NFL predictions: Colts & Vikings
The great NFL teams, the teams that are sort of NBA-like in that they know they’ll make the playoffs, play all season for homefield advantage. The big winners were Indianapolis and New Orleans, who host the conference championship games on Sunday.
How much does homefield mean anymore? Since the merger in 1970, home teams are 53-25 in conference title games; they win a little more than two-thirds of the time. Which seems about right. But in this decade, road teams are more competitive, going 7-11 in conference title games. This decade, home teams have swept the conference title games only in 2008 (Arizona and Pittsburgh) and 2006 (Indianapolis and Chicago).
So the odds say one of the two road teams Sunday is likely to win. That would seem to indicate Minnesota, which has employed the novel concept of using a quarterback, unlike the Jetropolitans, who merely want to punt and get their defense back on the field. But the Vikings are playing on the road in a dome, which is supposed to be doomsday for opposing teams.
But is it? Do domes produce special advantages for NFL teams? In NFL history, home teams are 284-136 in the playoffs. That’s a winning percentage of .676, virtually identical to home teams’ winning percentage in championship games alone (.679). But dome teams are only 25-15 at home in the playoffs, a winning percentage of .625. Non-dome teams are 259-121 at home in the playoffs, a winning percentage of .682. Non-dome teams fare better at home than dome teams.
Who knew? Of course, the 21st century has brought a hybrid, retractable roof stadiums in Indianapolis, Seattle, Dallas, Houston (not that the Texans have played a playoff game there yet), Arizona. Probably some others I’m forgetting. Detroit. But the data certainly isn’t enough to make any determinations about retractable-roof stadiums yet. The dome data is clear, though. Domes don’t help the home teams any more than good old-fashioned outside air.
For grins, I tallied the home playoff records of every NFL franchise. The results will surprise you.
1. Cardinals 4-0 (1.000%): 3-0 in Arizona (all in the last two seasons with Kurt Warner), 1-0 in Chicago. The Cardinals spent 28 years in St. Louis and never hosted a playoff game.
2. Patriots 11-2 (.846%): New England never has gone inside, and it’s paid off. Teams would much rather deal with the noise than deal with the cold. The Patriots were 4-1 at old Foxboro Stadium and are 7-1 at Gillette Stadium.
3. Packers 15-3 (.833%): Green Bay won the 1939 NFL title game at old City Stadium; every other home playoff game has been at Lambeau Field. But all three home losses have come this decade — to Michael Vick and the Falcons in the 2002 season, to the Vikings in the 2004 season and to the Giants, in Brett Favre’s last Packer game, in the 2007 playoffs.
4. Redkins 13-3 (.813%): Bet you didn’t know the Redskins started in Boston? Yep. Lost the 1936 NFL championship game at Fenway Park. Then the ‘Skins moved to D.C. and went 1-1 at old Griffith Stadium. RFK Stadium opened in 1961 and the NFL’s greatest homefield advantage was born; the Redskins were 11-1 in playoff games at RFK, losing only a 1984 NFC semifinal to Chicago, 23-19. The ‘Skins are 1-0 at FedEx Field.
5. Broncos 12-3 (.800%): Now this is a homefield advantage. Play .800 ball against playoff teams? The Broncos are 1-1 at Invesco Field; they were 11-2 at old Mile High Stadium. Don’t you know Denver fans wished that 2005 AFC title game, won by Pittsburgh, had been played at Mile High instead of Invesco.
6. Lions 4-1 (.800%): Finally, something Detroit fans can be proud of. Their team is decent at home in the playoffs. Not that they ever make it. The Lions were 1-1 at the Silverdome, 2-0 at old Tiger Stadium and 1-0 at the University of Detroit.
7. Raiders 19-5 (.792%): The truth about the Raiders is this. They can be dobermans in the playoffs, if they ever get there. The Raiders were 5-2 at the LA Coliseum during their Los Angeles sojourn. They are 14-3 at Oakland Alameda-County Coliseum, including 10-2 before the hike to LA and 4-1 since.
8. Bills 10-3 (.769%): Those four straight Super Bowls by Buffalo? The Bills were 7-0 at home those seasons (1990-93). The AFC East was weak, the Bills fattened up on division foes, earned the best record and got to play at home in three of their four conference title games.
9. Seahawks 6-2 (.750%): Seattle was 2-1 at the Kingdome and is 4-1 at Qwest Field. Would be 3-2 if Tony Romo had caught that field-goal snap.
10. Falcons 3-1 (.750%): 2-0 in the Georgia Dome, 1-1 in old Fulton County Stadium.
11. Eagles 13-5 (.722%): No franchise has played so many home playoff games in so many different stadiums. The Eagles were 1-0 in the Athletics’ old Shibe Park, winning the 1948 NFL title game. They were 1-0 in Franklin Field, winning the 1960 NFL title game. They were 7-4 in old Veterans Stadium. Now they’re 4-1 at Lincoln Financial Field.
12. 49ers 19-8 (.704%): San Francisco was 1-2 at old Kezar Stadium, which makes the 49ers a robust 18-6 at Candlestick Park.
13. Cowboys 19-8 (.704%): Dallas is 1-0 at Cowboys Stadium and was 2-2 at the Cotton Bowl and 16-6 at Texas Stadium.
14. Browns 13-6 (.684%): This doesn’t count the Ravens’ 1-2 record, though it should. Same franchise.
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