Best, Worst Home Field Advantages; AFC East; NFL’s Worst Defenses





100 Things NFL Bettors Should Know – Best, worst home-field advantages


Jerry Jones’ cavernous palace, AT&T Stadium, has not been kind to Cowboys bettors since it opened in 2009.
By: Larry Hartstein

Home-field advantage is generally thought to be worth 3 points to the spread, but in practice, the edge varies significantly depending on the team and the stadium. In part four of our series, “100 Things NFL Bettors Should Know,” we look at six teams that are unusually good home bets and four that are less than reliable at home.

1. New Orleans Saints: 20-5-1 ATS at home last three years, including playoffs
Average margin of victory: 15.6
Average cover: 9.5 points
No. 3 in Don Best/Linemakers Power Ratings (to end last season)

When the Saints are good, as they’ve been throughout the Sean Payton era, there’s no tougher place to play than the Superdome. New Orleans is an NFL-best 43-24-2 ATS at home (64.2 percent win rate) since Payton arrived in 2006. If you throw out the 2012 season Payton missed while suspended, the Saints are 39-20-2 ATS for an even better 66.1 percent win rate.

No other team is above 58.2 percent over that span.

The Saints offense, built around Drew Brees, is built to play in controlled, indoor conditions. The dome also aids New Orleans’ pass rush, which ranked fourth last year with 49 sacks.

2. Seattle Seahawks: 18-8 ATS at home last three years, including playoffs
Average margin of victory: 11.3 points
Average cover: 6.8 points
No. 2 in Don Best/Linemakers Power Ratings

Pete Carroll has brought the 12th Man to full roar. Seattle is 24-11 ATS at CenturyLink Field since Carroll’s arrival, a 68.6 percent win rate that’s second only to New Orleans (24-9 ATS) in that span. With the noise level on par with what a Boeing 747 produces, opponents average a league-high 2.4 false starts per game at CenturyLink

3. San Francisco 49ers: 17-9-1 ATS at home last three years, including playoffs
Average margin of victory: 10.6 points
Average cover: 3.9 points
No. 5 in Don Best/Linemakers Power Ratings

This team was a fairly average ticket casher at home until Jim Harbaugh’s arrival in 2011. Since then, San Fran has covered 65.4 percent of the time at Candlestick Park. The 49ers move this season into Levi’s Stadium, an open and airy $1.2 billion venue that will seat 68,500. Stadium architects included several features to trap and amplify noise, but it won’t be as loud as CenturyLink because the facility is designed to welcome Santa Clara’s abundant sunlight.

4. Indianapolis Colts: 16-9 ATS at home last three years, including playoffs
Average margin of victory: 0.8 points
Average cover: 1.5 points
No. 18 (tie) in Don Best/Linemakers Power Ratings

Andrew Luck plus Lucas Oil Stadium equals the best bet in the NFL. Indy is 13-4 ATS (76.5 percent win rate) at home since drafting Luck No. 1 overall in 2012. But a lot of those were squeakers, both straight up and against the spread. In the last two seasons, the Colts have won at home by average of 3.8 points while covering at home by an average of 2.6 points.

5. Green Bay Packers: 16-10-1 ATS last three years, including playoffs
Average margin of victory: 9.6 points
Average cover: 2.1 points
No. 6 (tie) in Don Best/Linemakers Power Ratings

The Packers’ mark looks really incredible when you consider that five of those home ATS losses came last year when Aaron Rodgers was hurt. In fact, Green Bay went 0-5 ATS at home without Rodgers. Since 2006, when Mike McCarthy took over, the Pack is 38-28-3 ATS at Lambeau Field, a 57.6 percent win rate that ranks fourth in the NFL.

6. New England Patriots: 17-12 ATS at home last three years, including playoffs
Average margin of victory: 11.3 points
Average cover: 2.4 points
No. 6 (tie) in Don Best/Linemakers Power Ratings

The Pats were dominant at Gillette Stadium last year, going 7-2 ATS and winning by an average of 11 points. They’ve also been a very reliable OVER team at home the last four years, producing an NFL-best 27-11 O/U mark.

Now let’s look at the worst home bets….

7. Philadelphia Eagles: 6-18-1 ATS at home last three years, including playoffs
Average margin of victory: 0.1 points
Average cover: -3.3 points
No. 12 (tie) in Don Best/Linemakers Power Ratings

Chip Kelly wasn’t able to turn things around at Lincoln Financial Field, posting a 3-6 ATS home mark last year. One reason might be Philly’s notoriously rough fan base. Eagles backers are quick to turn on their own team when things don’t go well, and the team feels pressure to dominate rather than just focus on the game plan.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars: 7-15-1 ATS at home last three years
Average margin of defeat: 9.9 points
Average cover: -5.1 points
No. 31 (tie) in Don Best/Linemakers Power Ratings

Not only has Jacksonville been a regular bottom feeder, but EverBank Field is the NFL’s least intimidating venue. The team installed tarps to reduce capacity rather than show the nation thousands of empty seats. Gus Bradley went 1-5-1 ATS at home in his first year with a stunning average margin of defeat of 13.6 points. That was far and away the league’s worst home performance.

9. Dallas Cowboys: 8-16 ATS at home last three years
Average margin of victory: 3.8 points
Average cover: -0.5 points
No. 31 (tie) in Don Best/Linemakers Power Ratings

Jerry Jones’ cavernous palace, AT&T Stadium, has not been kind to Cowboys bettors since it opened in 2009. Dallas is 17-24 ATS at home in that span. The $1.15 billion stadium is so big that it is not loud or intimidating, compared to many NFL venues.

10. Oakland Raiders: 8-15-1 ATS at home last three years
Average margin of defeat: 6 points
Average cover: -5.2 points
No. 28 in Don Best/Linemakers Power Ratings

While the Black Hole is fun, Coliseum has been hospitable to visitors for years. Over the last decade the Raiders are an NFL-worst 27-52-1 ATS at home, a 34.2 percent win rate.


patriots 14
Bob Christ is back for his annual Pro Football Division Previews: AFC East
by Bob Christ
The New England Patriots have been the gorillas of the four-team AFC East since the NFL’s current division format was invented in 2002, going a collective 102 games above .500 and winning 10 of the past 11 flags.

By contrast, the loop have-nots – Miami, Buffalo and the N.Y. Jets – have gone a cumulative 64 games under .500 the past 11 seasons.

According to odds posted by the LVH SuperBook, things shouldn’t be much different this season considering only New England (10.5) has an over/under win total of more than 8 among the four teams.

Thus, the Patriots are the 1/3 choice to earn a sixth consecutive division crown, which would be one short of the NFL record set by the LA Rams from 1973-79 in the NFC West. The only unknown would be if the second-place team can earn a wild card.

Here’s how the division figures to shake out, with teams listed in predicted order of finish:

NEW ENGLAND (1-3 to win division; 7-1 Super Bowl): The Patriots are coming off a 12-4 season in which they earned the AFC’s No. 2 seed and reached the conference title game before crashing in Denver.

This year, though, QB Tom Brady won’t open the season without his five leading receivers from the previous season. Plus, the defense appears to be extra stout, bolstered by the improved health of LB Jerod Mayo (torn pec) and NT Vince Wilfork (Achilles), veteran stalwarts who missed the bulk of 2013. Not to mention the acquisition of highly regarded DB Darrelle Revis.

The offense has all five of its starters back on the line, which will come in handy in a division that features fearsome defensive fronts. Missing from the attack will be RB LeGarrette Blount (Pittsburgh), who was stupendous late in the year, with 189 yards in the season finale vs. Buffalo and two weeks later with 166 ground yards in the divisional round vs. Indy.

Note: If the ball winds up in RB Stevan Ridley’s hands again, fumbling could be a big issue.

NY JETS (8-1; 50-1): New York has one of the best defensive lines in football, spearheaded by Sheldon Richardson (6-3, 294) and Muhammad Wilkerson (6-4, 315). What’s up front will be the backbone of a team trying to support the QB play of second-year man Geno Smith, whose ratio of 12 TD throws to 21 INTs (minus 9) matched the worst by any passer the past five years. Backup Michael Vick could be in the lineup in short order.

In an attempt to juice the ground game, the Jets signed ex-Titan Chris Johnson, who was one of 13 RBs last season with 1,000-plus yards (1,077), but the only one who didn’t average at least 4 yards a carry (3.9). Under new coach Rex Ryan, Johnson should have something to prove.

In Weeks 5-7, the Jets have a back-breaking schedule against three playoff teams from 2013. After traveling cross-country to San Diego to face the Chargers, they fly home to meet Denver. Four days later, they travel to New England for a Thursday game.

Note: If the Jets can somehow take two of three during that stretch, which precedes their bye, they could be off and flying.

BUFFALO (8-1; 50-1): The Bills have finished last in the division six straight seasons, an NFL record for any team in any division/conference. So, even third place would be an accomplishment.

The Bills boast the 1-2 running punch of C.J. Spiller (927 yards, 4.6 norm) and bulldozing Fred Jackson (896, 4.3), who finished 15th and 16th on the rushing charts. No other team had two ground-gainers in the top 20.

Defensively, Buffalo had a team-record 57 sacks, with Mario Williams leading the way with 13, and totaled 23 INTs, second best in the league. But this unit will have to do without LB Kiko Alonso (torn ACL), the third-leading tackler in the league last year, and departed ballhawk Jairus Byrd.

Buffalo finally has a zippy WR thanks to drafting Clemson game-breaker Sammy Watkins in the first round, who replaces Stevie Johnson, now in SF.

Note: Twice last season then-rookie QB EJ Manuel was knocked from the lineup and missed a total of six games.

MIAMI (5-1; 40-1): Last year the Dolphins got off to a torrid start (for them), winning their first three games and in the process becoming the first team to triumph as an underdog in two season-opening road games in 22 years. But Miami wound up missing the playoffs thanks to dreary losses to the Bills and Jets to close an 8-8 season.

Miami scored a total of seven points the final two weeks, helping to cost OC Mike Sherman his job. He’s been replaced by Bill Lazor, who was the QB whisperer for top-rated Nick Foles in Philly last year.

On the offensive line, the Dolphins have four new guys after last year’s “Bullygate” ravaged the unit. Along the way, QB Ryan Tannehill was sacked a league-high 58 times. Maybe the addition of ex-Bronco RB Knowshon Moreno, an accomplished pass protector, will make a difference.

Defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon combined for 20 sacks last year and are a key to keeping Miami alive despite a relatively weak secondary.

Note: If Wake or Vernon go down, Miami could be staring at its team-record sixth straight non-winning season.

Next week: NFC East

“Popular” Bob Christ has been forecasting NFL games for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in newspapers from coast to coast in Canada and the U.S. Contact him at


how about those cowboys
Things NFL Bettors Should Know – No defense for these league-worst units

Three teams in NFC East among worst

The Cowboys figure to have one of the worst defensive units in 2014.
By: Larry Hartstein
1. Dallas Cowboys

2013 record: 8-8 SU, 9-7 ATS, 9-7 O/U

2013 defense: 27.0 points per game, 26th

2014 regular-season win total at LVH: 8 (OVER -165)

Coordinator Rod Marinelli can coach, but even he needs players. This unit is bereft. The Cowboys gave up the third-most yards in NFL history last year (6,645) and, if anything, got worse. LB Sean Lee is done for the year with a torn ACL, and DE Demarcus Lawrence will be out 8-10 weeks with a broken foot. Not to mention, top pass rushers Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware moved on. Dallas is counting on guys coming back from major injuries (DLs Anthony Spencer, Henry Melton) and rookie LB Anthony Hitchens. This team will be involved in shootouts nearly every week.

2. Washington Redskins

2013 record: 3-13 SU, 5-11 ATS, 8-8 O/U

2013 defense: 29.9 points per game, tied for 30th

2014 regular-season win total at LVH: 7.5 (OVER -120)

This defense could start five players over 30. That’s ancient in today’s NFL. The pass rush isn’t bad with Jason Hatcher joining Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, but it will have to be dominant to overcome a bad secondary. New safety Ryan Clark turns 35 in October. Holdover safety Brandon Meriweather is a cheap-shot artist. Corner DeAngelo Hall turns 31 in November. Young corner David Amerson better show significant improvement.

3. Buffalo Bills

2013 record: 6-10 SU, 8-8 ATS, 10-6 O/U

2013 defense: 24.3 points per game, 20th

2014 regular-season win total at LVH: 6.5 (OVER -160)

At safety there’s a big drop off from Jairus Byrd to Da’Norris Searcy. And Buffalo looked lost without Byrd in the lineup last year. Top LB Kiko Alonso is out for the year with a torn ACL, and DT Marcell Dareus is looking at a one- or two-game suspension. There’s still a lot of talent here, led by DE Mario Williams and DT Kyle Williams, but the linebacking corps is in tatters and the front office didn’t address defense until the draft’s third round.

4. Minnesota Vikings

2013 record: 5-10-1 SU, 9-7 ATS, 12-4 O/U

2013 defense: 30.0 points per game, 32nd

2014 regular-season win total at LVH: 6 (UNDER -120)

This is another example of a great defensive coach, Mike Zimmer, not having much to work with. The Vikes were torched for 4,869 yards and 37 touchdowns through the air last season. Though they upgraded by signing CB Captain Munnerlyn, he and second-year CB Xavier Rhodes are part of a subpar back-seven. DT Linval Joseph was a shrewd pickup for a line that lost Jared Allen and Kevin Williams. If 2013 first-round DT Sharrif Floyd and this year’s No. 9 overall pick, LB Anthony Barr, don’t make a big impact, Minnesota will once again threaten to lead the league in points allowed.

5. Atlanta Falcons

2013 record: 4-12 SU, 7-9 ATS, 9-7 O/U

2013 defense: 27.7 points per game, 27th

2014 regular-season win total at LVH: 8.5 (UNDER -135)

Atlanta upgraded its D-line by signing Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai and drafting Ra’Shede Hageman. And the Falcons boast up-and-coming corners. But the loss of LB Sean Weatherspoon to a torn Achilles is devastating. The Falcons desperately needed a pass-rushing outside linebacker to wreak havoc out of their 3-4, but they didn’t add one. Atlanta mustered 32 sacks last year, tied for 29th.

6. Oakland Raiders

2013 record: 4-12 SU, 8-8 ATS, 7-8-1 ATS

2013 defense: 28.3 points per game, 29th

2014 regular-season win total at LVH: 5 (OVER -115)

First-round LB Khalil Mack will be an All-Pro very soon. He almost needs to hit that level this year for this defense to be substantially better. The Raiders overpaid for aging DEs Justin Tuck and Lamarr Woodley. CB Tarell Brown was a nice signing, but Charles Woodson is no longer an NFL-caliber defensive back even if Oakland thinks otherwise. Last year’s first-round pick, CB D.J. Hayden, is recovering from surgery to repair a stress fracture and there’s no timetable for his return.

7. Philadelphia Eagles

2013 record: 10-6 SU, 8-7-1 ATS, 9-7 O/U

2013 defense: 23.9 points per game, 17th

2014 regular-season win total at LVH: 9 (OVER -130)

The secondary is decidedly average, even after Philly added Nolan Carroll and Malcolm Jenkins, and the linebackers are nothing special either. First-rounder Marcus Smith, an outside linebacker out of Louisville, is a converted QB who’s still very much a work in progress. The Eagles are stout up front with Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan. The biggest thing working against this defense is how fast Chip Kelly’s offense plays. Defenders don’t get much rest and they’re on the field for more plays than normal.

8. Tennessee Titans

2013 record: 7-9 SU, 6-8-2 ATS, 9-6-1 O/U

2013 defense: 23.8 points per game, 16th

2014 regular-season win total at LVH: 7 (OVER -135)

This unit can’t overcome the loss of CB Alterraun Verner. He was dominant last year, allowing a 55.8 passer rating, breaking up 14 passes and intercepting five more. Last year’s third-round pick, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, will struggle to replace him. Pass rusher Shaun Phillips is 33, and Tennessee didn’t address defense until the third round of this year’s draft. The Titans also will be adjusting to a 3-4 scheme under new coordinator Ray Horton.

9. Chicago Bears

2013 record: 8-8 SU, 4-11-1 ATS, 12-4 O/U

2013 defense: 29.9 points per game, tied for 30th

2014 regular-season win total at LVH: 8.5 (OVER -145)

This unit could have seven starters 30 or older. So don’t be surprised when injuries hit. The Bears fielded easily the NFL’s worst run defense last year (5.3 yards per carry), and offseason acquisitions Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston aren’t really run stoppers. First-round CB Kyle Fuller will boost the secondary; signing safety M.D. Jennings was a big mistake. Overall the Bears will be better, but not enough to be a Top-20 defense.

10. Green Bay Packers

2013 record: 8-7-1 SU, 7-9 ATS, 9-7 O/U

2013 defense: 26.8 points per game, tied for 24th

2014 regular-season win total at LVH: 10.5 (-110 either way)

Drafting safety Ha-Ha Clinton Dix in the first round was a great move, but 34-year-old Julius Peppers doesn’t have much left. To fix its atrocious run defense, Green Bay is counting on B.J. Raji’s return to nose tackle. It’s not clear how much he’ll help. The Packers were helpless against the run in their final 11 games last year, giving up 153.9 yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry. Inside linebackers A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones were overmatched. For this front seven to slow the run, second-year linemen Datone Jones and Josh Boyd must make big strides.

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