If you bet enough NFL games, after a while you can get pretty good at predicting betting lines. I have a Sunday night tradition of guessing the lines for the next game weekend and then comparing my estimates with the lines published by the odds makers.
In my projections, I had the Seattle Seahawks as a 3-point road favorite over the Pittsburgh Steelers. My jaw hit the floor when I saw the Steelers were 4.5 point favorites at BetMGM at home. Then I remembered that after a crazy day of football I missed Russell Wilson’s injury for a second.
This led me to speculate that Russell Wilson would be worth a touchdown on the betting line for the Seahawks. To confirm my suspicions and quench my thirst for more information, I reached out to Tristan Davis, one of the traders at BetMGM. Davis provided some valuable information on how an odds maker deals with injuries from various quarterbacks and other key positions.
Wilson is one of the most valuable quarterbacks
Russell Wilson is obviously one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Most lists would put him in or just outside of the top 5 signal callers in the NFL. He’s obviously being held back by the Seahawks’ conservative nature, but he’s still producing highlight reel games and gaudy statistics.
On the flip side, Geno Smith hasn’t been an NFL quarterback since 2014 when he failed his attempt to become the Jets’ franchise quarterback. Smith may have more pedigree and track history than most backup quarterbacks, but we can assume he’s not very good either.
Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks is one of the league’s most valuable players when it comes to the betting market. (Steph Chambers / Getty Images)
“Wilson to Smith is a very big downgrade. As for its backup, I would say that this is one of the biggest differences between a startup QB and a backup. Wilson has now clearly proven itself over a long period of time. “
The story goes on
Davis also said the original line should open for the Steelers-Seahawks match with Seattle as a 2.5 point street favorite. This would suggest Wilson is worth about seven points, with the current line having the Seahawks as a 4.5 point road underdog. Davis pointed out that part of that change was also due to Pittsburgh’s improved performance against Denver in Week 5.
To put in context how valuable Wilson is to the point spread, Davis said that Wilson’s injury is akin to an injury to either Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers. He said the seven point downgrade would be in line with what we would see if Kansas City were forced to create Chad Henne or had to have the Packers to create Jordan Love.
Are all quarterbacks that valuable?
Now that we know the elite quarterbacks are worth a touchdown on the spread, what about the smaller quarterbacks?
We’ve seen our share of backup quarterbacks start playing games back this season. Taylor Heinicke replaced injured Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1. Tua Tagovailoa, Andy Dalton and Jimmy Garoppolo were replaced by Jacoby Brissett, Justin Fields and Trey Lance, respectively.
Tristan Davis said these changes “cause very little line movement”. Responding specifically to the situation for the Washington Football team, he said, “I didn’t make any adjustments to Heinicke vs. Fitzpatrick when this announcement came through. That may change from week to week until Heinicke or like any other backup QB is based . ” on performance. “
All of this makes sense. You’re replacing a mediocre quarterback with a lesser-known quarterback that you have less information about. When that information comes in, adjust based on what you’ve seen of the quarterback. But it’s hard to downgrade a team too much when the quarterback game wasn’t a strength to begin with.
Davis also interfered with the Trey Lance line movement last week. San Francisco went from a four-point loser to a six-point loser over the course of the week, but Davis said this was more because the public was dispersed over the undefeated Cardinals rather than a referendum on the ones Oddsmakers’ Thoughts on Lance.
“This one was tough. Normally the crowd would love Trey Lance, but the problem is they played against the undefeated Arizona Cardinals. We saw some sharp cash for SF late Saturday and early Sunday, but the public got that up right before kick-off. ”
What about injuries outside of quarterback?
In the fantasy soccer world, we are conditioned to believe that players like Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook are the most valuable soccer players in the world. However, it did not appear that the Panthers or Vikings’ odds were much affected by the absence of those players in recent weeks.
Davis said that this breakthrough talent has some impact on its spread, but it’s very minimal and is on a downward trend. As football evolves, it seems like the scheme is just as important as actual talent in positions. The recent trend of throwing the football even higher has also lessened the impact of Bell Cow running backs.
Davis felt the need to get his point across and suggested that Titan’s running back Derrick Henry could have a deeper influence on the betting line should he ever miss a game. Henry’s talent is nowhere near replaceable and the entire offense is based on him, making him possibly the most valuable player in the skill position in terms of betting lines.
I also asked Davis about injuries to players in unqualified positions and defensive players. He said injuries in these positions have almost no impact on a betting line unless there is a long list of injuries in the same position. For example, if a team is missing three offensive linemen or both starting corner backs, it may be noticed by the odds makers. A single injury won’t move the needle much, even if it’s someone as valuable as Packer’s CB Jaire Alexander.