NFL Home Advantage is AWOL in 2021, but punters aren’t buying it –

It’s easy to attribute many societal trends of the past two years to the pandemic: Americans fleeing cities to the suburbs, feeling momentary unease when two movie characters find themselves within six feet of one of them. other, and so on. Likewise, the demise of the NFL home court advantage appeared to be COVID-induced.

And yet, with the crowd back in the seats, the home teams are 103-104-1 this NFL season, a winning percentage almost identical to their meager 127-128-1 record in front of the stands for the most part. empty in 2020. Throw in 2019, and teams have won only 50.5% of matches in their own stadiums in the past three seasons.

Conventional wisdom says that home advantage is worth three points. In reality, the average home team was favored in Vegas by around 2.5 points between 2003 and 2018. That number dropped in 2019 to 2.0, and yet the home teams only covered the gap. that 43% of the time, the lowest rate in 50 years.

Last season, despite the unique circumstances surrounding fan attendance, the bookies always favored home teams by 1.3 points per game, but the adjustment was enough to help home teams bounce back and cover 50 % time.

In 2021, the bonus granted to home teams by sports betting is, for the first time, in flagrant contradiction with recent evidence. With an average of 1.6 points, the home teams have covered only 44% of the games.

The average spread has narrowed to 1.1 in the past five weeks, from 1.9 in the first nine. DraftKings Director of Racing and Sports Betting Operations Johnny Avello stressed that odds creation strategies evolve every week, but maintained that there is an advantage on the court. “The fans are definitely making a difference, ”said Avello. “It’s different for different teams, but it’s worth something for everyone. Your team could be 0-7 at home… and those stadiums are filling up. The fans come and support.

Belief in home ground advantage despite being absent since 2018 depends on seeing 2019 as an outlier. “In 2019 we saw empirically that the field didn’t really exist, but theoretically it didn’t make much sense to us,” said Sam Garriock, senior trader at PointsBet. “So although we’ve reduced the home court advantage slightly this year, we haven’t made a drastic change like we did last year when we reduced this thing to a point.”

The idea that 80,000 screaming fans don’t make sense is understandably hard to accept. “It’s hard to draw comparisons to 2018 and think that anything has fundamentally changed,” Garriock said. “With the fans at the same level as in 2018, we can’t really get there to remove the pitch.”

NFL teams are investing more in sleep and heading to games earlier in the week, to the point that a long trip from coast to coast may no longer impact performance on the field. Over the past three seasons, road teams have been counterintuitively 113-90-1 when playing in a stadium that is at least two time zones away from theirs.

The sudden and complete disappearance of the NFL home’s home advantage is even more puzzling given that most of the national and world sports leagues have emerged from the depths of the pandemic with a home advantage largely intact.

The NBA has seen a decline in recent years, but home teams win over 55% of games this seasonfar from the observed trend of the NFL. “The NFL season is still a very small sample, even over an entire season, so we also rely on other sports,” Garriock said. “We are probably stubborn enough to leave our prior here. “

The same goes for fans and, more importantly, punters. This Saturday night, the Indianapolis 7-6 Colts will be given a 2.5-point advantage when they host the number one seeded New England Patriots, who have not lost a game in regulation since October 3. exist, there’s absolutely no way the Colts would be favored there, ”Garriock said. “Even though we thought it no longer existed, the bidders still have a firm belief that it exists. We are somewhat indebted to what the market believes.

Sports betting has not seen a flood of money on road teams from professional bettors, although road teams have consistently beaten the spread. “Not all games that follow this model are bad games for books,” Avello said. “We have set up a spread and clients are betting on it. Overall, people say, “You might have been wrong on this point.” We may have got the spread wrong, but we [still made a profit]. “

Indeed, it was a strong year for sports betting. Recreational bettors tend to bet on the favorites, and the underdogs have a year-long ATS wins record, even after a down-to-the-wire flurry. covers by favorites in week 14.

Until bettors stop believing in home court advantage, don’t expect home teams to stop scoring points. When it comes to making lines, “really not much has changed, and I don’t think a lot will change,” Avello said.

How long will it be before the recent results are not considered a fluke? “It’s a question we ask ourselves in almost every area of ​​odds making: Do you trust the newest and most valuable sample, or do you trust the large sample? Garriock said. “It’s a challenge, and it’s a challenge for real debate I think.”

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