Heading into the third NFL season with legalized sports betting in many parts of the United States, with many states just passing sports betting legislation this year, the big question on everyone’s minds is the impact of coronavirus on the NFL odds.
Before the season even began, there were obvious adjustments that sportsbooks needed to account for, like playing in front of empty stadiums, the possibility that a player could contract COVID-19 and not play in certain games, and even the likelihood of a team contracting the virus and passing it to other teams. There are a lot of risks with moving forward this season, yet the NFL didn’t change the basic format like the NHL and NBA did.
Now, we’re almost halfway through the regular season at week five, and we are seeing players contracting COVID, games being postponed, and players sitting out of games. It was just last week that starting quarterback Cam Newton did not play with the Patriots because he had COVID. From an oddsmakers perspective, their job is to set lines and manage the risk associated with bettors placing money on any given game. A star quarterback not playing will sway the odds pretty significantly, even if it’s just one person sitting out.
Each week, we are seeing more and more teams with confirmed cases of COVID. The Tennessee Titans had a huge outbreak and any team they came into contact with was susceptible and needed to be tested. There have even been prop bets available on if the season will be suspended, if the Super Bowl will happen, and even an over/under on how many games will actually be played in the season.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in the 2020-2021 NFL season, and it’s definitely affecting the Las Vegas National Football League odds, as well as other state-run sportsbooks.
2020 NFL Season vs Past Seasons
Oddsmakers essentially work around the clock, they need to adjust odds as the news breaks of any players being sidelined, games being canceled or postponed – whatever could affect the outcome of the game, they need to account for that in their odds or they could be in big trouble.
What we have noticed in particular in the first few weeks, is that overs are hitting about 60% of the time, teams are scoring more points – whether that’s to do with not having any fans in the stadium, or the fact that defence just simply aren’t up to snuff this year. The average total score this year is 51 points, which is a big jump from past year’s averages of 45.
The favored teams are winning outright 8% more frequently, and covering the spread 7% more often than in past years – so keep your eye on the favored teams odds moving forward.
Are people actually gambling on the NFL right now?
With 23 states that allow legal sports betting in the United States since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports betting, that doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but it is. Revenue from sports betting is up over 19% in 2020 despite having virtually no professional sports to bet on for several months.
In 2019, it’s estimated that over $16 billion was bet on the NFL, and now with more places to bet, and more states legalizing sports betting, we expected 2020 to knock that number out of the park. COVID aside, the revenue projections for North American sports in 2020 were in the $1.6 billion dollar range, and now we expect that number will decrease into the $800 million dollar range.
It’s hard to say which way things will go – whether people will choose to not bet on sports because they can’t get to a physical betting venue, or if they will bet more because they can do so online, it’s a toss up – but there certainly is huge value betting on sports during this time.
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