If you have bet on the National Football League, then there’s a good chance you’ve heard plenty of talk about the importance of home field advantage. For those who kick their engagement level up several notches and frequent the top NFL betting sites, 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? Have we all just been chasing ghosts for years? We’ll 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 NFL odds: 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 17 games over an 18-week schedule. That works out to eight home and eight away contests, plus one game TBD 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 272 regular-season games played out over 18 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 2020 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.
- 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 -’20||ATS-’20||O/U - ‘20||ML - L3||ATS- L3||O/U - L3
|Green Bay Packers||8-2||6-4||6-4||21-5-1||16-11||14-13
|Kansas City Chiefs||8-2||4-6||5-5||23-7||15-14-1||16-13-1
|Las Vegas Raiders||2-6||4-4||6-1-1||9-13||11-11||12-9-1
|Los Angeles Chargers||4-4||4-4||3-5||10-12||7-14-1||8-14
|Los Angeles Rams||6-2||5-3||0-8||18-6||12-10-2||10-14
|New England Patriots||5-3||5-3||2-6||20-6||15-10-1||9-17
|New Orleans Saints||7-3||5-5||6-4||20-9||13-16||15-14
|New York Giants||3-5||3-5||2-6||7-17||6-17-1||10-14
|New York Jets||1-7||4-4||4-4||8-16||10-13-1||12-12
|San Francisco 49ers||1-5||2-4||3-3||13-11||10-13-1||13-11
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||6-3||6-3||4-6||12-12||10-12-2||12-12
|Washington Football Team||3-6||6-3||3-6||7-18||12-13||12-13
NFL Home Field Betting Trends
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.
For starters, we’ll begin with the top performers on the big three bet types. Here are the clubs who hit the mark 60 percent of the time or greater while playing at home.
- Moneyline: Buffalo, Green Bay, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Indianapolis, Cleveland, LA Rams, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Miami, New England, Baltimore
- Against the Spread: Miami, Buffalo, Washington, Tampa Bay, Seattle, Philadelphia, New England, Baltimore, LA Rams, Cincinnati, Green Bay
- Over/Under: Minnesota, Las Vegas, Tennessee, Dallas, Detroit, Arizona, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, New Orleans, Buffalo, Green Bay
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we find teams that cleared the bar less than 40 percent of the time at home on the three metrics. Here are the teams in that category for last season.
- Moneyline: NY Giants, Minnesota, Chicago, Cincinnati, Washington, Atlanta, Denver, Houston, Carolina, Las Vegas, San Francisco, NY Jets, Detroit, Jacksonville
- Against the Spread: Atlanta, Arizona, Indianapolis, Dallas, NY Giants, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Minnesota, Carolina
- Over/Under: Carolina, LA Chargers, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Miami, Chicago, Houston, Washington, New England, NY Giants, LA Rams
Teams that didn’t fit into either of the above groups can be considered to be in the middle of the pack on the metric for the season. Here’s how many teams were average in each category.
- Moneyline: 5
- Against the Spread: 8
- Over/Under: 10
On the moneyline front, 11 of the 13 teams that won at least 60 percent of their home games went on to the playoffs. Just two of the 14 squads that failed to win more than 40 percent of their games in front of the home crowd managed to do the same.
For ATS, there’s a larger middle ground with eight teams in between the two extremes, 11 at 60 percent or more, and 13 at 40 percent or less. This serves as further evidence of how challenging it can be to beat the spread consistently.
The Over/Under was also a bit of a crapshoot as 10 teams fell into the middle ground when playing at home, while there were equal amounts of 11 teams above and below the bar. 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: Green Bay, New England, Kansas City, LA Rams, Indianapolis, Baltimore, New Orleans, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Buffalo, Cleveland, Tennessee
- Against the Spread: Miami, New England
- Over/Under: Dallas, Tennessee
Next, these are the teams that failed on the three metrics at home more than 40 percent of the time.
- Moneyline: Carolina, Atlanta, Cincinnati, NY Jets, Jacksonville, Arizona, NY Giants, Washington, Detroit
- Against the Spread: Carolina, Houston, LA Chargers, NY Giants
- Over/Under: Houston, Denver, LA Chargers, Chicago, New England, 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: 10
- Against the Spread: 26
- Over/Under: 24
For the three metrics, there’s a big middle ground on two of them. On the moneyline, the key takeaway is this: teams that are winning 60 percent or more of the time at home are among the best over the timeframe. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are a couple of outliers, but the majority of squads in this group have had a challenging time over the past three seasons.
As for ATS and totals, the large number of teams in between the two extremes shows that home field isn’t a determining factor for success in hitting the mark. Additionally, it further proves that NFL handicapping can be quite challenging. That can make it frustrating at times, but it’s also part of the fun as you work towards improving your skills.
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: 64-38
- Against the Spread: 46-55-1
- Over/Under: 47-53-2
Over the past 10 years, home teams have been a solid bet on the moneyline, winning at a clip of 62.7 percent overall. However, there have been seasons in which the home side has broken even or won less than 50 percent, so just blindly bet on those clubs and hoping for the best isn’t exactly a recipe for success.
As for ATS and the O/U, dog plus the points and the Under have been the winning sides more often than not. However, the same applies: there’s variance on a season-by-season basis, so there’s no one surefire winning formula for all NFL playoff bets. There have only been a few seasons over the past decade in which a clear trend has been present, so keep that in mind.
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 -5.5.
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.