Wednesday, 2 October 2019

NFL: The Road, Low Totals and Big Spreads

After the Small Road 'Dogs went a perfect 7 for 7 in the NFL's Week 3, Week 4 was almost certainly going to be a relative disappointment but I'll take the 5 winners out of 8 selections that it produced any time.

Going into Week 4, road teams overall had a winning record, which has only happened once (in 2006) since at least 1989, when records began. No season has seen road teams end the season with a winning record since the 1970s, so this early trend was something worth keeping an eye on. The ATS percentage was 69.6%.   

After road teams this weekend went 11-4, expect to see more conversation about this in the next few days. Overall, road teams now have a 56.5% record straight up and are 67.2% ATS. 

Readers of this blog will know from my thoughts on the Away win in football (soccer) and its slow and steady increase in the English Premier League, something I expect to only continue with VAR, but the NFL, along with MLB, has long had challenges and reviews meaning that the (subconscious) referee bias favouring home teams is reduced:

In recent years, in basketball and elsewhere, the home advantage has been evaporating. The decline has been slow and steady in English soccer over the past century. In baseball, where home-field advantage has been at some of its weakest levels in recent years, it’s thought that closer supervision of umpires may be to thank.
Readers will also be aware that the long-term success of the Small Road 'Dogs Systems in both the NFL and College Football, works because the public overestimate home advantage. Long may they continue to do so, but pre-season articles pointing out that this advantage isn't actually as big as thought, don't help. 
...but for the most part, if you have two even teams, you'll see the home team favored by three points. It probably won't shock you to know that smart bettors don't take this three-point rule at face value, and those that dig into the numbers know that home-field advantage has actually been worth far less than three points on average around the league.
Fortunately some biases appear to be so well established that facts don't change opinions. It helps when people post misleading statements on social media platforms such as this:
Home Dog Division game always a good play.
Well, not always since the Home Dog in Division games since 1989 has a 499-511-35 record. Since the league re-organisation in 2002, the record is 259-285-18, and for the last three full seasons the win percentage is just 47.6%. When I pointed out this small, but significant, detail, the response was this:
I actually do go back to the 50s although I lie about my age and no one is any the wiser, but I don't think that's what he meant. No doubt most readers can come up with a good answer to this question, but that there are people out there with these mindsets is good news for the rest of us! 

Some of you may have also noticed that the average total this season through four weeks is at an all-time high 46 points. 

Unders had a 26-20-2 record, so this was another trend I thought I'd follow with a small interest in Week 4 and that went well with a 9-6 outcome for a nice bonus. 

Backing the Under when the total is 46.5 or fewer is 21-8-2 so far, 72.4%. As with baseball and basketball, it's another example of the public being afraid of the Under when it is a relatively low total. Backing Under 46.5 since 2014 has been profitable every season, with an overall 54.9% record. 

As with the NBA and MLB, the average number of points is also increasing in the NFL due to rules changes, and perhaps the public haven't shifted their long established biases here yet either. 

Between 1989 and 1994, the average total was 38.7, and in every five year period since, the average has increased.

The average total for this week is 46.07 points. 

Next weekend, for the first time in almost 10 years, there will be a game between a 4-0 team (New England Patriots) and an 0-4 team (Washington Redskins). Examples are rare, but all six have been won by the favourite, and four have been won ATS. The line is currently 15.5. 

Similar to how the sub -400 price used to be a rarity in baseball, a line greater than two converted touchdowns used to be relatively rare in the NFL, but parity seems to be declining here also with five already this season, and a sixth likely in Week 8.

Since 2002, there have been 69 such occurrences, with 21 being the the New England Patriots, seven of which were in 2007 when they almost went unbeaten for the season. Only twice has the hot favourite lost and ATS the record is 38-31 although in the AFC it is 50/50. Road teams are 6-1. 

Another interesting tidbit is that in games following a big handicap that went Over, the public expects an immediate reversion to the mean and backs Under.

Unfortunately for the public, Over is 63.6% in these games. 

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