Written By Billy Attridge
We start with home field advantage because it’s important to realize its value has shrunk tremendously over the last few seasons. The days of hearing bettors talk about a standard 3-points given to the home team should be long gone. For the NFL 2020 season, more adjustments will be made. The simple point is, if you’re valuing home field advantage for the Jacksonville Jaguars in November at 1:00pm eastern the same as a Seattle Seahawks game in primetime, you will quickly realize that formula is detrimental to success. There are a couple factors that can assist in your home field advantage number throughout the year, as it should adjust (even if only slightly) week by week depending on opponent, matchup, total, weather etc.
#1 – Is the home team enjoying a winning season with playoffs aspirations? If you’ve attended an NFL game there’s a differentiation in fan engagement/noise level when an 8-5 team is playing for their postseason lives compared to a 3-10 club rebuilding because they’re mathematically eliminated. While the exact number is fluid for the difference in HFA for the above situation, if you treat the advantage similarly in both scenarios, you’re missing something. Now, don’t confuse the difference between properly valuing home field advantage versus the possibility of an inflated number due to the “must win” in the above example. While the example was basic, it was pertinent to mention as we look at the possibility of less fans filling stadiums for the 2020 NFL campaign due to social distancing and the Coronavirus. This will be a moving target of sorts from from now through the end of the season. How long will the NFL mandate no fans or limited amounts? Will teams playing games in states more cautious about social distancing be at a disadvantage? Will the NFL allow home teams to “pump” noise into the stadium – and what kind of noise will be allowed and at what level? All of this will need to be monitored and factored.
#2 – What opponent and coach are coming to town? Contrary to what casual observers think about NFL teams, the talent discrepancy is minimal between top tier clubs and those that end near the cellar. Implementing a strategy to attack opponent weakness and doing so early and often is critical to overcoming talent disadvantages and playing on the road. Last seasons Ravens are the perfect example, Baltimore consistently won and covered on the road (7-0-1 ATS) like many great teams do, but the difference was the style in which they did so. An explosive and physical offense that understood the importance of getting out to a lead early so they could dictate game flow and wear down opponents late was a recipe for success. Baltimore lead the league in both first half success rate (54%) and explosive play rate (14%) on the way to averaging a league best 19.8 points per game on the road in the first half. The Ravens first half ppg output was nearly 15% greater than the 2nd highest scoring team in the NFL on the road. We can debate whether the Raven’s overall strategy of being a physical, run-first offense is more deflating to a home crowd than a boom or bust style offense predicated on a heavy air attack, and even though that may be extremely difficult to quantify, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or have an impact. Aspiring profitable sports bettors would do well to read that last statement twice.
3 Situational Spots for the 2020 season
Week 3: Kansas City @ Baltimore – After heading west to take on division rival Los Angeles, the Chiefs travel back east to face the Ravens on Monday Night Football in possibly the most anticipated game on the early NFL schedule. Baltimore fell last year in Kansas City, but miraculously covered for those who moved early in the week grabbing +6 or better. Lamar hasn’t beaten Mahomes yet, and that’s because the Chiefs have forced the Ravens to play catch-up through the air. This should be a fun sneak peak of what could possibly be the AFC Championship game preview.
Week 8: Los Angeles Rams @ Miami – The Rams come off a home Monday Night Football game against the Bears before traveling on short rest to Miami before the Dolphins bye week. This will mark the Rams 5th road game in 7 weeks! The Rams regular season win total opened 9 and early money at lower limits hit the UNDER, which currently sits at 8.5 UNDER (-120) at FoxBet.com.
Week 15: Buffalo @ Denver – This could be a real difficult spot for the Bills, who travel to San Francisco Week 13 for Monday Night Football, host the Steelers Week 14 for Sunday Night Football, then have the privilege of traveling back west to take on Denver. The Broncos should have a nasty taste in their mouth after being drubbed 20-3 in Orchard Park a season ago. And oh, on deck for Buffalo is former AFC EAST champion New England in another Monday Night Football clash for the Bills where both teams could be fighting for a division title and playoff birth.
No matter how rudimentary the discussion of weather and its impact on football is, we still read, hear, and see big networks hype certain types of weather despite minimal impact. Bottom line, weather sells. Snow is “totally gnarly, dude.” Pregame shows and games with weather have generally spiked in viewership. So it’s not uncommon to see big networks show clips of the stadium from 7:00am eastern when the heavy stuff is coming down or the wind is whipping. Meanwhile, at the current time hours later the weather doesn’t seem too impactful. While the biggest bettors have digital data feeds from stadiums updating multiple times per hour, social media has evened the playing field. Next time you’re watching a pregame show hyping weather, you can easily go to your favorite social media platform and search a hashtag like; #BillsTailgate and see Noah and his cronies tailgating right outside the stadium. Is snow or rain currently falling? Are tents or baggy clothing being impacted by wind? It’s always fun when networks show flags whipping in the wind 30 feet above the stadium; we’ve never actually seen a game played 30 feet above the nose bleed section before. You’re much better served looking at flags on field goal posts, players that tuck towels into their pants or wear baggy warmup clothing. Things actually happening at field-level. The bottom line though, nothing has more influence than wind, and more specifically cross wind that whips sideline to sideline. This type of wind makes routine and simple passes infinitely more difficult, and you can forget about attempting to air the ball deep. The thought of kicking field goals in cross-winds are enough to keep kickers up at night and typically cemented to the bench in what would be normal attempt situations. Every year we see forecasts for snow/rain with little to no wind, and every year the totals on these games plummet early in the week as bettors get ahead of the market, and shortly before kickoff those same games get steamed back setting up a nice middle or the true position. Why? Rain and snow without wind can impact defensive players more, specifically pass rushers who struggle to gain traction and get upfield, and secondaries attempting to react to the routes of receivers, who, unlike cornerbacks, know exactly where they’re going.
Toughest Schedule as of 5/27/2020
Atlanta Falcons (137.15 Wins Faced) – Dan Quinn is on the proverbial “hot seat” again, and while that’s typically an uncomfortable spot to be, Quinn is playing with house money and should’ve been fired long ago. Typically, a head coaches’ strength becomes his teams strength. That hasn’t been the case for defensive “guru” Dan Quinn, as his Falcons have yet to finish better than 20th in defensive efficiency. In Dan’s 5 seasons with the Falcons, his defense has an average efficiency ranking of 24th. When you’re on the hot seat, it’s never fun facing the toughest schedule in the entire league; that’s the case for Atlanta in 2020 as their opponents win totals at FoxBet.com combined for 137.15 wins. Looking at the 16-game schedule, Atlanta squares off against 10 teams projected to win more than half of their games (Chicago at 7.9). Even one of the “easiest” teams on the schedule in Carolina (projected to win 5.5 games) comes at a disadvantage with Atlanta traveling for a short-week Thursday Night division clash. While bye weeks are obviously helpful for rest, your hope is that the proceeding game is extremely winnable. “Any Given Sunday” is the saying, but you would hope the game you play coming off the bye isn’t on the road against the second highest power rated team on your schedule in the New Orleans Saints. Falcons owner, Arthur Blank publicly stated this off-season that Atlanta must return to the playoffs for Dan Quinn to retain his job.
Easiest Schedule as of 5/27/2020
Indianapolis Colts (122.35 Wins Faced) – Chris Ballard, Frank Reich and the Indianapolis Colts finally have something go their way with the projected easiest schedule for 2020 NFL season. Two years ago, the Colts suffered the 2nd most injures in the NFL with 116.5 adjusted games lost. One year later, franchise quarterback Andrew Luck fell out of love with football and retired weeks before the season leaving a team with Super Bowl aspirations high and dry. The Colts face just 7 teams projected to win more than half their games, while facing 5 opponents projected to win less than 7 games. We’re going to find out what Indianapolis is truly made of Weeks 9 through 13; that’s the grueling part of their schedule. The Colts face an extremely physical Baltimore squad who will be entering the game with extra prep and rest off their bye. If that wasn’t tough enough, Indianapolis hits the road 4 days later for a short-week Thursday Night division game against a physical Titans team. If Indianapolis can get through the aforementioned four game stretch 2-2, it will go a long way towards the Colts making the playoffs.