Home-field advantage is a real thing in the NFL. Home teams win slightly more than away teams. This can be for many reasons. Genuine home-field advantage—such as domes, wind, high altitude and so forth—exist for many teams. Having the crowd on your side has value.
Another form of home-field advantage comes from the referees. Referees may feel motivated or be influenced due to the surrounding crowd. Players may be more demanding of calls in their home venue.
The use of replacement referees has been a big issue in the first two weeks of the NFL season. Could the referees be more susceptible to home-field advantage than regular referees?
In the NFL in Week 2, home teams went 14-2. While 16 games is not a huge sample set, it is also not trivial. The two victorious road teams were the Arizona Cardinals—who won when the New England Patriots missed an easy field goal—and the Houston Texans—who beat up on the frail Jacksonville Jaguars in a game referees could hardly impact.
Is it purely coincidence that Week 2 came one missed field goal away from home teams being 15-1?
Some of the subjective calls have been a big source of problems with the replacement referees. Calls like pass interference and offensive holding have been called with little consistency throughout the league. If offensive linemen and defensive backs can exploit the referees on their home turf, the results of close games can easily be altered.
It could be coincidence, but there is growing evidence to the contrary. Keep an eye on home teams in Week 3, and hope that your team has its tough road games later in the year when there will be proper referees.
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