Niagara Gazette — You shouldn’t need numbers to realize that the Buffalo Bills have been much better at home this season than on the road.
The Bills improved to 6-9 overall after shutting out the Miami Dolphins 19-0 Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium, where four of those wins have come. Their lone road wins came at the same flawed Miami team and at the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, who were playing better at the time but still don’t represent that great a measuring stick.
The value of home-field advantage has long been debated, so Grantland’s Bill Barnwell came up with a mathematical formula to find a numerical value for each team.
Barnwell found the average home and away point differentials for each team since 2002, which is when the NFL switched to a rotating scheduling format in an effort to balance the average strength of competition. He found the difference between the two numbers, which was positive toward home field for every team, then divided by two to account for only half the games being played at home. Neutral-game sites, like Buffalo’s annual Toronto game or games played in London, were left out.
When all was said and done, the Seattle Seahawks unsurprisingly led the league with a home-field advantage worth 5.2 points per game. Ralph Wilson Stadium was worth an average of 3.6 points per game for the Bills, eighth-best in the league.
This year, the Bills have outscored their opponents by 4.3 points per game at home but have been outscored by 9 points per game on the road. That’s a total point differential of 13.3 points per game, which means playing at Ralph Wilson Stadium is worth an average of about 6.7 points, well above Seattle’s league-leading number.
The ridiculously high number can probably be attributed to a lot of things, most significantly the presence of a rookie coach (Doug Marrone) and a rookie quarterback (EJ Manuel). There is also an argument to be made that the Bills’ home schedule (New England, Carolina, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Kansas City, New York Jets, Miami) looks a lot more difficult than it’s road slate (NYJ, Cleveland, Miami, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville), meaning that number might actually be higher had the schedule been more balanced.
The home-field advantage number isn’t necessarily linked to team success, either, because the same number is representative of a team’s struggles on the road. Arizona, Minnesota, NYJ, St. Louis, Buffalo and Detroit — all teams that have struggled in the past decade — ranked fourth through ninth in Barnwell’s article.
The Bills will get better on the road with time, especially if Manuel and Marrone work out. Until then, they’re likely to be in a battle to make the playoffs each season, giving each game extra meaning.
It’s also a further indictment of a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs in 14 seasons selling one extra-important home game a season to Toronto in an effort to make a few bucks.
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