NFL Playoff Betting Tip: Home-Field Advantage, First-Round Byes Are Overrated

NFL Playoff Betting Tip: Home-Field Advantage, First-Round Byes Are Overrated article feature image
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Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees

  • The Saints, Chiefs, Rams and Patriots will all play at home this week, and have had extra week of rest to prepare for the Divisional Round.
  • Using Bet Labs, we analyze against the spread records for teams with home-field advantage and a first-round bye.

We’ve made it to the Divisional Round, which means the top seeds in this year’s playoffs will finally begin their march to the Super Bowl. The Saints, Chiefs, Rams and Patriots all have a decided advantage over their opponents this week.

These higher seeds not only have the benefit of playing at home, but have had an extra week of rest to prepare for their opponents. Both advantages have proven significant in the postseason.

Since 2003, home teams in the NFL have gone 2,324-1,717-7 (57.5%) straight up (SU) in the regular season per Bet Labs. In the playoffs, teams with home-field advantage have won 61.7% of their games (95-59 SU), a record that improves to an even better 39-21 (65.0%) in the Divisional Round.

Extra rest helps too. In the regular season, teams with eight or more days between games have gone a mediocre 708-687-3 (50.8%) SU. But in the playoffs, such teams are 77-56 (57.9%) SU, including 41-28 (59.4%) SU in the second round.

Of course, winning is not the same as covering. Teams with home-field and a first-round bye in the Divisional Round might be more likely to advance to the Conference Championships, but that has not translated to success at the ticket window.

Since 2003, home teams in the playoffs are 70-80-4 (46.7%) against the spread (ATS). In the Divisional Round, home teams — meaning every team with a first-round bye — have gone 24-35-1 (40.7%) ATS.

Of the 60 of the Divisional Round games in our database, the home team has been favored in 57 (95.0%). Recreational bettors like wagering on favorites, and oddsmakers know this, which leads to inflated lines for the home chalk.

That’s one of the reasons that it has been profitable to fade home teams coming off a first-round bye in the Divisional Round.

Interestingly, for the first time in the Bet Labs database, every underdog is attracting a majority of spread tickets in the Divisional Round. If history is any indication, public bettors are on the right side.

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