How Big Is the Superdome's Impact on Fantasy Football?
There are a bevy of articles and statistics one needs to consider when filling out their daily fantasy football roster each and every week.
But is it possible there's one glaring variable the fantasy community has been overlooking to a degree? Is the Mercedes-Benz Superdome a haven for points we need to be investing in each week there's a game in New Orleans no matter what?
Drew Brees, Brandin Cooks, and the rest of the New Orleans Saints have long enjoyed the friendly confines of their home stadium, but they've been pretty hospitable, too -- they've featured a defense that's really struggled over the last few seasons, making starters on opposing offenses pretty attractive plays.
So as we are crafting our DFS rosters, should "Superdome slate" be something to keep our eye out for?
Gotta Love That Home Cookin'
It's obvious that, on one side of the ball, there is plenty of fantasy goodness with the Saints, as they've been at the top of the NFL in points scored per game year in and year out -- and 2016 is certainly no different.
While the season is still young, through Week 6, the Saints rank second in the NFL in both points per game and yards per game.
In fact, over the last five seasons (2012 to 2016), only the Saints and the New England Patriots have ranked in the top-10 of the NFL in points scored per game each year. And certainly, Mr. Brees has had a large part in that involvement.
But the fun doesn't stop just on the offensive side of the ball for the Saints, as other teams seem to enjoy the trip to Bourbon Street, too.
Be Our Guest, Be Our Guest
Since the start of the 2014 season, scoring league-wide has been roughly flat.
In 2014, an average of 22.8 points per team were scored, and in 2015, an average of 22.6 points per team were scored.
So far in 2016, an average of 23.0 points per team have been scored.
Now, take a look at the home game log at the Superdome dating back to the start of the 2014 season.
The 2014 season represented a modest increase in scoring over the league average but still showed that the points were being scored at a higher rate in New Orleans.
The 2015 totals took a major step forward. Teams averaged roughly 32 points per game on their own, and in 2016, while the sample size is considerably smaller, this has jumped up 11 points to a combined 75 points per game.
And if that sample size is too small for you, dating back to the last eight home games at the Superdome (home game number four of 2015 to the present), the average is a combined 74.25 point per game. The lowest points scored over that time frame is 62 points, with 75 points or more being scored four times.
To give that some context, the highest-scoring team of all time, the 2013 Denver Broncos, averaged just under 38 points per game, implying that the current scoring by both teams over the last eight games in New Orleans is roughly equivalent to the most prolific offense of all time, led by peak Peyton Manning and his absurd NFL-record 55 touchdown passes.
On both offenses.
Other Teams That Play in Similar Stadiums
The Saints aren't the only ones playing in turfed, domed stadiums, so perhaps scoring is elevated in other situations that feature controlled environments.
Teams that fit the bill are the Dallas Cowboys, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Houston Texans (who play in stadiums with retractable roofs but play on turf) and the Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons (who play in domed stadiums with turf).
The Minnesota Vikings now also play in a dome, but their stadium just opened for the 2016 season.
Since the start of the 2014 season, the Cowboys, Colts, and Lions have played 19 home games during the regular season. The Texans played 20, and the Falcons have played 18.
Below are the average points scored by both teams at their respective home stadiums as well as their totals on the road, for comparison, along with the Saints' during that same time frame.
|Combined Points Scored (2014-16)||Home||Away||Difference|
The Saints have seen nearly two full touchdowns scored in home games over the rest of the group, with the lone exception being the Falcons who are slightly closer.
The highest eight-game rolling average of any of these squads was posted by the Detroit Lions 2015 home season, which featured 51.50 total points scored. That's approximately three touchdowns, three extra points, and a field goal under the Saints' current eight-game rolling average (74.25 points).
Further, there is an 11-point boost in Saints games in New Orleans compared to their road games since 2014. Only the Lions see a jump of more than two points, and some teams actually feature higher combined scores outside of their controllable environments.
Of course, the three teams with permanently domed stadiums in this subset -- the Saints, Falcons, and Lions -- all have played in higher-scoring games at home, on average, than when they travel, but none compare to the jump for the Saints.
Start 'Em All in New Orleans
We can't overlook the fact that the Saints are a perfect team to play in high-scoring affairs, with one of the most efficient quarterbacks in recent history and one of the worst defenses, too.
Their defense ranked fifth-worst in the NFL in points allowed per game in 2014, and they were the league's worst in 2015 and so far in 2016. So, all of these points scored could partially be explained by a terrible Saints' defense, leading to a pile of shootouts.
Still, those two factors combined with an enclosed, turf playing surface is allowing everyone to rack up a ton of points in New Orleans, more so than in similar stadiums.
Every once in a while, the Saints' defense has found a way out of their slump. Over the last five seasons, New Orleans has played in six tilts where a combined 35 points or fewer were scored. Five of these six were played away from the Superdome.
The Saints' offense is great, their defense is bad, and even other teams playing in similar conditions aren't seeing the crazy scoring that New Orleans is.
Time will tell if this trend continues, but if recent history holds, some fireworks are likely for all involved when the Saints take their home turf, and you should build your teams accordingly.