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We’ve all heard it. Even people who know nothing about gambling, who have never bet on an NFL game and couldn’t care less have heard it. “Add 3 points to the home team for home field advantage.” People say it with an air of wisdom, but the truth is, they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about!

Over the years, yes indeed, the home team does enjoy a home field advantage of about 3 points. This is an average, however. Averaging doesn’t work well when comparing football teams. Let’s say I told you that the average high temperature in Las Vegas was 79 degrees. Would you just assume that the high temperature today is 79 degrees? I sincerely think not. You’d say something like this, “Well, being that its summer time, I’d have to say the temperature is higher than average.” You’d be right!  It turns out that the hottest month is July with an average temperature of 102. The coolest months are December and January with an average high of 59 degrees. The point is, you’d never say, “In Vegas today, the high temperature will be 79.”

So how does this apply to the home field advantage? Simply this:  Don’t just assume that the home field advantage is 3 for every team. In 2016 the home field advantage for all teams was 2.5 on average. However, the range of the individual team’s home field advantage was from 7.5 for Seattle to -4.3 for Indianapolis. That’s right; some teams actually have a home field disadvantage. Somehow, that fact seems to be missed by nearly everyone who talks about this subject.

I was doing some reading a few seasons ago from another handicapper, who wrote an article about home field advantage. In the first couple of sentences he wrote that the advantage was just an average, and you just can’t add 3 points to every home team. I thought, “Here’s a guy who knows what he’s talking about!” With this subject that’s rare.  However, he then went on to say that, and I’m paraphrasing here, some cold weather teams might have a 4-point advantage in the dead of winter, while in warmer weather it might just be 2 points. As happy as I was to see he understood it was an average that you shouldn’t blindly follow, he then misinterpreted how to apply it.  I relate this story to show you that even people who should
know better, don’t, and people who have an idea of what’s going on don’t understand it very well.

It’s important to remember that a team that has a home field advantage can be said to have a road disadvantage. In other words, a great home field advantage for the Lions of 11.6 in 2007 could be more a reflection of how bad a road team they were than anything else. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are a good play at home. You can also look to go against them on the road. That season they were 5-2 ATS at home and 2-6 ATS on the road.  

So now you know something that virtually all of the rest of the betting public and most handicappers don’t. This can only help you on the road to winning in the NFL. Good luck!  

Some of the highlights of the 2016 season:

About 6 teams a year, on average, show a disadvantage while playing at home. Last season it was 5.

Washington went from a home field advantage of 8.0 in 2015, to -1.3 in 2016. That’s a huge 9.3 swing. The Ravens went from -1.6 in 2015 to 6.9 in 2016, an 8.5 shift.

Here is the complete list of home field advantages for the NFL 2016 season:

Seahawks      7.5      Broncos          2.3            
Ravens          6.9      Chargers         2.3             
Texans           6.6       Giants            2.3             
Eagles            6.5       Lions              2.3
Bears             6.0       Dolphins         2.2
Bengals         5.1       Cowboys         1.6     
Packers         4.8       Steelers          1.3      
49ers             4.8       Raiders           0.8
Bills                3.6       Saints             0.6    
Cardinals       3.5       Browns            0.4        
Chiefs            3.3       Buccaneers     0.3
Panthers        3.2       Rams             -0.1
Jets                3.0       Patriots          -0.7
Vikings           2.9       Falcons         -1.1
Titans            2.8       Washington    -1.3
Jaguars         2.5       Colts               -4.3                         
Revised 2017 - © 2017
The Myth of the Home Field Advantage