NFL – West Coast Travel Line Trend

A perception among those who follow the NFL closely is that West Coast teams don’t fare as well the further east they have to travel. The longer flights and changes in timezones are disruptive, which reportedly lead to poorer performances.

SportsInsights – an American provider of sports betting analytics tools – have used their Bet Labs software to test this travel theory using line data from 2005 onward. If the theory is true (and bookmakers haven’t adequately adjusted for it) then we would expect to see West Coast teams cover the line with less frequency the further east they have to travel. Note that we are only looking at line betting rather than head-to-head records so that we can negate differences in opponent quality. Teams should cover the line 50% of the time regardless of their opponent.

Data analysis

Using the Bet Labs System, SportsInsights tested whether West Coast NFL teams covered the line with lower frequencies the farther they are from the Pacific Time Zone. The analysis was done using the four NFL teams located on the West Coast – the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Seattle Seahawks. Their performances have been broken down by games played in the Mountain, Central and Eastern Time Zones. Below are the results:

Time Zone Line Record Line Cover Percentage
Mountain 22-10 68.8%
Central 37-44 45.7%
Eastern 44-57 43.6%


Consistent with perception, the line betting performances of Pacific Time Zone teams get progressively worse as they travel further east. The further they are from home, the less often the West Coast teams meet bookmaker expectations on game day. SportsInsights then took this analysis a step further by measuring the line record of West Coast teams when they come into a fixture on the back of a game where they covered the line.

Time Zone Line Record Line Cover Percentage
Mountain 6-8 42.9%
Central 16-26 38.1%
Eastern 16-38 29.6%


Interestingly, the performances drop off even further relative to bookmaker expectations. The fact that their line performances get even worse on the back of a line cover illustrates a consistent market overreaction to the previous week. Punters tend to focus heavily on recent results and will disproportionately back teams that covered the line in their previous game. This leads bookmakers to adjust the lines to a point where the West Coast teams cover them less than 50% of the time.

It just goes to show that it is worth paying attention to travelling West Coast teams, especially if they covered the line in their most recent game. You might want to consider backing the home team at the line in these situations.

If you want to tests more theories, like whether the reverse is true for East Coast teams, you can do so using Bet Labs. Bet Labs is a software interface that allows users to apply over 60 filters to a database of historical sports betting information to research profitable trends and create winning betting systems. Bet Labs then alerts members to all current games that match their systems.

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