How to Deal With NFL QB Status Being Uncertain
There are few things more frustrating for football handicappers than an uncertain QB status. When a quarterback is hurt or banged up but could conceivably still play then you can never be sure what is going to happen. Teams are rarely open or honest about these situations, either, so you spend much of the week having to guess whether you should be preparing for the starter or the backup. For a lot of teams the gap between the starter and the backup is a wide one, and the public perception of that difference is even wider, so who is starting makes a big difference in the odds and the value. Even if the starter does ultimately start there is the added challenge of trying to figure out how ready he will be and if he will be physically limited. When facing these questions of uncertainty here are six good questions to ask in an attempt to make the best decisions possible:
What is the popular media opinion? – Public opinion, and therefore public betting action, will largely be shaped by what the media is reporting and thinking about the situation. If the major media outlets and key talking heads are sharing a similar opinion about what is likely to happen then the public is likely to embrace that opinion as well. It's important to remember, of course, that the media is far from perfectly accurate. The widely held opinion may shift or change during the week, and it may be entirely wrong. You don't want to act blindly based on what is being written or said, but you do need to be aware of it and the impact it can have on betting and the movement of lines.
What is the backup situation? – The public generally assumes that the starting quarterback is dramatically better than the backup, and that the team will suffer as a result of losing the starter. They tend to hold that opinion regardless of who the starter and the backup is. Sometimes they are correct, but other times the backup is just as capable of the starter of playing effectively. It's important to do an objective analysis of how good the backup really is, not how he is perceived to be.
How crucial is the quarterback? – Some teams simply can't function without a great quarterback playing at his best – like the Green Bay Packers or San Francisco 49ers in the primes of Brett Favre or Steve Young. Those teams were built entirely around the skills and abilities of the quarterback, and the loss of them would have caused a significant change to the offensive approach of the team. Other teams merely require their quarterback to avoid mistakes and protect the ball – like the Baltimore Ravens team that won the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer taking snaps. If the public is likely to overstate the significance of a quarterback to a team then the uncertainty could cause nice value for effective handicappers.
What is the public opinion of the starter? – The more the public likes a quarterback the more they are going to be affected by the uncertainty surrounding him. If the player is the star player of a very public team then the public is likely to have a far stronger reaction than if the player is an underwhelming player for an irrelevant team. It's also important to look at the public opinion of the backup. Has he started before, or is he making his first start? Is he a high profile player that the general public will be familiar with, or is he reasonably unknown. Is he young and inexperienced, or an established veteran?
How has the team responded to the loss of the starter in the past? – History is often the best teacher in handicapping, and this is not exception. If the quarterback has been hurt before then you can learn a lot by looking at how the team responded, and whether the impact of the loss was particularly significant. The more that was the same then as it is now – the backup, the coach, the key players and so on – the more confidence you can have in the history.
Do you really need to bet on this game? – This is the most important question to ask yourself. Sometimes you will have a very good reason that you want to bet on the game despite all of the uncertainty – or perhaps because of it. Other times, though, the uncertainty will make the game very unattractive, and you will be far better served by skipping the game and looking for better spots. Picking winners in perfect conditions is tough enough, so there is no reason to make things even harder for yourself if you don't have to.
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