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Cutler and Orton 7-1 ATS!

   by Scott Spreitzer - 10/09/2009

This past offseason’s “quarterback trade” involving Jay Cutler and Kyle Orton created a lot of discussion here in Las Vegas. The “regular season victory” propositions involving the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos became a hot bet. Everyone watched the nationally televised preseason meeting between the teams that featured the quarterbacks in their new environs.

The standard line of thinking amongst most gamblers was this:

*Chicago had given themselves a chance to make a serious run at the Lombardi Trophy because they finally had a real quarterback. All that the franchise has been missing in recent years was a guy who could produce in the pocket. Now the Bears had that, meaning the pieces were finally in place to return to greatness.

*Denver was a disaster waiting to happen. Kyle Orton was a confirmed mediocrity who isn’t a high impact player. Denver had a new coach, turmoil in the locker room, a brutal 2009 schedule, and virtually no chance of even making the playoffs.

Now, there was debate about that. Not everyone was in love with Jay Cutler. Some believed he was overrated and turnover prone. Given his lack of maturity in his final days in Denver, he wasn’t exactly seen as a third Manning brother. And Orton wasn’t a complete stiff if you looked at his numbers. In 2008, Cutler had a TD/INT ratio of +7, compared to +6 for Orton. And Cutler faced the easier schedule. Still, the general consensus was that Chicago won the trade. Denver “Under” its projected win total was a very popular bet amongst wagerers here in Las Vegas. Chicago “Over” its win total saw plenty of action too.

A month into the season:

*Denver is 4-0 straight up and against the spread

*Chicago is 3-1 straight up and against the spread

*Orton has a Passer Rating of 97.7, 9th in the league

*Cutler has a Pass Rating of 89.3, 13th in the league

*Orton has a +5 TD/INT ratio, with 5 TD’s and no picks

*Cutler has a +3 TD/INT ratio, with 8 TD’s but 5 picks

*Orton has averaged 7.7 yards per completion

*Cutler has averaged 7.0 yards per completion

Is this a trade that truly helped both teams? Did both guys just need a change of scenery? Or, were their teammates in need of a new leader because they had focused too much on the weaknesses of the guy they had in the first place?

Handicappers need to pay close attention because Chicago and Denver are likely to become big stories from this point forward. And there’s going to be a lot of pointspread volatility in what plays out for a variety of reasons. Among them:

*There’s already pointspread volatility! Denver has covered its spreads by 9, 18, 19, and 10 points so far. Oddsmakers and the public greatly underestimated how this team would perform. The Broncos have topped every line by more than a TD, and are averaging a two-touchdown cover thus far. Chicago has been closer to expectations, but that’s because they had higher expectations going in.

*History has shown that it takes the market a long time to catch up when there’s a surprise. Skepticism persists. Take the NY Giants for example. The market didn’t believe in them in their Super Bowl year and they went 14-6 ATS counting the playoffs. In what was supposed to be a “falling back to earth” season, the Giants went 12-5 ATS counting the playoffs. This year, they’re 3-0-1 ATS thus far. That’s 29-11-1 ATS because the market has been slow to accept the rise of the Giants. Have the Bears or Broncos just started a similar rise with a quarterback about to come into his own the way Eli Manning has?

*On the other hand, Denver may be dishing out some “fool’s gold” from the Rocky Mountains. Who have they played? Denver crushed the very bad Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders. Everybody is beating them. The Broncos needed a miracle to get past Cincinnati (though they were a lock to cover), and were neck and neck with struggling Dallas this past weekend. That 4-0 start is at least partly an illusion helped by a soft schedule.

*Chicago hasn’t exactly faced a murderer’s row. They did beat Pittsburgh (thanks to two missed field goals by the Steelers). The Bears had to rally to get past Seattle who had to use a backup quarterback in the second half and couldn’t get any distance on lowly Detroit until the Lions also had to use a backup quarterback in the second half. Can the Bears beat a team using its starting quarterback that makes it field goals?!

Ironically, the two teams linked together by a very rare quarterback trade are now standing on very similar precipices. Both have started the year better than expected (beating the Vegas spread 88% of the time so far). Both are playing with an enthusiasm that has ignited their home cities. Yet both have challenges ahead that could rain on the parade:

*Chicago still has to face Minnesota twice, and must also play at Baltimore, at San Francisco, at Atlanta, and host NFC championship game participants Philadelphia and Arizona.

*Denver’s immediate schedule features New England, at San Diego, at Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. What a killer month! Down the road is the rematch with San Diego, a home game against the NY Giants, and road trips to Indianapolis and Philadelphia.

The first month was Chapter One of two stories that are about to be written. Handicappers able to properly anticipate where these dramas are headed will be in position to profit greatly through October, November, December, and maybe even January!

Be sure you keep an eye on the key stats outlined in this article. Early hints about those later chapters will show up in Passer Rating, TD/INT ratio, and Yards-Per-Attempt for both Jay Cutler and Kyle Orton. And those stats will really matter in their biggest games against their toughest competition.

Oddsmakers have already shown a clear weakness in evaluating these teams. Make them pay!

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