Several times a year – especially later in the football season – we’ll see a situation in which an NFL starting quarterback is unable to practice during the week but is still possible or probable to play in their game. That situation can be a major headache for sports bettors. It’s all but impossible to know for sure if the player will actually start, how effective he will be, and what will happen to the team if the player isn’t ready to perform at a high level or can’t finish the game. It adds a big degree of uncertainty to a football game, and can make it even harder than usual to find the value and make a sound bet. The best approach in those cases may be to pass on the game, but that’s not always an attractive option. In the times when it isn’t here are six questions football bettors can to ask themselves to help determine what the right approach is:
Have this happened before? – For some football players missing significant amounts of practice is a regular occurrence. Older players who are banged up a lot may have a hard time staying healthy outside of game conditions. There are some NFL coaches and some teams that are far more likely to be cautious and hold a player out of practice than others, as well. Before you get too worried about what impact the situation might have you need to get a sense of how unique it is for the team, and what has happened in the past if it has happened before.
Does the guy need the work? – There are some guys that really need as much work in practice as they can possibly get between games, and others who just don’t. A football players who has started every game for a dozen years and is playing with the same team and same players as he always has probably doesn’t need the practice at all. A new starter, or a guy who is really struggling, likely needs far more practice, and would suffer a lot more from missing the practice. In order to properly handicap the game, it’s really important that you get a sense of what the cost of the missed practice is likely to be.
Is the offense built around him? – Some NFL teams live and die by their quarterbacks. The Indianapolis Colts in 2011 are the perfect example. They were totally and utterly invested in Peyton Manning, so when he was lost the team self-destructed. Other teams are far less focused around a quarterback – either because they don’t have a guy who they can rely on, or because the coach favors an offensive system that is less quarterback-centered. The more a football team’s success is defined by the presence and effectiveness of a quarterback, the more of a potential concern you have to have as a sports bettor when the status of that quarterback and his ability to perform at the level needed of him is uncertain.
Who is the backup? – The less likely a quarterback is to be able to perform at full strength is a game, the more you need to focus on who the backup is and what that means for a game. Is the backup an experienced guy who can step right in, or is he inexperienced and likely to struggle? has he had a chance to practice with the starters and build chemistry, or will he be stepping in cold? Is he any good? Does he play a similar style to the starter, or will teammates have to adjust to his style and quirks? Does he know the coaches and the offensive system, or is he breaking new ground?
Who are they playing? – The opponent can obviously make a big difference in these cases. It is far easier to trust a QB situation – regardless of how it turns out – if the opponent is defensively suspect than it is if they are playing against a defensive powerhouse. It’s probably also easier to feel better about a situation at home than on the road, and in good weather than bad.
How is the public reacting? – As important as what you think the impact of a situation will be is what the public reaction is likely to be. If the public is likely to panic and overcompensate for a situation – as they are likely to do if it is a high profile NFL QB who is injured – then there could be unnecessary negative pressure on the team’s line, and there could be real value in betting on them. If the quarterback’s real value is underappreciated, though, then they might not be concerned enough by his absence, and there could be value for sports bettors in betting against the team with the issue.