NBA reports zero new positives in bubble; NFL gets close to finalizing safety protocols

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

Promising news across the board Monday as pro sports prepare to play seasons through the corona virus pandemic. 

First, the NBA announced that there were zero new positives in the latest round of player testing. A total of 346 players in the bubble were evaluated. No infections. And, there’s no chance of a spread if there isn’t one player unknowingly serving as a super spreader.  

Coming on the heels of similar recent success in Major League Soccer, leagues are now seeing strong evidence that the bubble approach can work safely for extended periods. It’s also in line with global evidence involving nations that worked aggressively weeks ago to stop the virus within their borders. Taiwan and South Korea have been playing baseball for months under what are essentially “national” bubbles. The key to sustaining success will be keeping infected visitors out. 

Second, the NFL owners and players association made important strides towards agreement on safety protocols and the preseason. No formal announcements were made as of publication deadlines. Mainstream reports said that both parties agreed on the following for testing...

  • Players and team employees must test negative twice before entering any camp bubble.
  • Daily tests will then be administered through the first two weeks of camp.
  • If the league rate stays below 5%, tests would then be cut in half to every other day. 

Evening reports suggested that owners offered a full cancellation of the preseason, something players had been requesting. From a safety standpoint, that makes sense for all concerned. It increases the time to create safe bubbles, while reducing transportation and contact with other teams. 

Many league critics were blasting owners for “waiting until the last second” to form a plan. But if preseason was going to be completely canceled anyway (rather than half-canceled), there was still plenty of time. The first regular-season game is scheduled for Thursday, September 10 when the Houston Texans visit the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. That’s more than six weeks away.

While there was promising news for leagues hoping to play, there was some negative news regarding having fans in attendance. A study out of Croatia showed that confirmed cases jumped when that country started allowing fans to attend soccer games

After squashing an early outbreak in April and May, Croatia had no reported cases from May 23 to June 9. It began allowing fans to attend sporting events in mid-June. You can see on this chart from that cases started rising from zero soon after…reaching more than 100 on three different days

Croatia’s soccer federation has closed stadiums to fans for the rest of the season. Action will continue in front of empty seats.

May be awhile before fans in the U.S. hear the roar of a crowd at a sporting event. 


The first group winner in the “MLS is Back” tournament was crowned Monday night when Orlando forged a 1-1 tie with Philadelphia. Both finished with 2-0-1 records in Group A. Orlando earned the nod on goal differential, and will face a third-place team to start the knockout round. Runner-up Philadelphia will play another group runner-up. 

Earlier in the day, NYCFC stayed alive for a possible third-place spot with a 1-0 shutout of disappointing Miami. 

Three games on Tuesday’s schedule. Group C will finish with Toronto and New England (both at four points each) playing for top honors. Though, D.C. United (2 points) could steal the group with a blowout of Montreal (0 points) if Toronto and N.E. tie. 

Tuesday from Group E, disappointing Atlanta (0 points despite being the pre-group favorite) must knock off first-place Columbus (4 points) to have a shot at the knockouts. 

Here are overnight odds in rotation order (all times Eastern). 

Toronto vs. New England (9 a.m., ESPN)

Three-way: Toronto plus 123, New England plus 199, draw plus 252

Goal Line: Toronto -0.25 goals (-104), New England plus 0.25 goals (-116)

Over/Under: 2.75 goals (Over -120, Under -101) 

Atlanta vs. Columbus (8 p.m., ESPN2)

Three-way: Atlanta plus 151, Columbus plus 156, draw plus 259

Goal Line: Atlanta pick-em (-114), Columbus (-110)

Over/Under: 2.75 goals (Over -109, Under -112) 

D.C. United vs. Montreal (10:30 p.m., ESPN2)

Three-way: D.C. plus 118, Montreal plus 218, draw plus 240

Goal Line: D.C. -0.25 goals (-111), Montreal plus 0.25 goals (-110)

Over/Under: 2.75 goals (Over -115, Under -106) 

Lines have settled for the rest of group play, allowing us to complete a preliminary look at “market” Power Ratings based on a goal-supremacy scale. These are solid enough for a current “snapshot,” and will be pinned down further once the knockout rounds create more connectivity. 

Group A: NYCFC 2.1, Philadelphia 2.0, Orlando 1.9, Miami 1.8.

Group B: Seattle 2.3, Chicago 2.0, San Jose 1.9, Vancouver 1.2

Group C: Toronto 2.3, New England 2.1, D.C. United 1.8, Montreal 1.6

Group D: Minnesota 2.1, Kansas City 1.9, Colorado 1.8, Salt Lake 1.7

Group E: Atlanta 2.2, Columbus 2.2, NY Red Bulls 1.9, Cincinnati 1.3

Group F: LAFC 2.7, Portland 1.9, Houston 1.7, LA Galaxy 1.6

We’ve already seen in Group A that the “best” team in each hunk isn’t a lock to get out of the preliminaries. As more matchups are locked in, we’ll present those in game order for your convenience. 

Other Stories of Interest

*Russell Westbrook arrives in NBA bubble (ESPN)

*Oklahoma Sooner football reports just one covid positive (Brett McMurphy, ESPN)

*Database for college football covid testing reports (h/t Rachel Lenzi, Buffalo News)

*University of Oxford vaccine offers promise (CNN)

*Possible breakthrough with inhaler treatment (NY Post)

*Fewer tourists coming to Las Vegas (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

VSiN Clips/Tweets on Betting Restarts

*Pat Forde talks to Pauly Howard about the feasibility of college football (Follow the Money)

*David Thorpe with Pauly and Matt Youmans on the Toronto Raptors

 (Follow the Money)

*Danny Burke and Paul Sporer preview the Texas Rangers (A Numbers Game)

*Patrick Meagher, Michael Lombardi, and Vinny Magliulo discuss MLB Longshots getting action (Lombardi Line)

*JVT looks at NBA line moves (The Edge)

*JVT studies the AL Central (The Edge)

*Danny Burke and Josh Appelbaum with MLB betting strategies (Bet Chicago)

See you Wednesday for our next report. 

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