Testing Bill Simmons’ NFL Betting Theory: When to Bet Home Underdogs

Testing Bill Simmons’ NFL Betting Theory: When to Bet Home Underdogs article feature image
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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Nick Foles.

  • Bill Simmons has an NFL betting theory: Bet home underdogs.
  • Using Bet Labs, we tested Simmons’ theory and determined the optimal time to wager on home dogs.

It is officially Week 1 in the NFL, which means a new episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast has dropped. “The Sports Guy” and his wizard of wagering, Cousin Sal, guessed the lines for the opening games of the 2019 season.

While analyzing the slate Simmons said, “We do this every year. We always talk about the home dogs. Around Week 8, I always tell you home underdogs are 23-14 ATS or whatever. If we were smart we would take the Panthers and Jaguars.”

Carolina and Jacksonville are two of four home underdogs in Week 1.

  • Dolphins +7 vs. Ravens (1 p.m. ET, CBS)
  • Jaguars +4 vs. Chiefs (1 p.m. ET, CBS)
  • Panthers +3 vs. Rams (1 p.m. ET, FOX)
  • Cardinals +2.5 vs. Lions (4:25 p.m. ET, FOX)

From not having to travel to the effect a raucous crowd can have on the opposing team and referees, playing at home obviously has its advantages in the NFL. But is home-field advantage enough of an edge to give home underdogs value like Simmons suggests?

This is an easy question to answer using Bet Labs. Since 2003, home dogs have gone 644-667-38 (49.1%) against the spread (ATS) in the NFL. Nothing to get excited about. However, timing is important.

Historically, home underdogs have excelled early in the season before losing value as the season progresses.

  • Home underdogs in Week 1-4: 155-124-4 (55.6%) ATS
  • Home underdogs in Week 5-17: 417-464-28 (47.3%) ATS

Since 2003, home dogs in Weeks 1-4 have gone 155-124-4 (55.6%) ATS. A $100 bettor taking the points with these home pooches would have returned a profit of $2,441 following this simple strategy.

Home dogs perform well early in the season because we don’t know as much about each team as we think when players first take the field. Expectations for the upcoming season are often based on last year’s results and teams tend to regress to the mean from one season to the next.

The Dolphins, Jags, Panthers and Cardinals all had losing records in 2018, while their opponents, with the exception of the Lions, were division winners. More than 70% of spread tickets are on the favorite in each of these matchups as casual bettors expect these squads to play like they did a season ago.

History suggests these home underdogs could surprise bettors, and our NFL model agrees. Based on 10,000 simulations, here are the projected spreads for each matchup:

  • Dolphins +5.5 (actual spread +7)
  • Jaguars +3.5 (+4)
  • Panthers +1.8 (+3)
  • Cardinals -1 (+2.5)

When handicapping the Week 1 slate, take Bill’s advice and consider betting the home underdogs.