With the calendar turning to November, and eight weeks of the NFL season in the books, fans have formed opinions about various teams. Half the season is an ample sample size to make reasoned guesses about what the near future will hold, but make sure to factor in several new pieces of information as the season hits the stretch run.
Everybody knows about injuries to stars and factors them into their handicapping . The Cowboys without Tony Romo are different than with the Pro-Bowl quarterback: if your co-worker who doesn’t even watch football gets that, so do line-makers. The same can be said for Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell and Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith.
However, the public often ignores injuries to linemen or key defensive starters. Dolphins left tackle Branden Albert was injured during Miami’s Week 2 loss against Jacksonville. He was sidelined the following two games. The Fins are 0-3 straight up and against the spread in games Albert doesn’t finish. They are 2-2 overall and 3-1 for betting purposes in games Albert plays all four quarters. The Dolphins offensive line has good starters and very bad backups. Even though Ja’Wuan James isn’t a great player, when Miami lost him on Thursday, Ryan Tannehill became a sitting duck in the pocket.
Cleveland lost corners Joe Haden and Donte Whitner on Sunday. Neither are likely to play against the Bengals on Thursday. Nearly every team has injuries, but reviewing depth charts and consulting sources that grade all positions to get an idea of how important specific injuries are can go a long way towards being profitable as the season continues.
Generally the biggest challenge from Mother Nature is wind. The NFL has become a primarily pass-oriented game, and strong breezes make throwing difficult. For years professional bettors have rushed to bet unders in adverse conditions and underdogs may have value too. The more unpredictable the weather is, the better chance that something weird takes place. A funny bounce is beneficial to the team that needs to catch breaks in order to win.
Also, teams that host cold weather games are able to practice in rain, wind, and snow, whereas those who play home games in domes or in warm weather are less experienced in winter. Often it is best to wait until Sunday to see what the weather looks like.
Of course teams that are in playoff contention are up and highly focused for every game, but what about everybody else? It is important to distinguish (a) teams that thought they were going to have good seasons and become disappointed and uninterested from (b) those who are surprisingly close to .500 and are fighting hard for momentum headed into 2016.
Veteran players are more likely to quit than young guys trying to prove they should be on the roster in coming years. Coaches like John Fox and John Harbaugh, who have job security, are more willing to play young guys and get a feel for what they have going forward than coaches who need wins to remain employed.
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)