A Twist on Homfield Advantage; Bears May Benefit From Turf
A twist on home-field advantage
August, 26, 2011Aug 26
By Kevin Seifert
I recently got my hands on the Football Outsiders Almanac 2011, which as always is chock full of analytical information that helps explain, confirm and in some cases disprove conventional wisdom in the NFC North.
One of the first nuggets that caught my eye was a nine-year study on home-field advantage, or lack thereof, throughout the NFL. It has relevance in all four of our markets, but in particular for the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears. I'll explain why in a moment.
First, let's understand how Football Outsiders ranked the NFL's 32 home fields. It's based on the difference in average point differential for home games and road games. For example, if a team outscores its opponents by an average of five points at home but is outscored by an average of three points on the road, its average point differential is eight points.
In English: The study measures how much better a team's results are at home using a metric more specific than wins and losses.
Anyway, here is how the four NFC North teams ranked since 2002, the year Ford Field opened and one year before renovations on Soldier Field and Lambeau Field were completed:
Now, why is this information particularly interesting for the Vikings and Bears? Consider first the Vikings, who have done a great job, particularly over the past decade or so, of building speed-based teams that could thrive on artificial turf and a minimal number of bad-weather games.
The flip side is they haven't been well-suited for outdoor games in the latter stages of the season. In fact, their victory at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Stadium last Dec. 28 was only their second in a prime-time outdoor game in 20 years.
The contrast is worth considering for a franchise that wants to install a retractable roof in its proposed new stadium to play outdoors year-around. Would they be balancing their competitiveness or losing a net home-field advantage?
Meanwhile, the Bears' playing surface has come under fire from all angles this summer after the forced cancellation of a training camp practice. There are concerns about safety, but just as important, there have been calls from current and former players alike who suggest the current team would have a stronger advantage on a faster artificial surface.
As it is, the Bears' No. 12 ranking puts them solidly in the upper half of the NFL. Would artificial turf give them one of the best home-field advantages in the game? Or should the Bears be careful about making long-term decisions based on the skills of players on the roster at the moment? This ranking tells us there are legitimate arguments on both sides.