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Betting Issues for NFL QB Returning From Injury

Playing quarterback in the NFL is a dangerous profession. Other than Brett Favre it is all but certain that a football QB is going to be hurt during his career, and chances are pretty good that he’ll miss a significant amount of time at some point. For sports bettors this can present some real challenges. The hardest situation to assess is a quarterback who starts the season, is hurt after a handful of games, misses a big chunk of games, but returns to start during the same season. Not only do you have to figure out how the team will respond when the quarterback is lost, but you then have to figure out how they will react when he returns to action. It’s the latter situation that I want to look at today. Here are eight factors to consider in sports handicapping when a football QB returns from missing several games due to injury:

How long has he been out? – The longer a player is out of action, the further removed they are from game shape, so the bigger the concerns have to be about their fitness and stamina. Beyond that, though, there are sure to be all sorts of question about rust. Has the QB lost chemistry with key offensive players? Will their timing be off? Have their been other changes to personnel or the playbook in their absence that they will have to adjust to?

Has he been hurt seriously before? – A serious injury has a psychological and emotional impact that often far exceeds the physical toll. If players aren’t used to that they may not be well positioned to deal with the strain. A QB who hasn’t been hurt before may not know how to rehab effectively. They could be tentative when they return for risk of re-injury. They could be tentative because they are returning to the team after having been away from them for a while. They could struggle to get used to the speed of the game again. They may not know how to deal with the adrenaline and emotion in their first game back.

How did the backup do? – The play of the backup can have a big impact on what the QB faces when he returns. If the backup played very well then the quarterback could face impatient fans and a coach with an itchy trigger finger if he struggles early in his return. If the backup struggled badly, though, then the teammates, the fans, and the coaches could be particularly happy to have him back, and the play could be elevated as a result.

What’s on the line? – The pressure will obviously be much higher on a returning player if his team is in the midst of a fight for a playoff spot than it would be if there is nothing left to play for. The more pressure there is, the harder it could be for some football players to deal with, but the more other players might thrive.

Did the style of play change without him? – If the injured quarterback plays a style of play that is reasonably unique to him – the scrambling of early Michael Vick, or the option of Tim Tebow, for example – then the offense is likely to have changed somewhat when the player was injured because it is unlikely that the backup can do the same things. If the team struggled to make that adjustment but have started to figure it out then they might again struggle adjusting back to their original offense.

Is he a popular starter with teammates? – The more popular a starter is with his teammates the happier they are going to be to have him back. The happier they are the harder they are likely to play, and the better the return is likely to go. A returning popular player can have a huge boost to a team – well beyond his playing ability, even.

Is he popular with bettors? – As important as the popularity with the football team is how the bettors are likely to respond. If he is a high profile, popular QB who is far better than his backup and he plays on a public team then the bettors are likely to overreact dramatically. That means that there could be little value in betting on him, and there could be value in betting against him. If he’s an underrated and under-appreciated QB, though, then the public might not give him enough credit in his return and there could be nice value in betting on him.

Who are they playing? – There are some NFL teams that are obviously going to be better to return from injury against than others. A team with an aggressive pass rush, for example, could be a problem for a guy returning from an injury that affected his mobility. The opponent matchup is always a huge factor for handicapping quarterbacks, but never more so than in this case. Remember this when focusing on making winning NFL picks.

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