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Projecting 2021 NFL Playoff Attendance: Part 2

Now that the postseason field has been set, we wanted to revisit last week’s blog post to see how we did in projecting the home team venues as well as project next week’s venues and projected attendance. 

Wildcard Round

We’re happy to report that each of our projected wild card round home team venues was correct, and wanted to revisit where things stand on attendance for this weekend’s games:

EDIT (1/7/21): We updated this post to reflect the latest news from the Steelers organization that the only spectators allowed this week will be friends and family of the team (no fans allowed).

AFC Games

NFC Games

Divisional Round Projections

We’ll once again make use of Football Outsiders’ and FiveThirtyEight’s DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) and Quarterback Adjusted Elo team ratings to project next week’s divisional round matchups.


Both team rating metrics indicate wins for the Bills, Steelers and Ravens, which would result in the following AFC divisional round matchups and projected attendance:

Both metrics also project wins by the Saints, Buccaneers and Seahawks in the NFC wild card round, which would result in the following NFC divisional round matchups and projected attendance:

EDIT (1/9/21): The Packers have announced that they will allow 6,000 ticketed fans at their divisional round game. We’ve updated this post to reflect the change.

Beyond the Divisional Round

Things get a bit murkier in projecting divisional round winners, as Football Outsiders and FiveThirtyEight are in disagreement regarding the ranking of the best remaining teams. We’ll have to check back in on how this week’s games impact these metrics for each team. There’s a chance that a decisive Ravens victory could make them the favorite over the Chiefs next week, at least based on Football Outsiders’ DVOA rating system. 

Has fan attendance created a home field advantage in 2020?

Since at least 2002, home teams have had a winning record, overall, every season. We’ve been wondering if the limited number of fans allowed at games this season has detracted from the traditional home field advantage, and this appears to be the case. Eight teams this season hosted an average of 10,000 fans or more at their home stadiums. Just three of these teams, including the Cowboys, Jaguars and Browns achieved a higher winning percentage at home than on the road, while the Buccaneers, Chiefs and Titans fared better on the road. Factor in the Texans’ and Dolphins’ matching home vs away splits, and these eight teams averaged the exact same winning percentage at home as they did on the road. We would need to dig into strength of home vs away opponents to be more confident about this, but it certainly seems that the presence of limited fan capacity at games did not create an additional advantage for home teams.

As previously mentioned, home teams have had a winning record, overall, every season since 2002. In the 2020 NFL regular season, however, home teams finished with a losing record overall (127 wins, 128 losses and 1 tie). It’s worth noting that FiveThirtyEight’s matchup projections factor in home field advantage, which may not be quite as strong in the postseason this year. 

Mike joined Stage Front as Director of Data Analytics and Business Intelligence in January of 2020. He spends his time with Stage Front straddling the line between data and strategy, generating optimizations, innovations and insights for Stage Front and our partners. Mike has worked in Strategy and Innovation with CVS Health, Management Consulting with KPMG and Data Analytics with the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. He’s a huge Ravens fan, an avid skier, mediocre tennis player and reigning champion of the Stage Front fantasy football league. Mike has an MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business and a BS from Vanderbilt University. Go Dores!

Michael Pomerantz: Director of Data Analytics and Business Intelligence

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