MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There is a chance the Vikings could play all the way to the Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium. But, before that happens, a few things need to fall into place — most importantly, the Vikings need to secure the Number 2 seed and Philadelphia has to lose its first playoff game.
It’s one of the scenarios Vikings fans hope for given we’ve all heard how the “12th man” can make a big difference on the field. So, how important is home-field advantage? Good Question.
Statistics show home-field advantage exists. According to the authors of “Scorecasting,” NBA teams win 60 percent of their home games. For the NFL, it’s 57 percent. The NHL is 55 percent and the MLB is 54 percent.
But, come playoff time, those winning percentages increase, especially in the NFL. Boston Globe reporter Alex Speier crunched the numbers and found between 1990 and 2015, NFL teams won 67 percent of the games played at home.
“Which is a pretty significant number when you think about it,” Speier says.
He also found, during the last four Super Bowls, none of the teams who made it played road playoff games. The Packers were a major exception to this trend. They won Super Bowl XLV after winning three playoff road games.
“What we’re looking at is a pattern, not a rule. Teams can win on the road, teams do win on the road,” says Speier. “Good teams find a way to win in those meaningful moments.”
Sports watchers point out the higher-seeded (and conceivably better) teams host the games. But writers at FiveThirtyEight say that’s not the only reason for the higher winning percentages at home. They statistically controlled for the quality of the team and found home teams still win 62 percent of NFL playoff games.
There are several theories about why home-field advantage might exist – everything from players not travelling to playing in comfort in their own stadium to the energy of the fans. The Scorecasting authors found referees can give preferential treatment to home teams and very likely don’t even know they’re doing it.
“There does seem to be some kind of officiating effect of home crowds,” says Speier.
In the history of the Super Bowl, no team has ever played in their home stadium in the Super Bowl. But, they have played in the home market — twice. In 1980, the L.A. Rams lost at the Rose Bowl in nearby Pasadena and the 49ers won at nearby Stanford Stadium in 1985.