Press Release

Ripple Effect: How a Star Quarterback’s Injury Shakes Up the Odds

Football betting odds fluctuate all week long, and while the betting lines on some NFL and college football games barely move at all, other sides and totals can rise or fall several points. There are many reasons for this, including injuries, personnel or coaching changes, or too much money coming in one way. However, the largest and quickest football line moves take place when a star quarterback is injured. 

The quarterback is generally considered the most important player on the field. He’s the only player who touches the pigskin on almost every offensive play. He organizes the huddle, calls the plays, directs changes before the snap, makes the handoff to the running back, or passes the ball to a downfield target. 

If a running back, wide receiver, or offensive lineman is injured and unable to play, a football roster is deep with other athletes who can step in. College coaches and NFL general managers anticipate injuries over a long season and stockpile depth and flexibility. But quarterback is a unique position. Finding a good one is extremely difficult, and developing an elite star QB is the hardest task of all. 

The best quarterbacks have unique skill sets. Fans will focus on a quarterback’s arm strength or ability to scramble, but the most important attribute a good QB possesses is his mind. Star quarterbacks can process information quickly, make the correct decision, and then deliver the pass to the most open target. That requires scanning the whole field in a few seconds, absorbing what the defensive backs are doing, and calculating whether the linebackers are dropping back or blitzing while remembering what routes his receivers are running and where they’ll be cutting. These things take place rapidly on every offensive play for 60 minutes. 

Accuracy is also more important than arm strength to be a star quarterback. There are plenty of overrated QBs who dazzle fans and scouts with their ability to hurl the pigskin a mile, but they miss open receivers or throw it to the other team. Having 30 TDs is impressive, but not so much if it comes with 20 interceptions. Being a QB is tough enough—being a star quarterback is the most difficult status to rise to in all of pro and college football. 

So what do oddsmakers and bettors do when a star quarterback gets injured?

When a star QB is injured, it’s headline news—for fans, oddsmakers, bettors, and bookmakers. If a star signal caller is out, the odds will shift, often by a significant amount. If the QB has a nagging injury, that will also cause the odds to adjust, even if he’s listed as “probable to play.” That’s because a nagging injury can worsen during the game and sideline that QB anytime. Oddsmakers have no choice but to go to the “if” factor long before kickoff:

– If this star QB gets injured, who will be the backup?

– Is the backup experienced?

– Is the backup QB any good?

– What if the backup gets banged up or is ineffective?

– Who is the third-string quarterback? 

It’s a game of dominoes surrounding the star QB and the oddsmakers. The job of the oddsmakers is to set good opening numbers to try and get an equal number of NFL football picks on both sides of a football game. An injury to an elite quarterback is a huge red flag that can give a significant edge to the opposing team. They can’t ignore the injury and expect him to play the whole game. The guys who make the numbers must adjust the odds beforehand before fans and serious bettors get the jump on them.  

QB Values Against the Spread

Savvy sports handicappers can place a value on each team’s starting QB and the team’s overall depth at the position before the season begins. With a field general like Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson—whose skill set combines downfield passing and elite mobility—the starting point might be 3, 4, 5, or even 6 points worth of value against the spread (ATS). Depending on the backup or the offensive coordinator’s resume, that value may move an additional point or two up or down.  

With a veteran passer whose ability might be on the decline, the ATS value may be only a few points based on the skill of the backup QB. With a rookie starting QB supported by an experienced journeyman, the line may not move at all or even go in the opposite direction. Put yourself in the hypothetical situation: Your rookie goes down in the first quarter of a divisional game in Week 6, but your backup has nine years of NFL experience with a win-loss record around .500. Is there really much of a fall-off? Might your team’s chances in this game actually improve? 

In some cases, the knee-jerk reaction from the majority of bettors may quickly overcompensate for an injury to a starting QB, creating value on his team when the backup is thrust into the role. Remember, backups often play well in their first appearance as there is less pressure on them to perform. Players may rally around them, other second-team WRs with good chemistry from so many practice reps can elevate their game, and if it happens to be an away game where they make their debut, that can help fine-tune the focus from the entire squad. 

In the end, when betting the NFL and the star quarterback is out or questionable, consider his role to the team, his backup’s effectiveness, and how the public has already moved the line when making your bets.

About Wunderdog

Established in 2001, Wunderdog is a provider of sports analysis and predictions. The company focuses on NFL picks and predictions and offers sports betting analysis and advice. 

Media Contact

Name: Geoff Kulesa
Phone Number: 1-877-DOG-WINS
Address: Nevada, United States
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