Home Field Is No Advantage in NFL During 2020 Season

Home teams finished below .500 this season for the first time in NFL history

Fake and real crowd during NFL Bengals vs Jaguars game
The crowd both real and fake during a Bengals game against the Jaguars.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

During a season where games were played in front of limited crowds or none at all, the home-field advantage that has existed in the NFL since its inception was no advantage at all.

For the first time in NFL history, home teams finished below .500 and were 127-128-1 (.496 win rate) overall this season. Normally outscored by a wide margin on the season, road teams were just two touchdowns (6,353-6,339) behind home teams on the overall scoreboard during the 2020 campaign, according to the Associated Press.

Last year, home teams went 132-123-1 for a .518 winning percentage and in 2018 that winning percentage was even higher at .602 as host teams had a 564-point scoring edge over visitors. Historically, over the 50 seasons prior to 2020, the home team winning percentage was .575.

“It doesn’t feel any different playing at home or playing away right now,” said Seattle coach Pete Carroll. “It’s just evened everything out.”

Earlier this season, it appeared as if road teams were on equal par with home teams as hosts went 30-32-1 (.476 win rate) in the first four weeks of the 2020 season. Now, with 17 weeks of play complete and the playoffs coming up, the numbers bear out that home-field advantage did not exist this season in the NFL.

What did exist? Lots and lots of scoring. Teams scored an average of 24.8 points per game this season topping the previous mark of 23.4 that was set in 2013, and the AFL record of 24.5 in 1961, according to the AP.

What happened this season in the NFL is in lockstep with a study The New York Times conducted using data from Germany’s Bundesliga soccer league.

According to the data, Bundesliga teams won 43 percent of their home games with fans in the stands, compared to just 33 percent playing without fans in attendance due to the pandemic. Goals scored were also affected, with a drop of about .31 goals per game without spectators.

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