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2020 NFL Odds: How lines will move if fans are barred from stadiums

Will fans be in the stands Week 1? Books hedged on that question when setting NFL opening lines.
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When William Hill oddsmakers released spreads and totals for NFL Weeks 1 and 2, they didn't know if games would be played in full or empty stadiums, or in front of a smattering of socially-distanced fans. They still don't.

So the book hedged, posting lines that account for a portion of typical homefield advantage. NFL homefield is worth 2.2 points on average, but it varies widely depending on the stadium, situation and weather.

"We're stuck in the middle," director of trading Nick Bogdanovich told SportsLine about his opening lines. "If we get official word that no fans are allowed, I'm sure a lot of lines will drop."

The Ravens, for instance, are laying 9 points to the visiting Browns in Week 1. Bogdanovich believes that pointspread would fall to -8 if fans are prohibited.

He envisions a bigger drop for the Chiefs, who are -10 against visiting Houston in the standalone Sept. 10 opener.

"The Chiefs have a monster home field -- they set noise records there in K.C.," he said. "So that number has got to be lower. Plus they're playing a good team in a rematch. I think that game would definitely come down quite a bit."

In the Divisional Playoffs at Arrowhead Stadium in January, the Chiefs ralied from a 24-0 deficit to win 51-31 en route to the Super Bowl title.

"Every single team's [homefield edge] is different, and every single game is different," Bogdanovich said. "Like in a typical Week 1, every team's fans are going to be loud and the stadium full. But by Week 6, some [bad] teams could have a blase home field."

So far, the early action at William Hill doesn't seem tied to the issue of fans in the stands. Two games have moved a full point: Detroit went from pick'-em to -1 vs. the Bears, while Las Vegas went from +1 to pick-'em at Carolina.

Two other games moved a half-point: Pittsburgh went from -3 to -3.5 at the Giants while the Patriots moved from -5.5 to -6 against visiting Miami.

The coronavirus pandemic forced NFL teams to shutter all facilities in March, but they're beginning to reopen this week on a limited basis.

Bogdanovich is optimistic there will be NFL football this fall.

"College is a different animal," he said. "But I'm going to stay positive about the NFL and guess the NFL plays in September -- with fans."

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Larry HartsteinSenior Analyst