According to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, not having fans in the stadiums for the upcoming season doesn’t represent an advantage for the teams that do, so seems unlikely that many will allow them.  The season is going to start in just over a week, and one of the biggest questions is if fans will be allowed in the stadiums despite the coronavirus pandemic.

If Goodell’s assessment, which was apparently reached after a meeting with the NFL Competition Committee, is true, then the lack of live fans shouldn’t impact odds put up by linemakers as they consider things like home-field advantage.

Odds Are, NFL Fans Unlikely In The Stands

The football league was very clear at the beginning of this summer when it stated that allowing fans to attend games would depend on each team’s decision and on that of state authorities, as well.  They will determine how many fans, if any, will be allowed to attend the games, and when.

There isn’t an established policy for all the teams about this; each will decide the number of fans allowed in the stands.  So far, several teams have already announced that no fans will be allowed, while others have said that they will allow attendance in the weeks following the start of the season.

Many people have brought concerns to the table by saying that there could be an advantage to the NFL teams with fans in the stadiums, but Goodell is among those people who believe this is unlikely to represent an advantage.

According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, he explained Tuesday on a conference call, “We may be having a lot of teams that will start with no fans in the beginning of the season and they evolve to fans.  We do not believe it’s a competitive advantage.” However, fans often transmit emotion to players during the game, which has always been seen as giving the home team a competitive edge.

Oddsmakers Have Some Work To Do

Statistically speaking, teams have a better percentage when playing on their own turf, regardless of the sport.  This can be attributed to a number of reasons, including comfort zones, no need to travel and more.  However, there has always been the assumption that teams playing in front of their own fans feel more motivated to win.

All of these factors are used when oddsmakers put up the NFL betting lines, but the home-field component is going to be inconsistent this year.  If Goodell’s analysis is accurate, though, it shouldn’t matter, and the lines won’t have to be weighted more heavily.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), there’s actually no way to verify his conclusion.

NFL Teams Start To Make The Unlikely Fan Call

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has stated that his team plans to allow fans this fall, but only at a maximum of 50% at AT&T Stadium.  It could even be less than that in order to avoid coronavirus infections.  Fans will be separated so adequate social distancing guidelines are respected.

The Washington Football Team (WFT) and the Baltimore Ravens have already informed that they will play games without audiences this season.  Stadiums that won’t permit any fans will simulate artificial crowd noise, seeking to recreate a game atmosphere.

Again, the question is if NFL teams allowing fans in the stadiums will have a competitive advantage over those that don’t, although that seems unlikely.  According to WFT head coach Ron Rivera, it probably wouldn’t represent a benefit.  Rivera and Goodell share the same opinion.  He explains, “Well, unless they’re going to have 80,000 people in the stands, I don’t know how much of an advantage it will create.” He doubts it could have any impact directly on the players.

Rivera adds, “I can’t imagine people having that many fans and it will make a difference.  If someone has 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 fans, OK good.  But I don’t know how much of an impact they’ll have in terms of noise and all that kind of stuff.” It’s true that big stadiums have the capacity to welcome more fans, but stadiums without fans can use fake sounds to replicate a live audience.

NFL Teams Experiment With Fake Noise

The WFT had a practice at FedEx Field on Monday, and the team experimented with piped-in crowd noise.  Later, quarterback Dwayne Haskins revealed the fake crowd noise had an impact on them.  He explained, “It was loud.  I think the biggest thing is just trying to make the game a game-like atmosphere with no fans in the stadium.”  It was an unusual experience, and he added, “I feel like we kind of did that today just with the excitement and having that feeling of just being in the stadium.”

The NFL season will start on September 10, only eight days from now.  While it is the only major sports league to have been able to maintain a normal schedule this year, the offseason feels like it lasted much longer.