The 2020-2021 NFL sports betting season is a chaotic mix of infected players, postponed games and precautionary restrictions. The league is trying to keep players, staff and fans healthy amid an unprecedented season of uncertainty.
The current season is wrecking havoc on the fantasy football industry. Prior to the pandemic, analysts estimated that the fantasy online casinos sports industry would reach $7.2 billion in turnover this year. But game cancellations and postponements mean that DFS operators have to make some creative adjustments and last-minute changes to get it to work.
Statistica reports that, around North America, an estimated 60 million people play fantasy sports. Two-thirds of that number focus on fantasy football. Football is America’s favorite sport and that’s reflected in the fantasy sports betting numbers.
Fantasy football combines player knowledge of the game with real game events. Participants draft players from any NFL team to create a virtual team. The number of points that participants accrue in their fantasy games is based on the performances of “their” players in real games. When real events don’t take place as scheduled, the fantasy football industry is forced to come up with another plan of action.
To date, multiple NFL games have been postponed or rescheduled. The October 4th Tennessee Titans-Pittsburgh Steelers game was the first NFL game to be rescheduled due to positive COVID-19 test results.
Since then, close to a dozen other games have had their play dates moved including games between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs, the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills, the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Los Angeles Chargers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Las Vegas Raiders, the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals and others.
In fact, more than 50% of NFL teams have been forced to reschedule games after positive COVID-19 test results. In one of the more bizarre events of the season, the Denver Broncos were forced to play a rookie wide-receiver as quarterback after they were left without a quarterback for a game against the New Orleans Saints.
That puts a tremendous amount of pressure on fantasy football teams “owners” who, in the best of times, struggle to keep up with stats, injuries and schedules in order to maximize “their” team. This year, it’s close to impossible thanks to the postponed games and new contingencies imposed by the league and the teams. ESPN and Yahoo, which provide information for Fantasy Sports players, have taken to releasing special scheduling plans leaving fantasy team managers to juggle line-ups. For many, the fun has gone out of the match.
Some observers are calling the situation “challenging” while others are more blunt – they say that it’s simply impossible to play a fantasy football game in the present circumstance. Many columnists have been frank in their assessment of the current state of affairs, saying that unless players and staff are placed in strict COVID-free bubbles, such as the ones created by the NBA, the NFL won’t be able to finish its season on time.
Others however say that the uncertainties make things more real for fantasy team owners and that the new challenges are “exciting. One such commentator is Liz Loza, a Yahoo fantasy football expert who works as an analyst for the NFL. Yahoo is seeing engagement among fantasy football players increasing, says Loza, who told CNN, "Nothing is simple in 2020, broadly speaking. This has been a year that has impossible to plan ahead for anything, and that piece has forced us to really live in the moment in so many ways….but this has presented an opportunity to fantasy football enthusiasts and diehards to really challenge themselves. If they win this year, they can say to themselves, 'I've really done some mental and strategic gymnastics, and I've earned this."
Struggles and Triumphs
Ultimately, the current situation is a mix of triumphs and struggles for fantasy football fans. Loza thinks that the situation has actually caused a spike in interest and, over the long term, fantasy football will come out stronger from the experience. "This hobby, in a time where not much else is happening, is a brilliant distraction. This fall and winter, you're probably going to be staring at the ceiling at 3 a.m. a lot," she says, "and you might as well be doing it while thinking about your fantasy roster."
In many ways, the challenges of continuously revising the rosters mimics exactly what real team managers are doing every day. Fantasy sites are adjusting, analysts are creating new statistics to help fantasy football fans make their decisions, fantasy team owners are making contingency plans so that their line-ups don’t implode when players are quarantined or games are postponed.
There is a certain amount of frustration but the trades, substitutions, cancellations, postponements, reschedules and other changes are making people appreciate sports in a new way. Loza commented that "The things that I love most about sports regardless of gender, age, race, creed, is we love the stories -- we love something we learned about the human condition."