NFL teams reverse course on fan entry

In my NFL Week 4 column at the end of September I said, “The NFL was playing with fire” in regards to the league’s COVID-19 planning.

After a relatively calm stretch through October and November, the NFL is likely to be tested again in the near future. With cases rising across the country, the Philadelphia Eagles, Baltimore Ravens and Washington Football Team have all reversed plans to allow fans in attendance.

Heading into Week 11, half of the league’s 32 teams are allowing fans for home games. Detroit was originally permitted to allow fans for the Lions’ Thanksgiving game next week, but that has been overturned.

We still have seven weeks to go before the playoffs begin and 11 weeks before the Super Bowl. So far, the NFL’s system of contact tracing has been successful at keeping the regular season afloat, but the exponential spread of the virus across the country may force the league to adopt some more drastic measures.

Some teams are taking the initiative on their own. For example, the Dallas Cowboys are setting up a hotel bubble for coaches and team staff to stay at for the remainder of the season.

When interviewed last week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was adamant that the league could continue to stay on track toward the Super Bowl in February.

“Our objective is for all teams to safely and responsibly complete the regular season within our 17-week schedule — and have a full postseason, culminating with the Super Bowl with fans in the stands on February 7th in Tampa,” Goodell told Yahoo! Sports last week. “We are committed to completing the season as scheduled.”

I hope they have a backup plan, just in case.

Thursday

Cardinals at Seahawks, Total 57.5: There is very little room for error when betting the Over with an NFL total that is flirting with 60. One long, stalled drive would certainly create a massive hurdle. But just look at these defenses.

Arizona finished Sunday’s game against the Bills with three healthy defensive linemen. The Cardinals have seven defensive starters on this week’s injury report. Arizona has scored 30+ in five-straight games, and with the way the Cardinals’ injury report is looking on a short week, I think the Seahawks will join them. OVER

Sunday

Jets +8.5 at Chargers: Normally, when we are looking at an 0-9 team with a coach that is presumed to be fired, we worry about the team packing it in. I do not think that is the case for the Jets (yet) because of all the players that were injured earlier this season. Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman have only played five games. Rookie Denzel Mims has only played three.

These guys should still be hungry, and it has shown in their recent play. The Jets led the Patriots and Bills in the second half, and they put together three first-half scoring drives against the Chiefs. JETS

Cowboys +7.5 at Vikings: Despite a four-game losing streak, the Cowboys are still within striking distance of the NFC East. Quarterback Andy Dalton and cornerback Chidobe Awuzie are both expected back. Head Coach Mike McCarthy said the team has a renewed “pep in the step” off their bye week. COWBOYS

Chiefs -7 at Raiders: The Chiefs are on a different level than the rest of the NFL right now. Las Vegas will keep it interesting for a while, but Kansas City’s speed will prevail over 60 minutes. Teams that lose the first leg of a division matchup as a favorite and are a favorite of -5.5 or greater in the second leg are 15-4 against the spread since 2015. CHIEFS

Dolphins at Broncos, Total 45: Broncos fans who were hoping for freezing temperatures to greet the visiting quarterback from Hawaii appear to be out of luck. Early Denver forecasts look good for Sunday, and this Miami offense is finding its rhythm. OVER

Falcons at Saints, Total 51: There will be a lot of chatter this week about the perceived drop-off between Drew Brees and Jameis Winston. Brees is one of the all-time greats, but at this stage of their respective careers, most bettors with advanced models have a very minimal difference between the two in regards to the point spread.

However, I do think the change will affect the total. Winston was able to shake the rust off in the second half of last Sunday’s game against the 49ers, but the offense was certainly conservative. I think we see a similar start to this one until Sean Payton feels comfortable with Winston at the helm. UNDER

Last week: 2-4

Season: 27-33