The first week of the NFL season is now roughly three months away (Sep. 10th-14th). It’s looking more and more likely by the day that coronavirus will mandate stadiums remain empty, but starting the season on time is also highly likely.
The Week 1 NFL odds have already been out for over a month and the 2020 season starts with a bang, especially for the quartet of teams in the NFC North. Their schedule is front-loaded with intra-divisional matchups including Green Bay at Minnesota and Chicago at Detroit on Sep. 13th. Detroit also visits Green Bay in Week 2.
While the Packers ran away with the NFC North title in 2019 – finishing 13-3, three full games ahead of the Vikings – oddsmakers are expecting a much closer race in 2020. Indeed, the early divisional futures predict it to be the tightest race of all. The Vikings are currently +160 favorites to win the North, which is the longest odds of any favorite in the NFL’s eight divisions. The Packers are second-favorites at +180, followed by the Bears at +350 and the Lions at +700 (second-best odds of any fourth-favorite).
The odds for the Week 1 matchups accord with the general outlook for the division. The Vikings are currently three-point home favorites over the Packers, while the Lions are 1.5-point home chalk over the Bears.
Last season, the Vikings were a solid 6-2 at home, but the Packers were road warriors, going 6-2 away. Usually, US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis presents a rollicking home-field advantage.
Minnesota has gone at least 5-3 at home each season since 2011. They are a combined 46-18 at home in that span. It remains to be seen whether that edge evaporates without fans in the stands. The early odds suggest home-field advantage will still exist, for the most part.
The divisional futures which, as mentioned, have Minnesota at +160 and Green Bay at +180, indicate that oddsmakers see the teams are near equals. The standard adjustment for home-field advantage is three points in favor of the home team, which is exactly the spread for Green Bay at Minnesota in Week 1.
Let’s just hope Week 1 takes place as scheduled and everyone gets to learn whether empty stadiums mean anything, after all.