Home-Field Advantage Means Nothing
This Sunday, the Tampa Bay Bucanners will make Super Bowl history by being the first team to have an actual home-field advantage.
Every year one team is designated the ‘Home’ team, this is done on an alternating basis between the AFC and NFC. However, this year the Bucs will be the first team to actually play at home, in their own stadium.
The NFL works hard every year to ensure that no team has an unfair advantage over their opponent. Teams arrive one week before the Super Bowl and use predetermined training facilities and accommodation as well as being bussed around the host city for media days and exhibitions.
Due to the Covid pandemic though the league has had to radically change how it handles Super Bowl week. This year, the Chiefs will now fly out the day before the game, as they would with a regular road game, and will spend the time between the AFCCG and Super Bowl, training in their own facilities and hosting remote media spots.
Meanwhile the Bucs are staying at home, they’re using their own training facilities, locker rooms, staying at their own homes and driving to work like normal. Obviously this seems very unfair, there is obviously going to be a lot of comfort for Tampa and the Chiefs will truly be playing a game on the road.
However, in the era of Covid having one team playing at home is a massive bonus for the NFL. There is one less team travelling, they already have strict social distancing measures in place at their facilities and there is no need to draw up new protocols ahead of the game.
So are the Bucs gaining an unintended advantage? Not really, they will be missing one key benefit of having a home game. The crowd. Raymond James Stadium can seat just over 65,000 people but is being limited to just 22,000 to accommodate social distancing. 7,500 of those in attendance are vaccinated healthcare professionals who have been given free tickets by the NFL. The remaining tickets are being divided between the Bucs, Chiefs and corporate sponsors but the exact ratio isn’t disclosed.
If this was a normal year there’d be an army of Tampa Bay fans clamouring for Super Bowl tickets as they save on not having to pay for expensive travel, accommodation and food. Instead, they’re numbers are limited and they’ll be forced to watch the game at home, while their team plays only miles away.
But this year has been far from normal, this season home teams went 127-128-1 and for the first time in NFL history finished below .500. Covid is of course one explanation, nearly silent stadiums have led to road teams being able to get away with increasingly creative plays.
In the Week 3, Packers @ Saints, Aaron Rodgers was able to sike out Saints left tackle David Bakhtiari with a hard count. There were just over 700 fans in the stands that day, Only 1% of the stadium's true capacity. During any normal season Rodgers wouldn’t have been heard over the tens of thousands of Saints fans screaming the roof off.
Tampa Bay may be skipping the day-before-flight and sitting in the comfort of their home changing rooms but the advantage ends there. Mahomes will still have the opportunity to call audibles and won’t have to spend a week juggling relentless media calls and coaching sessions.