Tuck: NFL Home-Field Advantage Does Not Matter
106-147. On the surface, it blows the title of the article out of the water. That was the record of road teams this season. That’s a .419 winning percentage. Probably about what you would expect. So how do I even begin to make the statement I made?
Easy. Without even looking at anything this year, it’s easy to review history.
The Green Bay Packers advanced to the Super Bowl as the #6 seed last year with three road wins. The 6th seeded Jets advanced to the AFC Title Game with two road wins. Road record: 6-4
In 2009 the #5 Jets again won 2 games to get to the AFC Title Game. The #6 seed Ravens also won a road game. Road record: 3-7
In 2008 both 6-seeds, Baltimore and Philadelphia, advanced to the title games with 2 road wins apiece. #4 seed Arizona also won a road game on their way to the Super Bowl. Road record: 5-5
In 2007 the Jags and Chargers each won a road game, but the #5 seed Giants won 3 straight the road on their way to winning the Super Bowl. Road record: 5-5
New England and Indianapolis each pulled off a road win to advance in the playoffs in 2006. Road record: 2-8
In 2005, #6 seed Washington won in the first round. #5 seed Carolina won back-2-back road games on their way to the NFC Title Game. Of course on the other side of the bracket, 6th seeded Pittsburgh would win 3 in a row on the road on their way to winning the Super Bowl. Road record:6-4
Combined road record: 27-33. The home teams are barely above .500 over the last 6 years in the playoffs at home.
I could stop there, but I dug some more.
Why aren’t the home teams (or higher seeds) performing the way they should? First, I think that is the wrong way to look at it. I think you have to look at the way I stated the success of road teams as opposed to the failure of the home teams.
Teams that win and make the playoffs in the NFL have good records. You accumulate a good record by winning at home and away. This goes without saying, but it was worth looking at. After all, I did tell you what the overall road record was at the top of the article, and it wasn’t great.
So I looked at the playoff teams this year. Combined road record of the 12 playoff teams this season: 62-34.
That’s an impressive .646 winning percentage. The home records of those playoff teams was outstanding, as you’d expect, at 72-24. But only 10 games better for what is perceived as a big advantage is notable.
Basically what I conclude the recent road success of teams isn’t by accident. These playoff teams have demonstrated they can win anywhere during the season. Home-field doesn’t hurt, but it isn’t a deal-breaker in favor of the home team either. The better team will win no matter where they play it.