Home field advantage is a big factor for football handicappers to consider in the NFL. In the playoffs, though, home field advantage can be even more significant. The reason is that the impact of the advantage can vary widely in the playoffs. If the fan base is very fired up and enthusiastic then the advantage could be quite a bit more significant than normal. If the fans are complacent or lacking confidence, though, then it could be less significant than it might otherwise be. Here’s a look at six questions to help football handicappers determine the impact of the home field advantage in the playoffs and how these factors might impact the odds on these NFL games:
Is the game an expectation for the fans? – Sometimes a game will have the fan base of a team incredibly excited because any home playoff game is a real treat. If a team has had lots of recent playoff success, though, or they are coming off a very strong season, then the fans may not be as fired up for the game – especially if it is an early round game. The reason is simple – the fans are expecting a win and they are already looking ahead to later rounds. This can lead to complacency among fans, and that can be a real killer for the atmosphere in the building. When the fans expect the win then they aren’t going to get as excited when the team does something right, and they aren’t going to work as hard to disrupt the other team when they have the football.
How much of a novelty is the game? – The longer it has been since a NFL team has hosted a home playoff game the more fired up the fans are likely to be, and the bigger the impact of the home field advantage will be as a result. If a team makes the playoffs every year then hosting a wild card game won’t be particularly exciting for the fans. It could be a real disappointment, in fact, if the team has typically had a first round bye in recent years.
Is there a rivalry? – Rivalries are a big part of sports, and can have a big impact in how loud a fan base can be. The crowd will be even more fired up by a game if the opponent is not only standing between the team and the Super Bowl, but is also a hated rival that the fans would like to send home for the year. It is important, though, to make sure that it is a real rivalry that will have a significant impact on the fans. There are some rivalries that seem more significant from the outside than they really are to the teams and the fans, so it can be easy for people to overstate the impact of the rivalry if you aren’t careful.
Has the city been swept up yet? – If a team makes it to the Super Bowl then the whole city and region will get swept up in the excitement of the run. It’s an inexact science, though, to predict exactly when it will be that that city gets carried away in the excitement. In some cases it will happen as soon as the team makes the playoffs. Other times, though, the city won’t get particularly invested in things until the team has won a game or two and fans really believe that a championship is possible. The sooner the city gets really excited about the playoff run, the more significant home field will be. Playoff tickets will be in more demand, the fans that are at the game will be more rabid, and the atmosphere will be more electric.
Are the conditions an issue? – Playoff football is played in January. That’s not a very nice time of year in much of the country. In the playoffs, then, conditions can be a bigger factor than at any other time of the year. If the game is being played outside, and the weather is extreme for the particular region and different from what the visiting team is used to, then the home team can have a bigger edge than normal. The home team knows how to deal with temperatures, how to get the best traction on soggy fields, and so on. It’s very important here, though, to be sure that you have an accurate forecast and have a real sense of what the weather is going to be like. Too often you’ll hear predictions of doom and gloom surrounding a game, but by game time the weather won’t actually be a factor. You need to handicap what is actually going to happen, not what you assume could happen. A team from Florida could be in real trouble in a really snowy, bitterly cold game in Green Bay, but if the weather is reasonably mild then the Green Bay location is all but irrelevant in terms of conditions.
How well do they match up with the opponent? – Ultimately, this is still the biggest question that has to be asked by football handicappers. It can be way too easy to assign too much significance to home field advantage. It’s a good way for bettors to overthink things and get too fancy. If one team has a clear edge over the other then the home field advantage shouldn’t be a deciding factor in a bet. It’s only when the teams are reasonably well matched that you should look at what impact the location could have. In other words, home field advantage is a contributing factor to your playoff football handicapping, not a defining factor.