Home Field Advantage in the NFL: Detroit Tops???

For years we have talked about the benefits of home field advantage – but has anybody ever really quantified it?

We've heard that a home team gets 3 points in the spread. We've all said things like, "I want to pick the Packers, but I don't know, the Giants are home..."

But, the truth is, none of us know if home field really means all that much......until now.

I analyzed some results from 2003 through 2010 and tried to quantify the actual value of home field advantage. First I looked at hard numbers – which teams won most frequently at home? Then I tried to differentiate a team's quality at home versus on the road.

The Raw Data
The table below shows each team's home winning percentage between 2003 and 2010.

Team Home Win %
New England Patriots 86%
Indianapolis Colts 81%
Baltimore Ravens 77%
Pittsburgh Steelers 72%
San Diego Chargers 69%
Seattle Seahawks 69%
Minnesota Vikings 67%
Chicago Bears 64%
Denver Broncos 63%
Philadelphia Eagles 63%
Jacksonville Jaguars 61%
Atlanta Falcons 61%
Green Bay Packers 61%
Dallas Cowboys 61%
Cincinnati Bengals 57%
Kansas City Chiefs 56%
Tennessee Titans 56%
Arizona Cardinals 55%
New York Jets 55%
Carolina Panthers 55%
New York Giants 52%
New Orleans Saints 52%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 52%
San Francisco 49ers 50%
Houston Texans 50%
Buffalo Bills 45%
Washington Redskins 45%
St Louis Rams 44%
Miami Dolphins 42%
Cleveland Browns 39%
Detroit Lions 38%
Oakland Raiders 34%

As you can see, the Patriots, Colts and Ravens had the three highest home win percentages since 2003.  The Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, and the Oakland Raiders have the three lowest percentages at home.

Well, that proves it....Gillette Stadium provides the biggest home field advantage of any field in the NFL - followed by Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.  Right? Well, not really.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the reason the Patriots and Colts have the highest when percentages at home is because (drumroll please) they're really good and win most of their games no matter where they're playing.

A better way to measure is to compare home winning percentages to their away when percentages.

Comparison of home win percentage verse away when percentage
The table below shows both the home and away when percentage for every team in the NFL between 2003 and 2010. The third column provides a ratio of home winning percentage versus away winning percentage.

Team Home % Away % Ratio
Detroit Lions 38% 16% 2.40
San Francisco 49ers 50% 22% 2.29
Arizona Cardinals 55% 27% 2.06
Seattle Seahawks 69% 36% 1.91
Baltimore Ravens 77% 41% 1.88
Minnesota Vikings 67% 39% 1.72
Houston Texans 50% 30% 1.68
Kansas City Chiefs 56% 36% 1.57
Cincinnati Bengals 57% 38% 1.52
Jacksonville Jaguars 61% 41% 1.50
St Louis Rams 44% 30% 1.47
Oakland Raiders 34% 23% 1.47
Chicago Bears 64% 45% 1.41
Cleveland Browns 39% 28% 1.39
Denver Broncos 63% 45% 1.38
Atlanta Falcons 61% 45% 1.34
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 52% 39% 1.32
Buffalo Bills 45% 34% 1.32
New York Jets 55% 44% 1.25
San Diego Chargers 69% 56% 1.25
Pittsburgh Steelers 72% 58% 1.24
Washington Redskins 45% 38% 1.21
Tennessee Titans 56% 47% 1.20
New England Patriots 86% 72% 1.20
Green Bay Packers 61% 52% 1.18
Dallas Cowboys 61% 53% 1.15
Carolina Panthers 55% 48% 1.13
Indianapolis Colts 81% 73% 1.11
Philadelphia Eagles 63% 62% 1.01
Miami Dolphins 42% 44% 0.96
New Orleans Saints 52% 55% 0.95
New York Giants 52% 56% 0.94

According the results in the table above, the Detroit Lions have the largest home field advantage.  The Lions win 2.4 times and as many games at home (38%) as they do on the road (16%).

That's interesting, but it's really a function of the fact that Detroit has the worst winning percentage overall during this time. San Francisco and Arizona are second and third in the ratio between home and away winning percentage, but they are 29th and 25th respectively in overall winning percentage during this time period.  All won less than 30% of their road games - making the home field advantage look stronger than it probably was.

The list starts to get interesting at numbers four, five and six - Seattle, Baltimore, and Minnesota.  The three teams ranked 15th, sixth and 12th respectively in winning percentage during the time period analyzed. Yet each of them had a clear advantage at home.  Each team won over 65% of their home games - while winning 41% or fewer of their road games.

The Patriots and Colts are both in the bottom ten.  This is because the Colts (73% home win percentage) and Patriots (72%) are the league's two best road teams - again, this a function of their being good overall.

The Dolphins, Saints and Giants have the worst home field advantages of all teams.......with better winning percentages on the road than at home.


Jason said...

I ran a similar study a few years ago, and my top three teams were Green Bay (OK), Detroit (waah?), and Kansas City (OK). For Detroit, I think it's a factor of them being so awful on the road than being so great at home. Not sure if that means "home-field advantage" or not.

Anonymous said...

The Seahawks are certainly not the best team in the NFL, but Century Link Field (formerly, QWEST Field) has the most extreme acoustics for 12th man coverage in the nation. It's not uncommon for noise to stop play. Even for a lackluster team, fan noise lifts them up and intimidates their opponents.

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