1)Impact of Injuries to Skill Positions Over Rated?
Week 3 once again seemed to make the case that injuries to skill positions are often over rated by the public. In Week 2 the Chiefs played without star RB Jamal Charles and star S Eric Berry, the announcement that Charles would miss the game on Sunday moved the line which had been bet down to +3.5 back to +5.5. The Chiefs not only covered the game but easily won the game straight up 34-14 and Charles’s replacement Knile Davis had 132 yards and a TD on 32 carries.
This speaks to larger point that has been true throughout the first 3 weeks of the season,which is that key injuries have not impacted teams short term as much as betters expect them to.
In week 1 Car was a 2 point favorite all off season but once it was announced on game day that Cam Newton would miss the game, the line moved towards TB and ended up closing TB -5. Derek Sanderson stepped in for Newton and lead the Panthers to a 20-14 win as a back up QB.
In week 2 we saw a similar situation in the Ariz NYG game where the Cards were 2.5 point road favorites until game day morning when it was announced that Carson Palmer would miss the game and Drew Stanton would start in his place, which lead to the Giants being 2 point favorites. Arizona beat 25-14 and the impact of the QB change was minimal. Drew Stanton again won as an under dog in Week 3, this time as a 3 point home dog, there is no question that had Carson Palmer started the game the line would of been under a FG and closer to a pick em.
I think there are a couple of reasons why people generally over rate skill injuries, the first is that we infer a much larger gap between 1st and 2nd team players at skill positions than actually exists and also more than at other positions.
The second reason why I think skill position injuries get so much attention is fantasy football. As a fantasy football player I am inundated with injury news and the impact on fantasy teams is of course great but I think that perception then also attaches itself to the betting world where the impact is much less.
This is not to make the case that injuries have no impact, certainly an injury to Peyton Manning or as shown last year Aaron Rodgers will impact games right away but in most cases teams can overcome injuries to skill players for short term, 1-3 games over the longer term as coaches have more film on the backups they should be able to limit their effectiveness.
I do think that clusters of injuries can be impactful and in Week 4 we have an interesting test case in the Eagles. Philadelphia will be without 3 starting OLinemen (LG-Mathis, C-Kelce, RT-Johnson) and a 4th will be playing out of position this week against the 49ers. Offensive line injuries do not get the same level of attention as a QB or RB but I believe the level of attrition in Philadelphia will create a significant disadvantage right away.
2) Week 3 more likely to see regression than Week 2
Going into week 2 we hear a lot of ” team A can’t go 0-2, they are a playoff team” or the reverse ” Team B won’t start 2-0 because they are not a playoff team”. A lot of this discussion is based on the historical stat that since 1990 only about 12% of teams make the playoffs and a little over 0% of 2-0 teams make the playoffs. This was the argument used for teams such as the Saints & Colts and against teams like Houston & Buffalo in week 2. The fact is that under performing for 2 weeks in a row in any part of the season is not that unusual and outperforming for 2 weeks in a row is also not that unusual, the whole league is not going to be 1-1 after 2 weeks.
In week 3 though we saw 0-2 Saints, Colts, Giants and Chiefs all both get their first wins, while Houston, Buffalo, Carolina and Denver lost for the first time. Taking Denver out of this because of their week 3 opponent, it would be safe to say that we saw most of the teams move towards their expected level of performance.
3) Recent Performance vs Last Year
With 2 games in the books it is hard not to have the most recent performances affect your view on teams and change what you think of them, especially when we know ever year a we see teams go from the bottom of their division to the top. In the case of Buf vs SD I thought that Buf the discrepency between the Bills first 2 games and their established level of play last year was unsustainable as was their turnover margin and bet against them. In the case of Hou vs NYG I couldn’t quite pull the trigger as I was overly worried about the Giants start even though the case against Hou was very similar to the case against Buffalo. Week 3 may be the most difficult week not to over react to the recent performance but it is important to not be swayed too much by teams that played better or worse than expected and continue to use last years metrics to inform the majority of your opinion.