For very different reasons, teams playing at home aren’t fairing as well as in the past. It was a big factor in 2019 and this season to date.
The NFL is in the midst of a season unlike any other in the past. Yes, COVID-19 is very much a reality in everyday lives throughout the world. And that goes for the world of professional football. Four weeks into 2020, one game has already been rescheduled and who knows what each will bring players, fans, and coaches.
Of course, some of the 63 contests played to date have been in front of fans and others have taken place in empty stadiums when it comes to supporters of the club. There’s been fan noise pumped into the stadiums and the product on television hasn’t seemed to suffer. But what about the players and coaches who in many instances are energized by the home crowd.
After four weeks of play, both the host clubs and the visitors have each won 31 times. There was one tie when the Bengals and Eagles played to a 23-all stalemate in Philadelphia in Week 3. So apparently the lack of fan support has been a detriment to the home team after all?
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Then again, maybe not. That’s because the NFL comes off a season in 2019 in which the home teams were a mere nine games (132-123-1) combined above .500. That’s a shocking .518 winning percentage. Compare that to the previous season (2018) when the 32 squads were a combined 153-101-2, a solid .602. The .482 winning percentage by the road teams was the second-highest showing since the merger and the best since 1972, when the league featured 26 teams and the road clubs were just three games under .500 (87-90-5), meaning the home teams barely won over 50 percent (.508) of their contests.
Lately during the playoffs, playing in front of your own fans has not exactly been an overly-decisive advantage throughout the league. Host clubs are a mediocre 11-9 the past two years during the postseason. In 2019, the Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers boasted the NFL’s best home record at 7-1. Interestingly enough, John Harbaugh’s top-seeded team in the AFC took on the chin at home in the Divisional Round via the Tennessee Titans, 28-12. A week earlier, Mike Vrabel’s club made quick work of the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots at Foxborough in the wild card round before cooling off a Ravens’ team riding a 12-game winning streak.
Last season, All told, exactly half of the league’s 32 clubs were above .500 on their own turf, meaning the other half was 4-4 or worse. Meanwhile, 11 clubs owned winning records away from home this past season – compared to only seven in 2018.
The good teams always find ways to win and there’s yet to be a stadium or building catch a pass, pull down a reception or make a tackle. It’s already been very different watching football this season without fans in the stands and minus players revving up the crowd after a sack or a first down. But these are also different times in the world.