One of my starting points with handicapping the NFL is to make my own point spreads for each game. I give each team a power rating and am able to come up with a number after factoring in home field advantage.
The old default for home field was giving the home team an extra three points. A three-point favorite at home meant that the two teams were equal on a neutral field. I don’t think three points can be blindly added for every home team anymore. I would say the league average is closer to 2.5 with some teams getting more than three and some a full point less.
There are a few things to factor when coming up with a home field advantage number. I usually start with the intensity and passion that fans bring from the parking lot into the stadium. A noisy and loud stadium gives a team a true advantage especially when the opposing team has the ball on offense.
You also want to look at location of the team. A team will have a stronger home field advantage if they are the main attraction in town on a Sunday as opposed to a place where the weather is nice and/or the city is made up of transplants.
The final factor is judging how well positioned the team is to compete. A crowd is more likely to get behind a team and create an advantage when a team is at least average and possibly contending for a playoff spot. Towards the end the the season, I’m willing to downgrade a team if they are out of contention and the players won’t be feeding off their fans.
Listed below are the home field advantage numbers I’m assigning for each team with a comment about some notable ones. I’ll mention in my weekly cheat sheet if I decide to move any of these numbers.
3.5 points for home field advantage: Patriots, Vikings, Saints, Packers
The Patriots and Packers home field advantage is based on their passionate fans and success of the team. When Rodgers was hurt last season, I downgraded the Packers to 2.5 or 3 points. The Vikings home field has moved up in the last few years after they opened their new stadium, which is very loud. The Saints got an upgrade last season when they won the division. New Orleans is one of the toughest places to play when they are rolling.
3 points for home field: Falcons, Eagles, Chiefs, Seahawks, Broncos
Atlanta isn’t known as a great professional sports town but their new stadium gives them an extra edge. The Seahawks were in the 3.5-point group and maybe even 4 points, but I expect Seattle to be down this season and not have as great of an advantage. The Seahawks were 4-4 at home last year.
2.5 points for home field: Rams, Steelers, Panthers, Ravens, Lions, Bills, Cardinals, Texans, Colts, Browns
I had the Rams as one of the lowest teams last season because there are better things to do in Southern California, but I think the city could get behind a Super Bowl contender. The Steelers could be higher, but just like the team, their fans only seem engaged for the big games. The Bills and Browns are two of the worst teams in the league, but their blue-collar fans usually make things difficult for opponents especially in cold weather.
2 points for home field: Jaguars, Cowboys, Titans, Raiders, Redskins, 49ers, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Bears, Bengals, Jets, Giants
I have the three Florida teams in this group for the reasons why I have the Southern California teams low. The Cowboys, Jets and Giants play in towns with passionate fans, but their stadiums are so big that a lot of the noise gets drowned out. The Bears also have passionate fans, but I’ve been to Soldier Field several times and it gets quiet when the team isn’t playing well.
1.5 points for home field: Chargers
The sad part about this is 1.5 might be high. They play in a MLS stadium and in a division where the Raiders, Chiefs and Broncos fans travel well. All three teams might have a majority of fans for Chargers “home” games.