Home Field Advantage in Fantasy Football

Waiver Wire Advice

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By Greg Buchphoto of journalist Greg Buch
Since there's so much uncertainty about whether to include home-field advantage in the decision-making process when setting weekly fantasy line-ups and what weight to give it, we decided to take a closer look at the subject and see if the facts support it. Empirically speaking, having played in countless fantasy football leagues the last 10-15 years, we've noticed that running backs playing at home tend to outperform ones playing on the road but are there facts out there to support this gut feeling and what about the other fantasy positions?

There doesn't seem to be a wealth of information out there based on actual data as supposed to supposition but there have been a few studies done that offer some insight. Ultimate Fantasy Football Strategy carried out a study of the 2006-2008 NFL seasons and found that RBs playing scored 8.04% more points at home versus on the road. This makes sense considering it's been shown that home teams win around 57% of their games (reference: Sports Data LLC) and teams with a lead often play conservatively late in the game. But when it comes to the other skill positions the home-field advantage was less obvious. QBs playing at home enjoyed a 4.68% increase in fantasy point production, while WRs actually averaged 1.69% more on the road than at home. Another study by the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective analyzed 10 seasons of game data and found that home-field advantage varied significantly from team-to-team, which they attributed to differences in the stadium acoustics and crowd noise.

This suggests that if a fantasy player plays for a team that enjoys a big home field advantage, like the Seahawks or Ravens, playing at home can provide a significant boost to a RB's or QB's fantasy stats, while players playing for teams with less significant home-field advantage may not benefit much at all. We've come up with home and away forecast adjustments based on combining these two studies. We won't bore you with terms like regression analysis, p factors, or variance (we don't even know how to calculate these), so we just compared each team's home point differential to the average of all 28 teams studied to come up with a "stadium factor" which we multiplied by the percentage increase in production for each position when playing at home. Our model is far from perfect but does provide a quick and easy metric you can apply to adjust your forecasts based on whether a player is playing at home or on the road. The following tables are for RBs and QBs (we didn't bother with WRs since the difference in production was minimal between home and away):

RB Table - Home/Away Adjustment

QB Table - Home/Away Adjustment

Since not all of us have the time to microanalyze our roster on a weekly basis, you can generalize and assume you'll probably get an extra 1-2 points from your RB1 and maybe an extra point from your QB1 when they're playing at home. This isn't really enough of a difference to weight it that highly in your calculations, as other factors, like how the player's been performing and the strength of the opponent, are likely to play a bigger role in the player's production. As for WRs, the difference between home and away looks statistically insignificant, so you can safely ignore home-field advantage. The bottom line is: if you're on the fence between which RB or QB to start, letting home-field advantage be your deciding factor can pay dividends.
Pretty Woman

By Greg Buchphoto of journalist Greg Buch
No we haven't lost our focus! This really IS about fantasy football! As everyone knows, the winner in a fantasy league isn't always the owner who drafts best. Sometimes it's the one who fell asleep on the couch on draft day and ended up with a line-up of scrubs but made all the right calls in-season on which players to pick up. So are you a pick-up artist or do you get beaten to the punch by more aggressive owners who seem to identify up-and-coming stars before you do?

It's human nature to keep a high-profile veteran in your line-up too long hoping he'll return to last year's form but at what point are you better off dropping him to add an ascending talent? Sam Waters of the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective points out a common error many fantasy owners make: basing their estimate of a player's value on what they did last season as opposed to what they've done recently. Clearly, you're not going to drop a prized first round pick after a few weeks of underperformance but if you have a fringe starter who's not living up to expectations the price of dropping him and picking up a rising player isn't that steep. So how do you know whether a player's "broken out" or has just had a flukey performance or two?

There are no set answers for that question but a few things to consider are:
  • Is the player getting starting reps?
  • How good were the defenses he performed against?
  • If he's a RB, is there a trend of increased rushing attempts?
    If he's a WR, is there a trend of increased targets or catches?
  • Does he have good match-ups going forward?
There's no sure-fire way to predict future performance but a good strategy is to reserve a portion of your bench for weekly waiver-wire pick-ups.

It's worth remembering that a team made up of a mix of stud starters without much depth still has a greater chance of making the fantasy playoffs than one composed across the board of mediocre players, since most leagues don't award points to your bench unless the game ends in a tie.

So don't be afraid to be a pick-up artist and take a few chances throughout the season to upgrade your line-up!