“Football is not a contact sport, it’s a collision sport.” – Vince Lombardi
According to NFL.com the 32 teams reported a total of 4,732 injuries in 2019, with 1,297 individual injured players. Injuries are a part of football, often the healthiest teams are able to make the playoffs or advance not always the “best” teams. In 2019, the 16 teams with the fewest number of injured players won 53.1% of their games with a combined record of 135-120-2.
When the franchise QB goes down, the entire season goes with him. This article will examine the impact of various injuries in college and pro football and how these numbers effect the betting line and your wagers.
- A quality NFL quarterback can move the line anywhere from three to seven points. Often times on a Monday or Tuesday, games with QBs who are hurt will not be made available by the sportsbook until later in the week when their status is made clear. Meanwhile positions like left tackle, safety, or mike linebacker aren’t even a factor when setting the opening line, despite possibly having a large impact on the actual game.
- In college football, depth is a concern and when looking at injuries the school and conference should be the first evaluation point. Teams like Alabama, Clemson, or USC attract elite talent and even their backup players are 3-4 star recruits. If a smaller school middle tier team like Utah State has several injuries it is unlikely they have several good backups able to replace them, and the play on the field will suffer.
- What is true for the top tier schools like Alabama or LSU is even more of a factor when looking at the NFL. Even the backups on NFL rosters were stars on their college teams. This is where the phrase “Any given Sunday” comes from, as the talent gap is so thin any team can defeat any other team on any given Sunday. In addition to the backups being talented, they are often very motivated to get in and play as this is their chance to become a starter. There are many examples such as: around NFL midseason and the starting running back goes down, the backup who plays the week after has fresh legs and performs the same or better than the starter would have done.
- One area we have had success is in college football, targeting betting against middle tier teams hit hard by offensive line injuries. Left Tackle is the most important NFL position but Center is also becoming more and more impactful. In college, many teams are running spread systems and the center is helping the QB make protection calls for the entire offensive line. Teams that have lost their Center (and sometimes top two Centers) often struggle for a period while the new one adjusts. If multiple offensive lineman have suffered long term injuries, it may not be widely reported in the media, but the entire offense suffers and provides fade opportunities on the side and under opportunities on the total.
- Another bet to consider is taking the total rather than the side when considering injuries impact. If a team has a decimated secondary rather than fading them and taking the other side, the better bet may be the over. Similarly if a team has a ton of offensive line or QB injuries, instead of fading them on the spread the under may be the best play.
- One final point regarding injuries is that the media tend to over hype the star players and their ailments. Their job is to create interest in the games and everyone loves a heroic story of a player toughing through pain for the team. In reality everyone out there is playing through pain and all kinds of ailments. Football is the ultimate team sport and one player being in or out of the lineup will not change the outcome. Even at quarterback, as everyone in the media kept saying the Eagles couldn’t win with Nick Foles and they raised the Lombardi Trophy for the 2017-18 season. Take these opportunities to fade the public and the media noise and bet on the team with the injury problems.
Injuries are a big part of football and can be big storylines throughout the season. Instead of following the media stories, be on the lookout for teams who have position groups such as offensive line or defensive back that have suffered multiple injuries. Then attack the sides and totals surrounding these deficient units.
Also take the opportunities to fade the public when the media and everyone you know is against a team missing a player. The rest of the team will rise up. Good Luck on your bets.