USA Today Sports

Backing NFL backup QBs not as bad as you think

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.

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Posted by CalBear
9 months ago

With the majority of these teams there is not much of a drop off between the starters and the back ups. In some cases, the back up is the better option. For example, in Cleveland, Weeden is clearly the 3rd best QB on that team behind Hoyer and Campbell, but he got the nod as the starter to begin. I love backing the team with the back up qb in these situations as books shade the line in their favor as most bettors overreact when they hear a "starter" is out. Obviously you must pick your spots....when the back up is replacing Rodgers, Manning or one of the other elite QBS that is a different story. Chic with Cutler out will present excellent value as I don't see a big gap between Cutler and McCown...I'll gladly take the pts with Mccown if Cutler doesn't go.
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Top Response

Posted by CalBear
9 months ago

"With the majority of these teams there is not much of a drop off between the starters and the back ups. In some cases, the back up is the better option. For example, in Cleveland, Weeden is clearly the 3rd best QB on that team behind Hoyer and Camp..."