The NFL is scheduled to kick off the 2020 regular season on Thursday, September 10th when the Kansas City Chiefs host the Houston Texans. The league has installed various health and safety protocols to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, and in training camp has trended in the right direction.
The next step will be how teams handle games, but this also raises the question of fans in the stands. Most North American professional sports have been in bubbles, including the WNBA, NWSL, NBA, and NHL. MLB has gone without a bubble, but has also gone with no fans in attendance. There has been some push for a limited return of fans, but for the time being, MLB games remain without fans.
The NFL has not developed a league-wide policy, but is instead allowing each team to craft its own policy in conjunction with local health officials. Some teams have announced plans to have no fans in the stands for anywhere from the first game to the full season, while others have gotten approval for limited numbers.
Sportsbooks generally give a home team between 2.5 and 3 points, with teams like the Chiefs, Saints, and Seahawks at 3.5 points. Oddsmakers will generally cut that home field advantage in half if no fans are in attendance, but only 0.5 to 1.0 points if there is a limited capacity.
Different policies for different stadiums raises a question of competitive integrity this season. The point spread change is not huge, but in a league with the thinnest of margins between teams on any given Sunday, it is problematic to say the least.
Below is a rundown on what each team has elected to do for fans in the stands once the team makes an announcement.
Bills: No fans for first two games and for the foreseeable future — Report
Dolphins: Will be allowed 13,000 fans per game, roughly 20 percent capacity — Report
Jets: No fans allowed at games “until further notice” — Report
Patriots: No fans in September, which covers Week 1 and Week 2, then will re-evaluate — Report
Bengals: No fans for Week 1, up to 6,000 for second and third home games (Weeks 4, 7) — Report
Browns: Allowed 10% of capacity (6,000) for each of first 2 home games — Report
Ravens: No fans “for at least the initial part of the 2020 season.” — Report
Steelers: No fans the first two home games in Week 2 and 3 — Report
Colts: The Colts are allowed up to 2,500 fans for Week 2 home opener and have been approved for up to 7,500 fans in Week 3 — Report, Report
Jaguars: Will have 25 percent of fans in attendance — Report
Texans: No fans in Week 2, 13,300 fans will be allowed in Week 4 — Report
Titans: The team will have no fans for its Week 2 home opener, but then allow fans starting in Week 4 and slowly increasing. Week 4 allow for up to 7,000 fans (10 percent of capacity) The organization will allow 12.5 percent of capacity for Week 5 vs. the Bills and 15 percent of capacity for Week 6 vs. the Texans. The team is then home again in Week 9 and at that point for the remainder of the season, current CDC guidelines will allow for 21 percent of capacity, which is approximately 14,500 fans. There will be no fans in attendance for the team’s Week 2 home opener against the Jaguars. — Report
Broncos: No fans for season-opener in Week 1, up to 5,700 for Week 3 — Report, Report
Chargers: No fans “until further notice” — Report
Chiefs: Will have approximately 22 percent of capacity for Week 1 opener — Report
Raiders: No fans this season — Report
Cowboys: Stadium at 25 percent capacity for Week 2 — Report
Eagles: The Eagles will have a capacity of up to 7,500 for Week 6 — Report
Giants: No fans allowed at games this season, “until further notice” — Report
Washington: No fans for the season, but will be re-evaluated if situation improves — Report
Bears: No fans for season, but will monitor the situation — Report
Lions: No fans through November at least — Report
Packers: No fans for first two home games, will be re-evaluated before third home game (Nov 1) — Report
Vikings: No fans for first two home games. The team will host 250 staff and family members in Week 3 as a test for a potential return of fans later in the season — Report, Report
Buccaneers: No fans for Week 2, change in state regulations will result in Week 4 soft opening with no more than 10,000 fans — Report, Report
Falcons: No fans in September, will allow fans starting in Week 5 — Report
Panthers: No fans for Week 1 — Report
Saints: No fans for Week 1 opener, unlikely for Week 3 — Report
49ers: 20 percent capacity could be allowed for Week 9 — Report
Cardinals: No fans for first two games — Report
Rams: No fans “until further notice” — Report
Seahawks: No fans for first three games in Week 2, 3, 5 — Report