Home field not an advantage

Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Enough already with this home-field advantage stuff, at least early in the NFL season. Road teams are prospering, and it's not a 2002 phenomenon.

Through the first two weeks of the season, road teams are 17-15, including a remarkable 11-5 last weekend. And that record was not built on the dregs of the league -- Detroit, Baltimore and Carolina.

The Panthers have won both their home games, albeit against the Ravens and Lions, and Detroit is the only 0-2 team on the road.

Instead, it's the likes of St. Louis, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Baltimore, all at least 6-2 at home in 2001, that already have fallen in their own stadiums.

Last year, road teams were 112-136, a .452 percentage that was the highest since 1987. Many of the away losses came later in the schedule, when weather is far more of a factor; when some teams already are out of the playoff race; and when certain clubs have learned how to use the local environment to their benefit.

Don't discount that final item. In September and October, the wind doesn't generally blow as hard in Soldier Field (or, more appropriately this year, in Champaign, Ill.) There's no tundra in Green Bay because nothing is frozen yet. Good conditions can be an equalizer early in the season, which is why the Packers have complained in the past when they are not scheduled for enough late-season home games.

Only Miami, which has won 16 straight August-September games, doesn't fall into that pattern.

''Around halftime you know they're starting to feel it,'' Jason Taylor said of early season visitors to Miami. ''You can tell when a guy is soaking wet and the color from his jersey is running into his pants, when his tongue is hanging out and he's barely getting in his stance.''

But the Dolphins tend to struggle at home when the heat has little effect, going 8-7, including the playoffs, since 1999 in November-January.

Road teams also can use the togetherness factor. No sport is more reliant on teamwork than football, and any time spent enhancing camaraderie is significant.

''You know why we are comfortable on the road? Because when you go on the road, no one gives you a chance to win, anyway,'' Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe said. ''You can relax. You're at the hotel, and you don't have to worry about tickets or watching the kids or taking the dogs out.

''I'm a firm believer that it's easier to win on the road than at home.''

Some coaches would share that view. The Jets were 3-5 at home, 7-1 on the road in 2001, Herman Edwards' first year in charge. They won their road game and were routed at home this month.

Edwards even had the Jets wear their road white uniforms against New England last weekend, hoping to transfer some of that positive karma to Giants Stadium.

Didn't work.

''We need to establish a home-field advantage,'' Edwards said. ''We need to make it tough on teams coming to our stadium.''

Historically, it's been tough on the Jets in the Meadowlands. Since moving there in 1984, they are 68-76-1, including an eight-year string where they didn't have a winning mark at home.

Until the Jets get their own stadium and aren't simply tenants in the Giants' home -- unlikely before 2008 -- they will own no home-field advantage.

While the Jets are gracious hosts, several other teams known for being unkind to visitors also are losing their edge. The Redskins are only 23-17-1 since moving into FedEx Field. Powerful St. Louis has lost six of its last 17 home games, including three of the last seven. Tennessee won its first 12 at its new home in Nashville but is 6-7 (including a playoff loss) since.

''It all comes down to believing in yourself,'' Oakland veteran defensive back Rod Woodson said.

''If you believe in yourself, it doesn't matter where you are playing. It could be on the road, in the parking lot, wherever. On the road, there's no outside distractions, just the game.''

Barry Wilner is a national football writer for The Associated Press. He can be reached at BWilner@ap.org.



CONTACT US

  • Switchboard: 907-283-7551
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-283-3584
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Business Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-335-1257
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback

ADVERTISING

SUBSCRIBER SERVICES

SOCIAL NETWORKING

MORRIS ALASKA NEWS