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Friday, January 2, 2009

The Disappearance of Home Field Advantage

Some very interesting stats:
Last 25 years (1983-2008) Homefield team outscores Visitor by +3.1 ppg
Last 10 years: +2.8 ppg
Last 5 years: +2.5 ppg
Last 3 years: +2.1 ppg

So homefield advantage is eroding. Simmons at ESPN has an interesting theory on why, and I STRONGLY urge you to read what he had to say.

I bring these things up naturally because of what the Steelers did in the 2005-6 playoffs and what the Giants did in in the 2007-8 playoffs. Homefield is not what it is cracked up to be. There are many games at Giants Stadium that are worthy of a funeral march as opposed to the energy of the 12th man. Still, to be fair, the Giants are a pretty good homefield in the playoffs, having been there for Washington Jan1987, Eagles Jan2001, Vikings Jan2001. Yes, I am 3-0 in Giants playoffs games and have been there for both NFC Championship victories in the Super Bowl era. I will not be at the stadium this playoff run because I am one of those hdtv guys who does not miss the stadium anymore. I ask myself whether the new Stadium being built will make the 'advantage' grow even narrower. Between all the PSL stories and the Simmons article above (what, you didn't read it? READ it!) I think it is obvious that the new stadium will lose some of its energy.

The sage of the locker room, elder statesman Amani Toomer was succinct and perfect in stating the advantages and disadvantages of homefield in the playoffs: "(Home-field advantage) just gives you an opportunity. It didn't help the Cowboys much last year. That's how I look at it. They're not going to give us an extra seven points when we start the game." To reach the Super Bowl again, the Giants — spared the road and the wild-card round — need to win only two games at home. So how does it feel for them to be the bull’s-eye in the target instead of the arrow in the bow? Is it different? “Not very much,” the veteran wide receiver, said. “I don’t think we get much respect from a lot of teams that we play. A lot of experts really don’t pick us to win it all. There’s definitely that feeling in this locker room.”

Barring Eli Manning learning how to throw a tight spiral in the wind, the Giants do not have a distinct homefield edge. The only edge they have is a week off, turning the tournament of 12 to a tournament of 8. And the time to heal some inuries. Once was a time when being the #1 meant a lot more. The Giants have the maturity and discipline to leverage that and not waste the opportunity. If Toomer plays half as well as his words, the Giants are in pretty good shape.


Motown Blue said...

Great article and good logic from a......Boston guy. I think the NFL owners and especially Tisch/Mara are in for a rude awakening economically. They leveraged on the good times as they knew could install luxury accomodations, milk parking fees etc. and corporate execs could find room in their budgets for entertainment expenses. The wealthy egos wanted season tix in the luxury suites much like they wanted their status symbols of yachts, expensive sports cars etc.

It will be intersting to see what develops in NY now that Wall street is laying off exces and under pressure to produce in a down market/economy. I do hope those luxury boxes which were subsidized by the years of loyal fans will be 100% empty. Correct me if I am wrong but didn't mama Mara state that if Wellington had it his way they would still be in the Polo Grounds? There is a certain bond of regular and long time season ticket holders at the game that I am sure many of you will attest to. Much like this community they are all aware of the past and can joke about it or revel in the memories. That will never be replaced by the above new ticket holders.

However, I would like to analyze the home field numbers more. Need to look at it since the wildcard expansion and comparing when taking out the wildcard games. We know the playoff system is far from perfect as several divsions are far weaker than others. Look at the AFC west, NFC north and NFC west. Arizona would get killed in the NFC east, San Diego would have been buried long ago in the AFC south. The fact that the division winners get automatic home field skews the numbers.....I will try to squeeze in some time today to look.

Brian said...

Simmons has a great point about home field, but I also think the winter weather gives the Gmen a decided advantage over warm weather and dome teams. The only team in the playoffs that scares me is the Eagles who are used to the weather and have such a good short passing game for the wind. Now that Reid has figured out that he has a great inside runner on the team named Buchalter they're doubly dangerous. I'll be rooting hard for the vikes for sure!

Andy F. said...

Motown, if u want to crunch playoff numbers, filter for 1994+, as the greatest change has been in free agency jumbling talent.

Re the cold weather advantage, I would hope the Giants would be doing some of their practicing outside instead of the inside the bubble. And I think I stated this before, but if not will say it here... if your franchise's goal is championships, the coaches (in the offseason) or the GM (through an incentive in the contract) have to ask Manning to change his delivery for the tighter spiral. Simms did it, and any QB who is going to get signed for multi years needs to do it as well. It is not a question of if, but WHEN you will face wind in the Meadowlands. THAT is a tangible home field advantage that can even pay dividends in an away playoff game if there is a recently passed weather front.

Mitch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

Historically, Eli has looked terrible in the wind, but I think he showed some improvement in the Carolina game. The big story was the running game, but if you look at the game Eli had - 17-27, 185, 1 td, 0 int, thats a great game for the Meadowlands in December, exactly the type of game that Sims would give us. The key to the passing game in the wind is the short and intermediate routes - Screens, dumps and the TE over the middle and down the seams.

The outside should be nothing more than a decoy to keep the defenses honest, throw one or two long ones early to Hixon to stretch the field and establish that we will do that, and the CB's and Safety's have to respect it and can't cheat up in the box. Once that is established, the running game can do its thing with out 8-9 men up, and the passing game can be used when needed to move the sticks and keep possession. The problem we always have is when that down the field pass works the first couple of times we try it, Gilbrown falls in love with it and we get off of our game plan.

You can't throw down the field regularly and be successful in Giants stadium on a windy day. No one can, not Eli, not Peyton, not the Greatest Show on Turf era Warner, not the Clayton/Duper era Marino, not even the Air Coryell era Fouts. When Gilbride falls in love with the down the field passing game on a windy day, we lose every time. Hopefully Coughlin has him locked in a room watching the tape of the Cowboys loss on a loops, its a perfect illustration of what to do (Cowboys on O) and what not to do (Cowboys on D) against an aggressive blitzing defense on a windy day in the Meadowlands.

Motown Blue said...

Ok, my numbers are broke down home field since 1994 wild card games versus non wildcard:

Wild Card:

Home team: 39 wins
Visitor: 17 wins
Percent: 70%

Non Wild Card:

Home Team: 51 wins
Visitor: 32 wins
Percent: 61%

But since 2001 and prior to 2001:

Since 2001 wild card home teams won 61%. Non wild card games home team won 62% since 2001.

From 1994 to 2000 the home team in wild card games won 76%. Home teams in non wild card games won 59.5% between 1994 and 2000.

Andy made a good point that you would need to split the numbers between pre free agency and current.

Big change in wild card games prior to 2001. This only supports what Simmons wrote. I still think they need to give the home field to teams with the better record versus division winners.

Bottom line I was incorrect on the wild card games skewing the numbers.

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