The “Dome Field” Advantage in Fantasy Football

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The NFL is somewhat unique in the world of professional sports.  Not only is it played in [almost] all weather conditions, due to the league’s infrastructure a game could be played in a blizzard on the same day that a game is being played in a climate controlled dome.  This creates an inherent imbalance between those forced to brave the elements and those enjoying the comforts of playing indoors.  Let’s take a look at how scoring in the NFL is affected and then we can hone in on perhaps the most affected position, the QB.

NFL Scoring

In a study done by Pinnacle.com on scoring in the NFL from 2003 to 2015, they found that total points per game scored in outdoor venues was 42.4.  Alternatively, in games played in a dome stadium (or one with a retractable roof) teams combined for 46.2 ppg.  While this margin may not seem significant, you have to keep in mind that this is an easily predictable 9% increase in scoring output.  In the highly competitive world of the NFL and fantasy sports, no advantage can be ignored.  In fact, this correlation is so strong it is even factored into betting lines in Vegas.  During the same period of time the average Over/Under betting lines in Vegas for indoor games was 44.6 ppg while outdoor games were listed, on average, at 41.7.

Fantasy Output

Spinning this forward into the world of fantasy scoring, we come to an interesting juncture because indoor and outdoor games, unlike home and away games, are not evenly divided.  The teams that play their home games in a dome are at a distinct advantage because they are guaranteed at least 8 indoor games a year and potentially much more.  Additionally, the NFC has a disproportionate number of indoor stadiums compared to the AFC (6:2).  The current dome teams in the NFL are the Cardinals, Cowboys, Falcons, Lions, Saints, Vikings, Colts and Texans.  Each of these teams, by way of scheduling, will play at least 9 indoor games in 2018, which is a huge advantage over teams like the Raiders and Chiefs who will play all 16 of their games outside.  The discrepancy here is wide.  Teams will either play 9 or more games indoors or 4 or fewer.  So now that we know who the primary benefactors are we can look at their signal callers.

Quarterbacks

Oddly enough, not all NFL players perform better indoors.  For example, for his career, the points differential for Dak Prescott indoors is just +0.1 fantasy points per game while Matt Ryan is actually -0.1 indoors over the last 3 seasons.  So dome schedules are a nonfactor when evaluating these two passers compared to some of the other dome QBs.

Indoor/Outdoor Scoring: Dome QBs

Indoor PPG* Outdoor PPG* Indoor Differential 2018 Indoor Games
Deshaun Watson** 31 26.5 +4.5 9
Drew Brees 20.4 16.3 +4.1 11
Matthew Stafford 18.6 14.8 +3.8 11
Sam Bradford 15.25 12.5 +2.75 10
Andrew Luck 21.2 19.3 +1.9 9
Kirk Cousins 19.4 18.0 +1.4 9
Dak Prescott 17.6 17.5 +0.1 11
Matt Ryan 16.8 16.9 -0.1 9
*2015-2017
**Weeks 3-8 2017

Over the last 3 seasons, the passers with the biggest indoor/outdoor splits are Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford (omitting Deshaun Watson due to the small sample size).  Drew Brees averages 4.1 more fantasy ppg indoors while Stafford brings home 3.8 more points.  This can be useful in your fantasy football drafts because not only do the Saints and the Lions each play 11 games inside in 2018 (T-most in the league with the Cowboys), they each play 4 of their first 5 games in enclosed stadiums.  This means you can draft a QB who is more likely to get off to a hot start by targeting these QBs.

I will give an honorable mention to Kirk Cousins because he has performed 1.4 ppg better indoors over the last 3 seasons even though all of his dome games have come on the road.  It will be interesting to see what he can do when he gets to combine the indoor advantage with the advantage of being the home team in 2018.