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Rovell: Arrowhead’s Home Field Advantage Is Overrated

Rovell: Arrowhead’s Home Field Advantage Is Overrated article feature image
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As sports bettors assess which side they’re on for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, they should not only consider Patrick Mahomes’ injury, but also home field advantage and what it might be worth to the Chiefs.

The Action Network’s proprietary data shows that the line has baked-in two points for the Chiefs because they are playing in Kansas City. PointsBet told the Action Network that home field advantage nets the Chiefs roughly 1.5- to 2-points.

Does that make sense? We will consider it all and find out.

When one thinks about home field advantage in the NFL, the Packers, Chiefs, Seahawks, Cowboys and Bills come to mind.

But what is home field advantage? And how do you empirically calculate its value?

Most prognosticators are results-oriented about the moneyline. If a team wins more at home than they do on the road, then that team inherently has home field advantage.

Looking at straight up winning, only two teams have won at least 70% of their games at home over the last five years (since 2018) and the last ten years (since 2013).

Those two teams: The Packers and the Chiefs.

But, crucially, that just tells you how good they are in general — not how much value playing at home brought them.

How can we figure out exactly how much better they are at home versus on the road?

First let’s look at point differential over the last 10 years.

The Lambeau Leap: Packers’ Points Differential at Lambeau

In six out of the last 10 years, the Packers scored more points at home versus the road.

In those six years, they averaged scoring 5.75 points more. When they scored fewer points, it was 2.15 fewer points.

And one of the four years with a negative point differential was a COVID season that saw no fans in the stands.

Now let’s look at the Kansas City Chiefs.

Arrowhead Off Target? Chiefs’ Point Differential at Arrowhead

Now THAT is insane. Did you ever think the Chiefs scored more points on the road than at home in nine of the last 10 years?

While they still won more than 70% of their games, they scored an average of 4.3 points fewer at home than on the road.

A derivative factor to consider is win margin. How much better than its opponent did a team perform at home relative to on the road?

Let’s look at this comparison between the Packers and Chiefs again.

As you can see, in every year, the Packers’ margin of victory at home averages more than their margin of victory on the road. In fact, you’d have to go back to 2006 to find a year when the Packers won by more on the road than at home.

The Lambeau Difference: Packers’ Margin of Victory

The Chiefs, meanwhile, haven’t been in the top-five in home margin of victory for nine of the last 10 seasons. This season, their point differential is -3.1 points.

Arrowhead Not On Target: Chiefs’ Margin of Victory

While comparing Arrowhead to Lambeau — the most elite home field advantage in the NFL — may not be a fair fight, this much is clear: the Chiefs’ home stadium hasn’t provided a top-tier advantage for at least the past decade.

The last factor to consider is how well these teams perform against the spread. How have the Packers and Chiefs performed after factoring in a 1.5- to 2-point disadvantage?

The Packers as a home team are 27-17 against the spread (ATS) in the last five years, second in the league. That suggests that even with baked-in home field advantage, oddsmakers are factoring in the two-point swing accurately.

The Chiefs as a home team are 22-26-3 ATS over the last five years, good for a dismal 18th in the NFL.

Home field advantages aren’t equal. But oddsmakers often conflate them and apply the same two-point difference across the board — especially in the postseason, when home crowds are theoretically more lively and invested.

And for teams like the Packers, a two-point difference may be too small.

For teams like the Chiefs, two points is far too much.

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