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QB Changes in the NFL

   by Scott Spreitzer - 10/01/2007


The season isn't very old, but we've already seen several teams have
personnel changes at the quarterback position.

Some guys got hurt. Some guys got benched. Some guys played for one game
and got traded!

Handicappers have to be prepared for changes at this key position. You
should be expecting them to happen rather than hoping that they don't.
At the very minimum, you should be doing the following:

*Keeping power ratings for what each team is with their starting
quarterback, and what they would be with the backup. Don't wait until
there's an injury to start the process. You should know ahead of time
what you're going to do with Carolina if Jake Delhomme hurts his elbow
and gets replaced by David Carr. You should be prepared for JP Losman
going out and Troy Edwards coming in for Buffalo. Heck, once the
starters are out, you should then make ratings for what the third-teamer
would do if he had to replace the second-teamer!

*If you're not into power ratings, visualize the strengths and
weaknesses of the new offense. What will they be good at with the
backup? What will they struggle with? And, if you aren’t into
numbers, you should have your matchup analysis ready for the backup
for all 32 pro teams. Will the guy move the ball and put points on the
board or not?

*If you're into trends, angles, and systems, you should be thinking
about whether or not a change at quarterback will trump any of those. A
team may be in a great situation this week, but having a confused backup
quarterback running the show will take all the value away. It doesn't
matter what the angle is if your quarterback is going to throw three
interceptions. If a team is in a bad situation based on your data, a
switch at QB could yield an even stronger selection for you.

What's the point difference between a starting quarterback and a backup?
This has been debated for as long as I can remember. The right answer is
"it depends." This is so obvious it's ridiculous. But, you can't just
say that losing your starting quarterback is worth three points, or five
points, or seven points. Cleveland didn't get worse when Charlie Frye
was finally taken out of the lineup. Dallas got much better last year
when Tony Romo replaced Drew Bledsoe.

I'd suggest these guidelines:

*A quarterback loss is most damaging when a top team loses its starter,
and he's replaced by an inexperienced backup. I could see making an
adjustment of 5-7 points in rare cases like this. You should also be
aware that the difference isn't 5-7 points in each game. Against a bad
opponent, it might not matter at all. If the team has to play on the
road against a great defense, the turnover tendencies of the new QB will
hurt his team a lot more than 5-7 points that day. Over the course of
several outings, the average or median difference would be about 5-7
points.

*A quarterback loss is least damaging when a bad team makes a change.
Often, the newcomer is almost as good as the original starter. Sometimes
he's better. I think many sports bettors made a mistake with Cleveland
in Week Two this year. They knew that Frye had been benched, and they
were thinking, "A bad team just got worse because the starting
quarterback is out." That's not what happened. Cleveland beat Cincinnati
and covered at Oakland with the backup right after the change.

*A quarterback change in the "middle of the pack" where most teams
reside is probably worth about 2-3 points. You should always look at the
specifics of the case though. Philadelphia didn't lose much last year
when Jeff Garcia replaced Donovan McNabb. Garcia would have been a
starter with many other teams (as he is with Tampa Bay this year). Some
7-9 to 9-7 caliber teams have a bigger drop-off than you might realize
because the backup is so green. Two or three points is a good general
rule. You owe it to yourself to know the specifics for each team.

Knowing the quarterback situation for all 32 teams is going to be vital
for handicappers this year. There are going to be more injuries. There
are going to be more teams that give up on their starter and try things
out with the backup. If you have a plan of attack mapped out, you can
take advantage of soft early lines. If an injury happens in the first
half of a game, you can use your assessments to make strong plays for
the second half against halftime lines.

Don't wait until something happens to start thinking about it. Stay
ahead of the curve so you can stay ahead of the Vegas lines!

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