Home-field advantage has largely disappeared in the NFL in recent years, and Thanksgiving has been no exception.
All three home teams lost on Thursday: The Lions lost to the Bears, the Cowboys lost to the Raiders and the Saints lost to the Bills. This was the third consecutive Thanksgiving in which the road teams won every game.
And Thanksgiving is just a small part of a large trend in the NFL toward home-field advantage not meaning anything. This season home teams are 80-87-1, which if it continues will be the worst record for home teams in NFL history — a record that was set last season, when home teams went 127-128-1. In 2019, home teams went just 132-123-1, which was the worst cumulative record for home teams since the advent of the 16-game schedule — until home teams did even worse in 2020 and are now on pace to do worse still in 2021.
Gamblers and sports books were among the first to notice the decline in home-field advantage. For decades, the rule of thumb was that home-field advantage was worth about three points on the Vegas line. In the last couple years, that shifted to two points. It’s now around one point.
During the 2020 season, some blamed the disappearance of home-field advantage on empty stadiums in the pandemic. But that’s not the reason, as the trend toward road teams doing better began before the pandemic and has continued this season, with stadiums full again.
NFL teams seem to be getting better at silent counts to negate crowd noise, and better at finding ways to travel comfortably and achieve peak performance whether they’re at home or on the road. In today’s NFL, there’s no real advantage to playing at home. We’ve seen it on Thanksgiving for three straight years.