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Trends, systems for betting 'Sunday Night Football'

By Steve Makinen  () 

A couple of weeks ago, I looked at betting trends and systems for NFL Thursday night games and found that patterns had formed. Now I will look at the recent history of “Sunday Night Football.” This won’t be as big a scheduling difference as Thursday games, but the Sunday night games are even more high-profile and typically match some of the best teams in the league, so any profit-making information we can uncover will be beneficial.

 

Unlike Thursday night games, in which most teams play at least once per season, being scheduled on “SNF” is an honor held by only upper-level teams. Rarely will you see sub-.500 teams or those not projected to be playoff contenders. In fact, some teams might play three or even four times a season on Sunday night. Those with high-profile players also frequent the “SNF” slate. Twelve teams have made double-digit appearances on “SNF” since 2012, and three have been on 20 or more times — Dallas with 26 and Green Bay and New England with 20 apiece. And all three are scheduled to play multiple times on Sunday night in 2020, including in each of the first three weeks.

 

With game lines out for every contest on the 2020 schedule, we have a lot of time to break down the matchups. A lot can change between now and kickoff, but if we’re prepared with the background information we need in terms of which teams fare best on “SNF” and what types of teams or games fall into certain betting patterns, we should have enough to get a jump on the bookmakers.

 

To conduct this study, I put together a log of all the Sunday night games since the start of the 2012 season. I chose 2012 because that was the first season in which Thursday night games became a season-long staple, and thus the entire weekend slate became formalized. The data sample I have thus contains 134 “SNF” games. All data sample sizes are enough to draw some conclusions to take advantage of this season.

 

Two weeks ago, I noted how important home-field advantage was on Thursday nights, particularly late in the season. For Sunday night, the results are even more defined, with home teams owning a record of 82-51-1 SU and 70-57-7 ATS (55.18%). These are improvements of about 1.5% on both counts, explained by the fact that the best teams playing at home should be tough to beat. As far as totals, Overs hold a slight advantage over the last eight seasons, going 70-62-2. Again, best teams, best quarterbacks, best offenses. Also, the games for the first five weeks are set. Beyond that, they are susceptible to flex scheduling, meaning the matchups could change.

 

“Sunday Night Football” betting systems

 

With a home ATS winning percentage of 55.1%, there is a strong base to start from to zero in on profit-making plays. However, here are some more specific Sunday night angles you might want to consider:

— Unlike Thursday night games, late-season “SNF” home-field advantage has meant little, as hosts in Weeks 10-17 are just 22-24 SU and 19-26-1 ATS (42.2%) since 2014.

— Home favorites of seven points or more are just 11-7 SU and 5-12-1 ATS (29.4%) in Sunday night games over the last 18 matchups. Over the total is 13-5 (72.2%) in these games.

— Also performing very poorly are “SNF” home underdogs of + 3 or more, with a record of 7-18 SU and 8-15-2 ATS (34.7%) since December 2014.

— The biggest “SNF” home-field advantage has come in games with closely matched opponents, as hosts in the line range of + 2.5 to -6.5 are an amazing 61-22-1 SU and 52-29-3 ATS (64.2%) since 2012. Going deeper on this by week number, those hosts in Weeks 1-9 are 32-14-3 ATS (69.6%).

— The benchmark for home team scoring and success on “Sunday Night Football” is 25 points. Teams that reach that mark are 66-10 SU and 57-18-1 ATS (76%) since 2012. Those that don’t reach 25 are 16-41-1 SU and 13-39-6 ATS (25%).

— The benchmark for road points scored on “SNF” is a bit lower at 20 points. Visiting teams scoring less than that are 4-51-1 SU and 4-48-4 ATS (7.7%). Those scoring 20 or more are 47-31 SU and 53-22-3 ATS (70.6%).

— In “SNF” games pitting AFC teams vs. NFC teams, home teams are just 12-14 SU and 9-15-2 ATS (37.5%) in the last 26. Under the total is also 13-6 (68.4%) in the last 19.

— Better teams have enjoyed the advantage in divisional “SNF” games of late, with favorites owning a 14-4 SU and 12-6 ATS (66.7%) record since 2016.

— Home teams perform best in intraconference non-divisional matchups, especially in the + 3.5 to -6.5 line range, having gone 31-8 SU and 28-10-1 ATS (73.6%) since ’12. Seven such games are available for 2020 on this betting system, including four in the first five weeks.

— Sunday night home teams coming off a win (42-26-1 SU and 37-29-3 ATS) are only slightly more effective than those coming off a loss (33-24 SU and 29-24-4 ATS). That is an ATS percentage margin of 56.1-54.7.

— Cumulatively, Overs have held the advantage on totals in the last eight years of “SNF.” But all of the first seven weeks’ “SNF” games of 2019 went Under, and for the season, Under was 11-5-1. The 17 games produced just 40.1 PPG of totals averaging 46.6.

 

Let’s look at the 2020 Sunday night schedule. I’ve included the matchups, each team’s recent “SNF” trend, actual game lines as compared with my own power rating lines, plus my instant reaction to the contest. Again, the games in Week 5 and later are subject to flex scheduling and could change. Normally this affects a couple of games per season.

 

2020 Sunday night schedule

 

Week 1: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams

“SNF” team trends: Dallas 9-2 Under run, L.A. Rams won last three SU and ATS, allowing 10.7 PPG

Game line: Dallas -2.5

Power rating line: Dallas -1.5

Instant reaction: The team that has made the most appearances on “SNF” over the last eight seasons naturally is on the Week 1 slate. It will be the Dallas coaching debut for Mike McCarthy, who takes over for Jason Garrett after plenty of success in Green Bay. The Cowboys have been much more successful at home than on the road on “SNF,” going 4-7 SU and 2-8-1 ATS in their last 11 as visitors. Expectations are lofty in Big D this season, and they are favored here. The Rams have to be feeling a bit of disrespect from oddsmakers with this line, considering they had a better record than Dallas in 2019. Home dogs on “SNF” in the first seven weeks of the season are on an 8-4 SU and 9-3 ATS run, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see L.A. pull the home upset.

 

Week 2: New England Patriots at Seattle Seahawks

“SNF” team trends: New England 0-3 SU and ATS skid on road, Seattle back-to-back losses after 5-0-1 SU and 6-0 ATS surge

Game line: Seattle -3

Power rating line: Seattle -4

Instant reaction: The Week 2 matchup offers a rematch of a recent Super Bowl classic won by the Patriots, but New England has to travel across the country and will be an underdog, barring injury news. The Pats have lost three straight road “SNF” games and figure to be challenged offensively in the early part of the season as they move on from QB Tom Brady. In light of the trend about road teams and scoring in “SNF” games, I have serious doubts whether the Patriots can hang 20 or more points on Seattle in this tough road contest. I also struggle to see the Seahawks put up a big number on the tough Patriots defense. This looks like a tight game that could go either way.

 

Week 3: Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints

“SNF” team trends: Green Bay just 4-9 SU and 3-9-1 ATS last 13, New Orleans 6-0 SU and ATS home streak since ’12

Game line: New Orleans -6

Power rating line: New Orleans -5

Instant reaction: Week 3 offers one of several highly difficult road games for Green Bay. Beating the Saints in prime time has proven next to impossible lately. They will go into this game on a six-game SU and ATS winning streak at home on “SNF,” during which they’ve averaged 32.2 PPG. Right now the line sits at New Orleans -6, and there’s a good chance it will go to a TD or higher by kickoff with the Saints likely to be 2-0 at this point. With the history of the combination of coach Sean Payton and QB Drew Brees in prime-time games at the Superdome, it would be the utmost contrarian play to back Green Bay.

 

Week 4: Philadelphia Eagles at San Francisco 49ers

“SNF” team trends: Philadelphia 3-8 SU and ATS slide, San Francisco won last three ATS

Game line: San Francisco -4.5

Power rating line: San Francisco -5

Instant reaction: Like the Packers, the Eagles have been a successful franchise but have struggled recently on “SNF.” On paper this stacks up as Philadelphia’s toughest road game of the season, and it starts a difficult five-game pre-bye stretch that could make or break the season. But Doug Pederson’s team has a realistic chance to go into this one 3-0, so it could be a high-stakes contest. San Francisco is the defending NFC champion, this is a long trip for the Eagles and home teams have thrived in these non-divisional intraconference clashes on “SNF.” Give me the 49ers.

 

Week 5: Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks

“SNF” team trends: Minnesota 5-2 SU and ATS last seven, Seattle 4-1 SU and ATS home-chalk run prior Week 2 game vs. NE

Game line: Seattle -3.5

Power rating line: Seattle -6.5

Instant reaction: Minnesota’s first five games are against opponents that most experts figure will contend for division titles. That stretch wraps up with a difficult contest at Seattle, which will already be playing its second “SNF” home game of the season. The Seahawks’ last two home games against nondivisional NFC foes on “SNF” have been easy wins by a combined score of 64-17. Minnesota is expected to contend in 2020 but will be replacing a lot of pieces, particularly on defense. I would expect a bit more scoring than I projected for Week 2, meaning most of the trends I pointed out above would point to the host Seahawks.

 

Week 6: Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers

“SNF” team trends: L.A. Rams three straight Under before Week 1 game vs. DAL, San Francisco 3-1 SU and ATS at home since ’12 before Week 4

Game line: San Francisco -6.5

Power rating line: San Francisco -8.5

Instant reaction: Both teams will make their second “SNF” appearances of 2020 when they go head to head to wrap up Week 6. For the 49ers, it will be a second home contest, and for the Rams a fourth of five road games in a span of seven weeks. This will also be the first divisional contest of the “SNF” season, and home favorites have won the last four times that has been the matchup, with visitors averaging fewer than 15 PPG. Hard to see anything but a 49ers play in this game.

 

Week 7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Las Vegas Raiders

“SNF” team trends: Tampa Bay first “SNF” game since ’16, Raiders 0-0-2 ATS last two

Game line: Tampa Bay -3.5

Power rating line: Tampa Bay -1.5

Instant reaction: Tom Brady makes the first of his two “SNF” appearances in three weeks with the new-look Buccaneers when they travel to Las Vegas. This is one of three AFC-vs.-NFC clashes scheduled on Sunday night this season and the only one in which the AFC team is the host. I shared the trend that finds home teams in such matchups are just 9-15-2 ATS in their last 26 tries. Add to that the trend that home dogs of + 3 or greater are on an 8-15-2 ATS slide and we have the making for a solid road play in this contest. The Bucs will be clearly capable of putting up points here.

 

Week 8: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles

“SNF” team trends: Dallas 3-0 SU and ATS divisional run, Philadelphia 0-3 SU and ATS last three at home

Game line: Philadelphia -2

Power rating line: Philadelphia -3.5

Instant reaction: What figures to be a key midseason divisional contest on “SNF” pits rivals Dallas and Philadelphia in Week 8. The Cowboys have played well at the Linc of late, going 6-2 ATS in their last eight trips there. They have also won their last three “SNF” contests vs. NFC East foes both SU and ATS, including a 37-10 thrashing of the Eagles at home last season. Surprisingly, Philadelphia, which owns one of the better home-field-advantage ratings in the NFL, according to my numbers, has lost three in a row SU and ATS as a host on “SNF.” This one feels like a toss-up.

 

Week 9: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

“SNF” team trends: New Orleans 1-3 SU and ATS last four on road, Tampa Bay hosting “SNF” for first time since ’08

Game line: Tampa Bay -1

Power rating line: New Orleans -1

Instant reaction: Coming off a high-profile “SNF” divisional contest in Week 8, the NFL gives us another tasty treat with the Buccaneers hosting the Saints to wrap up Week 9’s Sunday slate. New Orleans is the defending NFC South champion. Tampa Bay hopes it has done enough this offseason to make a run at it. We’ll obviously know a lot more by the time this kicks off, and in fact probably right after the Week 1 clash between these two. But if any game on the Bucs’ 2020 schedule looks like a statement game, this is it. This game figures to have a lofty total even though Under is 9-3 in the last 12 games these teams have played in Tampa. According to the trends, Week 9 is the last one in which host teams truly hold an advantage. I’ll side with Brady and the Bucs here on a very tight line.

 

Week 10: Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots

“SNF” team trends: Baltimore 3-0 ATS streak, New England 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS last seven at home

Game line: Baltimore -3

Power rating line: Baltimore -1

Instant reaction: If we don’t know the status of the Patriots’ 2020 season clearly by the time the Week 10 “SNF” game kicks off, the tilt against the Ravens should provide all the clarity we need. Assuming Cam Newton is under center, this will be a very intriguing matchup of dual-threat QBs. The Ravens’ Lamar Jackson is the reigning league MVP. Newton is a former MVP looking to make a huge comeback. But this does still figure to be more of a defensive struggle, as it doesn’t seem to be in the Patriots’ best interests to get into shootouts. Bill Belichick’s team has been a rude host on “SNF” lately, going 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS. The Pats are only 1-4 ATS in their last five hosting the Ravens, however. I feel compelled to wait until game week to wager this potentially high-stakes contest.

 

Week 11: Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders

“SNF” team trends: Kansas City 5-1 Over run on road, Raiders first home “SNF” vs. division since ’16

Game line: Kansas City -6

Power rating line: Kansas City -6.5

Instant reaction: Another divisional tilt and another chance to see Las Vegas’ brand-new venue, Allegiant Stadium. The Raiders will host “SNF” for the second time in five weeks, assuming the game doesn’t get flexed out due to its potentially uncompetitive nature. The Chiefs are a pretty hefty favorite and fit the trends for heavy road chalk, favorites in divisional games and late-season road teams. I’d expect Patrick Mahomes to light up the Vegas sky.

 

Week 12: Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers

“SNF” team trends: Chicago 0-4 SU and 1-3 ATS last four on road, Green Bay 1-4 ATS last five vs. NFC North

Game line: Green Bay -4

Power rating line: Green Bay -7

Instant reaction: The long Thanksgiving weekend will feature a Sunday night matchup between the old rivals of the Black and Blue Division. The Packers have hosted the Bears twice on “SNF” in the last six seasons, winning both while splitting ATS. The success of QB Aaron Rodgers versus the Bears is well noted, as the Packers have won 11 of the last 13 games in this rivalry. Chicago has lost four straight “SNF” road contests, three by double digits. With Green Bay starting a stretch of four home games in its last six to close 2020, this seems to be a host play.

 

Week 13: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs

“SNF” team trends: Denver lost last five SU and ATS by 14.8 PPG, Kansas City 2-0 SU and ATS “SNF” vs. Denver since ’16

Game line: Kansas City -11

Power rating line: Kansas City -11.5

Instant reaction: The assumption is that Kansas City will be a Super Bowl contender in 2020 and for many years after that following QB Patrick Mahomes’ contract extension. The rest of the AFC West is a huge question mark. Odds are that another team from the division emerges. Which one, though? Could it be Denver? If not, there’s a good chance this game gets flexed out for a more competitive one, as the point spread is already in double digits. That doesn’t bode well for the Chiefs, though, as heavy favorites of 7+  points have struggled on “SNF,” going just 5-12-1 ATS in their last 18, and this is the only game on the 2020 slate that fits that scenario.

 

Week 14: Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills

“SNF” team trends: Pittsburgh 4-1 SU and ATS last five on road, Buffalo first time hosting “SNF” since 56-10 loss to New England in ’07

Game line: Buffalo -2.5

Power rating line: Buffalo -2.5

Instant reaction: The Bills have been a trendy pick to take over New England’s reign in the AFC East this season and will be granted the honor of hosting their first “SNF” game in over 13 years. Normally, I would say the atmosphere for such a game would be absolutely jacked, but with COVID-19, it’s hard to predict what the circumstances will be. In any case, it figures to be cold and the stakes figure to be high when Pittsburgh visits Orchard Park to wrap up Week 14’s Sunday action. This will be somewhat unfamiliar territory for the Steelers, who have played in Buffalo just once in the last 10 years. That was a 27-20 win in 2016. I am withholding judgment on this contest, as the forecast I have for both teams is a little gloomier than most of my colleagues.

 

Week 15: San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys

“SNF” team trends: San Francisco lost last four as road dog (1-3 ATS), Dallas 10-1 SU and 7-4 ATS home favorite run

Game line: San Francisco -1

Power rating line: Pick-’em

Instant reaction: If the campaign plays out as most prognosticators predict, this late-season contest in Dallas could have NFC top-seed stakes on the line. Both teams are expected to be among the best in football this season, and both will be making their third appearances on “SNF.” It will be the first for the Cowboys at home, which is big, because they are 10-1 SU and 7-4 ATS as home chalk on “SNF” since 2012. The 49ers have been just the opposite as road dogs on “SNF,” going 0-4 SU and 1-3 ATS in the last four. For me, this is all about how the Cowboys respond to new coach Mike McCarthy. If the season is going well for them, this is a Dallas play.

 

Week 16: Tennessee Titans at Green Bay Packers

“SNF” team trends: Tennessee first road “SNF” game on NBC, Green Bay 2-6 SU and 3-5 ATS last eight “SNF” Week 11 or later

Game line: Green Bay -3.5

Power rating line: Green Bay -3

Instant reaction: With the final “SNF” Week 17 game always determined at a later date, the last scheduled matchup for the 2020 season is the Week 16 duel between a pair of teams that surprised everyone last year by reaching their conference championship games. The Titans have never played a road “SNF” game since the games have been broadcast by NBC. The Packers are a regular feature on the program, particularly at Lambeau Field. The Titans have played only three times on the frozen tundra, going 1-2 SU and ATS, most recently losing 55-7 in 2012. Visiting teams and Unders have been the trend recently in nonconference “SNF” tilts. I’d be comfortable with both bets, especially if Green Bay remains over the field-goal-favorite window.

 

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