We’re five weeks into this unique NFL season, and it’s about time for trends to emerge.
When Covid-19 started impacting the sports we love, my immediate thoughts went to football. Of all sports, fans at football games felt necessary for the experience. Teams feed off the energy their home faithful bring, and the impact that can have, especially when the opposition has the ball, is unquantifiable.
Now, as some teams have played home games in front of fans while others are playing in an empty stadium, it may be nearing the time when we can quantify this impact.
Fans Making Early Difference
After the Titans game on Tuesday night, there have been 12 teams that have played home games in front of a crowd. Three more will be joining the ranks starting Week 6.
It’s a small sample size, but through five weeks, teams playing at home with fans are 11-7 ATS, while home teams without fans are 24-34 ATS. That’s a 61% rate compared to 41%, a significant difference.
My first reaction to this was: “wow, teams aren’t even .500 ATS at home?” A quick look back at the records show 2019 was a similar story (a world, you’ll remember, which was played in front of fans). Last year, home teams were 110-141-5 ATS.
All of a sudden, 11-7 ATS starts to seem like an appealing trend to me. This sample size is small, and it will take a few more weeks to truly judge if it’s a fluke or not, but I’m dedicating myself towards finding value where others may not, so there’s no time to wait – I’ll be acting on this information for this coming weekend slate.
When considering these numbers, it’s important to acknowledge that only about a quarter of all home games have been played in front of fans thus far. Nevertheless, it’s interesting enough to keep tabs on.
Before we get to the Week 6 games that have the fan factor, a quick look at the teams we’ll be keeping a close eye on moving forward.
|Home Teams With Fans|
|Atlanta||0-1||First time with fans Week 5|
|Carolina||1-0||First time with fans Week 4|
|Cleveland||1-0||First time with fans Week 5|
|Dallas||0-2||25% capacity every game|
|Houston||0-1||First time with fans Week 4|
|Indianapolis||2-0||Increasing to 12,000|
|Jacksonville||1-1||25% capacity in every game|
|Pittsburgh||1-0||First time with fans Week 5|
|Tampa Bay||1-1||25% moving forward|
|Tennessee||1-0||First time Tuesday night|
|Cincinnati||N/A||Starting Week 6|
|Denver||N/A||Starting Week 6|
|Green Bay||N/A||Starting 11/1|
|Philadelphia||N/A||Starting Week 6|
*I will keep the above updated throughout this year, and add more teams as states continue navigating health concerns with reopening efforts.
61% of the teams with fans are covering at home, compared to the 41% of teams covering without fans, how can we put these early trends to use for Week 6?
Ten (!) of the thirteen games in Week 6 will have home teams playing in front of their fans.
Texans at Titans (-3.5)
Bears at Panthers (-2.5)
Lions at Jaguars (+3.5)
Browns at Steelers (-3.5)
Bengals at Colts (-8)
Ravens at Eagles (+7.5)
Jets at Dolphins (-8)
Packers at Bucs (+2)
Chiefs at Bills (+4)
Cardinals at Cowboys (+2.5)
As I scan the above, the two games in particular that stick out are Jacksonville at +3.5 and Philly at +7.5. The Lions haven’t done much to warrant what oddsmakers are saying is nearly a touchdown difference if played on a neutral field. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has played tougher than their 1-3-1 record would indicate and seem to be building momentum after a solid outing against the Steelers. Couple that with the emotional boost that is their first game in front of their fans, and it’s an interesting spread to consider.
It’s tough to study a trend and then say it remains case-by-case: it feels like a cop out. Instead, I’ll say, look at the board… if you’re leaning towards the home team with any of these early lines, act on it (responsibly), knowing you have numbers on your side.
As we inch closer to Sunday, my eye is also on Miami to cover the eight points against this awful Jets team, along with Carolina and Pittsburgh continuing their winning ways.
I’m excited to keep tabs on these numbers throughout the year, it would be great if we’re on to something here.
If you’re still reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed this statistical study. Ride with me and I’ll be back next week to see how it went. Follow me on Twitter @griffybets for more picks throughout the week as we find value bets, together.