With 49ers on Move, Sportsbooks Wrestle with Meaning of ‘Home’ Game as Fallout of COVID-19

Posted on: December 7, 2020, 12:16h. 

Last updated on: December 7, 2020, 01:48h.

At sportsbooks, home-field advantage for an NFL game is worth three points. But what is home field worth when the home team is playing about 700 miles away?

Las Vegas Raiders Henry Ruggs
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III celebrates after scoring the game-winning touchdown against the New York Jets on Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J. (Image: Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)

That’s the case for the San Francisco 49ers, who are hosting the Buffalo Bills in one of two Monday night games.

In response to COVID-19, Santa Clara (Calif.) County, the home of the 49ers, recently announced a three-week ban on “all recreational activities that involve physical contact or close proximity to persons outside one’s household.” So, the 49ers will play the Buffalo Bills at the Arizona Cardinals’ home stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

Good Week for Sportsbooks

Four big underdogs helped deliver a winning day for sportsbooks. The Las Vegas Raiders were 7.5-point favorites over the winless New York Jets, but needed an inconceivable long touchdown pass in the final seconds to avoid embarrassment.

The Seattle Seahawks were 10.5-point favorites, but were shocked at home by the New York Giants. The Minnesota Vikings needed overtime to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars as 10-point favorites. And in the Sunday night game, the Kansas City Chiefs were 14-point favorites over the Denver Broncos, but held onto victory.

“When you see favorites getting upset and underdogs covering, it goes in our favor,” Mannino said.

The Raiders-Jets game featured one of the most bizarre finishes in memory. With a 27-14 lead entering the fourth quarter, the Raiders were -5,000 to win at PointsBet. But the Jets rallied and were about to celebrate their first win of the season.

However, with 13 seconds remaining and the Raiders facing a third-and-10 from the Jets’ 46, New York sent a seven-man pressure. Without deep coverage, rookie receiver Henry Ruggs – arguably the fastest player in the NFL – ran past his defender for a 54-yard touchdown.

“Really wild stuff,” Mannino said. “That’s the kind of defense you don’t expect to see with 8 seconds on the clock. It was really remarkable play-calling in that situation.” Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who made that remarkable call, was fired on Monday.

The Jets are now -115 to go 0-16 at BetMGM.

Monday Night Doubleheader

Playing at home hasn’t meant much this season anyway, with teams playing in front of limited numbers of fans or no fans at all.

It’s something we’ve been struggling to figure out all year,” said Andrew Mannino, the senior sports content analyst at PointsBet, to Casino.org. “There’s something to be said for homefield, even without fans. You’re sleeping in your own bed and going to work in your own community. Without that for San Francisco, it gets a bit trickier to figure out exactly what that advantage is and how it will play out.”

Buffalo opened the week as a 3-point favorite, but was a one-point underdog as of Monday afternoon. Nonetheless, Mannino said bettors were “slamming” the Bills, with 74 percent of the tickets and 58 percent of the money on the spread.

“Nothing’s certain this year, so you hang a line and see what happens and respond to the action,” Mannino said of the neutral-site game.

In the first game, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 6.5-point favorites over the visiting Washington Football Team. On the spread, the Steelers have 81 percent of the tickets and 78 percent of the money. The Steelers are making a run at an undefeated season.