Raucous crowds make life difficult for opposing offenses
According to the oddsmakers, home field is typically worth about three points, on average. But not all stadiums and fan bases are created or designed equally. And nothing fires up a crowd like an aggressive defense capable of making stops on third down. The defense feeds off that energy, and it produces a vicious loop for opposing offenses. Of course, a capable offense helps, too, which takes us to No. 5.
Getty ImagesJonathan Daniel
New Orleans Saints -- Mercedes-Benz Superdome
New Orleans' defense has been truly miserable recently, but not bad enough to erase the memory of just how loud and raucous the Superdome becomes when there’s meaningful football in its quarters and at least a half-decent defense on the field. At least Drew Brees and an upper-echelon passing attack has remained a constant and given Saints plenty to cheer for despite three 7-9 seasons over the last four campaigns. As for the impairing opposing offenses: Players insist the crowd noise provides an advantage. "It's impossible to communicate,” said former Saints tight end Ben Watson, recalling when he visited as a member of the Patriots. “There were times where we couldn't hear each other in the huddle, and you were a foot away from each other.”
Getty ImagesSean Gardner
Kansas City Chiefs -- Arrowhead Stadium
Chiefs fans are among the best tailgaters in the NFL (if not the best) and they get started early. The energy outside the stadium is a preview of what’s inside, which is an incredibly loud crowd that in September 2014 reclaimed the record for loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium when it reached 142.2 decibels during a 41-14 blowout of the Patriots (when many observers thought Tom Brady was finally out of gas). Arrowhead has one of the league’s higher stadium capacities at 76,416, and from 1991 to 2009, every single home game sold out. It will be maxed out again this year as the Chiefs look to reclaim the AFC West from the Broncos, who have won the division five straight seasons.
Getty ImagesDonald Miralle
Denver Broncos -- Sports Authority Field at Mile High
A credit to its noisy fans (as well as its pass rushers) over the past five seasons, Denver has consistently ranked near the top of the league in opponents' false starts. Twice the Broncos led the league in that category: Last year they benefited from 20 false penalties (30 teams enjoyed 11 or fewer), and in 2012 they also led the league as opponents started too early 15 times. But more important, it’s the altitude and the cold, primarily the former. Those fancy altitude training masks that create oxygen reduction are nice, but there’s nothing like playing football in those conditions, which wear down the body. The trip to Denver is not one other players look forward to making.
Getty ImagesDoug Pensinger
Green Bay Packers -- Lambeau Field
Come December, the average high temperature in Green Bay is below freezing at 29 degrees, with an average low of 14. Of course it gets much colder some nights -- such as January 2008, when Giants head coach Tom Coughlin nearly froze to death in the NFC Championship game as the cold turned his face into a tomato. Put another way, it’s unpleasant for visitors and very much an advantage for the Packers, who’ve gotten used to it. Since 1990, Green Bay has won 132 of 184 home games (second only to Pittsburgh’s 133 over the span) for a .717 winning percentage. After renovations completed in 2003 and 2014, the stadium now holds 81,435 fans, second in the NFL only to MetLife Stadium. And those fans are packed in nice and tightly because Lambeau consists primarily of aluminum bench seating, which is better than individual plastic seats for clanking and producing noise.
Getty ImagesJonathan Daniel
Seattle Seahawks -- CenturyLink Field
You probably knew we were heading to Seattle for the top spot. Since the start of the Russell Wilson/Legion of Boom Era in 2012, Seattle has won 27 of 32 regular-season home games and all four home playoffs games. The “12th Man” is loud and the stadium design is legit. The stadium is open but about 70 percent of the seats are covered with large curved canopies, or parabolas, on both sides that help propel crowd noise onto the field. There’s also the clanking aluminum that comes from the “Hawk’s Nest” bleacher seats in the north end zone. A number of opposing coaches have taken to preparing for Seattle by blasting noise during practice so players can get used to communicating through the volume. Remember, before Kansas City reclaimed the decibel record from Seattle, Marshawn Lynch and the 12th Man produced the Beast Quake run that triggered a small earthquake.