Life is tough for NFL quarterbacks these days.
Out of 32 NFL teams, 11 have dealt with either a switch under center or injuries to their No. 1 QB at some point this season. But while a drastic shift at the most important position in football would normally spell doom for a team and their pointspread chances, these scrambled squads have actually been a better bet when starting their second stringer.
The 11 teams – Buffalo, Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Oakland, Philadelphia, Chicago, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis – are a combined 21-37-3 ATS with their first-string passer in the lineup (36.8 percent ATS). Those same teams, excluding Chicago (which starts No. 2 Josh McCown Monday night in place of injured No. 1 Jay Cutler), are 13-16 ATS (44.8 percent ATS) with their backups wielding the offense.
The biggest reason for this uptick in ATS winning percentage is the adjustment to those spreads with backup QBs in play. Oddsmakers tack on extra points and the betting public jumps on the other side, moving the line even further. Also, of the quarterbacks either replaced or injured so far this season, none are among the NFL's elite passers - Cutler excluded - so the dropoff in offensive execution hasn't been as severe.
The Cleveland Browns are the most extreme example of this trend, going 0-4 ATS under starter Brandon Weeden but 5-0 ATS with backups Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer getting the starting nod. The Browns added to the tally with Campbell passing for 262 yards and three touchdowns in a 24-18 win over the Baltimore Ravens Sunday.
The Buffalo Bills have had the biggest downgraded when it comes to covering the spread, starting the season 3-1 ATS with rookie QB E.J. Manuel slinging the ball until a knee injury forced the Buffalo to go down the depth chart. Since then, the Bills are 2-3 ATS with Jeff Tuel and Thaddeus Lewis stepping in. Luckily for Buffalo backers, Manuel is expected to return against the Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5) this Sunday.