Sports gamblers had good reasons to expect that the 2020 NFL season was going to be somewhat unpredictable. Through just over a quarter of the season, those expectations have already been met. In some cases, they’ve even been exceeded.
Crowds are slowly starting to return to stadiums around the United States. The on-the-field product has been questionable, at times, due to a shortened preseason. But as the season wears on, teams will knock the rust off.
With all the drama, it seems like the NFL has been back for a while. But there is still plenty of football to bet on. Here are seven things sports bettors have learned about the NFL through the several weeks of play.
1. Unprecedented Times
The NBA season is officially over. For the most part, the league did an excellent job keeping focus on the court. The NFL, on the other hand, has not. That’s to be expected due to the sheer number of players and personnel compared to the NBA.
Whereas each basketball team carries around 15 players, football teams exceed 50 players. The NBA Bubble Tournament made it much easier to run the basketball season without any stoppage in play.
The first few weeks went off without much of a hitch, but a few things have changed since it first began. Several teams and players, including high-profile players like Pats QB Cam Newton, have had to suspend their playtime.
Additionally, several games have been postponed. Gambling on football is hard enough without dealing with external forces interfering. However, gamblers must adapt in order to make profitable bets. The next few weeks will give the betting public a good indication of how the league will handle any potential exposure in the future.
2. The Chiefs Are in a League of Their Own
Before the season began, most sharp bettors expected the Chiefs to make a run at defending their championship. Through just over a quarter of the season, it’s evident that Kansas City is primed to do just that. After taking care of the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3 with relative ease, the Chiefs established themselves as the best team in the NFL.
Most NFL betting sites have the Chiefs listed as the favorites to win the Super Bowl at 7/2.
Before the season, the Chiefs’ odds were sitting around 6/1. There’s more value elsewhere around the league, but putting some money on Kansas City to repeat wouldn’t be a bad bet.
The Chiefs looked rusty at times in the first few weeks but have returned to form. Patrick Mahomes is a legitimate threat to win MVP, and the Chiefs’ skill players are firing on all cylinders. As long as their defense holds up, it would be hard to imagine a team taking down KC come playoff time.
3. The NFC East Is a Joke
The NFC East is the most disappointing division in football. The Cowboys, led by new head coach Mike McCarthy, are underachieving. The Eagles look subpar, and Philly fans started calling for rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts to replace Carson Wentz. Meanwhile, Washington and the Giants are two of the worst teams in the league.
While gamblers didn’t have enormous expectations for either Washington or New York, the Cowboys and Eagles were expected to be competitive in the NFC.
The Cowboys’ offense is among the best in the league, but their defense can’t get off the field. Dallas hit the over in three of its first four games. Vegas will correct that at some point, but I recommend continuing to bet the over until then.
It’s still early, but it seems like no team truly wants to win this division. The Cowboys are probably still the best team in the East, but still not a legitimate threat. If either Dallas or Philadelphia has any serious postseason aspirations, they will need to right the ship fast. Until you see something different from this division, avoid betting on the East.
4. Second-Year Quarterbacks Are Struggling
The 2019 QB draft class is a minor disappointment to this point.
The New York Giants look primed to tank for Trevor Lawrence as Daniel Jones looks like a career backup. But it might still be too early to give up on him given New York’s lack of weapons.
Elsewhere in the NFC East, Dwayne Haskins is no longer the starter as Washington Head Coach Ron Rivera turned to Kyle Allen. New England quarterback Jarrett Stidham was supposed to take over for Tom Brady. But, right before the season, Bill Belichick swooped in and grabbed former MVP, Cam Newton.
The only real bright spot in the 2019 QB class is Kyler Murray, who has been decent in Arizona. The former Heisman winner got off to a fast start before cooling off in the previous weeks. It seems like this class might go down as one of the most disappointing in recent memory.
5. Homefield Advantage Continues to Disappear
I’ve never been a major proponent of the concept of homefield advantage. Only a handful of fan bases can make an actual difference when it comes to impacting a game. This season, in the absence of fans, the idea of a homefield advantage continues to evaporate. In 2019 the home team was just 10 games above .500 at home.
After four weeks, home teams are sitting at a dead-on .500 record. Fans will continue to return in steady increments as we advance, but don’t expect many teams to achieve full capacity anytime soon. When you’re lining up your bets on Sunday morning, don’t get suckered into betting home teams just because they’re playing at home.
It’s easier to play at your home stadium then travel across the country to play. Remember that Vegas takes that into account and the betting public puts too much stock into home field advantage.
6. The MVP Race Is Stacked
As it stands, the MVP race is wide open, and there’s no way of knowing who will run away with the trophy. Through four weeks, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is the favorite at +170. Aaron Rodgers comes into week 5 sitting at +285, followed closely by Mahomes at +300. Wilson has been the best player in the league, but the season is still young.
In all likelihood, one of the three players mentioned above will run away with the award. However, there is more value outside of the top 3. Josh Allen (+1000) and Lamar Jackson (+1400) could conceivably make runs down the stretch.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a major dark horse, consider taking a waiver out on Dak Prescott (+2500). The Cowboys have been atrocious to this point, but if they right the ship and run away with the East, Prescott should be in serious contention.
7. The Pats Are Still Major Players
Bill Belichick just can’t lose. The Patriots somehow roped Cam Newton into a one-year, $1.75 million deal. Newton has been solid to this point, and the Patriots look like they could contend in the AFC East. Buffalo could easily run away with that division. But, an increase in playoff teams will make it easy for the Pats to secure a postseason berth.
That, combined with a disappointing loss to Kansas City in week 4, will take some of the shine off New England. Continue to monitor lines going forward and always remember that nothing is guaranteed when Bill Belichick is involved.
2020 is one of the strangest years in recent memory, so did you expect the NFL season would be any different. Through a quarter of the season, the contenders and pretenders are beginning to distance themselves from each other.
Luckily for football fans, several quarterbacks and skill players have thrived despite the uncertainty. That will make for an exciting MVP race down the stretch and potentially profitable long-shot bets. Finally, if the Patriots can get healthy, expect them to be serious contenders come playoff time.