Falcon Points

What are the odds your favorite sport will be back in 2020? We handicap the possibilities

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It's pretty clear the RonaVerse will not end any time soon, so the sports world is going to have to take on a different look. Some sports have managed to muddle on; horse racing never left, the UFC, NASCAR and golf have been successfully staging events fan-free. But the bigger sports are still waiting it out.

The Europeans appear to have figured it out with their soccer leagues, and most games have gone off without a hitch. So plenty of models exist for the big U.S. sports. But some NBA players are balking at a restart, some NFL owners want the start of the season pushed back so the possibility exists for the return of fans, college football is in a full-on panic due to positive tests and baseball is led by a joke commissioner, greedy owners and pouty players and has simply made itself look stupid in the public's eye.

So what are the odds these sports return? Let's take a look at each one (and a couple others).

Major League Soccer

No, they are not as popular as the other leagues on this list, but they appear to have the best plan for a comeback. The league has come up with a setup that should make its return possible, albeit in a tournament format. They will have all the teams in one place in Orlando, and should have learned a lot from the European soccer teams. Of all the leagues, this one seems the most likely to return, so it makes the list.

Percent chance to return to play in 2020: 90. Fans in the stands? No. Our "we would miss you" factor on a scale of 1-10: 2.

NBA

The NBA, too, has an Orlando lockdown plan for a short finish to the regular season and expanded playoffs. However, some players are concerned about a spike in cases in Florida, and there has been some grumblings on other issues. But LeBron James wants to play, so barring something surprising, the league will be back.

Percent chance to return to play: 85. Fans in the stands? No. We would miss you factor: 4.5.

NHL

The league is looking at "hub cities" and a return to play in late July with an expanded playoff tournament. Gary Bettman has vowed that one positive test won't cause another shutdown, and it seems likely we will have some kind of Stanley Cup tournament this year.

Percent chance to return to play: 85. Fans in the stands? No. We would miss you factor: 3.5.

NFL

Let's face it, this is the one we all care about. If the others can't play, oh well. But take football out of our lives? THAT'S the apocalypse. Where the big problem is going to come for the NFL is weight rooms, and if one team has several cases. Do you shut that team down? The teams they played? The whole thing? Some owners want to push the season back in hopes of getting fans back at some point due to the revenue that will be lost. That might be prudent. Still, odds are pretty good the league at least starts up.

Percent chance to return to play: 75. Fans in the stands: Unlikely at first but possible later in the year. We would miss you factor: 10.

MLB

If a trash can gets banged in an empty stadium, will anyone hear it? Leave it to greedy owners, a poor commissioner and a bunch of entitled players to not only have a massive labor fight in the middle of a pandemic when many of their fans are out of work, but to leak each and every bit to the media in hopes of currying fan support. Of all the tone deaf things to happen over the past two months, this is the worst. Who's to blame? Who cares? The union and owners were doing their business as usual back and forth while the world fell apart around them. Not having a season would suck for Astros fans, because this year was probably the end of their title window. But good news; Rob Manfred plans to implement a 60-game season and it looks like it will happen, but the mess they made getting there will be hard to overcome. And there is still a chance the Rona keeps it from happening. A week ago we would have said 5 percent. Now it looks like it will happen. We remain skeptical.

Percent chance to return to play: 70. Fans in the stands: Possible near the end of the season. We would miss you factor: 4.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

While most conferences are hoping to play, the immediate spike in cases that came with athletes returning to campus has slowed the momentum. Barring a breakthrough, it will be tough to put together a traditional college football season. Still, expect them to try. Without football, many schools will be unable to support other sports. Without fans, even some of the biggest schools will struggle. They will have to deal with the problems the NFL will face times 10. It would suck if something can't come together, but as of today it really looks iffy.

Percent chance to return to play: 50. Fans in the stands: Unlikely at first but possible later in the year. We would miss you factor: 9.

Yes, there are some other niche sports - the WNBA, NWSL, other college sports that aren't football or basketball. But none of those really move the needle. The MLS really doesn't either, but maybe a tourney type thing will generate interest. The good news is odds are solid we will have more sports soon.

Just maybe not all of them.

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PROBABLE STARTERS

Thurs, Sept. 24 - HOU: Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33) vs. TEX: Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53)

Fri, Sept. 25 - HOU: Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.78) vs. TEX: Kyle Cody (1-1, 1.53)

Sat, Sept. 26 - HOU: TBD vs. TEX: Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.87)

Sun, Sept. 27 - HOU: TBD vs. TEX: Jordan Lyles (1-5, 7.07)

STORYLINES

Season finale - The Astros will wrap up their regular season with their four game set in Arlington at the new Globe Life Field. Houston's magic number rests at two, as the Angels still have a puncher's chance. With Houston's miserable 8-20 road record, the postseason is anything but clinched.

Where's the offense? - The Astros offense has left a lot to be desired over the last few weeks, scoring more than three runs just twice in their last ten games. The bats really need to get going, especially if the team expects to do anything in the playoffs. George Springer has been the only reliable bat of late, with the performances of Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, Alex Bregman, and, most of all, Jose Altuve, leaving a lot to be desired.

Playoff seeding - If the playoffs started today, the Astros would face off with their division rivals in Oakland. There's an infinite number of possibilities over the next four games, but the Astros can see themselves finish anywhere from the fifth seed to out of the playoffs entirely. Any of Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Oakland, Chicago, New York, and Cleveland could be first round foes depending on how the cards fall.

PREDICTION

Lance Lynn has been one of the better pitchers in the game for a few years now, Kyle Cody is an intriguing young arm with good stuff, and Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson gave the Astros fits in Houston just last week. It isn't a recipe for success for Houston. The Astros win 1 of 4, which combined with the Angels and Mariners failing to take care of business, is enough to get Houston into the playoffs.

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