NFL Handicapping: Impact of Lockout on Pro Football Betting
by Trevor Whenham - 6/24/2011
I certainly don’t want to jinx anything, and things are still tenuous right up until the signing of the new CBA, but it certainly seems like the NFL and the players are moving towards a resolution to this lockout. Really, it seems like both sides came to their senses. The owners realized that they make way too much money from the ridiculous preseason to risk missing it, while the players realize that getting paid is a lot better than not getting paid.
If everything stays on track it seems as if the offseason business will officially begin sometime around the middle of July, and that training camps will start on time. If that is how things turn out then the impact on NFL handicappers will be significantly less than it could have been in the worst-case scenario. Things will still be quite different for bettors than it typically is, though. Here are five ways in which it could be different:
Rookies lacking coaching exposure - By the time training camp starts the incoming rookies have had a whole lot of time to work with their new coaches to become familiar with the systems and demands of their new teams. That hasn’t happened this year. Most rookies have had a chance to work out with their teammates, but they haven’t had the guidance of the coaches so they don’t truly know what is expected of them.
The learning curve is always steep for rookies -- especially in skill positions -- and it is only going to be worse for many of them given that the process will be so much more condensed this year. There will be exceptional rookies that handle the transition fine, but more rookies than normal are likely to take a while to get comfortable and be able to contribute. This is particularly important to consider for all the teams that drafted quarterbacks that they would like to have start because the QB position takes so much nurturing and development to be ready for.
Free agents will have less time with new system - By now during a regular season key free agents have already been with their new teams for a long time. That means they have had a chance to work with their coaches, get to know their teammates and to get ready to step in and be a major factor. Now it’s unlikely that free agency will open more than a couple of weeks before training camps.
Veterans will have an easier time adjusting to new situations than rookies because of their experience, but there are still a lot of free agents who won’t be as immediately effective as they may otherwise have been. Finding ways to assess how free agents will handle their transition is going to be important for bettors. Again, quarterbacks could be particularly affected here.
Front offices have had less time to tweak and refine - General managers have the luxury of the whole summer most years. They can make their big splashes at the draft and on the first couple of days of free agency and then spend the rest of the summer adding depth, finding and filling holes, and getting their teams as ready as they possibly can.
With a much shorter time available to do that this year it is going to be a much bigger challenge, and some teams are going to do better than others. There is always a gap between the well-run teams and the less competent ones. That gap could be even more pronounced this year.
Teams with new coaching staffs could be behind - When a new coach takes over a team with his new staff they have a pile of work to do before the first game is played -- getting to know the assets they have and the ones they need, developing systems that will work for what they have, and installing and refining those systems.
New coaches will have meaningful contact with their players for the first time in the middle of July -- months later than they normally would. There is simply no way that teams with new coaches are going to be as ready for the first games of the season as teams with established coaches.
The public will overreact - This one almost goes without saying because the betting public does nothing better than they overreact to any situation. Things are never as bad or as good as the public assumes they are going to be.
That overreaction can often present very nice betting opportunities, and this year will be no exception. The major media outlets will be very important to watch here because their paranoia is typically reflected by the betting public.
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