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Footballs Home/Road Disparity

October 31, 2011


How about those Baltimore Ravens? In back to back game they looked like world beaters, shutting down the Jets (34-17) and the Texans (29-14), covering both with ease. That put them at 3-0 Su/ATS at home this season, including that opening day shellacking of the Steelers, 35-7. Then again, a different Baltimore team can show up on the road, as we saw on Monday night in a 12-7 loss at Jacksonville…as a 10-point road favorite! That’s common with some pro and college football teams as the home/road disparity in sports is often remarkable.

Look at the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle started this season with two losses, both on the road, giving up 57 points. They came home and got their first victory as a dog, allowing just 10 points. In the case is that Seattle is situated in the northwest, so their road trips can be long affairs, as when they went to play at Pittsburgh. The reverse is true, of course, when Seattle is at home and many opponents have to travel a long way.

Their next four home games are teams traveling quite a distance, from Baltimore, Washington DC, Philadelphia and St. Louis. In fact, those last three games are part of a nice three-game home stand for Pete Carroll’s squad.

When they were a playoff team, the Seahawks went 9-3 SU/8-4 ATS at home covering two seasons, but 3-10 SU/4-9 ATS on the road during that same stretch. The offense on the road has been particularly pitiful that season, scoring 10, 6, 17 and 10 points. Historically it’s had an excellent home field edge with their outstanding fan base known as the “12th man.” Seattle had a four-year run going 25-6 SU, 20-10-1 ATS at home games.

Naturally teams want to play better in front of the home folks. Part of it is pride and part of it is that the fans are paying good money for entertainment. No team wants to send the locals home unhappy, like the Jaguars last Monday night against the Ravens. Jacksonville started winless on the road this season scoring 3, 10 and 13, but played like a very different team in beating the Titans and Ravens, the latter on national TV with the whole country watching. Home field combined with other incentives (rivalry, revenge, national TV, coaching changes) can make a team even more fired up.

Another part of the equation is travel. Visiting teams have to spend time in airports, sleep in unfamiliar hotel rooms, have their sleeping patterns disrupted. Home teams get to spend the week working at their own practice facilities, sleeping in their own bed, eating home-cooked meals, driving to the stadium on the route they’re familiar with. Being home in familiar surroundings means being comfortable, 24-hours a day.

Road play is one way to get a sense of how good a head coach is. Any coach can get his players to give it their all in front of 60,000 screaming fans, but the really good coaches can get their players to perform just as effectively on the road. The Patriots under Bill Belichick are one such team that has a history of playing well no matter where the venue, a sizzling 45-22 against the spread on the road run.

Many times young teams or ones with new coaches will play their best football at home, but look like a very different team on the road. The Ravens are a good example, along with the Saints who started 3-0 at home this season, but 2-2 away. New Orleans is a team built for speed on the artificial indoor carpet of the Superdome, but that fast offense can be hindered on natural grass on the road, such as in a 23-10 win at Jacksonville and a 26-20 loss at Tampa Bay. Not much offense from what of the most explosive offenses in the game.

It’s important from a handicapping angle to carefully break down home and road stats. One of the difficult things for the young Lions is that they just finished up a 3-game home stand losing the last two games, to the 49ers and Falcons. Road games at the Bears, Saints and Packers are on deck.

We just saw Michigan State pull that shocking last second TD to beat Wisconsin at home. Remember the Cowboys/Bills Monday night game back in 2007 that ended in similar fashion, a colossal late collapse by the Bills? Despite the collapse, the Bills did get the cover as a double-digit home dog. Think they would have played such inspired ball on the road? Maybe, but that was the first Monday night game in several years. The fans and players were really fired up.

Some teams are built for their playing surface at home, like the Saints and Colts in the pros, and Missouri, Hawaii, Houston and Oklahoma State in the colleges. You can see why NFL teams play hard to secure home-field edge for the playoffs. Sometimes who you’re playing is not as important as where you’re playing.


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Monday, October 31st, 2011 NFL Betting 2011

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