https://ftnfantasy.com
Bettings
article-picture
article-picture
NFL
Bets

NFL Betting Trends: Home/Road and Favorite/Underdog Tendencies

Share
Contents
Close

Finally, the regular season is upon us. Preseason bets cash the same as they do in the regular season, but there’s something lacking when you’re one of the few betting your hard-earned money on guys who might be working an accounting job a few weeks later. 

 

Now, in the regular season, we have strength in numbers. The judgmental scowls from friends and family certainly carry over from the preseason, but the armor that protects our love for NFL betting is truly impenetrable, no matter how strong the disapproval or skepticism is from those who don’t partake. 

Before we all dive headfirst into betting the entire Week 1 slate, I want to take a look at some macro-level NFL betting trends because, well, betting on sports is hard. Generally speaking, sportsbooks feed on bettors who rely solely on their gut, so whether you’re new to NFL betting or just looking for an edge, understanding macro trends can be a useful starting point.

Here, we’ll keep it simple and dive into against the spread data from the last four seasons. We’ll break up the data based on home and road, favorites and underdogs, and a mix of all four.

All data below is based on BettingData’s consensus lines. Consensus betting lines can vary slightly based on source. 

Home Teams vs. Road Teams

Moneyline Betting

Since 2018, home teams have been favored on average by 1.7 points per game, meaning bettors typically face a steep price if they’re looking to take the home team on the moneyline. Because of that steep price, and the growing parity in the NFL, blindly betting the moneyline for every home team in that span would have netted a -7.5% return on investment.

So, road teams are profitable then, right? Nope! Road teams have won 46% of games in the last four seasons, and they’re typically (not always) underdogs, but they’ve accumulated a slightly negative ROI primarily because of the “juice” or the vig, which is the cut that sportsbooks take for allowing you to place a wager (i.e. -110 as opposed to an even +100).

ATS Betting

As bad as home teams have been on the moneyline, they’ve been worse against the spread in terms of ROI. Home teams have covered the spread about 47% of the time since 2018, leading to a -9% ROI. 

Road teams actually see a boost in profitability when betting against the spread as opposed to on the moneyline. They’ve covered about 53% of the time and have generated just over a positive 1% ROI. It’s not much, but for many of us, breaking even is a victory and a great first step.

 

Favorites vs. Underdogs

Moneyline Betting

As noted above, home teams are favored on average and road teams are underdogs on average, so there’s definitely some overlap when looking at favorites and underdogs.

Over the last four seasons, favorites are slightly better ATS than home teams, but dumping your cash into moneyline favorites is another good way to lose it. Despite winning about 65% of games in that span, favorites have returned a -6.6% ROI thanks to their expensive price. 

In fact, in 2021, favorites only won about 62% of the time and garnered a paltry -12.5% ROI while their average moneyline price was -315. That means favorites won 62% of the time on an average implied win probability of 76%. See the disconnect? Hence the bad investment.

If you love betting underdogs on the moneyline, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that, in 2021, moneyline underdogs generated a positive 6% ROI while winning 38% of total games, the highest percentage of any year in this dataset. The bad news is that it was the only time since 2018 that betting underdogs on the moneyline returned a profit — so whether it’s a trend that continues remains to be seen.

ATS Betting

Favorites have been an awful bet to make on the moneyline over the last four seasons, but betting them against the spread has been even worse. Favorites have covered just under 47% of the time, making for a brutal -10.4% ROI. The best year to invest in favorites in that span was 2018, and they still produced a -7% return.

Underdogs, however, have been consistent breadwinners. They’ve returned a positive ROI in each of the last four seasons and average a positive 2.5% ROI in that span. In 2021, underdogs hung on to positive ROI by a thread with just a 0.2% return, but it’s better than being negative.

So, we should all blindly bet underdogs against the spread, right? Again, no. One, because betting every single underdog blindly is insane, and two, because there’s a smarter angle to take if you want a more focused lens.

NFL Betting Trends Home/Road Favorite/Underdog

Road Dogs Run Faster

Home teams are bad, and favorites are bad. Road teams are good, and underdogs are good. So, when we eliminate the bad and combine the good, we get road underdogs, the most profitable mash-up we can make with our four options.

From 2018 to 2020, road underdogs generated a 0.8% ROI on moneyline bets but a fairly large 6.7% ROI on spread bets. In 2021, those numbers shifted in favor of the moneyline, but both remained positive with moneyline ROI coming in at 4.3% and spread ROI at 2.5%.

What’s great about road underdogs is that they’ve proven to be profitable against the spread in every year of this dataset, ranging from 2.5% ROI last year all the way up to 12.5% in 2019. All of that averages out to a nearly 6% ROI over the last four years for our beloved road dogs.

Road Underdog Sweet Spot

It can’t get better than our beloved road dogs, can it? It actually can, but let’s quickly recap. We started with a wide lens, looking at home teams, road teams, favorites and underdogs. Then, we focused that lens to find that road teams and underdogs are profitable. Now, when we zoom in on road underdogs, we can see that there’s a fairly clear sweet spot based on the actual spread.

Road underdogs of 3.5-7.5 points have been significantly more profitable than our generic “good boys” of betting. Road dogs within this range have also produced a profit in each year of this dataset, but instead of averaging out to about a 6% return, this betting sweet spot averages out to a nearly 18% ROI over the last four seasons, about 6% higher than the average annual growth of the S&P 500 since its inception. Woof.

Check out the ROI by year for road underdogs of 3.5-7.5 points:

Road Underdogs of 3.5 – 7.5 Points

Year

Wins ATS

Losses ATS

Cover %

ROI

2018

49

45

52%

3%

2019

53

33

62%

18%

2020

47

33

59%

11%

2021

45

25

64%

39%

Three straight seasons of double-digit ROI? Not so bad. Perhaps the most important thing about this road dog sweet spot is that there is actually some logic to back it up and make it more reliable. 

First, while I don’t claim to be an expert in psychoanalysis or bookmaking, the data suggest people might feel inclined to bet on home teams and favorites as opposed to road teams and underdogs. Betting on the better team or a team with home-field advantage feels safer, so it would make sense for sportsbooks to price that into their lines. If people are placing wagers more often on home teams and favorites, then their goal would be to make that less profitable for bettors.

Second, the 3.5- to 7.5-point range isn’t arbitrary. The two most common margins of victory in the NFL are 3 and 7, which have combined for almost a quarter of all final score margins over the past four seasons. So, by getting the underdog’s spread at 3.5 or at 7.5, a bettor is protected against an outcome that happens quite often.

By betting on road underdogs of 3.5-7.5 points, we’re taking the more affordable, less-traveled road while in many cases guaranteeing ourselves protection against the most likely outcomes. It’s obviously not a perfect, fool-proof practice – it has still failed 40% of the time since 2018 – but as bettors, we need every edge we can get.

Again, I’m not saying you should blindly bet on every road underdog in that sweet spot. I’m using real-life data to illustrate the importance of key numbers and simply pointing out how sportsbooks try to take advantage of uninformed bettors. 

The fact that road underdogs of 3.5-7.5 points have been so profitable over the last four seasons does not guarantee their future profitability. If I know, and you know, then Vegas knows. From here, though, we can use our knowledge to make ourselves more educated bettors instead of shamelessly opening our wallets and letting the sportsbooks take their cut every Thursday, Sunday and Monday (and the occasional Saturday). 

How to Bet on the NFL

If you’re new to NFL betting or sports betting in general, you may be wondering where to start. Luckily, FTN has all the tools to get you started. Sign up for a sportsbook account using our affiliate link and take a deep dive into all the different NFL markets that legal books offer.

In Week 1, the New York Giants are 5.5-point underdogs on the road against the Tennessee Titans at -110 odds. In this example, you would need to wager $110 that the Giants will lose by fewer than 5.5 points, or win, to make a $100 profit. 

Be sure to check out the FTN Bets Parlay Calculator as well to see parlay payouts based on the odds of your bets and total number of bets you wish to make.

Previous Best MLB Bets Today – Free (Tuesday 9/6) Next College Football Week 2 Betting Odds, Picks, and Trends