Pandemic-induced fan restrictions have made the concept of home-field advantage less meaningful throughout sports, but particularly as the NFL playoffs commence this weekend.
Looking to recapture some Superdome magic, New Orleans head coach Sean Peyton proposed testing and quarantining tens of thousands of Saints fans in an attempt to fill as many seats as possible at the venerated venue for the team's playoff opener Sunday against Chicago.
"I brought up the idea of testing 50,000 people and quarantining them in a hotel and having the most safest Superdome known to man, scientifically,” Peyton said, as reported by nola.com. “Bus them, they've tested every day, and you've got a COVID-free facility. I think that’s possible. I don’t know if it’s taken off or not.
"It can be done."
The largest crowd the Saints have played in front of at home this season was 6,000 people. A plan to incrementally increase the number of people allowed in the building on game days — building up to 15,000 people — was scrapped amid rising coronavirus cases.
The Superdome, which has a seating capacity of 73,000, had 3,000 fans in attendance for the last Saints home game, a 52-33 win against the Minnesota Vikings on Christmas. The Saints are guaranteed two home playoff games if they continue to advance.
“It’s not the same,” Payton said of the reduced capacities so far this season. “I don’t even know how many fans we’re going to have or if it’s been announced yet. Can you create one? It’s the team creating its excitement and generating its excitement. I think you’ve got to be ready-ready.
“But this year, uniquely this year, the away games for any of these opponents are not as daunting maybe as it would be when you have to go in and deal with the crowd noise and all the other factors.”