Home-Field Non-Advantage? Why Super Bowl Odds Don’t Root For The Home Team

Written By Derek Helling on February 4, 2021 - Last Updated on May 25, 2022

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will become the first team in NFL history to play a Super Bowl in the same stadium they call home during the regular season.

However, they might have the worst possible timing for making this unprecedented appearance, as evidenced by Tampa’s latest underdog odds for Super Bowl LV.

Oddsmakers at legal sportsbooks around the country aren’t giving a whole lot of weight to this unique dynamic for one big reason. So far, bettors seem to be following that lead as well. Does that make Tampa Bay an interesting contrarian play?

Why Super Bowl odds aren’t prioritizing home-field advantage

In most NFL playoff and regular-season games, sportsbooks do give deference to which team is hosting. The reason why isn’t really that the home team didn’t have to travel or is in familiar surroundings. It’s actually mostly about the people in the stands, who may or may not be betting on the event as well.

But because of COVID-19, the 65,000-seat Raymond James Stadium will be filled with 25,000 fans and 30,000 cutouts.

“The home field is worth half a point to a point only because there are no fans in the stands who are going to be representative of the Bucs,” Johnny Avello, director of operators for DraftKings Sportsbook, said regarding the Super Bowl. “It is important that the Bucs know the field, know the locker room, know the soft spots on the field, everything about it. Also, [their] close proximity and getting to stay at home, whereas the other team needs to travel [is important].”

“That’s where a little bit of advantage comes in, but most of that home field is about the fans. They’re who can really make a difference and that won’t be a real difference-maker in this game.”

So, despite the fact that the Bucs are in their own venue, the diminished and likely split “roar” of the crowd won’t supply the usual home-field advantage.

How conference championships played out swayed oddsmakers

Avello also said that recent form carried a lot of weight when it came time to set lines.

“When we looked back at the possible matchups that Saturday night [before the conference championship games], we realized the Bucs would be playing at home,” Avello said. “At the time, my line was at about 1.5 Kansas City.”

“So then we watched the games on Sunday. The Bucs didn’t finish the game well. They finished it in that they got the first down and ended it, but Green Bay was able to come from behind a couple of times because of [Tom] Brady throwing interceptions. The Packers just didn’t take advantage of those interceptions. They were in a position to win that game.”

How did the Chiefs’ performance change things?

“In the other game, Kansas City pretty much dominated after they were down 9-0, which is pretty much their MO, getting behind,” Avello continued. “So, for the Super Bowl, it’s what have you seen lately. You don’t go back to the way you do the NFL from week to week. This is one game, it’s a big betting game. So after what we saw, we thought Kansas City should be about a 3- or 3.5-point favorite regardless of the home field.”

But are bettors believers in Tampa Bay home cooking?

So far, the public money is in agreement with Avello’s assessment. He believes not many bettors are actually taking Tampa Bay to win the Super Bowl just because the Buccaneers are playing at home.

“The reason I say that is because we’re heavy on the Chiefs right now,” Avello said. “They like to bet the Chiefs at -3, and at +3.5, they like to take the Bucs. We’ve been at both of those numbers, bouncing back and forth a little bit. The early indications are that the bettors don’t care [about the home-field element].”

So the money is on Kansas City because they pass the eye test better, and this shouldn’t be a truly challenging road game.

But what exactly do the odds look like for bettors whose handicapping models give a different outcome?

Where do Super Bowl lines sit on the Bucs right now?

Unfortunately, sports betting has yet to be legalized in Florida. A bill is in the Senate to try to change that, but its prospects are daunting right now. The best options for legal sports betting for Floridians are to visit casinos in Mississippi or travel to Tennessee, where an online-only betting industry exists.

That said, as Avello mentioned, Tampa Bay is a 3-point underdog (-105) at DraftKings. The total at that book sits at 56 points, with slightly better odds of -108 on the under. As for the moneyline, a straight-up Buccaneers win pays +143.

DraftKings isn’t the only book operating in Tennessee. Other books are offering slightly different lines, like 3.5 points on the spread and 57 on the total. The consensus seems to be that Tampa Bay will need to keep the game within three points to cover.

So, yes, you can get better odds on the Bucs right now than you can on Kansas City. But does any of the data really support the Chiefs failing to win back-to-back Super Bowls?

All Super Bowl signs point to a Kansas City repeat

Oddsmakers such as Avello list the Chiefs as a favorite for good reason. Consider the following, as just a sample of the information:

  • Kansas City has won 23 of its last 24 games as the favorite, including road games
  • Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill has at least 105 receiving yards in each of Kansas City’s last three postseason games
  • Tampa Bay hasn’t covered in any of its last six home games against AFC opponents

Put however much stock you want into those facts. Although, there are data points that suggest different wagers on the Buccaneers could pay off.

  • The Bucs have won the first half in four of their last five games
  • Leonard Fournette is on a streak of six consecutive games with at least one touchdown
  • Rob Gronkowski has recorded at least 33 receiving yards in six of his past seven appearances against the Chiefs

Although you can’t legally take advantage of this information without leaving Florida, it could prove useful if you happen to be visiting another jurisdiction with legal sportsbooks.

Hopefully, Floridians will get more chances to legally wager on Super Bowl odds in the near future.

Photo by AP / John Bazemore
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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