NFL coaches, players on fewer fans affecting home-field edge

·5 min read

NFL home teams have a losing overall record this late in the season for the first time in almost 40 years. The pandemic is limiting teams to partial capacity in most stadiums. About a third of the league’s facilities aren’t allowing fans at all.

It’s been more than 50 years since road teams had a winning record when the season ended. How coaches and players are reacting to the pandemic's influence on home-field advantage:

“We looked that stat up the other day. I think every game is different and you’ve got to consider the circumstances, and we’ll see where it ends at the end of the season. But I think certainly when you’re in your home stadium there’s an element that you’re used to feeding off the energy of the fans, and especially in our case where we don’t have anybody there. ” — Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur

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“We only got one fan that comes to the game, so we blame Bob Stiriti, our security man. We have to get Bob Stiriti fired up to make some noise. That’s been a real problem. We love playing in our stadium. We have tremendous respect for who we represent. It sickens us that we can’t play in front of our fans, but we have to do better. To have a little fun during these tough times, we blame Bob for all of our lapses at home.” — Raiders coach Jon Gruden, whose team is playing without fans in its Las Vegas debut and is 1-2 at home but 5-3 overall

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"This obviously is a different year. Coming into (Minnesota's) US Bank Stadium, last time we were here we didn’t have much energy, it was really dead. I talked about it just about every day this past week that we have to come out and we can’t worry about who’s in the stands, who’s not in the stands, what kind of music is playing. We have to go out and we have to do our job and execute.” — Vikings coach Mike Zimmer

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“Not having the fans in your stadium is a huge deal. They’re a huge part of every team, but I feel it a little bit different here than everywhere else I’ve been. Just the feeling they brought our team last year and hopefully that we did the same, I think really changed this building. Thought we earned a lot of that and it’s been tough not to have them this year, and just disappointing.” — Kyle Shanahan, coach of defending NFC champion San Francisco

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“So there was some good back and forth that made it feel a little bit more like a backyard pickup game. It just happens to be at the highest level and a 4 o’clock national time slot, but it felt that way. It felt like you got your buddies and said, ‘We’re going to play someone across town.’ Just so happened we got to play at Soldier Field today. So it was pretty cool,” — Indianapolis quarterback Philip Rivers after a win at Chicago that included some trash talk with Bears LB Roquan Smith

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“Obviously there’s not really home-field advantage. You’re used to going into an away stadium thinking it’s going to be loud, it’s going to affect the snap count, it’s going to cause problems.” — Miami OL Jesse Davis

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“You know our fans bring it for us. So with the crowd not being there, we’ve got to find a new way to kind of create some energy just because there are times in the game where the stadium is really eerie and quiet. We’ve never really played around that environment just because even at practice, we still have some kind of background noise or music going. So I just tell guys to figure out a way on how to lock in a lot quicker and sooner, because we’re going to need that edge.” — Buffalo DE Jerry Hughes

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“Oh, it feels real. just because the contact’s flying around and guys are still hitting. We’re just missing that crowd noise and that crowd energy. Other than that, everything else of the game aspect, the speed, the way guys are flying around hitting, yeah, all that still feels real.” — Hughes

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“It’s really like an open practice for media for real. You just go out there with your guys, you can hear each other communicate. It’s very thorough, so now, there are no crowd effects of what you can’t hear, not using signals and what not. We’re out there having a normal conversation.” — Cincinnati S Vonn Bell

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"Obviously the crowd, fans in the stands and a little bit of heat is definitely an advantage for us. My family really enjoys the limited capacity. The seats for our family members have been fantastic. So there’s been a lot of positives for that. But as we get down the stretch, if we want to open it up and really have a full stadium in there for some of these big games coming up, that wouldn’t be bad either. (pause) It might be bad. (laughter)” — Miami C Ted Karras

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“I don’t know if I feel a whole lot of an advantage other than the weather. Obviously we’re starting to get to some of these chillier games, so that’ll play into our favour . I mean, I feel it a little bit just because you feel a little bit of comfort in your home place, so it should still play in our favour . I’m not sure the reasons why it hasn’t, but you know, it’s just a part of it.” — Green Bay receiver Davante Adams

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AP Pro Football Writers Teresa M. Walker, Dave Campbell, Mark Long, Josh Dubow, Arnie Stapleton, Rob Maaddi, and Dennis Waszak Jr., and Sports Writers Tom Withers, Steven Wine, Noah Trister, Larry Lage, Steve Megargee, Stephen Whyno, Mitch Stacy, Mike Marot, Brett Martel, David Ginsburg, Andrew Seligman, Tom Canavan, Will Graves, John Wawrow, David Brandt, Joe Reedy, Steve Reed, Dave Skretta, Greg Beacham, Charles Odum, and Tim Booth contributed.

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The Associated Press