NFL System of the Week

by Al McMordie

Thursday, Sep 21, 2023
The NFL Schedule-Maker tends to give each team 1 home and 1 road game to start the season.  But that's not always the case.  Sometimes, a team begins the season with 2 home games, while others start with 2 road games.  And, in very rare instances, the NFL has scheduled a team to play its first 3 games at home, or on the road.  But that hasn't happened since the 1991 season, when the Cardinals opened with 3 road games.  And, of course, there are other situations -- usually caused by hurricanes -- where the NFL schedule had to be changed because a team was forced to evacuate its local area.  That happened in 2005 with the Saints and Hurricane Katrina, and in 2008 with the Texans and Hurricane Ike.

This Sunday, there will be four teams playing their home opener in Week 3:

San Francisco 49ers (vs. New York Giants)
Miami Dolphins (vs. Denver Broncos)
Green Bay Packers (vs. New Orleans Saints)
Las Vegas Raiders (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers)

And there will also be four teams playing their road opener:

Atlanta Falcons (vs. Detroit Lions)
Denver Broncos (vs. Miami Dolphins)
New England Patriots (vs. New York Jets)
Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Las Vegas Raiders)

Of note, there are two games (Miami/Denver; Las Vegas/Pittsburgh) where a team is playing its home opener vs. an opponent playing its road opener.

The knee-jerk reaction might be to play on home teams in Week 3 playing their home opener because they "will be excited to be at home."  Or play against a road team in Week 3 in its road opener because it "will be unaccustomed to a hostile environment."

But does the data bear out either of these two hypotheses?

It does not.  Indeed, since 1980, our home teams playing their home opener in Week 3 have gone 54-80-3 ATS, including 38-60-3 ATS as a favorite.  And our road teams playing their road opener in Week 3 have gone 76-60-4 ATS, including 61-43-2 ATS as an underdog.

But what about our two games above, where a team, in Week 3, was playing its first road game against a team playing its first home game?  In this situation, the home teams have gone 6-18 ATS since 1980, including 2-11 ATS as a single-digit favorite (which fits both Miami and Las Vegas).

Consider the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

Good luck, as always...
Al McMordie

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