EAGAN — Last year, home-court advantage was essentially not a factor in the NFL.
Speak Washington Post, home teams went 137-131-1, producing just a shadow on a record .500, the lowest since 2002, not including the mostly fanless 2020 season.
There are many theories as to why uncomfortable environments no longer cause problems for visitors, from teams studying the art of travel to master silent counts better than ever, to teams picking up the pace to avoid crowds. doesn’t have time to turn it up to maximum volume. Some in the Job piece suggested that fans aren’t as crazy as they used to be. Or it could be a random year that we will soon see bounce back.
Even with the recent evidence against home-field advantage having a major impact, Philadelphia makes a decent counter-argument. Not only based on anecdotal evidence, but also on empirical data. While Philly had nothing special at home last year, over the past five years, the Eagles are 23-16-1, are top-10 ATS, and have a plus-152-point differential at Lincoln Financial Field. On the road, they’re 18-20-3 ATS with a plus-35 differential in that span.
Whether the league as a whole has adapted to the road or just a small sample, the Minnesota Vikings, who have been a .500 team since the start of 2017 on the road, are preparing for the its deafening from crazed Eagles fans to make things tricky for them as they continue to adjust to a new offense. Like most teams, the team pumps out crowd noise recorded during practice, which receiver Adam Thielen says is helpful in preparing.
“From a noise point of view, the harder we can make it for ourselves in training… when you get to that game it’s kind of like, ‘Oh, I’ve been here before, I’ve felt this before. ‘ said Thielen.
Heading into Week 1, Thielen and Justin Jefferson acknowledged that transitioning from the Kubiak-style system, which they had been using since 2019, to new head coach Kevin O’Connell’s offense had a pretty steep learning curve. Last week against Green Bay, that didn’t show as they gained the sixth-most yards per game of any team in the league. But transferring a communication-heavy offense to the Philly grass will be a different animal from the friendly confines of US Bank Stadium.
“[The offense is] definitely not grounded yet because…we haven’t played in a noisy atmosphere yet,” Thielen said. “I think the more we can just practice, make it harder for ourselves, have the sound even louder than maybe it will be… then do stuff after practice, do stuff before practice, in meeting rooms to really talk about how we’re going to communicate certain things and some of the tempo stuff that we’re going to perform.
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Players aren’t the only ones adapting. O’Connell is playing his first road game as head coach. It only took him one game to realize that being the guy with the HC hat and calling plays is different than when he was an offensive coordinator/play caller in 2019 with Washington.
“One of the things I think I can do better going forward is when the defense is there I have to be in certain places on the pitch to have an impact on referees and time outs and things like that, I can’t just spend 10 minutes there talking to Kirk [Cousins] or talk to Wes [Phillips] and watching the [Microsoft] Surface,” O’Connell said. “I really have to rely on all of our staff and rely on ‘picking my places’ to make sure I’m always available to do my job as a head coach first and foremost.”
Through the sound barrier on Monday night, O’Connell will take step #2 in building his relationship with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Sending games isn’t as simple as pressing the button mad where all AI players automatically know what to do. O’Connell needs to get some messages across to his quarterback, which may not be the easiest as the decibel level rises.
“I think we’ve formed a real relationship where, it’s not just what I say, sometimes – it’s how I say it,” O’Connell said. “Not all game calls sound the same. I could call the same game and all the words can be the same, but the emphasis I put on it at this stage of the game, this situation, from a distance, he can understand that and understand.
One factor Cousins and O’Connell have in their favor is their previous experience in Philadelphia. Cousins threw 192 passes at Lincoln Financial Field and produced a 70.3 percent completion percentage, 8.5 yards per attempt, 13 touchdowns on just three interceptions, and an impressive 112.1 QB rating. In 2018, he earned arguably his best win as a Viking, going 30 for 37 with 301 yards and four big throws (per PFF).
He also has a former quarterback on his toes this time around.
“I think it just takes out some of the gray, which I think can be good sometimes,” O’Connell said.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: CB rookie Andrew Booth Jr. is out. All other members of the Vikings and Eagles teams will play Monday night.