Quarterback is the most important position in sports. That’s why we spend so much time discussing them. Of course, sportsbooks know that QB’s are vitally important, recognize the general public over-values the position (yes it is possible), and uses that information to help make their lines.
With three weeks left in the NFL’s regular season, let’s look at a few dicey quarterback situations.
Andy Dalton was having a career season before breaking his thumb on Sunday. He is likely out for the rest of the year, and certainly the next three games. The fifth-year signal caller established career highs this campaign in completion percentage and yards per pass attempt while significantly dialing back his interception rate. The Bengals were 10-2 at the time of his injury, and likely on their way to winning 12 or more.
As good as Dalton has been, it is not as if the 2015 Dalton was elevating the team by leaps and bounds. Each of the last three seasons Cincinnati won 10 or 11 regular season games only to lose their first playoff tilt. The questions become who are the Bengals with AJ McCarron leading the offense, and are injuries to Tyler Eifert and Vontaze Burfict serious?
While the sample size is incredibly small, McCarron’s numbers in relief of Dalton were encouraging. He completed a 69-percent of passes and averaged 8.75 yards per attempt. However, he threw two bad interceptions. McCarron will face the 49ers (27th against the pass), Broncos (first against the pass) and Ravens (22nd against the pass) to end the regular season.
With or without Dalton, Cincinnati would have been favorites at home against San Francisco and Baltimore and dogs in Denver. The Bengals have nearly a month to get McCarron acclimated. There is no reason he shouldn’t be a suitable replacement assuming other injuries aren’t major.
After starting his career 3-0, Brock Osweiler lost to the Raiders (15-12) on Sunday. Suddenly there are calls for Peyton Manning’s return, even though Osweiler completed more passes at a higher percentage and for more yards on Sunday than he did in wins over New England and San Diego. While he didn’t throw a touchdown, he also didn’t throw any picks. It was arguably his second-best start of the year.
Manning was killing the Broncos with his NFL-leading 17 interceptions. Osweiler completes a much higher percentage of his passes, and limits mistakes. If Manning finds his way back in the lineup, bet against the Broncos. If Osweiler stays at the helm, don’t overreact to one week; the youngster manages Denver pretty well, giving the defense an opportunity to win games, which they usually do.
Just the opposite of the Broncos, Indianapolis needs Andrew Luck back as soon as possible. Matt Hasselbeck did a solid job to start, winning four games for the Colts; but he’s now lost two straight (badly) and his numbers are way down. On top of that, the 40-year-old is now considerably banged up and third-stringer Charlie Whitehurst is not going to take this team anywhere.
Luck struggled to begin this season, but still had the Colts in close games against good teams. The moment he is healthy enough to play, Indianapolis becomes a much better squad. Even an injured Luck is better than the alternatives.
(Photo credit: emeybee (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)