Sportsbooks Prepare For COVID-19 Chaos On 2020 NFL Betting Lines

FairwayJay reaches out to online bookmakers for insight on COVID-19 reporting for the 2020 NFL season. What will be the impact and how will bookmakers adjust and post betting lines?

NFL Betting and Sportsbooks Adjustments During COVID-19

Amid the coronvavirus concerns and the new-look 2020 NFL season with no fans in the stands, bookmakers are bracing for the changing landscape and betting market. The NFL is the biggest bet sport, but COVID-19 reporting combined with players injury status may cause some complete chaos this season.  

COVID testing NFLThe NFL Players Association reported last week that 56 players had tested positive for COVID-19 since players began reporting to training camp. This week LA Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn announced he tested positive for the virus. The growing number of players that have opted-out of playing this season has grown to 67. 

The league hopes to keep the player infection rates low. But you can bet it won’t stay near the current 2% of all players with daily practices among players leading into an unprecedented football season. 

The coronavirus concerns are real, and I reached out to some leading online sportsbooks and bookmakers to see how they will react and provide betting lines to customers. Here are some responses from GTBets and Jazz Sports

Do you think we’ll see more games taken down off the board (or put up) because sportsbooks not sure of which players are playing?

GTBets: Yes, we anticipate games going up and coming down at a higher rate than usual due to players being deactivated due to COVID. In addition to lines going up and coming down, we'll also have to adapt our betting rules to accommodate any changes in play/rules that might occur. For example, MLB double headers have gone to a 7-inning format, which greatly impacts betting rules, and we had to adjust our rules to accommodate. 

Jazz: Lines are based on the players participating, which means whenever there is uncertainty books will be less likely to put up games and if they are up the limits may be reduced. 

Do you anticipate still releasing lines on Sunday or Monday ahead of following weeks games?

: Our goal is to release lines as soon as possible, hopefully with no deviation from the past, however at this point we'll have to see how much information is out there about rosters.

Jazz: Regarding NFL, yes, we would anticipate that books will put up lines with reduced limits Sunday night and Monday morning. We will need to figure out what the weekly testing protocols are before we will know when games will go to open limits, but I would expect to be at full limits by Thursday.

Any added comments on uncertainty of COVID-19 reporting and injuries? How will Sportsbooks handle betting lines and also posting totals?

NFL lines changingGTBets:
We have not heard a definitive answer on reporting yet. Unlike the NBA, a single player on an NFL roster has less of an impact on the spread/total (other than key QB), so it is my guess that if this information is expected to be delayed, we will do what we can to get lines up regardless. The biggest thing that will likely impact this season's spreads/totals will be if we have backup quarterbacks being moved up to the starter. In situations where that happens, we could have some pretty big spreads. Aside from that, we will have to see how the NFL is going to approach play, and if there will be any rules instituted that impact scoring/play. As the season progresses, we expect new updates to take effect, as it is a learning process, so we'll have to adapt along with the game.

Jazz: The NFL has not released any guidelines or protocols but if they keep testing all the way to day of game then basically we will always be at the mercy of the testing announcements. Basic injuries have to be announced by Thursday which is why most books are at full limits by Thursday afternoon. Jazz has three levels of limits starting at reduced which is what we offer starting Monday morning. They go to Circled on Tuesday once we learn about the serious injuries from the previous weekend and then we go to full limits on Thursday.  If a key player is announced out then we will take the game off the board while we determine what changes need to be made and then it will be reopened. This is also how we handle NBA on a day to day basis.  As far as NFL is concerned the lines will likely move like a week 17 game where neither players nor the books really are sure of starting lineups until kickoff.  At least at Jazz, we rarely offer an NFL game without a total except in cases of anticipated bad weather such as heavy wind or snowfall since this will truly affect both teams and likely the total. 

With a larger component of today's betting culture searching rapidly for information, you're going to see more scrambling and adjustments on the fly. Similar to the NFL with Weeks 16 and 17 when teams start resting players or preseason games when information gets out. Yet rest assured there will be a scenario where more than a few players on the same team test positive for coronavirus on a Friday or Saturday before a Sunday NFL game. The situation will create some chaos as lines are adjusted or taken down and bettors react. And for gamblers that wagered earlier in the week? There will be a little more risk with the virus to consider, and testing providing another situation to evaluate. 

The lines, odds and totals will be changing. 

You can bet on it. 

FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and betting analyst. He provides insight and information you can bet on for the sports betting industry and avid sports fans. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay


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