NFL's return of crowds no big boost to home-field advantage

AP photo by Aaron Gash / Fans watch Sunday's game between the Minnesota Vikings and the host Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Being accustomed to playing outdoors in the Wisconsin winter is something the Packers hope to use as an advantage in the upcoming NFL playoffs.

Cheering fans returned to NFL stadiums in capacity this season, forcing road teams to use silent counts and other coping mechanisms to deal with the noise.

What's still missing is the home-field advantage that could be expected over opponents who have to deal with travel, occasional time zone changes and the din from the loud crowds.

A trend that began in 2019, the year before the coronavirus pandemic began, and continued last season when games were played in mostly empty stadiums has been evident once again in the 2021 season.

Home teams have posted a .510 winning percentage (excluding two games in London) for the third-worst such mark since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, with only the .498 winning percentage last season and the .508