Seattle's CenturyLink Field Supremacy

Friday January 9th, 2015

By Keith Goldner

numberFire.com

No team wants to play in Seattle. Why would they? Over the last three seasons, the Seahawks have gone 8-0, 9-1, and 7-1 at home—24-2 in total. That’s downright dominant.

This postseason, the Seahawks have once again secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, which means they won’t play another game outside of CenturyLink until the Super Bowl.

How big of an advantage do they really have? Using optimization, we at numberFire.com took a deep dive into home-field advantage over the last three years to see just how impressive Pete Carroll and company have been.

The Method

To determine which team is the most dominant at home, we created a series of home and away rankings for each team. We then used these rankings to estimate the expected score differential of every non-neutral field game since the start of the 2012 season and compared that to the actual results. Using optimization, we solved for the home and away rankings that give us the closest overall estimates to the actual results. This helps adjust for not only home field advantage, but strength of schedule as well.

For example, we may say that Indianapolis’ home rating is 3.4 and Cincinnati’s away rating is 0.5. That means in a game between the two teams in Indianapolis, we would expect the Colts to win by 3.4 - 0.5 = 2.9 points on average.

Top Ranked Home Teams

Team

Point Differential at Home

vs. League-Average Team

Seattle 13.8
Denver 12.2
New England 10.2
Green Bay 9.3
Baltimore 6.7

  

Seattle is indeed the top ranked home team in the NFL over the last three years. Their 13.8 ranking shows that, at home against a league-average opponent, Seattle would be expected to win by almost two full touchdowns.

Denver is a close second at 12.2, followed by New England at 10.2. You’ll generally see the best teams be the top teams at home (and away) since team skill level is included in the ranking.

Here are the top road-ranked teams:

Team

Point Differential on the Road

vs. League-Average Team

Denver 8.2
San Francisco 7.0
Seattle 7.0
New England 6.6
Dallas 2.9

  

Notice that Seattle, Denver, and New England all appear here as well.

Team-Adjusted Home Field Advantage

So, we know that Seattle is the best team at home in the NFL, but what about home field advantage? How much does Seattle gain by playing at home versus a neutral field or on the road? Is CenturyLink the very best stadium in which a team can play?

To answer this, we can look at the difference between each team’s home ranking and away ranking and divide it by two. This methodology does have one huge assumption, though—it assumes that teams play equally well and poorly at home versus on the road. This could be a faulty theory, as it’s possible that a team would play extremely well at home and not much worse on the road (or vice versa). But, without an adequate sample size of neutral games to help isolate each team’s specific home field advantage, we have to assume this is true.

Team

Home-Field vs. Neutral-Field

Advantage

Green Bay 4.5
Buffalo 4.0
Arizona 4.0
New Orleans 3.5
N.Y. Giants 3.4
Seattle 3.4

  

Lambeau Field comes in at No. 1 with the Packers ranking 9.3 at home versus just 0.3 on the road. Green Bay went 8-0 at home this year and have only lost four regular season home games during the three-year period.

Seattle actually comes in at No. 6 in the NFL, adding an estimated 3.4 points when playing at home versus a neutral field.

So, while CenturyLink may not be the most dominant stadium in the NFL, the Seahawks are certainly the most dominant team at home over the past three seasons. With the road to the Super Bowl going through Seattle in the NFC, it is going to be an uphill battle for anyone else to reach the big game—starting with Carolina.


 

Keith Goldner is the chief analyst at numberFire.com, the leading fantasy sports analytics platform. Follow him @keithgoldner.

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