There is nothing quite like home cooking in the National Football League. On game day, fans from all walks of life come together at the stadium grounds to tailgate and cheer on the home team. After kickoff, a raucous crowd often carries the home team to victory, making this atmosphere all the better. For this, elite franchises grind through the regular season for the all-important home-field advantage through the playoffs on the road to the Super Bowl. The five best home-field advantages in the NFL right now feature the winning traditions of perennial contenders performing in front of knowledgeable, loyal fanbases.
5. New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium
The dominant home-field advantage at Gillette Stadium largely coincides with the emergence of a long-running Patriot Dynasty that has made six trips to the Super Bowl in 15 years and won four of those trips (2001, 2003, 2004, and 2014). As the modern replacement for the decrepit Foxboro Stadium, Gillette Stadium opened in 2002 and seats 66,829 fans at full capacity. Before the arrival of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, traveling to Foxboro hardly struck fear in the hearts of opponents.
Now, the New England Patriots are 87-17 at home (between 2005 and 2016). This .834 home-field winning percentage is by far and away the best record in the NFL during that time. This year, the Patriots opened the season 2-0 at home, with backups Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett leading the charge as unlikely heroes. With Brady at the controls, the Patriots are known to run up the score. Last year, the Patriots humiliated the Jacksonville Jaguars 51-17 at home, with the Minutemen militia firing muskets off into the air after every single touchdown.
In ranking home-field advantages, however, these Patriots are somewhat similar to the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens during their recent heydays. Gillette Stadium, Lucas Oil Stadium, and M&T Bank Stadium are relatively nondescript structures built within the past 20 years. Gillette Stadium, for its part, sits roughly 25 miles southwest of Boston, literally in the middle of nowhere off a ramp to I-495. It goes without saying that any team featuring Belichick and Brady could line up anywhere, anytime, and regularly throttle all comers.
4. Kansas City Chiefs, Arrowhead Stadium
Arrowhead Stadium is often cited as the most collegiate, fun-filled atmosphere in all of professional sports. On the outskirts of Kansas City, the property sits right next to Royals Stadium in a sea of parking lots between I-70 and I-435. This location is ideal for tailgating, with tens of thousands of fans descending upon the area in RVs and firing up the KC barbecues on game day.
In 2014, more than 75,000 raucous fans set the Guinness World Record for stadium noise — at 142.2 decibels — during a Monday Night Football game against Brady and the Patriots. Prior to that, in 1990, the home crowd backed up John Elway near his own goal line and he begged for mercy. From there, the referee threatened to charge the Chiefs with a timeout if the Arrowhead faithful did not quiet down.
Kansas City crowds are especially rowdy against the Raiders and Broncos. Last year, the Chiefs went 6-2 at home. They rattled off six straight wins at Arrowhead to close out the regular season at 11-5 and take a wild-card berth. Still, the 2015 Chiefs faced the road for the playoffs, after finishing second in the AFC West to the hated Denver Broncos. This year, the Chiefs opened up the season at 2-0 at home. For Week 3, a swarming defense harassed the Jets quarterback into throwing six picks, much to the delight of the home crowd.
3. Green Bay Packers, Lambeau Field
Lambeau Field is a religious experience for fans of any sport, with the Green Bay Packers still performing as a throwback to old times. Green Bay townsfolk are eligible to own stock in the team. For stockholders, Packer shares offer no financial benefits in terms of dividends or even the liquidity of being publicly traded. Instead, the Packer faithful beam with the pride of knowing that the proceeds of their stock purchases went toward improving Lambeau.
Lambeau Field towers over the Wisconsin landscape, right across the street from single-family homes within a working class section of Green Bay. As part of this folksy atmosphere, players in training camp will borrow bikes from local kids to ride around the Lambeau Field grounds. Packer lore at Lambeau includes Vince Lombardi calling for a “seal here and a seal there” on the toss sweep; Bart Starr diving across the line of scrimmage in the Ice Bowl; and Brett Favre running around “like a kid out there,” before taking his shots downfield.
Aaron Rodgers, now 32, still has a few more years left in his prime to create even more memories and Lambeau Leaps to the “Go Pack Go” chant. The Packers are coming off a Week 3 win at home, where Rodgers shredded the Lions secondary with four touchdowns through the air by the end of the first half. The home-field advantage here will be even more pronounced later in the year, when temperatures drop into the single digits out on the Frozen Tundra.
2. Denver Broncos, Sports Authority Field at Mile High
Mile High Stadium really does sit 5,280 feet above sea level. At these altitudes, visiting players often complain of being totally gassed on the field by the fourth quarter. By late fall, visiting teams can also expect swirling winds and blizzard conditions added to the mix at Denver. These natural elements alone will wreak havoc on the passing and kicking games.
For years, the Broncos have had their way at home, behind spectacular quarterback play and a swarming Orange Crush defense. In 1987, Earnest Byner took the carry on the draw play and fumbled the football at the two-yard line at the old Mile High Stadium. From there, Elway took a knee in front of 76,273 delirious fans that sent their beloved Broncos to Super Bowl XXII. The new Sports Authority Field at Mile High, completed in 2001, sits on this same site and still carries that old Mile High mystique.
In recent years, Peyton Manning and the Broncos won two AFC Championship Games at Mile High, in 2014 and 2016. Last year, the home crowd went berserk after Brady and the New England Patriots botched a two-point conversion that put the Broncos in the Super Bowl. From there, Manning, like Elway before him, went on to win his second Super Bowl to close out a legendary career.
1. Seattle Seahawks, CenturyLink Field
In 1998, Microsoft man and Seahawks owner Paul Allen broke ground on Qwest Field, with the intent of showcasing a relatively intimate experience, with dramatic sight lines throughout the stadium. The Qwest Field design included a roof that covered the majority of the stands, while leaving the field of play open to the elements. By 2002, the Seahawks hosted their first game at Qwest Field, with 67,000 fans literally sitting on top of each other within this confined space. The tight design does make for acoustics that rival Arrowhead as the loudest stadium in the NFL.
Qwest’s opening coincided immediately with a change of culture in Seattle, between Mike Holmgren and the rah-rah Pete Carroll, after years of perennial losing at the Kingdome. The Seahawks are 73-26 at home, between 2005 and 2016, while also taking three trips to the Super Bowl through this time frame. Seattle’s 43-8 dismantling of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVII is sandwiched between questionable calls in Super Bowl XL against the Steelers and a late, fourth-quarter pick against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX; both resulted in close losses.
Throughout it all, the 12th Man flag has flown proudly over Qwest Field, to represent the notoriously rowdy and smug Seattle fan base. In 2010, the Seattle Seahawks went 7-9 — somehow good enough to win the NFC West. For this, the Seahawks received a home playoff game and hosted an 11-5 New Orleans Saints club defending its Super Bowl title.
In the fourth quarter, Marshawn Lynch took an inside handoff, bounced off one tackle, and cut back to his right into space. Out on the edge, Lynch threw Tracy Porter to the ground with a stiff-arm before racing up the sideline and diving into the end zone in a shower of Skittles candy. The Beast Quake celebration triggered seismic readings through this corner of the Pacific Northwest, with the 2010 Seahawks representing the only team with a losing record to ever win a playoff game.