Sports | October 6, 2021 11:14 am

Even With Fans Back, Home-Field Advantage Remains on Vacation in NFL

Road teams are 33-31 through four weeks of the NFL season

A fan of the Los Angeles Rams reacts to a play. Away teams are actually doing better than home teams this year, a trend that started last year.
A fan of the Los Angeles Rams reacts to a play against the Arizona Cardinals at SoFi Stadium.
Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty

Last year with almost no fans in the stands, home teams finished below .500 for the first time in NFL history and went 127-128-1 (.496 win rate) overall on the season. Normally outscored by a wide margin, road teams were just two touchdowns (6,353-6,339) behind home teams on the overall scoreboard during the 2020-21 campaign, according to the Associated Press.

“Obviously, home-field advantage is just not what it has been in the past,” Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, told InsideHook last year. “It’s not going to be what it was in years past.”

That trend is continuing this season as road teams have a winning record thus far, going 33-31 through four weeks.

In addition to being a continuation of last year’s trend, home teams no longer having an advantage also dates back to the 2019-20 season. During that campaign, home teams went just 132-123-1, which was the worst cumulative record for home teams since the advent of the 16-game schedule. Obviously, home teams fared worse than that last season and are on pace to do even poorer during this season’s 17-game slate.

The growing trend has started to affect the odds that sports books are assigning to games, as home-field advantage used to be worth about three points on most lines. Now, that perceived advantage only translates to about one point on the line, two at most. “In 2020 the average home line reached an all-time low of -1.3, breaking the previous low mark of -2.0 from 2019,” according to Covers.com. “Not only do 2019 and 2020 represent the two largest decreases in average NFL home lines in the last 20 years, but they also represent the only instance during that span in which there were decreases in average home lines in back-to-back years.”

With NFL fans backs in the stands, why is this trend continuing? Here’s a theory:

“NFL teams seem to be getting better at silent counts to negate crowd noise, and better at finding ways to travel comfortably and achieve peak performance whether they’re at home or on the road,” per ProFootballTalk. “In today’s NFL, there’s no real difference to playing at home.”