Why home-field advantage has vanished in NFL

Has home-field advantage in the NFL disappeared?

It sure feels that way. And, it’s been mathematically true six weeks into the 2019 season. If you throw out the two neutral-site games in England, road teams are 49-39 straight up.

At that volume, composite scoring sums represent “the league against itself.” Through 88 games, the average result has been the road team winning by 1.36 points.

So, home-field advantage hasn’t been worth the standard three points. Nor has it dropped to just two or 2¹/₂ points. It grades out as a home-field “disadvantage!”

You avid fans are probably already thinking about the Miami Dolphins. They got crushed in their first two home games by scores of 59-10 and 43-0. Did those monster margins warp the math to create an illusion?

Not as much as you might think. Sure, in the first two weeks, 49- and 43-point wins for visitors loomed large over the sample size. That’s less of an issue through 88 games. If you throw out all Miami matchups, and just look at the other 31 teams facing each other, the average result is still a 0.4-point win for the visitor. Road teams are 45-38 straight up in games that don’t involve Miami.

Those ’19 numbers aren’t a surprise if you’re the type of bettor that loves home favorites. You’ve taken a bath this season. According to covers.com, home favorites are 20-41-1 against the spread. Will you finally take VSiN’s advice and stop betting so many home favorites ATS, in money line parlays, and in teasers before your bankroll flows completely down the drain?!

Contributing to the road-warrior phenomenon:

  • Bad teams really are struggling at home. We already discussed Miami. Washington is 0-3 straight up and ATS as hosts. Cincinnati is 0-2 both ways.
  • Contenders from last season have fallen on hard times. The defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams just lost outright at home to Tampa Bay and San Francisco. Defending AFC runner-up Kansas City did the same vs. Indianapolis and Houston.
  • Popular betting attraction Cleveland is 0-3 straight up and ATS at home.
  • Always popular home betting attraction Seattle is 0-3 ATS with “a 12th man” despite running the table on the road.

Those are examples. But, they don’t explain “why” Cleveland can crush Baltimore on the road while losing in the Dawg Pound, or why the Rams covered all three road games despite getting bullied at the Coliseum, or why Seattle is playing so many nail-biters at high decibel levels. What’s going on?

As you ponder the possibilities, remember that we’re dealing with two different factors under the same umbrella:

  • Home teams are performing worse straight up than expected. This would still be really weird even if point spreads weren’t involved.
  • Betting markets have been slow to react to this surprisingly enduring development.

VSiN will continue to monitor the math so you can bet smart!

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