I hope everyone’s enjoying the holiday today, and that you’ve avoided the downpours and cold I’m getting here. If you’re hanging around this afternoon, I have an open thread for you, one with a specific question that you can feel free to ignore if you’re just wanting to talk about how great your BBQ was today.
The opening of Mercedes-Benz Stadium was a big deal for Arthur Blank and his teams, specifically the Falcons and Atlanta United, because it was a state-of-the-art facility. While the concessions have been cheap, the team has found the wins haven’t been easy to come by, a problem that has carried over from the final years of the Georgia Dome.
The Falcons are just 13-19 at home since Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened in 2017—worse than their 14-18 road mark—and were 15-17 in the four years prior to that against (again) a 14-18 road mark. The average home team in NFL history wins between 55-60% of their games at home, so Atlanta has mightily underachieved these past four...well, eight...seasons, which of course neatly matches an overall trend of underachieving in that span. The new stadium has many things to recommend it, but being a hostile place for opposing teams has not been one of those things to this point, which is obviously more about the Falcons themselves than any particular features of either of the stadiums they’ve played in over that span.
But it wasn’t always this way, obviously. From 2008-2012, the Falcons went 33-7 at home, and the Dome was the kind of place very few teams wanted to play. Those Falcons were consistently winners, of course, but they were also dominant in Atlanta.
This Ringer article from January suggests Atlanta may have partly been a victim of a leaguewide trend in 2020, noting that home teams finished under .500 last year in a pandemic year that saw teams playing in front of empty and (eventually) at least half-empty stadiums throughout the year. The article also points out that this has been a trend for a little while now, as home teams barely edged out away teams in 2019 and the homogenization of stadium design and other factors may be slowly erasing the homefield advantage teams counted on. Author Nora Princiotti notes that studies have found a boisterous home crowd may actually have more impact on officiating than players, so if you’ll be in Mercedes-Benz Stadium next year, be sure to save your voice for the refs.
Even in light of these trends, though, Atlanta’s home performance is something we’d like to see change. You’d love to know that what we hope will be a lethal Falcons offense, at least an opportunistic defense, and a loud and into it crowd will make the Benz an inhospitable environment for 2021 and for many years to come, helping the team get back to the heights of the early Mike Smith era and well beyond.
Will that change this year? I open the floor to you to give me your thoughts about whether the Falcons will soon become a great team at home and whether Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be the kind of place opposing teams dread, or whether