You won’t find an NFL team that looks forward to going on the road to play the Kansas City Chiefs or Seattle Seahawks. And it’s only partly because those are two of the most talented teams in the league.
Suddenly, San Francisco and Buffalo have moved to the top of uncomfortable places to play for a different reason.
What is the Kansas City Chiefs’ home-field advantage?
As far as disrupting an opposing offense goes, nothing beats defensive ends and outside linebackers with an uncanny ability to get to the quarterback and turn a third-and-10 situation into fourth-and-17. Chandler Jones and T.J. Watt proved their value each week last season.
The second most disruptive force? Playing in the loudest NFL stadiums. Under normal circumstances, Arrowhead Stadium is brutal on opposing offenses. Whether the architects were trying to do it or not, they constructed a building that doesn’t need a roof to hold the noise in. And with 76,400 seats, there are plenty of Kansas City Chiefs fans to generate that noise while Russell Wilson or Derek Carr are trying to bark out signals.
Kansas City fans established a Guinness World Record for the loudest stadium be reaching 137.5 decibels during a game against the Oakland Raiders on Oct. 13, 2013.
The record for the loudest NFL stadium came crashing down less than two months later courtesy of Seattle Seahawks fans at CenturyLink Field, where the design absolutely was intended to maximize noise. That crowd maxed out at 137.6 decibels during a game against the New Orleans Saints. However, Kansas City reclaimed the record on Sept. 29, 2014, at 142.2 decibels while the Chiefs were hosting the New England Patriots.
The pandemic is changing everything at the loudest NFL stadiums
The COVID-19 pandemic is stripping teams of the advantage associated with crowd noise in the loudest NFL stadiums. The majority of teams will play at least the early portion of the season in empty stadiums. Others will have the crowd size severely restricted.
To create some semblance of normalcy both for players on the field and viewers at home, the NFL will pump a steady stream of crowd noise into the stadiums. According to the Washington Post, the in-stadium volume will be set at 70 decibels, which is approximately the same as running a vacuum cleaner through a living room.
The NFL will adjust levels at stadiums where fans are allowed after gathering information for a few weeks.
Thus far, the only teams that are selling at least a small percentage of seats are the Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, and Miami Dolphins.
In the case of the Chiefs, they intend to limit attendance to about 17,000 fans at the start of the season. That’s a far cry from what would be automatic sellouts celebrating the Super Bowl 54 victory.
San Francisco and Buffalo have become undesirable destinations
While the NFL is imposing some of its own rules on teams related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including just one captain per team for the coin toss, the 32 teams are also at the mercy of local and state governments. That’s why a number of teams will not allow fans to attend between one and three early-season games, negating the advantage at the loudest NFL stadiums.
Unlike the Kansas City Chiefs, those teams will have no home fans in the stands. However, while players and other personnel across the league are being encouraged to wear masks when they’re not on the playing field, the local rules are making those masks mandatory on the sidelines in San Francisco and Buffalo.
What a mess that’s going to be as players juggle helmets and masks. And there’s nothing like sprinting 60 yards on kick coverage and then being handing a mask the moment you return to the sideline.
The only guys who might like it are the coaches who won’t have to use play charts to cover their mouths while they call signals.