Oftentimes, it’s really tough to beat the comforts of home. Familiar surroundings can set the mind at ease and makes blocking out distractions that much easier. While that’s a fair assessment for everyday life, does the same hold true when it comes to the NFL?
If you have even a casual interest in the National Football League, then there’s a good chance you’ve heard plenty of points made about the importance of home field advantage. For those who kick their NFL engagement level up several notches and wager on the game, then it’s likely a given that the home and away question factors into your handicapping process.
Is NFL home-field advantage really worth all of the fuss that gets made about it or have we all just been chasing ghosts for years? We’re going to get to the bottom of that right here by examining the factors that make or break the idea of a team’s home turf giving them an advantage.
We’ll also spend some time discerning which of the league’s 32 teams have a noticeable advantage at home over the last three years on the holy trinity of bets: moneyline, point spread and totals. Let’s get to it.
How Big is Home Field Advantage?
Outside of a handful of neutral-site games per season and the Super Bowl, each game on the NFL docket shares an important characteristic: one side is the designated the home team, while the other is the away team.
The home side gets to spend the week in advance of the game in familiar surroundings. They get to practice as normal, hold meetings and implement game plans in the home environment, and generally adhere to the overall structure and framework as laid out by the organization.
Things are different for the away side. While they may begin the week in their neck of the woods, they know they’ll have to travel at some point to their next destination. In some cases, they may spend two weeks or more getting ready for games outside of home.
As a result, the home team has at least somewhat of a built-in advantage for the upcoming game. But exactly how big is it and does it make that much of a difference? Let’s explore further, starting with a closer look at how the season shakes out.
How the NFL Schedule Works
Each offseason, the release of the NFL schedule for the coming campaign is a highly-anticipated event. The league’s 32 teams will have their path laid out for them, and the same holds true for fans and bettors.
All teams play 16 games over a 17-week schedule. That works out to eight home and eight away contests per franchise, but there are typically some international games scheduled each season. Some of the teams that play in those games will lose one of their home games.
In total, there will be 256 regular-season games played out over 17 weeks with each club granted a bye week. To make the schedule work, the NFL schedule makers follow a set formula and go through numerous iterations before the final product is released.
While measures are taken to ensure fairness, there are sometimes striking anomalies that pop up, such as a team having a lengthy stretch of away games. However, that’s balanced out by the fact that each squad gets equal time at home and on the road, for the most part.
NFL Home Field Records for Each Team
We’re now going to take a deep dive into the numbers to see how each team has performed at home. The data we’ll be looking at covers the 2019 season and the results from the last three seasons in total.
A three-year window makes for a good snapshot of the current state of affairs. There’s lots of turnover in the NFL from season to season, while clubs that are in rebuilding mode may look towards a three-year plan to return to relevancy.
Here are a few notes to keep in mind on the data, followed by a table of results for all 32 teams.
- ML = moneyline or straight-up, ATS = against the spread, O/U = totals with the record noting the mark for the over.
- First three columns cover 2019, while L3 in the final three rows covers the last three seasons.
- The Raiders have moved operations from Oakland to Las Vegas for the coming year, so the record in the table is indicative of how the team did in its former digs.
- Records include postseason results for teams that had home games in the NFL Playoffs.
- Some squads lost a game per season at home for international contests, so some teams may only have seven home games for 2019 or less than 24 for the three-year span.
|Team||ML -’19||ATS-’19||O/U - ‘19||ML - L3||ATS- L3||O/U - L3
|Green Bay Packers||8-1||6-3||4-5||17-7||13-12||12-13
|Kansas City Chiefs||7-3||6-3-1||7-3||21-8||17-11-1||14-14-1
|Las Vegas Raiders||4-3||4-3||4-3||11-1||10-10-1||9-12
|Los Angeles Chargers||2-5||1-5-1||2-5||11-11||7-14-1||7-15
|Los Angeles Rams||4-3||3-3-1||3-4||15-9||10-12-2||14-10
|New England Patriots||6-3||3-5-1||4-5||23-5||16-11-1||13-15
|New Orleans Saints||6-3||5-4||5-4||21-7||13-15||15-13
|New York Giants||2-6||2-6||4-4||6-18||6-17-1||11-13
|New York Jets||5-3||4-4||2-6||11-13||13-10-1||13-11
|San Francisco 49ers||8-2||5-4||6-4||15-11||11-14-1||15-11
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2-5||2-5||2-5||10-13||8-13-2||10-13
NFL Home Field Betting Trends 2019
Now that we’ve sorted through the data, let’s take a look at some of the more notable NFL betting trends from last season. On each of the three metrics — ML, ATS and O/U — there are teams that have over- or under-performed.
We’ll start by taking a look at the former with a list of all clubs that hit the metrics at a clip of 60 percent or greater.
- Moneyline: Green Bay, San Francisco, Baltimore, Minnesota, Kansas City, New Orleans, New England, Houston, Denver, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Indianapolis and the New York Jets.
- Against the Spread: Kansas City, Green Bay, Denver, Pittsburgh, Dallas and Minnesota
- Over/Under: Carolina, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Arizona, Dallas, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Miami, Washington, Cincinnati and San Francisco
Let’s shift gears to the under-performers and consider any squad that met the mark 40 percent of the time or less as a member of that category.
- Moneyline: Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles Chargers, Arizona, Tampa Bay, Carolina, New York Giants, Detroit, Cincinnati and Washington
- Against the Spread: Buffalo, New England, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, Carolina, Seattle, New York Giants, Washington, Cincinnati, Los Angeles Chargers and Tampa Bay
- Over/Under: Pittsburgh, Los Angeles Chargers, Buffalo, New York Jets, Chicago, Atlanta and Philadelphia
Teams that haven’t made the cut on either extreme can be considered to be in the middle of the pack on that metric in 2019, which is also known as average. Here’s how many teams were average in each category.
- Moneyline: 9
- Against the Spread: 14
- Over/Under: 13
Interestingly, the largest middle ground for teams is against the spread as 14 teams fall between the two extremes at home. This is yet another strong indicator of how challenging it can be to beat the spread consistently.
On the moneyline front, 10 of the 13 teams that won at least 60 percent of their home games went on to the playoffs. All 10 of the squads that failed to win more than 40 percent of their games in front of the home crowd did not.
The Over/Under was also a bit of a crapshoot as 13 teams fell into the middle ground when playing at home. Let’s see how each of these trends hold up over a longer timeframe.
NFL Home Field Betting Trends Last Three Years
We’ll go through the same process for each metric over the last three seasons. First up, here are the clubs that hit at a clip of 60 percent or more when playing at home.
- Moneyline: New England, Minnesota, New Orleans, Kansas City, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Dallas and the Los Angeles Rams
- Against the Spread: Minnesota, Chicago, Miami and Kansas City
- Over/Under: Carolina, Tennessee, Miami and Seattle
Next, these are the teams that failed on the three metrics at home more than 40 percent of the time.
- Moneyline: Washington, Detroit, Arizona and New York Giants
- Against the Spread: Seattle, Baltimore, Houston, Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Los Angeles Chargers and New York Giants
- Over/Under: Denver, Atlanta, Cleveland, Chicago, Los Angeles Chargers and Philadelphia
Last but not least, here are the teams that have fallen in the middle on all three wager types for the past three seasons at home.
- Moneyline: 17
- Against the Spread: 21
- Over/Under: 22
There’s a rather large middle ground over the course of the past three seasons, but we can still glean some valuable insight. Each of the teams that won 60 percent or more of their home games over that span have been among the better clubs in the league.
The four that failed to win more than 40 percent of home contests have been rebuilding for some time now. For the spread and totals, the large number of teams between the two extremes indicates that home-field hasn’t been a huge factor when it comes to hitting the bar.
How Big of a Factor is Home Field for NFL Playoffs?
What do the numbers look like for the home side when the stakes are at their highest? Let’s take a look at the past decade of records for home teams in the postseason on the big three wagers.
NFL Playoffs Home Field Betting Trends Over 10 Years
Here’s what the cumulative mark looks like for all three data points over the past decade.
- Moneyline: 62-38
- Against the Spread: 46-53-1
- Over/Under: 47-54-1
Home teams have been a great overall bet in the postseason on the moneyline for the last 10 years, winning at a clip of 62 percent overall. However, there were also two years in which home squads went 5-5 and another at 4-6, so you would have lost money over three seasons by just picking the home side.
As for ATS and the O/U, we would actually be slightly better off by taking the dog with the points and going with the Under. On ATS, the record was between 4-6 and 6-4 for the home side in six of 10 playoffs.
For the Over, the record fell in that range in seven of 10 postseasons. Said another way, there’s no empirical evidence that suggests home plus the points or Over for home sides is a lock come playoff time.
How Many Points is NFL Home Field Advantage Worth?
As we get set to break down a weekly slate of NFL games, we’re naturally making note of which side is home or away. When we dig into the spread, we also factor that into the equation.
In betting circles, prevailing wisdom suggests that home-field advantage is worth three points for the home side. But is that really the case? There are some handicappers who have settled on 2.5 as a more accurate representation. While that may not sound like a big difference, that’s actually over 16 percent lower than many bettors have been conditioned to believe through the years.
There’s also the theory that the actual advantage varies by team. If we think that through, it makes a ton of sense. The stronger teams are going to be much more imposing at home, and our look at single- and three-year trends bears that out.
Playing at home is still an advantage, but it may not be as big of one as it has been in the past. In fact, it may be wise to consider the actual edge to be more pronounced for stronger teams while not amounting to as much for poorer clubs.
Is NFL Home Field Advantage Built into the Point Spread?
For a quick answer, legal US sportsbooks absolutely factor the home-field into the equation when setting lines. However, let’s just say that they’re not quite forthcoming about how much of a value they place on it.
As handicappers, that means we have to do some digging into the lines while also accounting for what we view as true home-field advantage. Let’s say we saw a line that looked like this.
- Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers (-8)
Sticking to conventional wisdom and assuming the Packers have a field goal edge at home, then the true point spread for the above contest on a neutral field would be Packers -5. If we erred to the side that said home is worth 2.5 points, then the spread would be Packers -4.5.
As we break down the game, we can try to discern the true difference between the two teams, and then also decide how much weight to give to the side playing at home.
When it’s a club that has been traditionally strong at home in recent times such as the Packers, then more weight should be given to the edge. If we’re looking at another game in which the home team performs poorly in familiar surroundings, leaning towards the low side on the edge may be wise.
In our detailed breakdown of home-field betting trends over the last three seasons, we came to the conclusion that playing at home wasn’t the end all and be all for success against the spread. The story could be different in the future, but that’s what the trend has been in recent times.
Handicapping for NFL Home Field Advantage
When digging into a slate of NFL games and trying to make heads or tails on home-field advantage, recent data suggests the approach is different for each of the main bet types.
On the moneyline, two things are pretty clear cut: stronger teams make for a good bet at home — naturally depending on competition level — while the poorer squads may not have much of an edge.
For spreads and totals, it’s less clear-cut, but the good news is we can follow the trends by NFL team. As we’ve demonstrated, there are teams that have consistently covered or hit the Over at home 60 percent of the time. That points to trends that bear watching.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the clubs that fail to hit those marks at least 40 percent of the time could be worth considering for bets in the opposite direction.
While there’s no guarantee that the trends will play out exactly every time, it’s another data point we can lean on while building our weekly cases. As for the teams that fall in the middle of the two extremes on all three metrics, normal handicapping rules apply.
Working through the process for each and every game will lead you on the path towards making more confident decisions. In a perfect world, you’ll wind up with more winners than losers when all is said and done.
Key Takeaways on NFL Home Field Advantage
When two teams square off in the NFL, the typical approach suggests the side playing at home has a built-in advantage. As we’ve demonstrated in our deep dive, that’s not always necessarily the case.
However, there are specific situations in which we should be paying attention.
- Strong home teams that are winning 60 percent or more of the time in friendly surroundings can be solid bets. However, remember that the moneyline odds may not be very enticing when they’re playing a weak road team.
- For ATS and totals, we also want to look for the home sides that are covering or hitting the Over at least 60 percent of the time. This trend can vary by team, so keep an eye on data for the current season as well.
- On all three metrics, clubs that are hitting 40 percent or less on the metrics could be squads to avoid at home for those bets, but you can also bump up your interest level for wagers on the other side.
Trends can help us make cases during the NFL season, but it’s important to remember that each game is a standalone event. By extension, the same applies to each season as a whole. What happened in the past is no guarantee of what’s to come in the future.
However, the past does provide us with solid clues that we can use as tiebreakers. For further confirmation of which way the winds are blowing for teams at home, pay close attention to current season trends once the first three games of the year are in the books.
Speaking of futures, for more on that topic visit our Betting on NFL futures page.