How To Deal With The Houston-Baltimore Postponement as a Bettor
by Trevor Whenham - 09/17/2008
Hurricane Ike caused a relatively unique situation in the NFL this past week. Baltimore was supposed to play in Houston in what had the makings to be an unwatchable game, but Reliant Stadium was damaged by the storm, so the game has been postponed. In recent years we have seen games moved a couple of days because of weather, fires or other calamities, and in 2001 we had an entire week rescheduled because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but it isn't very often you see a game rescheduled as we have this year. Baltimore had a bye week on Nov. 9, so the game will be played then instead. Houston was supposed to play Cincinnati that day, but instead they will have their bye week that week, and will play Houston on their original bye week of Oct. 26.
The league and the Texans were adamant that the game be played in Houston. New Orleans played a whole season outside of New Orleans, and San Diego had to play in Arizona because of wild fires, but neither of those situations were ideal. This is a better solution, but it still has lots of potential downside for the teams involved. Here's a look at the effects that bettors should be aware of. I don't want to suggest that these are going to create crises on the teams, but they could certainly become a negative impact on the teams, and should be considered if you are already uncertain about one of the teams at some point in the season:
Loss of a bye week - Short of a Super Bowl ring, few things are more prized or anticipated by NFL players than their bye week. Players use it to heal their wounds, but more importantly they use it to get away, spend time with their families, relax, recharge, and get ready for the rest of the season. Players get only a few days off, but it's a welcome break in the season. Neither Baltimore nor Houston are going to get a standard bye week. Sure, they didn't play last week, and they were given a couple of days off of practice, but that's a different reality than a planned break. Players couldn't plan a vacation, and they got the break before they likely felt like they needed one. Down the road this could lead to mental fatigue or attitude problems for the team. This could especially be the case as the teams near their original bye weeks, as the players start to think of what they are missing out on. It could also be an issue if (and when) either of these teams drop out of contention.
Potential for injury - This change means that the teams now have to play 15 consecutive regular season games without a break. That never happens under the current NFL schedule, and it will provide a unique challenge for these teams. Players won't have their standard midseason chance to get healthier, so the teams will be more susceptible to injuries than others. This could especially be a problem for the Ravens under center. Joe Flacco became starter largely because he was the only one standing. Kyle Boller is out for the season, and Troy Smith is finally practicing after a throat problem but he has lost 20 pounds and is far from ready. Nagging injures at quarterback, then, could be a real issue.
Loss of momentum - I'll qualify this point by saying that I'm not generally a huge believer in momentum in the NFL. For the most part each week is a game of its own in my mind. There's an exception, though. I do believe that a strong, somewhat surprising win as an underdog facing notable challenges can give a team a boost they can carry into the next week. Baltimore would have been in that position, but that momentum is lost because of this postponement. The Ravens weren't big underdogs against the Bengals, but they had QB problems and several questions around the field. Despite that, they were able to win handily, and make a particular statement on defense. That win built confidence for a team in need of it, but this situation means that they basically have to start all over again.
Distraction for Texans - Reliant Stadium isn't the only thing that was damaged in Houston. Players may have had their property damaged, or they may know people who did. Even if that's not the case, there were problems with their practice facilities, and there is uncertainty over when their home field will be ready for another game. They may end up playing their game at Rice Stadium instead of their home field. That's not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it's unquestionably a distraction, and Houston has enough problems of their own without having to deal with distractions.