Freedman: Will Chiefs-Patriots Total Break the Arrowhead Under Trend?
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15).
- The Chiefs, have regularly hit the under in games at Arrowhead Stadium over the past six seasons.
- Matthew Freedman analyzes what this trend means for the AFC Championship over/under.
If you’ve listened to The Action Network NFL Podcast or read any of our weekly NFL experts picks pieces, you probably know that it’s almost automatic for me to bet the under at Arrowhead Stadium.
With head coach Andy Reid, the Chiefs have been the league’s most profitable home team for under bettors: Since 2013 (including playoffs), they have a 33-17-1 under record at Arrowhead, good for an A-graded 28.6% return on investment (per Bet Labs).
Let’s explore what has made the Arrowhead under so profitable for bettors in the Reid era.
The Chiefs Defense Is Good
The season before Reid joined the team, the Chiefs were 30th in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA. They allowed scores on 40.4% of opponent drives, the second-highest mark in the league. In short, they were dreadful.
Under Reid and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, the Chiefs have been better. Not consistently great, but better.
- 2013: 9th in DVOA, 5th in points allowed
- 2014: 19th in DVOA, 2nd in points allowed
- 2015: 6th in DVOA, 3rd in points allowed
- 2016: 14th in DVOA, 7th in points allowed
- 2017: 30th in DVOA, 15th in points allowed
- 2018: 26th in DVOA, 24th in points allowed
The defense has admittedly regressed over the past two seasons, but the unit is unquestionably better than it was before Reid’s arrival.
The Chiefs Defense Is Elite at Home
It’s common for teams to allow fewer points on their home fields, but the Chiefs defense has taken this dynamic to the extreme since 2013.
- At home (51 games): 17.12 points allowed
- On road (51 games): 23.45 points allowed
On the road, the Chiefs have had a slightly above-average defense: Over the past six seasons, road teams have allowed 24.04 points per game.
But at Arrowhead the Chiefs are elite. Their 17.12 mark is easily first in the league among home teams. For context: The Ravens are second at 18.02, and the Seahawks are third at 18.26.
Think about that: The Ravens and Seahawks have had two of the league’s best defenses and home-field advantages since 2013. And yet the Chiefs have been defensively better at Arrowhead over that time.
In the Reid era, no defense has a home/road split more extremely positive than the Chiefs have with their differential of +6.33 points.
Even though the Chiefs no longer have the defense they had in years past, this season they have still been extremely strong in Kansas City.
- At home (nine games): 17.44 points allowed
- On road (eight games): 34.63 points allowed
There could be some noise in these numbers based on the team’s strength of schedule at home vs. on the road, but the general pattern of home dominance holds even if we look only at the Chiefs’ six games against divisional opponents, whom they have played both at home and on the road.
- At home (three games): 18.33 points allowed
- On road (three games): 28 points allowed
However you slice the numbers, the Chiefs defense has been much better in Kansas City than anywhere else and is a significant driving force for the Arrowhead under.
Arrowhead Stadium Is a Tough Place to Play
What’s evident is that Arrowhead is a tough place for opponents to play. Why is this the case?
For one, the stadium is unbelievably loud. In 2014, the Chiefs set the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium with an eight-second 142.2-decibel outburst.
On top of that, the weather at Arrowhead is often unpleasant. The third-coldest game in NFL history was played there in 1996. Especially once the calendar hits November, the outdoor conditions at the stadium can be described most accurately as painfully glacial.
And it’s not just the temperature that’s a problem for scoring. The passing game suffers in windy conditions, and points are produced more readily from passing than running. As it happens, Kansas City has the Weather Channel’s second-highest wind score of any NFL city.
In this environment, it’s no wonder the Chiefs defense performs like an elite unit. Of course, it’s not just opposing offenses that score less in Kansas City.
The Chiefs Offense Scores Fewer Points at Arrowhead
In the Reid era, the Chiefs have actually scored more points on the road than at Arrowhead.
- At home (51 games): 25.18 points
- On road (51 games): 28.14 points
That -2.96 home/road differential might not seem like a lot, but it’s massive considering that 29 NFL franchises since 2013 have had positive home/road offensive splits.
Over the past six years, no offense has as large of a negative home/road discrepancy in scoring as the Chiefs have.
Even with first-team All-Pro quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs have been less offensively dominant this season in Kansas City.
- At home (nine games): 32.22 points
- On road (eight games): 38.25 points
And this trend holds when we look just at divisional opponents.
- At home (three games): 31 points
- On road (eight games): 35 points
This is not to say that on the whole the Chiefs have no home-field advantage. With Reid, they have a scoring differential of +8.06 points at home vs. +4.69 on the road. Since 2013, only the Patriots (+13.19) and Seahawks (+8.83) have outscored their opponents by greater margins at home.
In fact, perhaps the Chiefs have scored fewer points at Arrowhead because of how dominant their defense has been in Kansas City. At home, they have less pressure to light up the scoreboard, and so they can afford to focus less on putting up points and more on controlling the ball.
Regardless, the historical numbers indicate that points are precious for both teams at Arrowhead, not just the visitors. Over the past six seasons, Chiefs games have averaged 51.59 points on the road, but 42.29 at Arrowhead.
Unsurprisingly, that -9.29 home/road game-total differential is easily the lowest mark in the league.
It’s no wonder the Arrowhead under is so pronounced.
Will the Arrowhead Under Hit in the Chiefs-Patriots AFC Championship Game?
In Week 6, the Chiefs and Patriots combined for 83 points at Gillette Stadium. But this week they face each other in Kansas City.
As of writing, the forecast calls for a game-time temperature of 20 degrees (per the FantasyLabs Models).
The over has been a smart contrarian bet in cold games, so you definitely shouldn’t blindly bet on the Arrowhead under, especially since rematches between non-divisional opponents have trended to the over.
The over/under opened at 59.5 points but it dropped to 54.5 because of a frigid forecast in Kansas City. Since then, however, the forecast has improved, and so bettors have started to invest in the over, pushing the total to 55.5.
With two dynamic offenses and a depressed total, the over could easily hit.
But I would urge caution.
We know the long-term trend of the Arrowhead under. At home, the Chiefs have historically limited scoring on defense and exhibited less explosiveness on offense.
Only twice in the Reid era have the Chiefs faced a non-divisional opponent two times in the same season with home and away games: In 2013 with the Colts and 2016 with the Steelers.
The sample is small, so we shouldn’t read too much into it, but against the larger backdrop of the Arrowhead under, these per-game splits are suggestive.
- On road (two games): 73 points total, 29 points scored, 44 points allowed
- At home (two games): 32 points total, 11.5 points scored, 20.5 points allowed
For his entire postseason career, stretching back to his first playoff appearance with the Eagles in 2000, Reid has an under record of 15-9-1, and the Arrowhead under is 3-0 in the postseason.
Do with this information what you will, but here’s what I know: The only way I’ll bet the over is if the total drops below 54. And if that happens, I’ll be shooting for the middle.
Because you know I’ve already bet the under.