Expert NFL Betting Advice: Best and Worst Backup Quarterbacks
A team's backup is like a heart surgeon. You hope you never have to get to know who they are, but when you need one it usually happens suddenly and you really hope they are good at their job. The NFL has their choice of every college football quarterback there is, so it is consistently amazing to me that there aren't enough good backups to go around. Heck, there aren't enough good starters to go around, either, but that's a different story.
A backup, when forced into action, can make the difference between profit and disaster for a bettor. It only makes sense, then, that teams with better backup situations are easier to trust than those that have big questions at the spot. Let's look at the three best backup situations in the league as well as four that must give fans, and bettors, heartburn:
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Cincinnati: A.J. McCarron was called into regular-season and playoff action in 2015. He looked much better in the regular games than in the playoff ones, but he plays for the Bengals so that goes without saying. He played the final four games of that season. He didn't look great in the first against Pittsburgh at times, matching his two touchdowns with two picks. But then he settled down and looked like a new guy in the next three. He completed a high percentage of passes, didn't make mistakes, and earned two wins and an overtime loss. It was impressive. His worst game came in the playoff game against Pittsburgh, but it still wasn't a disastrous outing, and it's harder to play a team the second time in five weeks.
He didn't play last year, but he is a studious guy who was very well trained at Alabama, and he seems comfortable with what the Bengals are trying to do. I would have no issues at all with backing McCarron in any situation I otherwise liked the Bengals.
New England: Jimmy Garoppolo is probably overhyped at this point - the best backup quarterbacks always are - but he certainly has looked like the real deal when called upon. And when Jacoby Brissett had to step in last year he didn't look awful by any means, either.
We know that New England's backup situation is better than most because we have already seen it in action, and we also know that they have the most rigidly disciplined system there is, and that lends itself to guys stepping in successfully.
Philadelphia: This might not be on the top of a lot of lists, but I really like the return of Nick Foles to Philadelphia. He wasn't ready for primetime out on his own in St. Louis, but he was comfortable in Philadelphia and should be very happy to get back. I like Carson Wentz a lot, and I like that the Eagles brought in a guy who understands that this team belongs to the youngster. If Wentz gets hurt, though, I would be quite happy to have Foles in charge. That would be enough by itself to make me happy, but then they added Matt McGloin as the third-stringer. He looked solid at times in Oakland and probably deserves a better job than a third-stringer.
Foles and McGloin together are two guys who are easy to trust if they are forced to play.
L.A. Rams: Jared Goff is, at best, an uncertainty. He took forever to get ready last year and was inconsistent when he did finally start. He certainly didn't look like a No. 1 pick. Now, he should take a step forward in his second year, and I get that you don't want to have a guy looking over his shoulder afraid of losing his job with every incompletion, but what the Rams have done at the QB position is moronic. Sean Mannion has thrown 13 garbage-time passes in two seasons, and it's not like anyone is calling for him to throw a pile more. And vet Dan Orlovsky, who was added just as camp was about to start, hasn't thrown meaningful passes since 2011 and hasn't played particularly well since he was a junior at UConn in 2003.
I get that the team is invested in Goff, but with this backup duo they are going all in on the youngster, and that's a bit too scary for my tastes.
Indianapolis: Andrew Luck is still not playing, and we can't get a straight story about his status, so it is very likely at this point that he won't be ready for Game 1, and anything beyond that is pure speculation. If you are at least a fringe playoff contender and your superstar QB was banged up, wouldn't you want more than Scott Tolzien and a couple of very green rookies as backups? We know Tolzien is uninspiring in relief because we saw him last year for these Colts and in 2013 for the Packers. He's just not ready for primetime. And you're smoking the good stuff if you expect Stephen Morris to jump up and shine.
It's another bad, bad joke for an organization that should be much better run than it is.
Tampa Bay: Jameis Winston is great, and we had better hope he is durable, because his primary backup is Ryan freaking Fitzpatrick. If the thought of handing the keys to a guy like that doesn't terrify you when you're talking about a serious playoff contender then you and I really see things differently. Fitzpatrick was awful last year - 17 picks in 11 games - and he turns 35 this season. At best it's a serious gamble, and at worst it is just throwing your season away - just like Fitzpatrick throws so many passes away to opposing DBs.
When I look at this team, and about 26 others, I remain just stunned that Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned.
Baltimore: Joe Flacco is very good but hardly made of stone. If and when he gets banged up, the only answer right now is Ryan Mallett. And let's be blunt - Mallett is bad at football. His arm is questionable at best. He makes lousy decisions. He has looked just plain bad in eight career starts - including two for these Ravens. I just don't get it.
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