Will the home team have an advantage in this Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup between the Bengals and Rams at Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium?
No, definitely not. That’s because, due to the fact that home status alternates between conferences each year, Cincinnati is technically the home team — even though the game will be contested on the Rams’ home field.
Last year marked the first time that one of the Super Bowl combatants — Tampa Bay, in that instance — got to play the big game on its home field. That it took 55 years for that to happen was remarkable. That it’s happening again, in the very next season, is somewhat mind-boggling.
Until fairly recently, sports bettors and bookmakers commonly believed that home field advantage in football was worth about a field goal to the host. But as thinking and data have evolved, that advantage is now frequently pegged at about half the standard three.
Not your average home crowd
Including the postseason, the Rams have gone 7-3 at SoFi this season, while the Bengals are 7-3 on the road coming off a stunning upset in one of the most hostile stadiums (Arrowhead) in the NFL. Under normal circumstances, while SoFi is generally regarded as a loud stadium, that’s due in part to its status as an attractive destination for opposing fans. Case in point: the NFC championship game at SoFi, where Caesars’ assistant director of trading, Adam Pullen, estimated that “49ers fans made up half the crowd.”
“The Rams are somewhat used to having a larger presence of visiting fans in SoFi,” said Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sports operations at Las Vegas’ Westgate SuperBook.
But the regular Rams experience is neither here nor there, as Super Bowl crowds tend to be a lot less partisan or rowdy.
Big Sean, Jhene Aiko, and Offset at the Rams & 49ers game pic.twitter.com/jmYY55FkiM
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“The atmosphere won’t be similar to a home game, as the ticket distribution is spread out amongst all teams, sponsors, and corporate perks,” said Kornegay. “They’ll see a slight uptick of home fans compared to a neutral site just based on the fans’ proximity and not having to travel. It’s so minor that it could go unnoticed.”
“The Super Bowl is filled with a lot of corporate clientele, not normally your die-hard fans that can create a true home field advantage,” added Pullen. “Personally, I don’t put much stock into the Rams hosting the Super Bowl, although it might be a reason that the number has moved up from the opening line. The Rams might be more familiar with the surroundings, but in my mind, it doesn’t factor in too much.”
‘A crutch to get down on the Rams’
So will playing at SoFi be worth anything to the Rams or Super Bowl bettors? Jeffrey Benson, sportsbook operations manager for Circa Sports, told US Bets that Circa’s lead oddsmaker, Chris Bennett, “gives the Rams zero points for home field in this matchup.”
“I think this will be a much more talked about event with media members and recreational bettors, but traditionally the Rams haven’t had great home field advantage this year and it won’t weigh into our line setting,” said Benson. “I think it is mostly noise.”
Citing the fact that so many Super Bowl tickets go to “big-money people who aren’t necessarily going to be going crazy for their home team,” Betfred Market Analyst Jason Sylva said the Rams’ home field advantage is worth “half a point to a point,” adding, “Cincinnati is technically the home team, so they’re actually going to be in the Rams’ home locker room, which is interesting and maybe pushes me more toward that half-point.”
Johnny Avello, DraftKings’ director of race and sportsbook operations, thinks playing at SoFi is “worth at least a point for the Rams.”
“The Rams are not gonna have their fans there rooting for them. It’s going to be a very small fraction of Rams ticket holders,” he added. “But there’s still something to say for playing at home and sleeping in your own bed and being familiar with the stadium. On a regular NFL Sunday, they’re a 2.5- to 3-point home-field advantage.”
“The Rams -2 or -2.5 felt right if this was a true neutral field game,” said WynnBET Senior Trader Motoi Pearson. “We opened -4 and have been comfortable with it ever since. I can’t imagine there being that much movement toward the Rams now. With the market settled, some places have hovered to -4.5. I think bettors will use the game being at SoFi Stadium as a crutch to get down on the Rams in the Super Bowl. Overall, a bettor doesn’t really care or know if a line is sharp or not. Laying a short number at home in the Super Bowl seems easy enough to them.”
Keen on routine
While he wouldn’t put a number on it, veteran oddsmaker Dave Sharapan said the game’s location “has to be at least considered.”
Looking at last year’s Super Bowl, he added, “I thought it was probably more of a factor — Tampa playing on their home field — than some guys did. When you’re home, everything’s different. I think that has to factor into something. For the most part, the Super Bowl crowd is a neutral crowd. But just routine-wise, there’s something different about it.”
Echoing Sharapan’s general sentiment, the SuperBook’s Kornegay said, “I believe playing the Super Bowl in your hometown and home stadium has a small advantage. … I believe the advantages are outside the fans — sleeping in your own bed, home cooking, their own rehab centers, and more familiarity with the field.”
Photo: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY