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NFL Bettors and Bookies Deal With COVID Reality

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A referee looks on as he wears a face mask due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Patrick Smith/Getty Images/AFP

Chalk up another one for the year 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. Coronavirus has once again reared its ugly head in the Sports Betting world, forcing postponements in an already tight NFL schedule. It took only three weeks for the Virus to make its presence felt on the NFL but once it did, it was sure to make a lasting one.

For bettors on the NFL and the millions of DFS aficionados, the Tennessee Titans/Pittsburgh Steelers clash and those depending on Cam Newton took an immediate hit this past week, forcing oddsmakers and DFS to scramble to figure out what to do next. One thing has become clear and that is there will be little clarity going forward with regard to COVID and the NFL.

How Betting Lines Were Affected

The NFL got an unintentional case-study of just how positive COVID tests will affect Betting Lines and sportsbooks’ bottom line with the Cam Newton situation. The KC Chiefs were initially installed as a seven-point home favorite over the New England Patriots but those odds changed with news of Newton’s positive test.

First, the Patriots were forced to wait for COVID clearance before hopping on 2 planes to KC – one with players who had possible contact with Newton one carrying the other staff and players for the team. They eventually made the highly unusual same-day trip to play one of the most intimidating teams in the league.

Secondly, with Newton out, the Pats were forced to start Brian Hoyer at QB – the same Brian Hoyer who had lost 16 straight starts dating back to 2016.

It all led to sportsbooks adjusting their odds to favor the Chiefs by 11 1/2 points, a spread that led bettors to jump all over the Chiefs, which predictably paid off. What looked like a decent game on paper and in oddsmakers eyes became a justifiable mismatch in which those same oddsmakers and participants of Fantasy Football were forced to adjust their lineups.

“The first few weeks in the NFL went so well, it would have been easy to forget that a single positive test can send waves through the schedule,” said Brett Collson, lead analyst for TheLines.com. “Oddsmakers are accustomed to factoring in injuries, but both bettors and oddsmakers are dealing with an extremely fluid situation where active rosters and schedules can change in a flash. So far, it appears that hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm for bettors overall.”

Other Ways Sportsbooks Are Being COVID-Affected

The Week 4 NFL slate was not a good one for sportsbooks around the US. Andrew Mannino, the senior sports content analyst at PointsBet went on record saying that, “Overall, it was not a great day for the book. Bettors took us pretty regularly. We lost on a number of games – the Eagles, the Vikings, the Ravens, the Saints. All in all, it was a tough week for us.”

Some industry insiders are pointing to the number of blowouts and also the Over cashing in more often than usual this season for sportsbooks losing more than they are winning so far this year. In fact, the

over has hit on 36 of the 61 games this season according to Pro Football Reference. And COVID could have something to do with it.

Empty stadiums have given away teams a boost, defenses aren’t been bailed out by rabid crowds and offensive signals are easily heard in most stadiums around the league. Offenses and away teams are gaining an advantage never seen in the NFL landscape.

Going Forward…

COVID-19 may continue to affect sportsbooks. Already, the Week 5 game between the Titans and Bills is in question and the return of Cam Newton to the Patriots is still up-in-the-air. Let’s face it – Brian Hoyer is no Cam Newton. Word today is that two more Titans players have tested positive and that Stephon Gilmore of the Patriots is also positive. There are also reports of a Las Vegas Raiders player testing positive.

And there is no guarantee that bookmakers and the throngs of Fantasy Football leagues won’t be affected by new tests if they happen to appear leading up to this week’s slate of games.

COVID-19 has permeated every aspect of life in the US so the fact that sports is being affected shouldn’t be a shock. The NFL has put in some new COVID-related guidelines hoping to ensure there is no repeat of last week’s game changing news. Let’s hope the teams and the players take it seriously and there are no more disruptions.