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Home Field Advantage

Posted by Chase Stuart on July 12, 2006

In 2009, the Jets and Giants will move into a new joint stadium. It probably will be named after some corporation (JetBlue?), which is a big change from where both teams currently play: Giants Stadium. Jets fans don't like that their team plays in a stadium named after another team, and have claimed for years that it's negatively impacted the team's success. Giants fans, of course, think their stadium gives the team a great home field advantage.

While we don't know whether the name of where the Giants play home games will negatively affect New York's success, we have all the data we need to examine how Giants Stadium has been to the Jets and the Giants. That wouldn't make for much of a blog post though, so let's take a look at home field advantage throughout the entire NFL.

The Jets moved into Giants Stadium in 1983. So have the Jets really been harmed by being "homeless"? Measuring home field advantage may not be easy, but I think a team's home wins minus a team's road wins is a pretty accurate metric. Last year, Denver went 8-0 at home and 5-3 on the road, for example. Cincinnati went 5-3 at home, and 6-2 on the road. Ignoring the small sample size, that's strong evidence that the Broncos are a better home team than the Bengals.

If you just look at a franchise's winning percentage at home, you're going to overvalue the good teams. By subtracting a team's road wins from its home wins, you should get a strong idea of how good that team is at home (more on this and the NFC North at the end of this post).

So how do the Jets fair? Over the past six years, the Jets and Giants have the same number of home wins (27), while the Giants (23) have two more road wins than the Jets. This doesn't prove anything of course, but it's safe to say that the Jets and Giants were pretty equivalent in terms of football ability from 2000-2005. And while both teams won 27 games at home, it's arguable that the Jets actually enjoyed the better home field advantage since Gang Green was the worse team (based on the overall records).

Of course, I soon realized that six years wasn't enough. But this gives us a glimpse of two key ideas: home field advantage isn't consistent from year to year, and you should always be careful with your sample sizes. As Doug showed here we should always be careful with splits.

If you look at the last four seasons, the Jets have won nine more home games than road games; the Giants just three. If we go back ten years, the Jets have won 8 more at home than away, Big Blue won 8.5 more. So whatever cutoff you use may seem arbitrary and a different cutoff could very well get you a different result.

But let's use 1983, when the Jets left Shea Stadium. Because so many NFL teams have changed cities, this list of full of caveats, most of which are in the footnotes. I didn't put footnotes next to Jacksonville (1995-2005), Carolina (1995-2005) and Cleveland (1983-1995; 1999-2005), but you should note that those data are not from a full 22 seasons. One other note: I didn't include any data from the strike season of 1987.

HFA is the Home Field Advantage factor, which is simply total home wins minus total road wins. Ties were counted as half a win.

Team HFA

Kansas City 56
Denver 52
Detroit 41.5
Green Bay 40
Minnesota 39
Cincinnati 37
Tampa Bay 37
Buffalo 37
Chicago 35
Seattle 35
Pittsburgh 33.5
Dallas 33
Atlanta 32
Miami 31
Arizona1 28
New England 26
Washington 25.5
San Diego 24
Baltimore2 22.5
New York (N) 22
Houston3 21
San Francisco 20.5
Philadelphia 20.5
Indianapolis4 19
St. Louis5 16
Jacksonville 16
Cleveland 12.5
Oakland6 11
New York (A) 10.5
Tennessee7 9
LA Raiders8 9
LA Rams9 8
Carolina 8
New Orleans 6
St. Louis10 6
Houston11 2
Baltimore12 -1

1 Arizona (1994-2005) and Phoenix (1988-1993) Cardinals. For the St. Louis Cardinals, see footnote 10.
2 Baltimore Ravens (1996-2005). For the Baltimore Colts, see footnote 12.
3 Houston Oilers (1983-1996). For the Tennessee Titans see footnote 7; the Houston Texans, footnote 11.
4 Indianapolis Colts (1984-2005). For the Baltimore Colts, see footnote 12.
5 St. Louis Rams (1995-2005). For the Los Angeles Rams see footnote 8.
6 Oakland Raiders (1995-2005). For the Los Angeles Raiders see footnote 9.
7 Tennessee Titans (1997-2005)
8 Los Angeles Rams (1983-1994)
9 Los Angeles Raiders (1983-1994)
10 St. Louis Cardinals (1983-1986)
11 Houston Texans (2002-2005)
12 Baltimore Colts (1983)

I'll let you guys comment on the list, but there's one more thing to mention. The old NFC Central (1983-2001) and current NFC North is very well represented on this list: three teams in the top five, and two more in the top ten (of course Tampa Bay's in the NFC South these days).

There's probably a good bit of synergy on this list. If Green Bay is dominant at home and bad on the road, when Minnesota plays Green Bay, the Vikings will probably lose at Lambeau Field but win at home. That will artificially inflate the Vikings HFA factor. If all the NFC North teams have strong home field advantages -- and most fans probably think the Bears and Packers do -- that will drive all the NFC North teams up this list. The Bucs are an interesting study too. Tampa ranked in the top five in HFA factor from 1983-2001, with 34 more home wins than road wins. That's an average of 1.89 wins more per year playing at home. Since joining the NFC South, the Bucs have won only three more games in four years at home.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 12th, 2006 at 12:18 am and is filed under Home Field Advantage. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.