Just recently, the Ravens announced they would begin the 2020 season with no fans in the stadium, an expected response to the ever-present COVID-19 pandemic. As disappointing as the decision is, the health and safety of the players, as well as the fans, remains the most important thing in this unprecedented time. That being said, I couldn't help but wonder what kind of impact this could possibly have on Baltimore's success on the field.
Without fans in the stands, the always reliable “home-field advantage” becomes a non-factor, and that raises many questions surrounding every team. The Ravens, though, may be especially vulnerable due to Baltimore’s reputation as a “tough place to play” for opposing teams.
The statistics show this may be an issue, considering over the past 5 seasons the Ravens are 27-13 at home and 20-21 on the road. Statistically speaking, they also throw more interceptions and are significantly worse at passing defense while away, allowing over 500 more passing yards while on the road the past two seasons.
The Philadelphia 76ers, one of the best home teams in the NBA, were just swept in their first round series against the Boston Celtics in Orlando’s NBA bubble, where every team is playing on a neutral site with no in-person fans. If Baltimore were to go without fans for the first half of the season, they would face the Browns, Chiefs, and Steelers all without their fans in the stands cheering them on. Who is to say, given this information, that Baltimore would be at full strength for these crucial games?
Earlier this month, John Harbaugh was asked in an interview about the possibility of playing with no fans.
“I notice [fans] when they come in because I want to see how full the stadium is, get an idea of how loud it’s going to be, and then right before kickoff you feel them,” Harbaugh said. “But after that I kind of forget about them, in all honesty, until the key moments. If you’re trying to communicate, or when third down comes up and you hear our fans go crazy, you can sense it.”
We are in an unprecedented time, and not many things will be known until the Ravens season actually kicks off on September 13, where they’ll host the Browns in Week 1.