During every NFL season we see several starting quarterbacks get hurt and miss games. Sometimes those players only miss a game or two, but it isn’t at all uncommon for a NFL starter to go down and miss the rest of the season – especially in the second half of the season. When that happens NFL handicappers face a big challenge – they want to make sure that they are giving the injury enough credit, but they don’t want to overreact and make bad football bets as a result. Here are six questions that NFL football bettors can ask to help determine what kind of impact a lost starter will have on a team for the rest of their season:
How has the QB really been playing? – When a quarterback is hurt the inclination of the betting public is to panic and overreact and this reflects poorly in their NFL football picks. That’s especially true if the quarterback is a big name player with a big reputation. Sometimes the loss of a quarterback can be fatal to a football team – like when Peyton Manning was lost to the Colts in 2011 – but more often it’s not as bad as it seems. That’s especially the case if the player isn’t performing as well as people expect that he is based on his reputation. People often don’t pay close attention to how effective a big name QB has been recently. That means that it can often be the case that the loss of the QB isn’t nearly as significant as it could be if the QB was actually playing as well as people think he is. That means that astute NFL bettors can find nice value.
Who is the backup? – This is obviously crucial, but people frequently don’t look at it in the right way. It makes sense that the backup QB isn’t as good as the starter – if he were then he wouldn’t be the backup. It’s very important, though, that you get a good sense of how good the backup really is. Has he started for the team before? How did he do? Has he started for other NFL teams? How long has he been with the team? Does he know the system well? Does he have history with the coach or offensive coordinator? The more objective you can be in your analysis, the better your chance for finding value in a betting line or point spread.
What does the backup need to do? – Some football teams need their quarterback to put up huge numbers and dominate the game if they want to win. Other teams just need a QB to manage the game, avoid mistakes, and hand the ball off effectively. Before you really panic about the loss of a starter you need to look at what he is going to be asked to do, and what the chances are that he is going to be able to do that. Quite often it doesn’t really matter to a large extent who the quarterback is because the offense isn’t built around that player and his individual excellence. That’s a subtlety that the public will often miss, though – and that means value for savvy handicappers.
Who do they play? – The NFL schedule is clearly and obviously an important factor. The easier the opponents a quarterback faces, the easier it is to have faith in the ability of that backup to shine. This goes just beyond the record of the opponent, though. You also need to look at the matchups that are presented by the opponent. If the quarterback is a pass first guy then he’ll be much better off against a weak secondary than against a strong one – even if the team with the weak secondary has the better record. The timing of football games can also be important – the dream scenario would be to have a ye week before the player has to start so he has extra time to work with the starters and get comfortable. The worst case scenario, of course, would be a short week – especially if the first start is on the road.
What’s on the line? – The more a NFL team has left to play for the more likely they are to play with full intensity regardless of who they are starting at quarterback. If the team still has a good shot at the playoffs then it is probably easier to trust them in the short term than if the team is just killing time until the golf season starts. There’s another side to that, though – if a team has a lot on the line it can be easy for the team to quit if it quickly becomes clear that the backup isn’t good enough to get the team where they want to go.
How good is the coach at adapting to change? – The loss of a starting quarterback is obviously a lot of adversity for a football team to deal with. The ability of a team to deal with adversity rests with the head coach and the coaching staff more than anyone else. If the coach has a history of coming out on top of tough situations then it could be easy to trust the team regardless of who is taking snaps. If the coach isn’t strong at motivating his team when times are tough – and that’s the case with a surprising number of NFL coaches – then betting against the team like the public could be the right thing to do.