Home team losing edge

Nov 26, 2002 6:57 AM

   One would think home field advantage would be worth a lot in the NFL. These days, it is not so clear-cut.

   The 2002 season through Week 11 has seen the usual generic three-point homefield advantage (average home team score minus average away team score) cut in half. Home squads have only posted a 1.4 point per game advantage over the visitors.

   The below charts show some situations where home teams with certain offensive/defensive characteristics perform above or below expectations in the fifth week of the season and beyond.

   It’s worth considering a good defensive home team all around against the line. When you don’t give up a lot of points, it makes it much easier to cover a number.

   Also, a home team good at running the football and owning a stout passing defense would be expected to do well.

   When the two trends are in effect for a particular home side, the team has gone 74-42 (63.8 percent) against the spread.

   Finally, home teams that are bad in both passing the ball and preventing the pass have been poor bets as favorites (13-34 for 28 percent). The theory changes dramatically for underdogs (31-29 ATS for 52 percent).

   The current qualifiers include:

   Top 10 Rush/Pass Defense: Carolina, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.

   Top 10 Rush Offense/Pass Defense: Philadelphia.

   Bottom 10 Pass Offense/Defense: Arizona, Baltimore, Detroit, San Diego.

   Our search to home teams with a top three ranking in some category, we find the winning percentages divergent from the norm.

   So the results generated are slightly improved for home teams with a top three rushing attack and a passing attack outside of top 10. It’s even stronger for teams with poor passing attacks (ranked 20th or worse). This suggests a one-dimensional rush focused offenses can be quite successful for home teams.

   Right now, the only team that qualifies under the first two situations is Philadelphia. The top three rushing yardage teams in 2002 each rank outside the top 10 in passing — Kansas City, Minnesota, and Philadelphia.

   Situational handicapping, when combined with other breakdowns of a matchup, (statistical projections, injuries, motivation, turnovers, etc.) serve a valuable purpose. Long term NFL trends are worth keeping in mind when placing wager!

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