NFL Power Rankings: Ranking Every Postseason Candidate by Home-Field Advantage
The NFL playoff picture is beginning to crystallize as the top teams battle to host postseason games. The strength of that advantage can inspire a team to lift its game as the Seattle Seahawks did last year when they knocked off the New Orleans Saints in the first round.
Not every team has the inherent advantages that CenturyLink Field (formerly Qwest Field) provides. The Green Bay Packers may ooze tradition from Lambeau Field, but the doesn't mean that opponents' play will suffer.
The main weapon that home crowds utilize is noise. Thus, teams that play in domes, like the Detroit Lions, have the built-in asset of a domed roof to amplify the spectators' cheering.
The following rankings will provide the reasoning behind why the San Francisco 49ers and Saints are so anxious to get the second seed in the NFC.
19. New York Giants/New York Jets
The New York Jets and New York Giants share the newly constructed MetLife Stadium. Each team is entering its second season within the new confines.
The results have been mixed. The Jets have enjoyed the new digs with a 6-1 record while the Giants have struggled at 3-3.
The stadium holds the most permanent seating in the NFL, but this hasn't translated into a huge advantage for either team.
18. San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers have not joined the trend of cities building state-of-the-art facilities to house their NFL teams. In fact, Qualcomm Stadium has been in place since 1967.
There is no mystique associated with playing in San Diego with the exception of beautiful weather.
Additionally, there have not been any interviews where a player laments the difficulty of calling audibles because of crowd noise. Not that San Diego citizens should be ashamed—the weather is just too nice for them to worry about Carson Palmer's ability to change a play at the line.
17. Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans are only one game removed from the playoffs but would need extraordinary events to occur to host in the postseason.
LP Field, home of the Titans, doesn't provide much in the way of home-field advantage. Yet, one of the most exciting plays in playoff history happened here: The Music City Miracle.
The injury to Matt Hasselbeck against the New Orleans Saints means that Tennessee's playoff hopes may rest on rookie quarterback Jake Locker's arm.
16. Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons have been inconsistent regardless of whether they were at the Georgia Dome or not.
The dome does provide the inherent advantage of keeping the crowd noise inside. However, the Falcons haven't always provided fuel for the crowd to get loud.
Either way, the Falcons will probably not receive a home game in the playoffs. Considering the team's indifference to the location of the game, it may not matter.
15. Cincinnati Bengals
Considering the competition in the AFC North, the Cincinnati Bengals deserve credit for staying in the thick of the playoff chase.
The Bengals also have a sense of history. The stadium was built in 2000 but the naming rights were never sold.
Instead, the franchise honored its founder, Paul Brown, by attaching his name to the freshly constructed edifice.
14. Houston Texans
Reliant Stadium will end its playoff drought in four or five weeks depending on how the surprising Houston Texans finish the regular season.
The Texans currently have the first seed in the AFC despite losing their top two quarterbacks.
The stadium itself appears to be a beautiful facility that has a retractable roof. Regardless of the weather in Texas this January, the team would be smart to seal up the stadium to raise the decibel level.
13. New England Patriots
The New England Patriots have continued their 21st century trend of success this season. If the Patriots can finish with a couple more wins, the AFC Super Bowl participant will likely have to go into Gillette Stadium and win.
The stadium opened in 2002 and has sold out every game. Considering the caliber of play during this stretch, it isn't surprising.
The stadium is fan-friendly in that every seat offers a decent view. The drawback is the noise loses some of its effect since fans are removed farther from the field.
12. Green Bay Packers
Few places can match the history that Lambeau Field provides. In addition, the Green Bay Packers have some of the most loyal and frenzied fans in the league.
During the Brett Favre era, much was made of his dominance over visiting teams when the temperature dropped below 34 degrees. Then Michael Vick arrived and removed some of the intimidation the stadium used to engender.
Fortunately for Packers Nation, Aaron Rodgers probably doesn't care where the game is played. If there is one team that doesn't need home-field advantage, it's Green Bay.
11. Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders have long been known for their crazed fans. The "Black Hole" swallows up opponents who aren't prepared for the intensity.
Surprisingly, the Raiders have not been able to use this to their advantage. Oakland is a pedestrian 3-3 at home this season.
With the hard-charging Denver Broncos taking sole lead of the AFC West, the Raiders will need to be dominant down the stretch in order to keep the rabid Raiders fans appeased.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers
Heinz Field has been witness to many great teams and events since its opening in 2001. Perhaps none were bigger than the opener—an 'N Sync concert.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to rebound from such a christening while the faithful continued to be just that. They reliably pack the stadium each week to create an atmosphere as terrible as their towels.
The Steelers have a tough place to play but haven't needed it in the past. Pittsburgh did not play one home game last postseason and it worked out well.
9. Arizona Cardinals
Yet another team with the power of a dome. The Arizona Cardinals have not disappointed since the opening of the University of Phoenix Stadium.
From Kurt Warner to John Skelton, the crowd has been able to rattle opposing offenses just enough to allow the aforementioned quarterbacks to make plays and lead comebacks. Skelton continued the tradition recently against the San Francisco 49ers.
The Cardinals are a long shot to make the playoffs, but anything can happen in the NFL.
8. Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears play in one of the oldest and most storied stadiums in the NFL: Soldier Field. The stadium was designed and constructed as a tribute to all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the U.S.A.
The home of the Bears also hosts a legion of fans who carry two Midwestern traits: an ability to drink and a love for all things football. These two elements combine to provide the type of home-field advantage necessary to make deep runs into January.
The wind also contributes to the tough style of play that is exhibited by traditional Chicago teams.
Unfortunately for the Bears, the season may have been shattered when Jay Cutler's thumb broke.
7. Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys have a chance at hosting a playoff game this season. However, they are going to have to get it done on the road to make that happen.
Cowboys Stadium, or "Jerry's World," has been hailed as a modern marvel. It houses the largest high-definition television screen in the world, which also serves as a symbol of the stadium's decadence.
If the 100,000-plus fans cannot summon the noise necessary to distract teams, the jumbo-sized TV may do the trick.
6. Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos certainly have the stadium with the most intricate name. Sports Authority Field at Mile High is quite a mouthful.
The fans are sure to be loud but the best advantage is environmental.
The city of Denver is literally located a mile above sea level.
Thus, the thin mountain air contains less oxygen, which can make it difficult for opponents to catch their breath after chasing around Tim Tebow.
5. San Francisco 49ers
Candlestick Park, or "the Stick," is perfect for the 2011 San Francisco 49ers.
Players have discussed with disdain the field conditions inside the park. The turf is often chewed up, which makes it difficult for players to make cuts.
This lends itself well to the 49ers bruising style of play. Much like having high grass, the lack of footing means players have to slow down a bit before making cuts and, therefore, are more susceptible to being tackled.
4. Baltimore Ravens
To say the Baltimore Ravens enjoy playing at M&T Bank Stadium would be an understatement. The Ravens have yet to lose a game at home this season.
The park is barely over a decade old but doesn't appear to have any of the built-in advantages that one will find in other stadiums.
Perhaps the real answer is the electric atmosphere. Once Ray Lewis starts dancing, the place starts rocking.
3. Detroit Lions
Detroit has suffered the brunt of the recent economic collapse, but there is a shining jewel downtown next to Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers.
The Detroit Lions have played at Ford Field since 2002. It appears to be one of the more cozy stadiums with everyone packed in close to the field.
Therein lies the advantage for the Lions. With more than 64,000 fans so close to the field going wild for the first time in years, opposing teams have had a difficult time hearing the quarterbacks' cadence.
That difficulty has resulted in an astounding number of false starts by opponents this season.
2. New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints have not always been kind to their fans. Yet, when the team has needed to rely on the oft-abused spectators, the crowd has risen to their feet to create one of the most difficult playing environments in the league.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome seems to amplify the noise like a megaphone. Cameras catching the action are often shaking before and during important plays.
The Saints are currently tied for the second seed in the NFC. No team wants to play a deciding game in the Superdome except for the Saints.
1. Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks enjoy the most decided home-field advantage thanks to the loudest fans in the NFL.
CenturyLink Field was designed with many features that help direct the noise towards the stadium, including a partial roof and metal bleachers.
The heavily favored New Orleans Saints know well the distraction the fans create considering they fell in Seattle during the 2011 playoffs.
The Seahawks are assured they will not host a home postseason game this year, but don't expect that to dampen the noise for Seattle's last regular-season home game.