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NFL cuts 2020 exhibition slate in half

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

July 1, 2020 10:36 PM

Big news in the NFL Wednesday, as the league announced it was cutting the 2020 preseason in half due to concerns about season preparation during the corona virus pandemic.

Weeks 1 and 4 will be canceled, leaving two games per team through the weekends of Aug. 20-23 and 27-30. 

This could be good news for sports handicappers and bettors who focus on talent, but bad news for those who have profited historically from knowing head coach priorities. 

*Bettors focusing on front-line talent and matchups will probably see starters play deep into the second quarter in the first set of games—and past halftime in dress rehearsal “finales.” Two weeks of high-intensity football with starters and quality backups? That’s August action everyone would want. 

*As for bettors who know which head coaches try to get results no matter who’s playing, or which coaches could care less, they will lose out on multiple opportunities in the weeks erased from the slate. What made preseason football profitable for trend-miners won’t be a factor next month.

Of course, all of this is contingent on protocols being met for pro football action to begin. That’s far from a sure thing. But the NFL’s decision makes it clear they are focused on player health, and getting everyone ready for the start of the regular season Sept. 10-14. 

The current national broadcast slate for exhibition action…

Thursday, Aug. 20: NY Jets at Detroit (ESPN)

Saturday, Aug. 22: Jacksonville at Tampa Bay (CBS)

Sunday, Aug. 23: New Orleans at Pittsburgh (FOX)

Monday, Aug. 24: Washington at Indianapolis (ESPN)

Thursday, Aug. 27: Cincinnati at Atlanta (CBS)

Sunday, Aug. 30: Minnesota at Cleveland (FOX)

Sunday, Aug. 30: Carolina at Baltimore (NBC)

Health permitting, that slate includes Tom Brady’s first appearance as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, and top draft pick Joe Burrow’s dress rehearsal as a Cincinnati Bengal.

Other covid news:

*Six FC Dallas players tested positive in Orlando just days before from the start of the “MLS is Back” tournament set to begin Wednesday, July 8. Players are required to pass a test in home training areas before flying to Florida. Two reportedly tested positive up on arrival, four others in the past two days. 

Thus far, only six of 26 participating teams have arrived in Orlando. The “World Cup style” tournament is schedule to last until Aug. 11. 

*Domestic leagues are paying close attention to restarts around the world. Australian Rules Football has yet to make any schedule changes after Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews imposed a lockdown affecting about 300,000 residents in the suburbs of North Melbourne

VSiN’s Ron Flatter has lived and worked in Australia. He explained on Twitter today: “The AFL and NRL (National Rugby League) have been operating in bubbles. It is possible that teams could get moved out of state if necessary. That is what they did with the two teams from Perth for the first month back.”

An optimistic qualifier from Ron: “There are 5 million people in Melbourne, so we are talking about maybe 7% of the population. Those northern suburbs are fairly far from where teams are centered.”

VSiN knows many of you have been betting the AFL since it re-kicked. We’ll continue to monitor restarts around the globe. 

*Following up on our lead story Wednesday, barring any last-second surprises, the NHL will use Toronto and Edmonton for hubs when its season resumes in a few weeks. Canada continues to have a much stronger handle than the U.S. on containing the spread of covid. The whole country reported only 67 new cases Wednesday to Nevada by itself reported 645 new cases. That expands on the 2-1 ratio over the prior seven days we discussed last time. 

*Case counts across the U.S. Wednesday: Texas led the nation with 8,240 new cases. Not surprising that players from FC Dallas sprung positive tests in Orlando. NBA fans and media will be paying close attention to tests involving players/coaches from the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, and San Antonio Spurs. 

Florida was second nationally with 6,563 new cases. Orange County (home of Orlando) jumped to 560 Wednesday after reporting 343 and 300 the prior two days. The NBA may regret committing so early to the Sunshine State for its restart. Same for the WNBA, as Manatee County reported 159 new cases…up from 95, 73, and 46 the prior three days. The WNBA plans to play in Bradenton in that county. 

California was third with 6,497. Three NBA teams from here will also be playing in Orlando. That’s the Sacramento Kings, and both the Lakers and Clippers from Los Angeles. Sacramento County reported 174 new cases. Los Angeles County has been very high for several days, and added 1,978 new cases Wednesday. 

Wednesday numbers for football fans and bettors wondering about SEC Country: Texas 8,240 (up from 7,959), Florida 6,563 (up from 6,093), Georgia 2,946 (way up from 1,874), South Carolina 1,520 (down a bit from 1,755), Tennessee 1,806 (up from 1,212), Louisiana 2,041 (way up from 1,042), Alabama 917 (up from 870), Mississippi 653 (down a bit from 680), Missouri 351 (down from 566), Arkansas 420 (down from 520). More bad news than good news, with six of 10 states showing increases…including major surges in Georgia and Louisiana. 

More Stories of Interest

*Rick Pitino says college basketball should delay until spring

*Ivy League considers delaying football until spring

*Rutgers not confident college football will be played

*College football risking player’s health with summer activities

VSiN Clips/Tweets on Betting Restarts

*Review a big Wednesday winner and a value lean from Nigel Seeley (“Follow the Money” with Mitch and Pauly)

*Shohei Otani as an AL MVP candidate (“A Numbers Game” with Gill Alexander)

*Player Prop Analysis for Joe Burrow and Joe Mixon (Lombardi Line)

*Boston Celtics’ pre-playoff motivation in Orlando (“The Edge” with Jonathan Von Tobel)

Back with you Friday morning. 

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