

Bettors take note: Home-field advantage does not factor into every game equally. It best provides an edge when two teams matchup with similar stats, primarily those that gain and yield a similar number of points per game. Home teams win at a rate of more than 61.2 percent in this span when their average scoring margin is within a point of their opponent.

What are the reasons for home-field advantage? Loud, supportive, rowdy fans is the first force to come to mind. Communication is crucial in football. Series of plays are called before each snap; there are constant player shuffling, audibles, snap counts, and more. Fighting opposing crowd noise can easily trip up part of these procedures and seemingly provide the home team an edge. How many times have you witnessed the 12th Man in Seattle, or Who Dat Nation in New Orleans, force a premature timeout or cause a false start penalty when tilting the decibel meter? These results undoubtedly have an effect on game outcomes.

Some evidence into home crowds suggests their support is not a precondition for advantage to occur. Studies evaluating competitions without any fans still show home bias. Most players, however, believe it makes a difference. Further research is needed.

There is some evidence pointing to referee bias based on crowd influence, but the primary factor for home edge is likely due to environmental knowledge. This is not only benefiting from the gains provided by familiarity with space (i.e. unusual field conditions), but also the anxiety and ambiguity of playing in a foreign place for visitors. This is best understood by the fact home advantage decreases over time against more familiar division rivals. In the NFL, they win at a 55.5 percent clip, and by just 1.9 points per game over the last decade.

Other studies offer a mixed bad on travel patterns and distance affecting home-field advantage. Studies of testosterone levels in soccer and hockey players show intensified territorial behavior as a root cause. Whatever the case, home-field advantage exists, but at varying levels, and for different reasons.

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