NFL Week 1 reaction: Return of fans doesn’t mean return of home-field advantage

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. parlay
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Ricky Dimon


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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

Out of 13 afternoon games in Week 1 in the NFL on Sunday, you can count on one hand the number of home teams that emerged victorious.

That’s right; the home sides went 5-8 straight up and 4-9 against the spread. Of the home teams that prevailed, one (the Houston Texans) faced the franchise that had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft (the Jacksonville Jaguars). Another (the Carolina Panthers) played against the franchise that had the No. 2 overall pick (the New York Jets). A third (the Cincinnati Bengals) needed overtime to treat the crowd to a win. As for the Kansas City Chiefs, they are the best team in football according to their Super Bowl odds, so their success was hardly surprising. There was only one particularly notable performance by a home team, and that came in the form of the New Orleans Saints’ 38-3 humiliation of the Green Bay Packers. Even that was played on a neutral field, so it wasn’t really a home game.

As everyone remembers, a most unusual 2020 NFL campaign was plagued by the coronavirus and games were played in front of little or no fans. That may be part of the reason why home teams were 3 games under .500 against the spread.

It remains to be seen how things will play out this time around as crowds try to make their mark on games, but it’s safe to say that home-field advantage in Week 1 was borderline nonexistent.

Things already going South for Titans, Colts

Is it too early to start wondering what the heck is up with the AFC South? Speaking of the home futility, two of the biggest disasters were endured by the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts — expected to be the two contenders for the title in that division. Tennessee got blown out 38-13 by the visiting Arizona Cardinals, while Indianapolis faced a tough test against the Seattle Seahawks and failed it with a 28-16 loss.

Don’t look now, but the Texans are in sole possession of first place. Will it last? Surely not. But it’s kind of hilarious to look at even after just one week.

The Colts at least had some excuse; they were home underdogs against a solid Seattle squad. Tennessee, on the other hand, was a -3 favorite over Arizona. Joining the Titans as home-favorite losers on Sunday were the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles doesn’t really move the needle, but the Pats’ loss to the Miami Dolphins could have a lasting impact on the AFC East race.

Read our betting reaction to the Bears/Rams game, where warning signs persist in Los Angeles

Could the NFC North be the NFC East?

In 2020, the NFC East was the NFC Least. In 2021, could the NFC North be the NFC Worst? Okay, the division may be as bad that rhyming attempt, which is bad. The Detroit Lions gave up 40-plus points to Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers en route to a 41-33 setback in a game that was nowhere near as close as the score suggests. The Minnesota Vikings fell to the Bengals 27-24 in overtime. The Chicago Bears succumbed meekly to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football. Worst of all, of course, was Green Bay’s TD-free effort against New Orleans.

It’s not pretty, but I am positively fascinated by the entire NFC after one week. The North could be a comedy of errors, the West is incredible (4-0 on Sunday), the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys are both looking pretty good in the East, and the Saints may still be able to compete with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the South.

Get your popcorn ready, because the action could get even more fun than it was in Week 1.

Make sure you check out our MNF same game parlay for Ravens vs Raiders (+1273 odds!)

Pickswise is the home of free NFL Predictions  and NFL Odds. Check out the latest NFL Prop Bets and NFL Parlays as well as expert NFL Underdog Picks and NFL Computer Picks

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