Daily Fantasy Football: How Playing at Home Can Impact Defensive Performances

Most daily fantasy football players target defenses that are playing at home. Does it really matter, though?

A little over a week ago, I took a look at how line movement affects defensive scoring in fantasy football. We'll still look at defenses today, but from a different angle.

When it comes to choosing a defense in daily fantasy football, I usually target defenses playing at home. The home players have the luxury of waking up Sunday morning in their own beds. They get to drive their own  cars instead of crowding into a team bus. They drive past the drunk fans who have been preparing for the game since six o'clock in the morning. 

Meanwhile, the opposing team will be faced with the stresses of traveling, sleeping in an unfamiliar location, and possible time zone changes. Then they face the daunting task of playing in front of 70,000 people who want to see them fail miserably. 

Gotta love that home-field advantage, right? 

In 2015, home teams went 138-118 in the NFL, good for a 53.9 winning percentage. (I thought that number would have been higher before starting my research, if we're being honest.) The winning percentage isn't very successful, but how did playing at home affect defensive scoring in daily fantasy football?

Average Points Instances
Home 7.54 256
Road 7.34 256

The average score for all defenses in 2015 was 7.44 fantasy points. Playing at home raised that 0.10 points. Playing on the road lowered it 0.10 points.

The table above doesn't quite tell the whole story. I also factored in the 2015 lines from  Pinnacle Sports, a well-respected sportsbook, to see how favorites and underdogs fared during the season.

Average Points Instances
Favorite 8.54 256
Underdog 6.34 256
Home Favorite 8.30 170
Home Underdog 6.02 86
Road Favorite 9.02 86
Road Underdog 6.49 170

Now we are getting somewhere. Taking the favorite in any game gave you a return of 1.1 more points than the league average for 2015. To my surprise, home favorites actually scored a tick lower at 8.3 points. The road favorites actually performed even better at a shade above nine points a game. Underdogs fared poorly in all categories. 

To bring my previous piece and this one together, let's take a look to see how line movement can affect home and away splits as well.

Line Movement Average Points Instances
Home Favorite Up 8.47 72
Home Favorite Down 8.47 79
Home Underdog Up 6.08 36
Home Underdog Down 5.97 38
Road Favorite Up 9.53 36
Road Favorite Down 8.11 38
Road Underdog Up 6.07 72
Road Underdog Down 7.15 79

Line movement didn't matter at all this season when it came to home favorites. It barely affected home underdogs, too -- in their 74 instances, home underdogs did very poorly.

Road favorites with upward line movement did surprisingly well, but the sample size of 36 is admittedly small.

In my previous piece, I showed how drastic downward line movement led to success more than any other type of line movement. We see that again with the road underdogs. Now, I'm not saying to go out and start road underdogs, but if your hand is forced, it would benefit you to pick one with downward line movement. This may also help with you want to select a defense that will rarely be picked for a tournament play. 

It will also help when bye weeks come into play. In Week 9 of 2015, six teams were on a bye, the most during the entire season. The highest scoring team was the New York Jets with 14 fantasy points. Out of the 26 teams that played that week, only eight scored 8 points or more. 

Nailing an above average defense under these circumstances can really make or break your teams. The Monday Night Football game between Chicago and San Diego, for instance, had a high total of 49, but it opened at 51.5. That high total would scare most people off. But the downward line movement applied here -- both of these defenses ended up being top-seven options. At the end of 2015, the Chicago and San Diego defenses were respectively ranked the 28th- and 29th-best on FanDuel.

So what does it all mean? Well, it's all about finding value and differentiating your lineup. And perhaps you can do that through choosing defenses in what looks like uncomfortable situations.