Any state that currently features legalized sports betting (or is even considering passing legislation to regulate the industry) has their eye on fall for one simple reason: football season.
The biggest driver of revenue for any American sportsbook, the NFL sits at the heart of it all. To its benefit, the league has not been as affected by the coronavirus pandemic as other leagues. Other than the NFL Draft moving from Las Vegas to a digital platform, the NFL has not needed to adjust as much as its counterparts.
That said, while the league is sticking to its normal start to the season, the NFL has opened discussions for contingency plans just in case.
NFL plan as season nears kickoff
Could NFL preseason get shortened?
As noted, the NFL still intends to get the season in as scheduled, with the preseason beginning Aug. 6 and opening week slated for Sept. 10.
Still, the league remains vigilant.
As reported by Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the NFL and the NFL Players Association are considering shortening the preseason from four games to two. Pelissero reported that among the elements discussed is allowing “medical experts to finalize game-day protocols for testing” as well as other procedures.
Training camps, meanwhile, could open by mid-July, though joint practices are prohibited.
What about the regular NFL season schedule?
The NFL has bounced around a variety of contingency plans should COVID-19 affect the regular season.
Chief among them:
- If the start of the season is delayed, early games missed could be made up following Week 17
- Super Bowl LV, scheduled for Feb. 7, could be pushed back “by weeks”
- Any week can serve as opening week
- Every team shares the same bye week as their Week 2 opponent
No cancellations have occurred yet, and many states — specifically major markets such as New York and California — have invited professional sports to return to action.
NFL sent a memo to teams regarding coronavirus
In early June, Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, sent a memo to teams detailing ways to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Included was the requirement that players, coaches and team personnel be “separated into three tiers” with access to various areas of team facilities limited only to the most essential employees. These tiers will have their own entrances to, or dedicated times to enter, facilities.
In addition, all players and club employees with access to restricted areas will undergo daily testing before entering those facilities. Such screening includes a five-part questionnaire that asks if they have experienced vomiting or diarrhea during the previous 24 hours.
Each team’s locker room must be reconfigured to create 6 feet between players at all times. Signs will also discourage shaking hands, furniture in common areas will be removed, and teams will put into place extensive cleaning protocols that will take place multiple times a day.
Further, teams must conduct virtual meetings whenever possible and “are encouraged” to relocate in-person meetings outdoors while requiring attendants to wear masks. Any get-togethers of at least 20 people must be held remotely unless social distancing measures are in place.
The final bullet point of Goodell’s memo limits workout groups to 15 or fewer people and encouraging them to wear masks in weight rooms. Additionally, trainers must schedule appointments with players rather than having an “open time” for things like taping ankles.
Noteworthy dates in NFL schedule
Obviously every NFL season features a wide array of storylines.
This year will certainly be no different, what with Tom Brady now taking snaps in Tampa Bay, the Raiders set to make Las Vegas their new home, and the Kansas City Chiefs attempting to take the baton from the New England Patriots as the preeminent power in the league.
Assuming all goes on as scheduled, actual on-field NFL action will begin Aug. 6 as the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers square off in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. (The actual enshrinement ceremony is still expected to go on leading up to the game with no intention of moving it to a virtual platform.)
As for the regular season, the Houston Texans visit the Kansas City Chiefs to kick things off Sept. 10. The following week, Monday Night Football highlights history as the Las Vegas Raiders host the New Orleans Saints for the league’s first game played in Sin City.
Christmas will also celebrate a rare occasion, as the NFL will trot out just the 11th game played on a Friday since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. The Saints welcome the Minnesota Vikings this year for the league’s first Friday game since 2009.
Closing out the regular season is a matchup that has traditionally been a thrilling showdown, as the Seattle Seahawks travel to the Bay Area to take on the San Francisco 49ers.
NFL betting odds
As far as NFL betting, many legal sportsbooks favor the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs to win Super Bowl LV in Tampa. Similarly, the upstart Baltimore Ravens are the second on that list. As for last year’s Super Bowl runners-up, the San Francisco 49ers sit in the top three for many operators.
Similarly, many oddsmakers expect fireworks out of quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City, 2018 MVP) and Lamar Jackson (Baltimore, 2019 MVP) as books peg the two young signal-callers as the favorites to win the MVP this year.
Below are the top contenders to win the Super Bowl and MVP awards, courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook.
Super Bowl LV
|DraftKings Sportsbook||FanDuel Sportsbook|
|Kansas City Chiefs +600||Kansas City Chiefs +650|
|Baltimore Ravens +650||Baltimore Ravens +700|
|San Francisco 49ers +1000||San Francisco 49ers +900|
|New Orleans Saints +1200||New Orleans Saints +1200|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers +1300||Tampa Bay Buccaneers +1500|
|Dallas Cowboys +1700||Dallas Cowboys +1700|
|Philadelphia Eagles +2000||Philadelphia Eagles +1900|
|Seattle Seahawks +2200||Seattle Seahawks +2100|
|Indianapolis Colts +2500||New England Patriots +2300|
|Minnesota Vikings +2500||Indianapolis Colts +2400|
|New England Patriots +2500||Pittsburgh Steelers +2400|
|Pittsburgh Steelers +2500|
|DraftKings Sportsbook||FanDuel Sportsbook|
|Patrick Mahomes +400||Patrick Mahomes +380|
|Lamar Jackson +700||Lamar Jackson +600|
|Russell Wilson +800||Russell Wilson +600|
|Dak Prescott +1400||Dak Prescott +1200|
|Tom Brady +1600||Carson Wentz +1700|
|Deshaun Watson +1700|
|Drew Brees +1700|