NFL Upsets on the Rise as Road-Field Advantage Continues in Pro Football
Sunday saw home teams go 5-7 and three teams that were favored to win by seven or more points lose outright
With star running back Derrick Henry sidelined, the underdog Tennessee Titans rolled into Los Angeles and punched the Rams in the mouth with a 28-16 victory over the home team on Sunday Night Football.
It was an upset, but it shouldn’t have been a shock as Sunday’s slate of NFL games saw home teams go 5-7 and three clubs that were favored to win by seven or more points, like the Rams, lose outright. Although the AFC South-leading Titans won in L.A., division leaders went 3-4 on Sunday with the Cowboys (6-2), Bills (5-3), Packers (7-2) and Raiders (5-2) all losing.
With Monday night’s game between the Steelers and Bears in Pittsburgh yet to be played to finish up Week 9, home teams sit at 65-70 in the 2021 season. If that trend holds, it’ll be the second consecutive season visiting teams enjoyed a road-field advantage after home teams went 127-128-1 for the full 2020 regular season.
“The 2020 season was the first time in NFL history that road teams won more games than home teams, but the trend toward home-field advantage disappearing began before 2020,” per ProFootballTalk. “In 2019, home teams went just 132-123-1, which was the worst cumulative record for home teams since the advent of the 16-game schedule — until home teams did even worse in 2020 and are now on pace to do worse still in 2021.”
Wrapped up in that trend is the emergence of long shots of 15 points or more not only covering, but winning outright, as the 15-point underdog Jaguars did against the Bills yesterday with a 9-6 victory. After NFL underdogs of 15 points went 0-72 without a single outright upset from 1996 through 2017, there’s been one such upset in each of the past four seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
“There are way more opportunities for a bad team to pull off the big upset,” longtime Las Vegas bookmaker Chuck Esposito told ESPN. “We’re seeing more and more teams that are huge underdogs, like the Jags and Texans, this season and on a weekly basis than we ever have before, increasing the probability of this happening.”
While you might think the upset wins would hurt sportsbooks, that’s actually not the case because of the number of money-line parlays that losses by heavy favorites like the Bills kill off. Installed as the favorite to win the Super Bowl prior to Sunday’s loss, Buffalo is now a co-favorite to win the Super Bowl along with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers per Caesars Sportsbook at 6-1. We’ll see if those odds hold after what will likely be another topsy-turvy weekend in Week 10.
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