This is the 159th installment of The Labyrinthian, a series dedicated to exploring random fields of knowledge in order to give you unordinary theoretical, philosophical, strategic, and/or often rambling guidance on daily fantasy sports. Consult the introductory piece to the series for further explanation.
Not quite two years ago, I started having conversations with Jonathan Bales (a regular employee at The Action Network) about the possibility of working at FantasyLabs. Since joining the company, I’ve had an illustrious career talking in a British accent and writing about flatulence. It’s been a gas.
Of all my Pulitzer Prize-worthy work, perhaps my research on the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is the most notable. Not everyone can be known as the person who gave the nickname “The Coors Field of NFL DFS” to the Superdome. I think Evan Silva thinks Rich Hribar came up with the name, which is probably the greatest compliment I could be given.
Since a lot of people have started to refer to the Superdome as the Coors Field of fantasy football, it’s worth thinking about what goes into the analogy and why/how it works.
The Environmental Factors
Weather is important in baseball: Temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind speed, wind direction, and altitude all matter. At Coors Field, we often find the most optimal combination of these environmental factors, which is why games at Coors often have a perfect Weather Rating of 100 in our MLB Models. Coors is a hitter’s paradise. At the Superdome, we see a comparable confluence of favorable factors. The indoor environment offers controlled weather: 72 degrees, no rain, no humidity, and no wind. Additionally, the Superdome has synthetic turf (Monsanto ‘Mardi Grass’), which enables players to run faster, thereby juicing offensive performance, especially in the passing game.
To be clear: Coors Field provides an edge utterly unlike anything else in professional sports. Coors boosts offensive performance more than the Superdome. Additionally, Coors has a combination of factors unique unto themselves, whereas the environmental edge found at the Superdome is fundamentally the same edge offered by any indoor NFL stadium. In terms of ideal weather, the Superdome cannot match Coors. No professional venue can. That said, no NFL stadium has environmental factors more conducive to offensive production than the Superdome. In that way, Coors Field and the Superdome are similar.
What makes Coors Field wonderful isn’t just that lots of runs are scored there. For the purpose of DFS, what makes Coors great is that road teams are undervalued there, as visitors collectively score more runs at Coors than they do at their home stadia. That’s right: “Stadia.” Not for Vegas but for DFS, if a team is going to face the Rockies and we want to be invested in that team, then it would be better for us if the team forfeited its home-field advantage and played on the road: The team would likely score more runs at Coors. This juiced performance by the visitor — this is what makes Coors Field the most fantasy-friendly venue in all of sports.
The Supderdome, though, is a respectable second. Almost all teams score more points at home than on the road. The Saints, for instance, have large home/road splits: Since 2012 they’ve averaged 30.0 points per game (PPG) at home and just 23.6 PPG on the road. These splits are severe — and we’ll touch on them later — but many teams have ‘normal’ home/road splits that are in line with general expectations. For example, since 2012 the Patriots have scored 31.3 PPG at home and 28.3 on the road; the Cowboys, 26.1 and 23.2; the Browns, 18.8 and 17.2. There are a few anamolies — the Jags since 2012 have scored 18.1 PPG at home and 18.9 on the road — but as a general trend NFL teams score more points at home than on the road.
Naturally enough, all of this means that teams at home tend to hold opponents to fewer points than they do on the road. This is nearly a universal truth — but it doesn’t apply to the Saints. Since 2012, they’ve allowed 26.3 PPG at home to 25.8 on the road. In the history of our database, no venue has been friendlier to visiting quarterbacks than the Superdome, where starters have averaged 21.1 DraftKings and 19.9 FanDuel PPG. At home, quarterbacks have scored ‘just’ 18.8 DraftKings and 17.3 FanDuel PPG against the Saints — at significantly higher ownership.
The Rockies and Saints Give It Up
Although they’re certainly better this year, Rockies pitchers have traditionally been #notgood. For instance, last year the Rockies allowed the third-most runs in MLB with 860. In 2015, they led the league with 844 runs; in 2014, they led with 818. While these run totals are doubtlessly inflated due to the Rockies’ home games at Coors, it’s not as if the Rockies have been good on the road: In 2014 their 374-run road total was the league’s second-highest mark. Part of the pleasure of rostering road Coors batters is knowing they have a good matchup regardless of the environmental factors.
Like the Rockies, the Saints give it up. Ever since they
stopped trying to injure opposing players lost coordinator Gregg Williams, their defense has been soft.
- 2012: 28.4 PPG allowed, 31st of 32
- 2013: 19.0, fourth (the Rob Ryan dead cat bounce)
- 2014: 26.5, 28th
- 2015: 29.8, 32nd
- 2016: 28.4, 31st
What makes the Superdome the Coors Field of fantasy football isn’t just that it’s a good environment: It’s that the Saints give up a lot of home runs. In 2015 they allowed a league-record 45 passing touchdowns. They’re bad. For the last five years, they’ve had perhaps the NFL’s worst defense. They are the thin air in the Superdome’s metaphorical mile-high atmosphere.
Why Is the Saints Defense Worse at Home?
Here’s the question: Why do the Saints allow more (fantasy) points at home than on the road? They’re still bad away from the Superdome, allowing top-four fantasy marks to home quarterbacks, but they’re the league’s most generous team when playing in New Orleans, allowing opponents to score on them almost at will. Why is this the case?
Here’s my working theory: Brees is already one of the best quarterbacks in the league — he’s been a top-six fantasy passer each year since joining the Saints in 2006 — and he has some of the most extreme per-game home/road splits at the position, especially since 2012.
- Home: 30.2 fantasy points on 335.7 yards and 2.78 touchdowns passing
- Road: 22.1 fantasy points on 303.5 yards and 1.86 touchdowns passing
When Brees is at home, his enhanced production fuels the fast-paced Saints offense (top-12 in neutral pace four of the last five years), and opponents are forced to play more aggressively to stay competitive. Of course, given that the Superdome provides ideal playing conditions and the Saints have a nonexistent defense, the intensified urgency of their opponents tends to result in more points.
Remember, this is just my theory, but it’s yet to be proven false, so it’s basically a fact. Pretty sure that’s how science and logic work.
“Are You in the Beyond? I Think You Are”
The Saints played three road games in the first month of the season before taking a Week 5 bye, which means that over the next 12 weeks we will have seven games at the Coors Field of fantasy football.
- Week 6: Detroit Lions
- Week 8: Chicago Bears
- Week 9: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Week 11: Washington Redskins
- Week 13: Carolina Panthers
- Week 15: New York Jets
- Week 16: Atlanta Falcons
In Week 2 at the Superdome, the Patriots scored 36 points as Tom Brady had one of the best games of his career, throwing for 447 yards and three touchdowns on 30-of-39 passing.
You are in the beyond.
The Labyrinthian: 2017.64, 159