If you have ever been to a sporting event live in person you know it can be a memorable experience. Watching incredible athletes play in front of tens of thousands of people is exhilarating.
Obviously the excitement of being a fan in the big crowd at a game is real. But is there any affect for the teams on the field? We looked at the numbers to determine if home field advantage in the NFL is legitimate.
Is playing at home an advantage in Sports?
According to a study by fivethirtyeight, home field advantage does exist, especially in the NFL. The study took every game played in all four major sports since 2000 to prove whether or not the claim could be supported.
Both the NFL and NBA have significant home field advantages throughout the regular season and the playoffs. However, as you can see, it didn’t have much of an impact in the NHL and MLB. There could be many factors that make it more important in the NFL like the size of the venue, number of fans in attendance or even the absence of travel.
NFL Home Field Advantage
As shown in the table above, home teams in the NFL win 57% of regular season games but 65% of playoff games. Now, the jump in win percentage could be because the home team in the playoffs is always a higher seed, meaning they earned their spot with a better record, and therefore should be a better team.
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This can be backed up by the round by round analysis of home field advantage.
Over the last ten years of playoff football, the home team has won 64% of the games, which lines up with the study from earlier.
But look at these crazy numbers:
Home Field Advantage by Playoff Round
The Wild Card games split 50-50 for home and away teams. The divisional round saw the home team win 30 out of 40 games (75%) and the championship round had the home team winning 14 out of 20 possible opportunities (60%).
What this says is that having a home game in the wild card round doesn’t mean much at all. But having a bye week, and thus a home game in round two, is a massive advantage. This is why having a higher seed in the NFL playoffs is crucial.
As for the decrease in win percentage from 75% to 60% from the divisional round to the championship round, it can probably account to neither team in the matchup having a bye week advantage like they could’ve had in the divisional round against a team that had just played the week prior.
Just look at the Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady rivalry, two of the best to ever suit up. The home team won 12 of 17 meetings, including the final seven games of Manning’s career. What about the playoff games between the two you might wonder? The quarterback that was at home never lost in the playoffs (5-0).