Sports gambling is one of the most significant ways to escape from the monotony of day-to-day life. When things look dire in the real world, there are few things better than turning on the game to track your bets. But, in 2020, sports didn’t grant you that opportunity, especially football.
During Week 1 of the NFL season, fans were slapped in the face with the reality that COVID-19 has impacted the sport. Most teams are prohibiting fans in stadiums, so several massive arenas around the country will sit vacantly. Even the stadiums that are letting fans only allow entrance to a small percentage of the maximum capacity.
But, games will still be played, and bets need to be placed. There are several ways COVID impacted football games, and as a sports gambler, it’s your job to know-how. Here are seven ways COVID has affected the results of the 2020 NFL season.
Stars Can Come Down With COVID
Within a couple of weeks of NCAA football return, several players and even entire teams contracted COVID. While nothing is guaranteed, it wouldn’t be unexpected for professional football players also to get infected. Unlike the NBA, which conducted its season in a bubble, the likelihood of football players getting COVID is exponentially higher.
However, the NFL has been proactive about testing to this point. As you’ve noticed, if you followed baseball, there are no guarantees when it comes to avoiding the virus. The NFL can mandate responsible practices and a cautious approach to the virus, but that doesn’t eliminate the threat.
When handicapping NFL games, it’s crucial to monitor testing results and potential fallout from COVID. If everything is working according to the NFL’s plan, players will remain healthy and active. But, on the off chance, a star is exposed to the virus, it can impact multiple bets. Consider monitoring line movement throughout the week and waiting until the end of the week to finalize your betting slate.
Existence of Home Field Advantage
Typically home-field advantage accounts for a three point advantage for the home team. Under normal circumstances, the combination of the crowd noise and familiarity with playing at home leads to better results. I’d argue that it took oddsmakers a few weeks to figure out the current significance of home-field advantage.
However, it’s interesting to see if there is less of an edge for home teams without the presence of packed stadiums. One thing’s for sure: road teams have been exposed to less adversity on the road this year than a standard season. Be mindful of home and road splits and the road team’s record ATS.
Lack of Preseason
While most people weren’t too disappointed with the lack of a preseason, it most likely impacted players’ health. Not only did defenses start slower than usual, but it could have been the reason behind some of the injuries in the first few weeks.
A standard training camp and preseason get teams ready for a strenuous regular season. While a 4-game preseason might be overkill, those repetitions players get are invaluable to get them prepared. Additionally, teams typically don’t go full tilt in practice to avoid injuries, and instead, rely on players getting their feet wet in the preseason.
Uncertainty With Futures
As I mentioned earlier, there are no guarantees when it comes to COVID. It’s easy to track the effect the virus has on the league from week to week, but impossible to predict long term results. This makes betting on futures somewhat complicated.
Whether you’re betting on a potential Super Bowl champion or the league MVP, there’s no way of knowing what the future has in store. If players contract the virus, it can adversely affect the rest of the season. Perhaps more concerning is if a superstar contracts COVID and must quarantine while his team continues to play.
That would worsen his team’s chances of winning during the weeks he’s out. Also, if you somehow placed a bet revolving around that particular player, you can get burned. Consider avoiding futures for the time being.
New Quarterbacks and Coaches
With the shortened preseason, teams had less time to prepare for the season. Sure, they were able to meet via Zoom or Skype in the previous months. But, if you’ve attended a virtual meeting before, you know how dicey they can be.
Team chemistry development have come with time, but new QBs and coaches were behind the 8 ball for the first few weeks. In Week 1 of the NFL season, fans saw mixed results in this department, and I still think these teams are somewhat of a wild card.
Less Crowd Noise Means More Points
As I discussed earlier, you can’t overstate the importance of home-field advantage. During a typical season, stadiums in Seattle and Kansas City are rocking every Sunday. As an opposing team, it’s incredibly challenging to play in one of these environments. But, with little to no fans in most stadiums, this isn’t as much of a problem.
Teams around the NFL have been pumping in crowd noise, but it hasn’t come close to the standard levels. Opposing offenses have been able to communicate better and run their system effectively. Whereas last season quarterbacks often would struggle to understand their coach on the sideline, communication hasn’t been an issue.
Good opposing crowds are especially effective at being loud when opposing teams are in the red zone. This year expect more teams to convert inside the red zone instead of settling for field goals.
I expect more overs to hit throughout the season. Oddsmakers will adjust for the change, but if you get in before everyone can pinpoint the difference, you can make some money.
Even though it’s odd to watch football games without fans, at least we have football back on TV. If you plan to bet on the NFL, make sure to start with small bets before getting your bearings. This is the strangest season the NFL has ever had, and COVID has altered the results on the field.
If a team or star players get COVID, they will be forced to quarantine and impact the season’s flow. Make sure to keep a watchful eye on each team before placing bets.
One of the biggest influencers on the games is the absence of fans. Teams with significant home-field advantages won’t be benefiting from their die-hard fans for the foreseeable future.
Avoid betting too heavily on futures in the early stages of the season. Hopefully, teams avoid the virus and the season goes off without a stoppage. But, you truly never know what can happen in the age of COVID.
When picking out bets, pay attention to whether you’re betting on a new quarterback or coach. Arguably, the two most influential people on a football field need to be in sync with their team members. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the best opportunity to do so without preseason games.
Finally, with the lack of fans, expect the opposing team’s offenses to run smoothly, more points to be scored, and more overs to hit.