The prospect of NFL games being played in empty stadiums has created some uncertainty among the bookies and their customers.
“It cuts [home teams’] power ratings generally in half,” said Johnny Avello, operations director for DraftKings. “The Eagles are about a 3-point home-field advantage. They’ll be about 1.5 to start. But we’ll have to make adjustments. This is my feeling to start off the season, but I may be wrong. There may be no home-field advantage, or there may be more than I think.”
The general rule among oddsmakers when setting point spreads is to factor in three points for the average NFL squad playing at home, and then go from there. Quality of opponent, key injuries, and recent play will move that line accordingly.
» READ MORE: Full analysis of the Eagles schedule from our team
Teams that have a significant advantage at home, such as Seattle, Kansas City and New Orleans, might see a 4- or 5-point starting edge. Lousy teams, like the ones in Florida, might get just one point.
All the bookmakers have a line on the Eagles’ Sept. 13 season opener in Washington with the Birds generally a 6-point favorite. But DraftKings and PointsBet are two places that have set lines for all the games on the Eagles schedule.
Week 2 is the Eagles’ home opener when the Los Angeles Rams visit for a 1 p.m. game. The lack of a crowd will be less of a factor working against the Rams, who are 4-point underdogs.
“That’s much more dependent on the East-West Coast time difference,” said PointsBet’s Pat Eichner, noting the Rams play on Sunday night the week before. “[They’ve] basically lost a day already.”
If that line seems a little low, please note the Rams are 4-0 straight-up and against the spread in 1 o’clock games in the Eastern time zone under Sean McVay. He gets them prepared despite the players’ body clocks feeling as if it’s 10 a.m.
William Hill, which has the Eagles laying 6.5 against the host Redskins, has not posted lines beyond the opener.
“When we made our Week 1 lines, we did it like normal,” said Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading. “But once they announce there’s not gonna be fans, I’m sure those bigger favorites will be adjusted down a point or so.”
The NFL is the hardest sport to handicap because the oddsmakers are tuned into every morsel of information. But this is a variable no one has ever experienced. As Avello and Bogdanovich said, it will all be about adjustments.
Are the Saints a little more vulnerable against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in Week 1 in a silent Superdome? Is Seattle more beatable without the 12th man? And what will Green Bay running back Aaron Jones do when he scores a touchdown?
“A Lambeau Leap into an empty stadium will be odd,” quipped Fox analyst Brian Baldinger, who played 11 seasons as an NFL offensive lineman. “I think it will feel like a scrimmage at first; but as long as they are keeping score the intensity should feel the same.”
Yeah, but who’s covering?
Caesars will retain control of the palatial sportsbook and the Wild West Casino as part of its deal to sell neighboring Bally’s hotel in Atlantic City to Rhode Island-based Twin River.
The good news for sports bettors is the new Bally’s owners will provide “a first class sports betting experience” within the hotel. It will be the ninth brick-and-mortar shop in A.C.
Caesars spent $11 million on renovating Bally’s existing sportsbook, which opened last June.
A Twin River spokesperson said construction on their sportsbook will begin immediately after the transaction is finalized and licensing is completed. They also will have an online and I-Gaming presence in New Jersey.
Unsolicited advice: Put the sportsbook close to the boardwalk in order to attract pedestrians and beach goers.
Bogdanovich compared the action for last Saturday’s UFC main event to a “Sunday night NFL-type of swing” when underdog Justin Gathje pulled off an upset of Tony Ferguson in the main event. Favorites had won 10 of the first 11 bouts, so the Gathje win wrecked parlays everywhere. One better had $110,000 to win 50K on Ferguson straight-up. Ouch.
The biggest play on Wednesday night’s UFC card also turned out to be a loser when Thiago Moises stopped Michael Johnson with a leg lock, which cost a WH bettor $16,500.
Westgate opened Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow as a 2-1 favorite for NFL offensive rookie of the year. The Eagles’ Jalen Reagor is 25-1, Jalen Hurts is 80-1. Probably won’t be a lot of NFL futures action from the professional bettors, however, with the NBA and NHL futures still unsettled.