Saturday, December 28, 2013

Altitude, Attitude & Denver's Home Field Advantage

With NFL teams scrambling for playoff positioning -- sports analysts have been talking about the Broncos and Seahawks trying to clinch home field advantage -- as they march towards to the Super Bowl.  Most sports fans know that home teams have a home field advantage.  But how much of an edge is home field?  We took a look at statistics over several decades worth of data:

  • In the NFL, home teams win 57.3% of the time.
  • In MLB, home teams win 53.9% of the time.
  • In the NBA, home teams win 60.5% of the time.  
Success at home can be attributed to the impact of the crowd, getting favorable calls from officials (related impact of crowds and peer pressure) -- and the players being in familiar surroundings.  This could include idiosyncrasies of the playing field -- or merely being in the comfort of their homes (and less travel).  

Home Field Advantage for Individual Teams: Denver

To study home field advantage for individual teams -- and to adjust for stronger and weaker teams -- we compare team records at home versus their records away.  Over the longer-term time-frame, we see that:

  • NFL teams win 57.3% of the time at home, thus winning 42.7% on the road -- for a 14.6% difference.  
  • Similarly, we see that the difference for baseball is 53.9% - 46.1% = 7.8%, and 
  • For the NBA: 60.5% - 39.5% = 21.0%.  

When you add high altitude to the mix, it is clear that teams that are based in Denver may have a significant advantage over their opponents.   ...   The Rockies, the Nuggets and the Broncos all have strong records at home. Over the past decade, the Colorado-based teams have combined for one of the best home-field advantages of all major professional sports.

In the NBA, the Nuggets are about 30% better than the league average for home-field advantage (+27.6% home-field edge). In baseball, the Rockies almost double the league home-field advantage at +13.8%. Interestingly, the Broncos are only about average in terms of home-field advantage, at +12.5% over the past decade - although previously, the Broncos home-field advantage was notably strong.

Over the past decade, the Rockies and Nuggets have consistently placed at the top of their respective leagues in terms of home-field advantage, and in total the Colorado-based teams can boast "attitude at home," in addition to the "altitude advantage."
Read more here:

Seattle Seahawks: Noise

In recent years, the Seattle Seahawks have had one of the largest home field advantages in the NFL.  This has been attributed to the noise levels of their home crowds, exacerbated by their stadium, which seems to funnel the noise levels.

The noise routinely wreaks havoc on opposing offenses as quarterbacks struggle to call plays or audible at the line scrimmage without the use of non-verbal communication. Offenses are often baited into false-start and delay-of-game penalties due to the noise at CenturyLink.
Read more here:

Home Field Advantage and Confidence

No matter what NFL playoff teams clinch home field advantage, they will have a decided edge.  And -- home field advantage for the Broncos and Seahawks can go a long way in determining this year's Super Bowl participants.

Home field advantage for these teams are related to attitude, confidence and mental toughness -- concepts of sports psychology that can improve teams' chances of winning games and winning championships.

Please visit our "Who Will Win" blog for a Monte Carlo simulation of the college football BCS game.