To the chagrin of preachers and pastors around the country, Week 4 of the NFL season will kickoff at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time on Sunday. That’s because the Jets and Dolphins are set to engage in the first ever divisional battle to take place in London, England. In addition to marking the first matchup between two division rivals abroad, Jets vs Dolphins will also feature the earliest kickoff of a regular season game (based on ET). So there are a few curveballs, but let’s take a minute to review what we’ve learned from past International Series contests and what we might expect in this game.
Miami and New York are both obviously located in the Eastern Time Zone, so the hop across the pond will represent a +5 hour time difference for both. We can look at past games at Wembley, but since this game will start earlier than past contests, it might make more sense to look at what happens when West Coast teams travel to the East Coast.
Our pals over as Sports Insights put together this article a couple of years ago that looks at this trend from a sports betting perspective. Sports Insight looked at how the Pacific teams fared against the spread when traveling between time zones. Here are the winning percentages from each time zone:
This seems to confirm the theory that West Coast teams perform worse as they travel further east. Looking at this from a game flow-y perspective, our trends confirm that QB-WR exceeded value in these situations while RBs performed worse:
So teams play worse when they have to travel a long distance before the game – but what happens when BOTH teams are traveling long distances? That could be one reason these games are often sloppy and quickly become blowouts (six of 11 London games have been decided by eight points or more with several big-time blowouts).
If you’re playing on FanDuel, this is something you may want to consider. There have been numerous complaints of poor field conditions at Wembley after past NFL games that have been played there. NFL Media has complained about it it and so have the Lions.
This quote is particularly concerning from the Lions article:
Martin said it was hard for him to find grass to plant on and both Martin and Prater said the condition of the field and his footing was better on his game-winning 48-yard field goal than the 43-yard field goal he missed but was waived off due to a delay of game.
“The 35-yard lines, where I was kicking off from, was terrible,” Martin said. “I was having a hard time to find grass to plant on at the 35-yard-line to even kick off. In between those lines there, between the 35 and 40, it was nicer turf, for sure.”
Kickers typically do well when their team scores a lot of points. This screenshot shows kicker performance when the team’s projected point total is 24+:
Despite seven teams scoring 30+ points in games at Wembley, there haven’t really been any great kicking performances there. Here were the best ones:
And here are the results as a whole:
As we’ve seen, these games have historically been sloppy and had a tendency to get out of hand quickly. This would theoretically make Vegas an even better predictor for success than usual in the London games. Here, I ran some Vegas trends and compared the result set to the overall results within that trend:
Putting It All Together
How many DFS players do you think are going to look at “[email protected]” on this week’s slate and assume the game is going to take place in Miami (particularly in Thursday start contests)? I’m going to guess an embarrassingly large number. In fact, I caught myself making that very same mistake earlier in the week.
By simply being aware that the game is in London, you’ve probably gained an advantage. Aside from that, due to the time difference and rough field conditions, expect an ugly game.
One final thought – pay attention to the start times of the London games as they relate to DFS slates. Some sites have created a 9:30 a.m. slate to accommodate Jets vs Dolphins in Week 4. Why would anyone choose to play that slate over the typical 1:00 p.m. ET starts? You know how people are always saying that on Thursday night starts, ownership is inflated in the TNF game? Well, let’s think about this for a minute.
It’s Thursday and Sunday is still a few days away. The only option you have in NFL DFS is joining the Thursday-weekend slate, so you do because you can’t go five consecutive days without action. With the 9:30 a.m. Sunday slate though, the main slate is just hours away, so who is going to be joining the 9:30 a.m. slate? The only real reason to join that slate is because you want the London game included.