The myth of betting against the rookie NFL QB

Jon Campbell
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Week 1 marks the first time in NFL history that five rookies are expected to start at quarterback.

Of those five passers, only Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks are set as favorites (by one point on the road at Arizona). The other four QBs are all significant underdogs.
  • Andrew Luck and the Colts are +9.5 at Chicago
  • Ryan Tannehill  and the Dolphins are +11.5 at Houston
  • Robert Griffin III and the Redskins are +7 at New Orleans
  • Brandon Weeden and the Browns are +9 home dogs vs. Philadelphia
That’s an average spread of +6.9 for the five rookies – basically a touchdown. But if you’re thinking these teams are simply slated as hefty pups simply because the QBs and you should bet against them just because of that, you might want to think again. 

Remember that most of these lines were set in the spring.

“We all knew Andrew Luck and RGIII were going to start,” an oddsmaker for Cantor Gaming told me a couple of weeks ago. “These numbers were set so far in advance. We know there are going to be some changes and you have to think that if these teams are starting these rookies, they have to be better than the guys they have.”

If anything, the bigger bettors are a little partial to the rookies so far. The biggest line move has seen the Redskins move from 10-point underdogs at the opener to just 7 points now following a strong preseason by RGIII.

The Seahawks moved from 1.5-point favorites to 2.5-point favorites despite the fact that Wilson is a third-round pick, the only player of the group not to be drafted in the first round.

“That’s what you love about the NFL,” said the oddsmaker. “The number goes up, it’s pretty solid. If you’re 6 points out in the NFL, you need to find a new job.”

The oddsmaker said you may see some movement on the “threes or half-points” leading up to game time, but other than that, expect things to stay pretty steady across the board this week in the NFL. 

Last season, Cam Newton of the Panthers and Andy Dalton of the Bengals were the only two rookie QBs to start in the first week of the season. Carolina failed to cover by a half-point in a 28-21 loss to Arizona and the Bengals pounded Cleveland 27-17 as 6.5-point road dogs. Dalton left that game with a wrist injury though. 

It’s the start of a new trend that suggests it’s not really a huge deal anymore when a guy who can barely buy a beer legally can take snaps for an NFL team. This year, 11 of the NFL’s 32 teams will start a QB who has one year or less of NFL experience and nearly half the league will start a quarterback who is either a rookie or is under the age of 25.

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