NFL Teams That Protect Their Home Turfs Best
There's nothing quite like playing at home in the National Football League. Familiar surroundings, supportive fans and a comfortable atmosphere all contribute to that wonderful entity known as home-field advantage.
Some teams, though, do a much better job than others of riding their home-field advantages to victory. These teams scrap, claw and fight their way up and down the football field to ensure opponents know whose house they are visiting.
By consistently winning at home, these teams also ensure that the strength of their home-field advantages remains intact.
Today, we're going to look at the eight teams in the NFL who best protect their home turfs. We'll be basing our picks on a combination of factors, including home record over the past five seasons, weather conditions, atmosphere and home playoff record where applicable.
Our picks are ranked in reverse order, counting down to No. 1.
Honorable Mention: Cincinnati Bengals
We're going to give a quick nod of recognition to the Cincinnati Bengals because of their consistency over the past five seasons and because they hold the same number of regular-season home wins as the first team on our official list.
Over the past five seasons, the Bengals have a home record of 27-12-1 in the regular season. The Bengals are known for drawing an energetic and rowdy crowd to football games, especially ones where AFC North rivals are concerned.
Playing well at Paul Brown Stadium has allowed the Bengals to reach the postseason in each of the past five seasons. Unfortunately, Cincinnati hasn't had much of a home-field advantage in the postseason, going winless in its two home playoff games since 2011.
The fact that opponents haven't appeared intimidated by playing in Cincinnati in the postseason keeps the Bengals off our official list. It's worth recognizing, though, that Cincinnati is a tough place to play in the regular season.
8. New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints haven't been the most dominant team at home over the past couple of years—they've gone 7-9, to be exact—but they make our list because the Mercedes-Benz Superdome has been a notoriously difficult place to play in recent years.
Having an enclosed stadium full of more than 76,000 Saints fans creates a hostile environment for visitors. In order to ensure the energy and noise keep pumping inside the Superdome, the Saints recently added a pair of 333-foot end-zone scoreboards.
“They are magnificent and it is another sign that we have taken an iconic building and are always seeking meaningful ways to make it as up-to-date as possible and state-of-the-art,” Saints owner Tom Benson said of the new additions, per Dan Swenson of the New Orleans Advocate.
Over the past five seasons, the Saints have done their part to protect the Superdome from invading teams. New Orleans has amassed a 27-13 regular-season home record over that span and has gone 1-0 in the postseason at home.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
Since the fanbase of the Pittsburgh Steelers travels as well as any other in professional sports, one might naturally assume that crowds at Heinz Field are even more passionate.
Passionate might be an understatement.
Steelers fans are among the rowdiest and most outspoken in professional football, and in no place is this more evident than on Pittsburgh's home soil. From the sea of black and gold-clad patrons to the hurricane of rotating Terrible Towels, the crowd in Heinz Field makes sure its presence is felt.
In addition to the home-field advantage provided by the Steelers faithful, Heinz Field is also intimidating because of the sometimes unpredictable weather and the wind coming in off the banks of the Ohio River. As is the case with several other teams on our list, the Steelers can host some nasty home games once the weather turns from fall to winter.
Since 2011, the Steelers hold a regular-season home record of 29-11. Teams know that, when they come into Pittsburgh, the Steelers are going to give them a fight.
Pittsburgh would rank a bit higher on our list if not for its 0-1 home record in the postseason over the past five years.
6. Baltimore Ravens
We've mentioned that Paul Brown Stadium and Heinz Field can provide rather hostile environments for AFC North foes. Well the same holds true for M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens.
The boisterous crowds and open-air conditions at M&T Bank Stadium help give the Ravens a home-field advantage that tends to intensify as winter approaches. Teams coming into Baltimore often have to battle tough weather conditions in addition to high noise levels and a physical football team.
Over the past five seasons, the Ravens have utilized their advantage to post an impressive 29-11 home record in the regular season. Had injuries not derailed the team's most recent campaign—Baltimore went 5-11 and 3-5 at home in 2015—the Ravens might rank even higher on this list.
Playing well at M&T Bank Stadium has helped the Ravens reach the postseason in three of the past five years. Baltimore's 2012 campaign even culminated with a Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
The Ravens have a 2-0 home postseason record over the past five years.
5. Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals might not leap out as a team that defends its building with ferocity. However, this may have something do with the beleaguered past of the franchise and the relative youth of University of Phoenix Stadium.
But in recent years, the Cardinals have been a difficult out at home.
Over the past five years, the Cardinals hold a 29-11 home regular-season record and a 1-0 home postseason record. We're going to give the Cardinals a bit of a bump up our rankings because of the work the team has to do in order to bring a sense of respect to University of Phoenix Stadium.
As Jason Bartel of Stadium Journey noted, Arizona's home-field advantage doesn't always come from the crowd.
"The state of Arizona is full of transplanted fans from all over the country, and this is most apparent at Cardinals games," Bartel wrote. "Sure, you'll see a majority of red and black out there, but it's a very slight majority."
Since University of Phoenix Stadium is a roofed venue, opposing teams don't have harsh weather to deal with at any time of year. Combine this with a crowd that is often split, and we have to recognize the team itself for protecting Arizona's home-field advantage.
4. Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks have managed to make the postseason in four of the past five years—due in large part to this team knowing how to win at home.
The Seahawks, their fans and CenturyLink Field all combine in synergistic fashion to create a tremendous home-field advantage. The Seahawks are a tough, physical team, the weather in Seattle can be unforgiving and the fans in the stadium are almost always raucous.
For a while, CenturyLink Field even held the Guinness world record for the loudest outdoor stadium (137.6 decibels), though Kansas City Chiefs fans recaptured the record for Arrowhead Stadium in 2014.
The Seahawks have done a remarkable job of defending their home turf over the past five years. The team holds a regular-season home record of 31-9 in that span and has gone 4-0 at home in the postseason.
The Seahawks have also ridden the home wave to a pair of Super Bowl appearances, winning one over the Denver Broncos after the 2013 season.
3. Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos benefit from one of the biggest natural home advantages in all of professional sports. Their home, Sports Authority Field at Mile High, sits 5,280 feet above sea level. This means a dramatic shift in altitude for incoming opponents.
Evan Horowitz of the Boston Globe summed up why this is such a large factor during the 2015 postseason:
Denver players are used to the heights, so for them it’s just another field. But for opponents, it’s a whole other story. Visiting teams don’t have the time to acclimate to the altitude, leaving them short of breath and, often, short on points. The basic problem is that as you climb into the skies, the air gets thinner.
Over the course of days, or weeks, athletes can adapt, but the rigors of the NFL schedule generally ensure that only the Broncos have the time to make this adjustment.
This is why the Broncos have been notoriously difficult to defeat at home over the years. Still, the Broncos deserve due credit for being able to use this advantage to defend their home turf. Over the past five seasons, Denver has gone 31-9 at home in the regular season.
The Broncos have also used their home-field prowess to reach the postseason in each of the past five seasons. The team holds a postseason home record of 5-2 over that span, has been to the Super Bowl twice and, as you may have heard, recently won Super Bowl 50 over the Carolina Panthers.
2. Green Bay Packers
If you're a fan of NFL tradition, you might just have a bit of a soft spot for the Green Bay Packers and Lambeau Field. Believe it or not, but Lambeau Field (originally City Stadium) has been around since 1957—and the Packers have defended it well since.
The Packers, though, aren't the only ones defending Lambeau. This team boasts one of the most loyal fanbases in the NFL. Just consider that more than 66,000 fans showed up at Lambeau Field for a Packers practice early in training camp.
In each of the past seven seasons, the Packers have used their tremendous home-field advantage to reach the postseason. They have won the NFC North in four of the past five seasons.
Green Bay has gone 32-7-1 at home in the regular season. The Packers have also gone 2-2 at home in the postseason over the same period.
If having a rabid fanbase and a consistently successful team wasn't enough, the Packers also benefit from an often frigid winter environment. It's a testament to the fortitude of the Packers players that this team regularly uses foul winter weather to its advantage.
This is venerable turf, and the Packers protect it accordingly.
1. New England Patriots
In recent NFL history, no team has been more consistently dominant than the New England Patriots. This is a team that has reached the postseason in 13 of the past 15 years and that hasn't had a losing season since 2000.
Unsurprisingly, we can't think of a team that does a better job of defending its home than the Patriots.
The Patriots have a lot of reason to fight for their fans. Even before the days of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, the team had a loyal fanbase. The team has sold out every home game at Gillette Stadium and, in fact, every home game since 1994.
Driven by a rowdy Boston fanbase, the Patriots typically decimate invading teams. Over the past five years, New England holds a remarkable record of 35-5 at home in the regular season. The team has a home postseason record of 7-1 over the past five seasons and has two Super Bowl appearances, including one win.
The Patriots have forged a historic football dynasty over the past 15 years. A large portion of the credit has to be given to the team's ability to protect its home turf.