NFL fans are coming to the harsh realization that there likely won't be any fans in the stands in 2020, at least for the early portion of the season. However, if we still get games to watch and bet on, empty stadiums are a sacrifice that many of us would gladly be willing to make.
Just don't count Aaron Donald among those happy about it.
On Thursday, the 2-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year told reporters "you need fans to play a game. I don't see how you could play a game without no fans. I feel like that takes out the excitement and the fun out of the game..."
This is a big year for the Los Angeles Rams. It marks their first season in their brand new digs, SoFi Stadium, which they're set to share with the Chargers. The Rams are a 2.5-point dog for their season opener at home against the Cowboys on Sept. 13.
Two years ago, the Rams were riding high. They had just gone 13-3, won their 2nd straight NFC West title and reached the Super Bowl. But then Los Angeles took a step back last season, going 9-7 and failing to make the playoffs for the first time in coach Sean McVay's three-year tenure.
It came on the heels of a massive spending spree during which the Rams were far too early handing out huge contracts to quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, wide receiver Brandin Cooks and Donald. Gurley and Cooks are already gone and the team is dealing with huge dead money cap hits. The Rams also turned heads last season trading a pair of first-round picks (plus a fourth rounder) to the Jaguars for cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Heading into 2020, bettors can't help but ask themselves: Was last year a fluke? Are the Rams destined to revert back to who they were in their first two years under McVay? Or has the roster thinned and Los Angeles will continue their downward trend?
The Rams' season win total is set at 8.5 across the market. At first glance, the over might be appealing since Los Angeles has averaged 11 wins in McVay's three seasons (33-15, .688 overall). However, oddsmakers aren't buying it. The under 8.5 is juiced up across the board. At Circa Sports the under is -125 (over + 105). At PointsBet the under is -130 (over + 105). At FanDuel the under is -115 (over -105). And believe it or not, DraftKings is sitting at 8 with even -110 juice on both sides.
Why are the books juicing up the under? Because that's the sharp side. Books appear to have taken in smart money wagers on the under, creating liability for the house. Sportsbooks are forcing bettors to pay a higher price to bet the under, while also begging bettors to take the over by trying to sucker them in with plus-money.
The Rams aren't getting any help in the form of the schedule, either. Los Angeles is tied with Minnesota for the 10th hardest schedule this season. The Rams' 2020 opponents went 131-123-2 in 2019 (.516).
Here is their schedule
Week 1: vs Cowboys
Week 2: at Eagles
Week 3: at Bills
Week 4: vs Giants
Week 5: at Redskins
Week 6: at 49ers
Week 7: vs Bears
Week 8: at Dolphins
Week 9: Bye
Week 10: vs Seahawks
Week 11: at Bucs
Week 12: vs 49ers
Week 13: at Cardinals
Week 14: vs Patriots
Week 15: vs Jets
Week 16: at Seahawks
Week 17: vs Cardinals
The Rams aren't expected to make the postseason. At DraftKings they are a -182 favorite to miss the playoffs and a + 150 dog to make the playoffs. Los Angeles is + 400 to win the NFC West. The 49ers are the favorite at + 115, followed by the Seahawks + 225 and lastly the Cardinals + 700.
Los Angeles is + 1600 to win the NFC and + 3300 to win the Super Bowl.
This offseason, the Rams have lost several key players including Gurley, Cooks, linebackers Cory Littleton and Clay Matthews, edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr, kicker Greg Zuerlein. Los Angeles re-signed tackle Andrew Whitworth, defensive lineman Michael Brockers and added defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson and Leonard Floyd.
The Rams were without a first-round pick this year after trading it to the Jags for Ramsey.