Since NFL Thursday Night Football became a weekly occurrence, there have been noticeable patterns for the Thursday games as well as the Sunday before and the week after!
There was once a time not too long ago when handicappers only had to worry about making NFL picks on Sundays and on Monday night, except for the odd Thursday games here and there such as on Thanksgiving or the occasional Saturday games at the end of the regular season.
That all changed though on Thanksgiving night, November 23rd, 2006 when the Denver Broncos visited the Kansas City Chiefs in the first ever official Thursday Night Football game which was then exclusively on NFL Network, and that was the night that Thursday night became another official NFL night!
Thursday Night Football only took place over the second half of the NFL season from 2006 through 2012, but there was then another fairly drastic change in 2013 when it became a season long event. Granted the first NFL game of each season has been on a Thursday for quite a while now with the defending Super Bowl Champion hosting the game, and that will be the case again this year when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the New England Patriots on September 10th.
You can check out the NFL odds on the opener as well as the full Week 1 slate right now on SBR Odds.
But until 2013, there was not another Thursday night game until NFL Network picked up the coverage right around Thanksgiving and through the rest of the season. Now, a prime time player in CBS has joined in on the action and Thursday Night Football has become a season-long event.
More importantly, the advent of weekly Thursday games has led to discernable patterns, not only for the Thursday games themselves but also for both the Sunday games the previous week just four days earlier and the following games the next week with more extended rest.
Before getting into those patterns, let us first look at the entire population of NFL games beginning with the week before the debut of Thursday Night Football on Sunday, November 19th, 2006 so we may get a baseline to compare the special circumstances to.
Entire Population Baseline
All NFL regular season games since that Sunday in 2006 have averaged 44.4 points, with the home teams winning by an average score of 23.4-21.0. All regular season home teams are 1019-1080-61, 48.5 percent ATS during this time as well as 1226-930-4, 56.9 percent straight up. Also, the totals have been split fairly evenly with the ‘over’ going 1080-1047-32, 50.8 percent.
So there is nothing much to see there, but did you expect any differently? After all, the NFL is the most heavily bet sport in North America so you will not see any inefficiencies over any large sampling like that. But at least we now have our baseline numbers as a starting point.
The Previous Sunday
Now, from here on out, our only interest will be on Thursday night teams playing on short rest after playing the previous Sunday. Therefore, teams playing on Thursday night coming off of a bye week or teams playing a second consecutive Thursday game are omitted from this study. Also, the season opening Thursday night games are also omitted since those too do not fit the “short rest” criteria.
So for starters, how do teams do on Sundays knowing they have a short week coming up with their following game on Thursday? Frankly, the numbers have not really varied much from the total population. These games have averaged 44.2 points with the home teams winning by an average score of 23.3-20.9. Home teams are 45-58-3, 48.4 percent ATS and 55-41, 57.3 percent straight up, while the ‘over’ is 48-47-1, 50.5 percent.
The surprising takeaway here is that you can basically ignore the fact that a team has another game coming up in four days for handicapping purposes and simply handicap these game the same way you would any game, for better or for worse.
Thursday Night Football (and Thanksgiving Too)
This is where the fun begins! As a reminder, we are only including teams that played the previous Sunday and are thus playing with only three days off between games. This study also included the Thanksgiving afternoon games provided the teams played the previous Sunday.
There is definitely a noticeable dip in the scoring of these games, as they have averaged a grand total of 43.2 points with the home teams winning by an average score of 22.5-20.7. That total score is more than one full point less than the average score for the total population, which you would think would give some hidden value to the ‘under’. However, while the ‘under’ does have a slim 47-46-3 edge, that is obviously not enough to earn a profit.
Another train of thought he is that home teams should have an added edge since they did not need to travel on a short week. Well, again, the home teams to have a slightly winning ATS record of 48-46-2 ATS, but again that 51.1 percent will not win you any money. And the straight up record for the home teams of 55-41, 57.3 percent is nothing out of the ordinary either.
So in summation, these games have been lower scoring and the home teams have covered at a bit higher rate, but as usual the oddsmakers have compensated enough to make sure there is no blind profit to be made.
The Following Game
The next train of thought as that the Thursday teams that played on a short week should have an advantage in their following game as this time they have more preparation time than there opponents. So does such an advantage exist?
Well, if the team is at home following the long break, it does indeed have a higher than usual average winning margin. These games have produced a total score of 44.1 points, but it is the distribution of those points that is of interest with home teams winning by an average of 23.8-20.3, simultaneously scoring a bit more and allowing a bit less than the population.
Unfortunately though the books are not caught off guard as the home teams are just 21-20-1, 50.2 percent ATS. It is a tad interesting that the ‘under’ is also 21-20-1, 50.2 percent when the well-rested team is the home team, but what could be most interesting is that these home teams are 25-17, 59.5 percent straight up, which could produce a profit on the money line if the price is right.
And what if the team with the extra preparation time is now on the road? Well, these teams have actually been outscored 21.7-23.8 for a game total of 45.5 points. Those average points scored are 0.7 more than the total population of road teams, but the points allowed are 0.4 more, so while the net is a 0.3-point advantage, that has been deemed insignificant by these road teams going 26-26-2 ATS and just 24-30 straight up.
If you are grasping for a positive, consider that with those extra 1.1 points per game in totality, the ‘over’ is 29-24-1, 54.6 percent when the road team is the team that had the greater prep time after playing the previous Thursday.