Since 2001, home teams in the NFL win 57.6 percent of the time, outscoring opponents by 2.6 points per game. This number fluctuates between 1.5 and 3.0 depending on the season. Home-field advantage does not factor into every NFL game equally, and tends to provide greater edge when two teams match up similar in strength. When a pair clash owning average margin of victories within 1 point of each other during this span, the home team wins 61.2 percent of the time.
It’s not surprising, then, to see a significant differential in conference title contests, as teams battling for a Super Bowl birth are relatively close in strength. Home teams are 24-10 SU (70.6 percent) and 18-16 ATS (52.9 percent), winning by 6.5 points per contest. Local crowds, noise, referee bias, travel patterns, rest, and specific environmental knowledge are key factors in gaining home-field advantage. For visitors, added anxiety and ambiguity of playing in a foreign, hostile space is undoubtedly heightened in the postseason.
Below are a few angles and trends to target for your NFL picks, as bettors await the NFC and AFC title games next weekend.
Conference Championship Trends
Beware of heavy chalk: Home favorites laying a touchdown or more on the NFL odds board are 8-3 SU and 3-8 ATS. In the modern, salary-cap era of the league, where the majority of contests often come down to the final possession, this is a hefty number to cover even against non-playoff opponents. It’s not surprising only three of the home wins under these conditions have been by double digits. Visitors tend to score more than projected, surpassing their projected team total in all but three contests. They average 20.1 points, as opposed to 26.5 for the heavy home chalk.
Passing efficiency matters: Some advanced analysis suggests the NFL passing game is nearly three times more effective generating points than rushing the ball. Word of caution: Don’t bet on upsets against efficient passing home teams during conference title games. Those averaging more than 7.35 yards per passing attempt entering the contests are 16-2 SU (88.9 percent) and 10-8 ATS (55.6 percent), posting 28.7 points per game. Home teams are 8-8 SU and ATS accruing fewer yards per toss for the year, despite kicking off -3.1 average favorites. The Chiefs (8.4) and Saints (7.7) are well above the passing mark.
Divisional-round letdown: Home teams coming off a divisional-round win of more than 10 points are just 7-12 ATS (36.8 percent), as opposed to 11-4 ATS (73.3 percent) in tighter prior victories. The Chiefs trampled the Colts 31-13 on Saturday and will host the AFC title game.
Big-winning road teams are dangerous: Since 2001, half (5) of the 10 road-team conference title wins have come in nine games when the visitors are coming off a win of two touchdowns or more in their previous effort. They are 7-2 ATS in this spot, covering a 2.3 average spread by 3.3 points per game.
Points are premium: Home teams finishing games with a combined score greater than 42.0 points are 17-3 SU (85.0 percent) and 12-8 ATS (60.0 percent) in conference-title contests, topping a -5.1 average line by a healthy 7.0 points per game. The Cowboys (41.4), Ravens (42.2), Eagles (43.8), and Bears (44.0) entered the postseason with fewest points per tilt. All four have been knocked out of the playoffs.