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How to account for injuries when handicapping the NFL

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One of the most difficult things to account for when handicapping the NFL is injuries.

To do so accurately, one has to be able to accurately access the value of both the injured starter and his replacement, as well as accurately gauge the intangible/motivational effect that the replacement will have on the other active players.

Obviously, player ratings are somewhat subjective in nature, but it is imperative that one assign both starting players and back-ups as accurate of a rating as possible in order to be successful handicapping the NFL.


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The best way to do this is to combine one's own assessment of a player's value with the ratings of the most respected NFL scouts /experts.

The better the judge of football talent that one is, the more one should rely on his own assessment of the value of NFL players.

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The intangible/motivational effect of players being out tends to be minimized during the first couple weeks of the regular season as well as during the playoffs.

This is due to the fact that during these time periods all players tend to be at a 100% motivational level and hence step-ups and letdowns are much less likely to occur.


There is one thing that is most worth noting when it comes to accurately accounting for injuries in the NFL. And that is as a general rule of thumb, the public tends to overreact to high profile players being out and underreact to low profile players being out.

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks

High profile players are usually hyped-up offensive skill position players or big name defensive players. Hence, when such high profile players are out not only does the line typically get adjusted to account for their absence, the line usually gets overadjusted. 

This is true not only because the public tends to overestimate the tangible value of such players, but also because the absence of such high profile players usually causes the other players on the team to "step up" their level of play. 

Hence, there is usually value betting on teams with a high-profile player out (but only on the first game that such a player is out). In contrast, when high quality, low profile players are out the line is usually not adjusted (or if it is, it is under-adjusted). 

Another thing worth noting when it comes to accounting for injuries in the NFL is the disproportionate impact that multiple starters from the same position has. 

A team can usually compensate for one player from a certain position being out, but when two players from the same position are out at the same time (e.g. two linebackers or two defensive backs), it excessively taps team's depth and significantly adversely affects their schemes.

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers

Hence, such a situation has an increasing scale of returns, whereby two solid starting linebackers being out is more than twice as adverse to a team as one solid starting linebacker being out.

Hopefully, the aforementioned tips will help you with your NFL handicapping!  

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