The stadiums will be full again, but is there still home-court advantage in the NFL?


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The stadiums will be full again, but is there still home-court advantage in the NFL?

Local teams had a winning percentage of just .498 in 2020, the lowest since the NFL’s 1970 merger with the AFL.

A funny thing happened on the third play of the 2020 season by the Green bay packers. Using the change in timing of the count to receive the snap, the quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Packers caused the defense of the Minnesota Vikings will jump out of place to convert a third chance. The same thing happened again a few minutes later.

Rodgers possesses one of the most effective cadence changes in the history of the NFL, but this feat was unusual. It didn’t happen in your typical Lambeau Field, where the home crowd already knows when to shut up to maximize its effect. Instead, it occurred in a near void US Bank Stadium. Fans of the Vikingsthat otherwise would have drowned out the cries of Rodgers, forcing a silent count, were banned from the party in response to Minnesota by COVID-19. The Packers They took a 43-34 victory, leading to a season of NFL that in general terms it lacked the advantage of the home.

All 32 teams in the league are on track to return to full capacity for their fans in 2021., despite the irrepressible Delta variant, and ticket sales have been sky high, based on league data obtained by ESPN. But the oddities of 2020, including a sharp increase in neutral zone infractions for home teams, should not be dismissed as random situations. Instead, they are best viewed as an accelerating indicator of a larger trend that actually began to manifest itself before the pandemic.

Local teams had a winning percentage of just .498 in 2020, the lowest figure since the 1970 merger of the NFL with the AFL. But, even with full stadiums in 2019, there had been the lowest mark (.518) since 1972, as well as the lowest percentage of teams covering against the line in betting (.437) since 1967.

According to data from ESPN Stats & InformationIn fact, home teams have had a losing record against the line in 14 of the last 17 seasons. That has happened even as distance in the lines for home teams fell 18 percent from 2015 to 2019 (-2.03) compared to the previous five seasons (-2.47 in 2010-14).

For keen observers, these figures should merit a closer inspection of home advantage, since two seemingly opposite trends collide by 2021. Season ticket renewal across the league is 92 percent, the highest mark in five years, and associated revenue is up 73 percent. The masses will be on fire, but its impact on the game – especially as a rapidly maturing secondary market has spawned a less traditional collection of attendees – seems less clear than ever.

To get a closer look at what to expect this season, let’s first review the most obvious consequences of matches without huge crowds in the stands, a glimpse of what we saw in 2020.

It is generally recognized that playing offense on the road is easier when the home team does not have a “12 man” on their side. Rodgers He wasn’t the only quarterback to figure out how to tempt defenders offside in 2020, in situations where it probably wouldn’t have happened. The Chicago Bears led the NFL with seven neutral zone infractions incurred as visitors, followed by the Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans, with six each. Overall, 54.1 percent of those penalties were scored against the home team, much higher than the 37.8 percent average from 2010 to 2019, according to league data.

“When you have a guy who is a master of cadence,” said the head coach of the Packers, Matt LaFleur, “That was a huge advantage for us from an offensive perspective.”

Meanwhile, the distribution of late-game penalties, which typically affect visiting teams, was split exactly 50 percent in 2020. From 2010 to ’19, 41.3 percent of such penalties went to home teams. .

The offensive linemen were the biggest beneficiaries of the empty stadiums, according to the left tackle of the Packers, David bakhtiari, who started 12 games in 2020 before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Being able to hear the cadence for the center of the ball, rather than having to turn and wait to see it in a noisy environment, was an advantage in both the running and passing game.

“Starting is very important,” he explained. Bakhtiari, “And if you delay a little longer, you give the edge defender, outside linebacker or defensive end, better anticipation of the ball. That puts you at a definite disadvantage from winning at that block. So it was pretty good last year. Going to certain roofed stadiums that are very noisy made my life easier. I was able to get a good look at defense, instead of looking towards the center. “

When you combine that dynamic with the inner decision of the NFL to reduce the number of handkerchiefs to hold on offense, it is probably no surprise that Offenses delivered some of the most explosive and efficient seasons in league history. The NFL set records for offensive points per game (47.52) and best expected points added (2,397), a measure of efficiency.

Does that mean the league will return to more familiar territory with fans in 2021? Maybe. but it is worth considering the changes that have occurred since the NFL ended its exclusive aftermarket deal with Ticketmaster in 2018, opening the business for several new partners. Individual match tickets are now more accessible, via season ticket owners looking to sell, and the result is that in some instances there has been a markedly higher number of away team fans in the stadiums.

In the most recent data available, resold tickets are up 56 percent, compared to 2019.

“The secondary market has continued to grow and it is a very mature market,” he said. Cory Mingelgreen, vice president of the NFL club business development. “Fans no longer need a season ticket to go to a game they want to go to. If you want to buy an individual ticket to attend a game, it is very simple to do so.”

That can be a specifically attractive option for “destination cities”, such as The Angels, Las Vegas and Miami, producing crowds with higher percentages of visiting fans, or at least a different group, than the traditional hobby of season ticket owners.

Whether the fans are supporting the home or away team, the NFL is highly motivated to refill its stadiums in 2021. The pandemic reduced total regular season attendance to 1.2 million in 2020, a 90 percent drop from 2019. It is not known how much income the owners lost, but a clue can be seen in the annual financial report of the Packers, whose shares are publicly offered. The local income of the Packers last season – which includes ticket sales and other businesses not included in the revenue split – fell by $ 149 million.

Although it is subject to change, the current NFL plan is to allow full capacity unless state or local regulations determine otherwise. Teams are free to create their own policies, and some clubs have already announced that masks will be required in certain areas of the stadiums. But, fans are clearly excited to return, minimizing any concerns about the durability of their interest after a year away, Ticket sales were up 60 percent compared to 2019, following the calendar reveal in May..

“Demand has been strong in all areas,” he said. Bobby gallo, senior vice president of the NFL of club business business development, “and we haven’t seen a decline, which has been great.”

Those ticket buyers were guided, in some cases, by a new ticket analytics platform employed by the NFL to maintain and build your digital hobby during the pandemic. As other businesses have done, the league consolidated names and contact information for potential fans who had interacted with league websites, partners, and other points of contact. The data was uploaded to the cloud, and later made available to all clubs.

On average, the league has uncovered two million new fans per team over the past year, said the league’s senior director of fan data and analytics. NFL, Justin friedman. Not all were potential ticket buyers, but the platform increased sales and was recognized by several executives of the NFL in support of rising ticket sales in the spring.

“What we have done is give the clubs the tools to achieve the best possible results,” he said. Chris halpin, Executive Vice President of the NFL and head of strategy and growth.

The 2021 season of the NFL it will not be normal, and the league continues to implement an evolving series of protocols for both vaccinated and unvaccinated. But the most visible sign of the pandemic – empty seats in cavernous stadiums – appears to be history. The impact on owners’ earnings is obvious, and the effect on the games themselves will be one of the biggest story lines of the season.


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