Home and away in the NFL
How much of a factor does home advantage really play?
The NFL is played across 4 time zones and several climates, from the desert of Nevada and the biting cold of Green Bay. How do this varied environments affect the performance of teams playing at home and away? In this study, we take a deep dive into this fascinating topic, with a particular focus on how you this affects NFL betting.
Are there any differences in performance between home and away teams in the NFL, and how does this affect how you should wager on these teams?
When discussing games in the NFL, especially during the playoffs, we always emphasize the importance of home-field advantage. Players often say that there is nothing like the feeling of playing in front of their home crowd, and they feed off that energy.
The question is, does it actually matter? Does history prove that there is a significant difference between playing at home or on the road?
It used to be a fair playing field, and each team would play the same number of home and away games. However, the NFL changed the number of games in a season from 16 to 17, so now each team has an extra road or home game.
Was there a distinctive advantage for teams playing more home games than away last season?
It seems that the shift in playing an extra game at home benefited those teams who were lucky to be awarded that advantage. Sixteen teams played nine home games, and eleven finished with above .500 records at home, with seven of them making the playoffs.
None of the teams that played nine home games and were under .500 made the playoffs.
How did teams playing the extra road games fare?
If you played that extra road game, you had to be among the elite to make it to the playoffs. Of the 16 teams that played nine road games, only five finished with an above .500 record on the road, and all but the Steelers made the playoffs.
As mentioned, you must be elite to make it through that gauntlet. Three of those five teams (Chiefs, 49ers, Bengals) have played in the Super Bowl over the last five years.
Who were the most successful teams at home?
Three teams went 8-1 at home this year (Cowboys, Vikings, 49ers). Of those teams, the Vikings and 49ers won their divisions, and the Cowboys also made the playoffs via the Wild Card.
The home advantage helped San Francisco as they won their two home playoff games (vs. Seattle and Dallas) but lost to the Eagles in Philadelphia. The Vikings were upset at home in the Divisional Round by the Giants.
Who were the most successful teams on the road?
The trend proves that if you can win on the road, you can succeed in the league. Two teams won seven games on the road this year: the Eagles and Chiefs, which was the Super Bowl matchup.
They did not need to prove their tenacity on the road during the playoffs since they were each the No. 1 seed. Both earned a bye, and their playoff games were at home.
What are the most significant disadvantages for the road teams?
While playing on the road has already proven to be a disadvantage, there’s one big startling stat for a particular scenario.
West Coast teams seem to struggle when traveling to the East Coast.
The time difference certainly plays a factor because most teams don’t travel for the game until a day or two before. If they play a 1 p.m. game on Sunday, it feels like 10 a.m. for them.
This has long been documented, and West Coast teams are 95-138 since 2003 playing on the East Coast. It’s proving difficult for these players to adjust their body clocks and be ready for the game.
Another factor is the elements. With teams in every part of the country, they all play in different weather conditions.
A season is different for a team like the Los Angeles Chargers, who play in a dome, the Miami Dolphins with warm and sunny Florida, and the Chicago Bears, who face blistering cold and snow, are all different.
Warm-weather teams that played road games in the cold felt the impact. The Dolphins were 3-11 from 2010 until 2021 in games that were 40 degrees or lower, and the Tennessee Titans were 5-13.
It also made a difference for dome teams that had to play outside. From 2010 to 2021, dome teams like the Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, and Indianapolis Colts had worse records outside than in a dome.
If you’re a team that plays your home games outside, you have an advantage to eventually win it all.
Of the last 24 Super Bowl winners, 20 played outside, and 18 were from cold climates.
So if you want to win a Super Bowl, play outside and in the elements.