Home Cooking: How Thursday Night Football Home Favorites Have Turned The NFL Upside Down
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, running back Anthony Sherman (42) and quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15). Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
- NFL home favorites have been dominating in prime time over the last three seasons, going 56-39-6 ATS (58.9%).
- Where home favorites have performed the best is during Thursday Night Football, where they are 59-36-2 ATS (62.1%) and 19-3 straight up and 14-7-1 (66.7%) against the spread in December or later.
There is just something about playing under the lights of prime time that fires up and motivates players to a different level of play.
According to Pro Football Reference, since the NFL expanded the playoff field to 12 teams in 1990, home teams in prime time have won 57.6% of games straight up, with around a 1,200-game sample size. In that span, 20 NFL franchises are over .500 straight up in prime time, alone.
When it comes to covering the spread at home in prime time, that has been a bit of a different story…especially for the high expectations surrounding home favorites under the lights.
How It Was…
Between 2003 and 2014, home favorites in prime time (6 P.M. ET or later) were 208-204-12 (50.5%) against the spread, actually losing bettors money during that span (-$606 on a $100/game wager).
The trend flipped between 2010-11 and 2013-14 as home favorites in prime time went 78-56-1 ATS (58.2%, +18.5 units) and covered the spread by an average of 2.4 points per game during that span.
This became a losing spot again in 2014-15 and 2015-16 as home favorites struggled to cover under the lights in those two seasons.
How It Is Now…
Now that I have set the table for the main course, time to dive in. Over the last three seasons, home favorites in prime time are 56-39-6 ATS (58.9%), just above where they were in that previous spike between 2010 and 2013 (58.2%).
In this span, the biggest advantage has come on Thursday Night Football by far…
The last 13 home favorites on Thursday Night Football, dating back to October of last season, are 13-0 straight up and 11-1-1 against the spread, covering the number by 9.8 PPG over that span.
The only road underdog to beat the spread during this span were the 2018 Minnesota Vikings against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4, and the Vikes only covered by a half-point.
What’s A Bettor to Do…
I purposely began this piece talking about the past, because when it comes to trends like this…they are made to crash back down to earth.
When it comes to Thursday Night Football though, there may be a different case to be made:
In the history of Thursday Night Football (since 2006), home favorites have dominated, going 59-36-2 ATS (62.1%), for a return on investment of 21.1%.
Furthermore, if the game is played in December or later home favorites perform even better against the number, going 19-3 straight up and 14-7-1 ATS.
One of the possible reasons for the recent spike in success for teams in this spot is that the NFL expanded its Thursday Night Football schedule.
Starting in 2006, the NFL had an 8-game Thursday night schedule on NFL Network. By 2012, Thursday Night Football had grown to a 13-game schedule, by 2014 and 2015, the schedule expanded to 16 games and by 2016, it reached the 18-game mark that currently exists today.
With more games on short rest and more teams having more of an advantage at home versus on the road on short weeks, home teams may continue to have an advantage in this particular spot, compared to other prime time spots later in the weekly schedule.