NFL Betting: Injuries

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper,

A sport like the NFL forces you to deal with injuries when making your picks. It is paramount to be aware of the injuries on the teams you are betting on, as well as against. It’s not like the old days where all you have is a newspaper. The Internet allows you to not only access detailed injury reports, but get little inside scoops, as well.

Being aware is nice. But now what do you do with this information? The tendency is to take a look at the list of injured players and a lot of times, the injuries for each team will seem to offset. You go ahead and bet just assuming the teams are equal in the injury department. The betting public is prone to focusing on star players only–the quarterbacks, of course, or any productive offensive player.

You won’t find much argument that the quarterback is key. When that piece is either gone or severely compromised, that team suddenly becomes a question mark. But not all quarterback losses are of the same ilk. Sometimes, a heavily-defensive team is not as dependent on the QB. One of the reasons they’re known as being defensive is because their QB isn’t that great anyway. Changing the QB isn’t always a bad thing.

It can depend on who the back-up is. Is it some old retread who never gets it done? Or is it a guy who could potentially lend a spark to an otherwise dormant offense? How many times have we seen an offense take flight under the stewardship of a young, opportunistic, and hungry QB? A lot of today’s NFL starters are in that position by coming off the bench and surprising people at some point.

Losing a productive playmaker can be devastating–make no mistake. But even this element requires a discerning eye. Let’s face it, a lot of big-stat players are beneficiaries of a good system. Sure, they’re great players, but a deep roster can often times help keep the ball rolling. It depends on the team and the player, of course, but don’t always latch onto the first guttural thought that says, “Oh boy, they lost their running back. I’m not gonna bet them now.” Take a closer look. Maybe there is another back who can fill in quite nicely. But on bad teams, losing a big playmaker is usually a huge problem.

Look closer at the less-glamorous positions–the guys who get no pub. When a team loses a good corner, it isn’t splashed all over ESPN like when a star receiver gets injured. But that could possibly be an even more calamitous loss. It can be easier for a few guys to chip in and at least come close to equalling the production of a lost WR. But put a free-agent rookie from Iona in at corner, watch him get run past a few times, and you’ll be wishing you paid more mind to that team losing their CB.

That philosophy goes down to all the other less-celebrated positions. Losing a center can be disastrous. A QB’s success is very tied to the ability and compatibility of a center. Is the injured center a longtime partner of the QB? The timing could get all screwed up. Who is the back-up? Other losses on the offensive line also need to be scrutinized heavily. How important was the injured lineman to the overall success of the team? Who is his back-up and what are his strengths and weaknesses and how do those match up with who he is about to face on Sunday? Sound like a lot of work? Well, it is.


With a lot of injuries, you will know early what the deal is. A lot of players are out indefinitely or it’s known very early in the week that a particular player will not play on Sunday. Others need time to play out, where you won’t know until close to game-time whether or not he is going to play. This is vital knowledge. But sometimes, you want to get an early jump on a favorable point-spread that is posted early in the week. If you must bet early, a good guideline is to analyze the worst-case scenario. If it’s not so bad, make the bet. A player who is banged-up enough to the point where they need to wait until Sunday to see if he can go might not be as good as his back-up anyway. But if a player is crucial to the success of the team and his status in unknown throughout the week, it’s best to wait.