“Watch out for them traveling to the East Coast for an early kickoff.” That may not be the most commonly used phrase in football, but it is certainly a favorite. Traveling from the West Coast to the East Coast is certainly not easy. Throw in a 1 pm kickoff, when your body clock thinks it is 10 am, and it is even harder. However, is there any actual proof behind the statement? Do teams traveling West to East struggle to cover the spread? Or is it just a story that has continued to grow over time?
In this article, we will be focusing on teams in the Pacific Time Zone and Mountain Time Zone traveling to play in the EST time zone at 1 pm.
Is There a General Trend?
My records for this go back the last four years, so let’s start there. Over those four years, West Coast teams have gone 27-39-5 against the spread. If we treat those pushes as essentially void bets, that equates to a 41% success rate if you were to bet on every West Coast team.
If we look at the years individually, the picture does not get much better. No individual year has gone above 50% for the West Coast team, with three seasons sitting between 45 and 47%. 2017 is the outlier, as just 28% of West Coast teams covered the spread that season. The problem is that numbers in the high-40s are not good enough for you to consistently win money, betting either way.
This is actually a fairly recent change as bookmakers have got wiser to West Coast teams making these trips. Action Network looked at the trend going back much further, and we can clearly see that things have gotten much more even in the last five or so years. From 2003-2012 the West Coast ATS record was an abysmal 57-71-3. However, since 2013, the West Coast teams have fared better, with a 45-34-3 ATS record. They went one step further and looked at the last six years in three-year chunks. 2013-2015 was profitable with a 64.9% success rate against the spread, and from 2015 onwards it is dead on 50%. Their numbers differ slightly from mine, but they are in the same ballpark.
Are There Any Trends Worth Using?
Given that there is no overall trend I decided to dig a little deeper. To do this I decided to look at the difference between favorites and underdogs when it comes to their ATS record.
Starting with the favorites, and 2018 was extremely positive. Out of five games where the West Coast team was the favorite they covered the spread in four of them. However, that does not translate over the previous three years. In total over a four-year period, the West Coast favorites had a 50% success rate ATS. That includes two 60%-plus seasons, 2016 and 2018. However, that also includes a 1-6-1 record in 2017. Not only is there no trend, but it is not even predictive year-to-year.
Now, underdogs are a little more interesting. Forty-two West Coast teams have been underdogs in the last four years. Just 33% of those teams have covered the spread. The highest number in any given year was 44% in 2015, and it has only gotten worse since. In 2016, we saw West Coast underdogs go 3-8-1, 2017 4-7, and 2018 2-6. We might finally be onto something! Betting against West Coast underdogs returns a 66% success rate, and if we include pushes then that climbs to 69% of the time that you either win or get your money back.
Does One Team Stand Out?
As part of pulling these numbers together, I thought it would be fun to see if any teams were particularly good or bad ATS when traveling to the East Coast. As it turns out there are a couple of interesting trends over the last four years. Two teams stand out as terrible, and a third team is also pretty bad. The 49ers and Cardinals have won just two games in total against the spread in the last four years. The Cardinals are 1-10 and the 49ers are 1-8-1 ATS. The Broncos are slightly better, but they have still gone only 4-7-1 ATS in the last four years.
As for teams that are extremely good, well there is only one that stands out. The Raiders being 8-5 ATS in four years is certainly interesting, but it is not going to be overly profitable for you. However, the Seahawks have been superb in 1 pm East Coast kickoffs in the last four years. Granted they only played five games in that situation, but they went 4-1 straight up and 4-0-1 ATS.
First vs. Second Half
A final test was to look at how games in the first and second half of the season differ. In the first half of the season, over the last four years, there has not been a trend to follow. West Coast teams are 16-20-2 over the course of that time, a 44.4% success rate. Meanwhile, the second half of the season has returned some interesting results. In those games the West Coast team in 11-19-3, a 37% success rate. It is minor, but there is an advantage to betting against the West Coast teams in the second half of the season when injuries and fatigue begin to have a larger influence.
So what are our overall takeaways from this analysis?
- Go against West Coast underdogs heading East, as they are 13-26-3 ATS in the last four years.
- Bet against the 49ers (1-8-1 ATS) and the Cardinals (1-10 ATS) until they prove otherwise.
- Bet on the Seahawks (4-0-1 ATS), it may be a small sample size but it has worked.
- Pick against West Coast teams traveling East in the second half of the season (11-19-3 ATS).