The idea of home-field advantage gets a huge amount of attention is sports, and rightfully so. Playing at home gives one team the comfort of sleeping in their own beds, practicing in their own facility and getting cheered on by their own fans. On the other side of that coin, the road team must deal with travel, late-night arrivals, sleeping in hotels and working in an unfamiliar facility. The real question is how much those variables actually play a factor during football games.
For bettors, taking the home team, which is typically the favorite, is almost a default response when looking at lines. But do home teams really cover more games during Week 1 of the NFL season? Let's take a closer look at how those teams have done during the opening game of the year and figure out if there are any trends we can take advantage of.
NFL Week 1 Home Team SU Records
Three-Year Record: 28-20, 58 percent win rate
2014 : 10-6
2013 : 9-7
2012 : 9-7
The home team doesn't win Week 1 games and much as we might think. A 58 percent SU win rate over three years is solid but not spectacular. That number, however, falls in line with the rest of the season, as home teams won only 56 percent of their total games in 2014. Sure, three years worth of Week 1s isn't' enough to start making grand assumptions, but the big takeaway should be that home-field advantage might not be as big of a factor as the media makes it out to be. And I am not discounting the 56 to 58 percent win rate because wagering on that number would make anyone a winner at the end of the year, but it wouldn't break the bank, either. According to the NFL's stats, the home team wins on average 57 percent of its games during any given season, while in the NBA that number reaches 60 percent.
NFL Week 1 Home Team ATS Records
Three-Year Record: 22-25-1, 47 percent win rate
2014 : 6-10
2013 : 8-7-1
2012 : 8-8
The surprising stat here is that over the last three seasons home teams have struggled to cover the spread and only do so at a 47 percent rate. Taking the road team during the last three Week 1s would have brought a profit for any bettor wagering at -105 juice. Again, three year's worth of ATS stats is not enough data to start proclaiming a trend, but the takeaway is that home teams are not as dominant as we might assume. In betting and sports in general, many people tend to lean toward the home team and favorites without giving much thought to the power of the underdog.
The NFL season can be an overwhelming time because of the sheer number of games to wager on in a single day. Bettors, however, should not get caught up in media hype or certain perceptions about the home team. Taking a road underdog plus points or even a road favorite will have value throughout the year.
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Read more articles by George Monroy
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