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Editor's Note: Steve Rieder has accumulated a 205-166-1 record, +22.06 units over the course of the 2021 & 2022 NFL seasons. Get access to his full record, pick by pick, on our NFL bets tracker spreadsheet
How to bet NFL injuries
An NFL injury can take the fragile hopes of a championship contender and destroy it faster than a middle linebacker can snap an anterior cruciate ligament. It is extremely difficult to sift through the medical verbiage and determine which injuries to which players are actionable, a quandary that separates the pros from the joes. In How to Bet Injuries, we identify what information is baked into the line, which offers value, and when to bet your hard earned cash.
There is not another position in major sports that is more impactful to the point spread line than the quarterback. Media outlets and water cooler conversation are abuzz when a quarterback goes down and almost every sports bettor reaches for their wallet looking for a betting opportunity. What you do at that exact moment when your hand hits your wallet can determine your bottom line.
In the 1980s, Joe Montana was the star of the San Francisco 49ers, winning four Super Bowls and three Super Bowl MVPs. Yet, when the future Hall of Famer got injured, the impact to the Vegas line wasn't what most would have expected. The line moved half a point. The absence of the greatest quarterback of his generation, moved the point spread line less than an extra point. The reason? The person warming the bench behind Golden Joe, was none other than future Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young. To determine how the line should adjust due to an injury at any position in any sport, you need to take a look at the impact between the starter and the replacement.
With the exception of the quarterback position, there typically isn’t anything actionable about other positional injuries. Even the best running back, receiver, or defensive player only moves the line 1 point (there are extremely rare cases where a player can move the line 1.5 points). These individuals may be household names and even the best at their positions, but they simply don’t have the impact many novice bettors assume they do. When an injury hits twitter, the bottom-line, or a push notification, don't overreact.
Fade the Overreaction
There are more actionable opportunities to fade the overreaction than there are to actually play against the injury. When the public squares start pounding against the injured team, the line adjusts accordingly. As the hysteria and dollars inevitably ensue, sometimes the line moves to a point where it may provide value to fade the overreaction.
There are times when it is prudent to bet on injuries. When there are multiple injuries to a specific position, (the secondary, offensive line, etc.) the value between the starter and the fourth or fifth replacement across multiple positions, may provide value over a point or two. In these unique situations, the market does not recognize how impactful these injuries are to the game and the point spread, which provides actionable value.
Much like cluster injuries, bulk injuries are not accounted for in the point spread line. Bulk injuries are significant injuries across multiple positions on the same side of the ball. Individually, these players may not move the line at all, but collectively, they may provide a betting opportunity. When bulk injuries occur, several below replacement players may be forced into action, but even more than that, coaches have to spend more time and attention to these less talented players. Game plans and coverages may have to adjust to protect weaknesses. When there is one glaring problem, a coach can usually adjust the schemes to hide the inefficiencies. When there are multiple areas of concern, the task becomes much more daunting. When bulk injuries occur, the market place usually does not account for it. The knowledgeable sports bettor may have an opportunity to take advantage .
By Steve Rieder