UPDATE Sep 22: The Falcons announced they will allow a limited number of fans starting October 11th against the Carolina Panthers. They’ll test out protocols in Week 3 against the Bears with 500 friends and family in attendance.
The NFL hopes to open its 2020 season on time, but some or all of their teams can expect to be playing home games without fans in the stadium. Each locale is implementing different rules, and on Monday, the Atlanta Falcons announced their plans to start this year without fans in the stands.
The Falcons won’t have spectators at Mercedes-Benz Stadium through September while collaborating with national and local health officials to determine a safe date to allow fans back amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Atlanta will have two home games — against the Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Bears — in September, so the absence of fans could affect them early.
DraftKings Sportsbook has the Falcons’ odds set as one-point underdogs for their home opener against the Seahawks, but that will likely change without legitimate home field advantage. Home field advantage is typically deemed to be worth 2.5 to 3 points. Fans or not, this appears like it could be a close game. Odds for the Falcons’ matchup against the Bears aren’t up yet, but it’s safe to say the home team will be favored against a Chicago side that’s still deciding on a starting quarterback. The Bears aren’t expected to play nearly as well as the Seahawks in 2020.
DK Sportsbook oddsmaker Johnny Avello said he would cut home field advantage in half with no fans in the stands. There is still benefit of knowing your home stadium and locker room, and not having to travel, so you still get some boost playing at home. But, it will not be nearly what it would be if there were fans in the stands.
We’ve yet to see NFL football without fans in the stands, so it’s unclear how much this change could affect the outcome of games early on. If Atlanta figures things out before the end of September, it could get fans back in the stands before conference play kicks off in the NFC South.
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