Jul 18, 2019
Jul 18, 2019

NFL injuries: How should bettors react to lineup changes?

When are injuries reported in NFL?

How to anticipate injuries in NFL

How to track and evaluate injuries

How does an injured quarterback affect betting markets?

NFL injuries: How should bettors react to lineup changes?

Injuries have an enormous influence on NFL odds each week and bettors should put emphasis on doing their due diligence to avoid betting a bad price. In his latest article for Pinnacle, Adam Chernoff outlines what bettors should consider when tracking and evaluating injuries.

Weekly schedule

League policy changes in 2017 made it mandatory for teams to report injuries under a strict format. The policy requires three reports to be filed multiple times during the week. The two reports which have the most influence on odds are practice reports and game status reports.

A quarterback’s value to a team will depend not only on his worth but rather how much better he is than the quarterback behind him

Teams practice three times per week. For all teams with games on a Sunday, initial practice reports for the week must be published by 16:00 EST (GMT -4) on Wednesday afternoon, with subsequent reports filed by the same time on Thursday and Friday.

Practice reports denote players and their level of participation based on three categories:

  • Did Not Participate – The player did not practice with the team
  • Limited Participation – The player either did not start or did not finish practice with the team
  • Full Participant – The player was active for the full duration of practice

The most important practice of the week for teams playing on Sunday is Friday. Head coaches will frequently rest players on Wednesday based on scheduling factors.

Friday is often the most intense practice of the week and will feature the most game planning for the upcoming opponent. Players who do not participate in practice on Friday will rarely be fit to play close to full speed on Sunday.

A game status report is published by all teams following their final practice of the week. Any player with injury concerns for the game on Sunday will be reported in one of three categories:

  1. Out - Will not play
  2. Doubtful - Unlikely to play
  3. Questionable - Uncertain if player will play

It is important to develop a weekly routine of monitoring injury reports during the season. Tracking the release of the reports can be made easy with alerts. Each team will publish their report on the NFL league website as well as share them on most social media accounts.

Impact by position

The most important position on the football field is quarterback. Anytime a quarterback is injured, there is an impact on the Point Spread and Over/Under.

Unfortunately for bettors, there is not a concrete answer for the value of each quarterback in the league. The adjustment in odds depends on a couple of factors.

Value vs. backup

Putting an accurate value on the backup quarterback can be more important than putting an accurate value on the injured starting quarterback.

Value vs. backup is a term that bookmakers like to use when making a case for an adjustment in odds due to injury.

A quarterback’s value to a team will depend not only on his worth but rather how much better he is than the quarterback behind him.

What the betting market often misreads is the fact that if a backup quarterback stepping in to play for an injured starter is talented and rated high, it can result in a much smaller adjustment even with an elite quarterback being injured.

On the other hand, an absent average starting quarterback can be more valuable to a point spread than an elite quarterback if the drop off in talent to his backup is large.

It is important not to fall into the headlines and begin thinking about how valuable the starting quarterback is. Instead, focus on the gap between the starter and the backup.

Market perception

Accounting for how high the market overall rates a quarterback is critical in creating the best price after a quarterback injury. The name value of a starting quarterback carries a ton of weight in the betting market.

For example, in the case of the Green Bay Packers dropping from Aaron Rodgers to DeShone Kizer will likely result in an inflated adjustment based on name and not on talent gap.

Bookmakers will tend to make the most accurate adjustments which are best reflected in the opening price. The movement in the short term after the price is open will illustrate the over reaction from the betting market.

Upcoming opponent

Savvy bettors will put significantly more stock into upcoming opponents than recreational bettors.

When a team has a starting quarterback is injured the game plan in the game immediately following the injury will often be more conservative than usual.

Catching a market adjustment to a quarterback injury late in the week can occasionally present value on the team with in the injury rather than the contrary

Sometimes this can lead to a team having success. Handicapping the weakness of an upcoming opponent is key in determining the full impact of the injury.

Some important statistical areas to focus on when evaluating an opponent are early down passing defence, ability to generate pressure in the middle of the offensive line and defending the rush.

Timing and familiarity

Limitations from an injury to a starting quarterback can be felt equally as much for the opposing team if the announcement is made late in the week.

During the NFL season teams have very strict and consistent routines.

If a team begins game planning for the starting quarterback, and then is forced to adjust their game plan last minute for the backup quarterback it can result in a lack of preparedness.

Catching a market adjustment to a quarterback injury late in the week can occasionally present value on the team with in the injury rather than the contrary.

Cluster injuries

There are only a handful of non-quarterbacks in the NFL that will have an impact on the Point Spread if injured.

These players are limited to elite skill players, key defensive pass rushers and centers.

In order for other injuries to have an impact on the odds, multiple players from the same position or unit must be injured. This is referred to as “cluster injuries”.

The most impactful cluster injuries occur on the offensive line and defensive back position. Teams will have nine or 10 defensive lineman and defensive backs on an active game day roster.

However, because continuity and familiarity with the scheme is so important at each of these positions multiple players injured can have a big impact on a game.

Throughout the league both positions are top heavy in talent and limited in depth.

Despite having ten of each position, teams will often only have five offensive linemen and four starting defensive backs of starter quality.

Unlike quarterbacks, cluster injuries can go unnoticed by the betting market.

Take action

This article had a lot of information and depending on your experience in NFL betting markets, it can be overwhelming to begin to think about accounting for all of this each week.

To simplify things, here is a quick review of things to consider each week this season:

Set a routine:

- Get in the habit of following practice reports on official league websites, Monday-Wednesday for games on Thursday, Wednesday-Friday for games on Sunday and Thursday-Saturday for games on Monday

When a quarterback is injured:

- Focus on putting a value on the difference between the starter and the backup.

- Evaluate the weakness of the upcoming opponent.

- Think about the market perception of the QB and backup for over reaction.

Study the depth chart: 

- Watch for teams with multiple injuries to starters at the same position, specifically on the offensive line and at defensive back

To make the most of our best value odds make sure to read more of Pinnacle’s expert betting advice.

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