The National Football League (NFL) is once again under threat of having to postpone games, rejuggle its schedule and pray that it does not have to scrap the entire season. As the season heads into the playoffs, there is a real opportunity that many of the games would have to be played with the few players that remain unaffected by COVID-19.
According to the Wall Street Journal, through Thursday, December 23, some 321 players and team members had tested positive. To add to the league’s woes, there has been tepid betting action in NFL Week 16, it seems. While the league doesn’t explicitly benefit from sports betting, i.e., it’s not accepting wagers, betting activity correlates to viewership numbers which have been plummeting for the league as well.
NFL Week 16 Betting Numbers Crash
New data by GeoComply aggregated and analyzed by Morgan Stanley, though, indicates that year-over-year, betting on the NFL has grown by 58%. However, the numbers for NFL Week 16 were weaker compared to the weeks before. December is yet to prove a moribund month for NFL betting, though, as NFL Week 17 may restore the activity.
In the meantime, there have been several theories trying to explain why betting audiences have withdrawn from the NFL during the last several days. One is that many popular and beloved players had been forced to miss games due to testing positive for COVID-19. The sharp increase in Omicron transmissions has indeed put many players out of the ballpark.
With the lack of clarity on who is playing and who is not, many bettors have withdrawn from the activity altogether, as the risk would be too much to gamble on. This mostly applies to the sharp bettors, who try to win or run predictive models to try and get the best outcomes possible.
Nevertheless, sportsbooks have seen a slowdown from recreational players who may be refusing to bet because of their visceral connection with some players who are probably missing the games. The good news is that December is still on track to see more games played than in previous seasons, which should continue to galvanize fans into watching and taking part in the betting action.
The threat of COVID-19 infections does remain high as players continue to test positive. On the other hand, NFL squads are huge, and notwithstanding any injuries, most squads are able to carry on with a skeletal team.
Will the NFL Betting Continue to Slow Down?
Whether NFL Week 17 will prove as challenging is another matter altogether. Usually, the fourth quarter of any year is action-packed, but the past two years had put all sporting bodies in front of many challenges, including maintaining a regular schedule.
The NHL has been one of the hardest impacted. The NBA on the other hand is roaring ahead at full blast. Both sports leagues have been hit hard by COVID-19 and a Bubble Format, and neither party now has the patience to return to that option.