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Seattle’s HFA

As usual, Aaron Schatz provided some interesting information in his weekly DVOA recap. He was looking into Seattle’s home/road splits, and found that the data support what you already know:

[W]hen you look closer at home-field advantage over a period of several years, almost every team generally has the same home-field advantage, which in DVOA works out to about 8.5% on offense and 8.5% on defense. Teams will see their home-field advantage bounce up and down if you only look at things in eight-game periods that coincide with specific seasons, but if you put together six or seven years of data you are going to end up close to 8.5% difference most of the time. The biggest exception seems to be the four NFC West teams, which over the last decade have enjoyed the four largest home-field advantages in the league. And of those four teams, the biggest exception by far is Seattle.

I don’t doubt that Seattle is a much better team at home than on the road. But here’s the question on my mind today: is Seattle much better at home because, well, they’re much better at home…. or because they simply get more favorable home games than the average team? That might sound like the same thing, but Jason Lisk has done a bunch of research on home field advantage as it relates to climate and distance between the teams.

The table below shows the distance each team has traveled this season. The “road” column represents how many miles the team has traveled when they were the road team while the “home” column shows how many miles their opponents had to travel. Note that I excluded the Patriots/Rams game in London, but instead pro-rated their half-seasons to eight games.

Team
road
home
San Francisco 49ers2202423317
Oakland Raiders2317722505
Seattle Seahawks2305921130
San Diego Chargers2075520135
Arizona Cardinals1905819569
Miami Dolphins1798118038
New England Patriots1231117764
New York Jets1084617280
Carolina Panthers906714109
Denver Broncos1493313480
St. Louis Rams1298013248
Dallas Cowboys1482613057
Houston Texans1316812705
New Orleans Saints1153912592
average1255812562
Atlanta Falcons876312016
Minnesota Vikings886511633
Tampa Bay Buccaneers1376611493
Buffalo Bills1284511336
Kansas City Chiefs1198710982
Green Bay Packers801310776
Baltimore Ravens891610642
Cincinnati Bengals780110270
Jacksonville Jaguars126079948
Detroit Lions106158659
New York Giants98988416
Chicago Bears99067167
Tennessee Titans94817141
Indianapolis Colts66087090
Pittsburgh Steelers96426792
Cleveland Browns91986784
Washington Redskins72306022
Philadelphia Eagles99925878

Seattle is the most isolated team in the NFL. Now if an expansion team was place in Vancouver or Portland, my guess is that such a team would fare no worse against Seattle than the Giants do against the Eagles or the Jets against the Patriots. But right now, no one is all that close to the Seahawks:

NFL Map

There are also climate issues at play here. Think of the coldest NFL cities — Green Bay, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo, New England, Denver, Kansas City. They all play in divisions with other cold-weather teams. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are playing teams from California, Arizona, or Missouri in their division. The climates are significantly different. Climate effects are very real but also very complicated, so that’s best left for another day.
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