QBs Aren’t the Whole Story in NFL Betting

It is acknowledged by many NFL observers that the three most important positions on the field are quarterback, left tackle, and rush end. If you were to expand the definition of “field” to include the sideline, the fourth would be head coach.

Quarterback is probably the most important position in major team sports. But football is a game where each team starts 22 players, and one guy does not win games all by himself. Great QBs can be held back by poor o-lines, bad defenses, and  inexperienced coaches.

As you bet throughout the year, remember, reasoning e.g. that the Seahawks will cover against the Rams because Russell Wilson is better than Nick Foles is not a winning strategy. Sportsbooks are very good at factoring the QB matchup into the spread and moneyline. Even reasoning that the Seahawks will win straight up because they have the better QB has its pitfalls, as Week 1 showed.

During the first week of the NFL season Wilson, Andrew Luck, and Drew Brees all lost to what most would agree are inferior QBs. Ben Roethlisberger, Matthew Stafford, Joe Flacco, and Eli Manning also suffered setbacks, while Peyton Manning’s Broncos won, but not because of him.

That is not to say the NFL’s elite signal caller’s aren’t important, but the game is more complicated than just their presence, and bettors have to remember this whether wagering SU or ATS.

Let’s look at an example.

Miami Is More Than Ryan Tannehill

Miami’s Ryan Tannehill was average on Sunday. He went 22 for 34 while throwing one touchdown in a win against the Redskins. Tannehill had his best season in 2014, in part, because he remained upright. Miami signed Branden Albert to protect Tannehill last year, and up until Albert was injured, he did just that.

Two years ago, the Miami o-line was in shambles as Richie Incognito made life difficult on teammate Jonathan Martin. After Incognito was let go and Martin took a mental health break, Tannehill was a sitting duck – or a de-finned porpoise.

This season, the Dolphins added DT Ndamukong Suh to a defensive front that features rush end Cameron Wake. It’s going to be hard for teams to double team both of them at the same time. If Miami succeeds this year, it will be more because of the parts around Tannehill than the QB himself.

Bad QBs Can Be A Death Sentence

Don’t take this to mean that quarterbacks aren’t vital. They can’t win the game on their own, but they can lose it. Ryan Lindley single-handedly eliminated the Cardinals from contention last year, taking a Cardinals team that had gone 9-1 to start the year and “leading” it to the notorious feat of the worst offensive performance in NFL playoff history.

That said, the Cardinals only had to start Lindley thanks to some horrendous luck and it’s rare that an NFL team will be forced to play a QB of that caliber.

The Takeaway

At the end of the day, sportsbooks know how important QBs are, and they’re also aware that bettors put a ton of stock in the QB matchup. The spread and moneyline will account for this. Bettors must look at more than just the QB matchup when making their assessments.

Case in point: six teams won ten or more regular season games against the spread last year (Arizona, Dallas, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Minnesota, and Seattle). The guys under center for those teams varied from elite to game manager to rookie.

Four teams more teams were 6-10 or worse ATS in 2014: New Orleans, San Francisco, Tennessee, and Washington. Again, a mishmash when it comes to QBs.

It would be hard to envision Tyrod Taylor out-maneuvering Tom Brady this week, right, either SU or ATS? It would be a lot like Taylor besting Andrew Luck … which he did in Week 1.

(Photo credit: June Rivera (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)

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