Thursday, November 24, 2011

Several Contending Teams Finding Themselves with ? at QB

Jay Cutler being out is a major problem for Bears
While Aaron Rodgers is setting NFL records and leading the Packers to an undefeated season with Las Vegas sports books giving the option whether they do it or not, other teams are finding themselves in quarterback question-mark-land.

After the Packers (8/5), Patriots (9/2), 49ers (6/1), Steelers (10/1), Ravens (10/1), and Saints (12/1), we have a couple teams that were contenders for the Super Bowl that now have major questions at the quarterback position. The Texans (15/1) will be without Matt Schaub for the remainder of the season as will the Bears (30/1) as they make their journey without Jay Cutler.

On a lesser note, the Chiefs (1000/1) will have to try and win the AFC West without Matt Cassel as they sit two games behind the first-place Oakland Raiders (20/1) with their newly acquired Carson Palmer. They’re only two games out of first place in a division that looks to rival the weak NFC West of last season where an automatic playoff position could be reserved for a .500 team or worse.

Quarterbacks make the league and despite all the rules in place to protect them, we currently have two legitimate teams that were candidates to win the Super Bowl in jeopardy of not even making the playoffs now. The Bears immediate plans have Caleb Hanie making his first NFL start Sunday at Oakland while the Texans will rely on Matt Leinart at Jacksonville.

The Bears were looking at being a small favorite at Oakland, but when news of Cutler’s broken thumb came out, sports books overreacted with the number and made Oakland a 5-point favorite. Cutler is worth 3-points to the line, but to suggest he was worth 6-points was a bit ridiculous. Most Las Vegas sports books currently have the Raiders as 4 to 4 ½-point favorites which is still giving Cutler a little more credit than deserved.

The feeling with the Texans is that Leinart should be okay with the best offensive line in football to go along with Adrian Foster. Schaub has taken a back seat this season to Foster and the running game. Not having Andre Johnson to throw to for the last few weeks has made it unnecessary to throw like 2009, but even with Johnson in the lineup the Texans were still geared towards the run.

The Texans opened as 3-point favorites this week at Jacksonville and have been bet up to -3 ½ with most of that a testament to how the Jaguars have played under their rookie QB Blaine Gabbert. Basically, Gabbert appears lost in the NFL set.

Both the Bears and Texans may have found some relief with a proven NFL quarterback being tossed on waivers by Denver with Kyle Orton. The Chiefs immediately claimed him and hope that they can go into their AFC West division battle with someone other than Tyler Palko.

However, the Bears would seem like the perfect fit for Orton to keep their hopes alive for post-season play and a shot to take down the Packers. Caleb Hanie did well for the Bears -- making a game of the NFC Championship, but the organization has to realize that the future isn’t good with him which is why the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book raised the Super Bowl odds on Chicago from 15-to-1 to 30-to-1.

As for Orton’s old team, Denver, it’s hard what to make of their situation. What GM or VP makes negative remarks about their starting quarterback after he’s gone 4-1? John Elway still hasn’t given his endorsement to Tim Tebow. You could kind of tell by Elway’s polite golf clap after an exciting game winning touchdown by Tebow last Thursday against the Jets that Elway's is still in search of the Broncos QB of the future, maybe Matt Barkley.

The Chargers have been on a skid that has seen them lose five games in a row with their last win coming against the Broncos in week 5, a game where Tebow came in late to almost win and eventually sealed the fate of Orton. San Diego has been a steady 6 ½-point favorite all week, but Las Vegas oddsmaker Kenny White says Tebow presents a problem in making the odds.

“Good option quarterbacks always present a problem in making the line because there is such a large variable with them whether it’s college, or now the in pro’s with Tebow,” said White who co-stars in Discovery’s Velocity channel TV show ‘The Linemakers’. “Their running for yardage and ability to move the chains by themselves is something that we haven’t had to analyze much as much on the pro level but is proving to be one that has to be strongly considered in making a team rating for Denver,“

The team Denver and Tebow just beat, the Jets -- and most notably their head coach Rex Ryan, are doing all they can to ruin the confidence of their signal caller Mark Sanchez. Ryan had back-up Mark Brunnell taking first string snaps during practice this week as somewhat of a message that he’s not happy with his quarterback’s play.

All Sanchez has done since he’s been there is go to two straight AFC Championship games, but Ryan still thinks he has to send a message to his QB through the media. Maybe it’s because Ryan is a defensive coach, but he has a lot to learn about how to handle the leader of his club. The QB position -- the franchise of the organization -- should be treated delicately, yet Ryan feels the need to embarrass his through the media.

The Jets welcome a struggling Bills squad that got worse news than losing four out of their last five with RB Fred Jackson being lost for the season. The Jets went from 7 ½-point favorites to -9 following the news. It also doesn’t help the spread that new multi-millionaire Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown 10 interceptions in his last five games.

While the Bears and Cowboys put claims in for Orton, it appears that he’s headed for Kansas City. Orton likely won’t play in this week’s home game against the Steelers, but you never know based on Tyler Palko’s performance Monday night against the Patriots. Palko didn’t look all that bad, but the parts he did looks bad in, it was apparent that he had never started an NFL game before.

The Steelers are 10 ½-point favorites for this one, almost the same line it was two years ago when the Chiefs had a huge 27-24 upset against the Steelers in week 11. We know the Chiefs have some fight in them based on their four game winning streak, but sandwiched outside of those win is the first three games and last three games that resonate the most with this line. Kansas City’s first three weeks saw them outscored 109-27 and the last three weeks it’s been 82-16 for the other teams.

The Cardinals-Rams game is off the board at most Vegas sports books because of Kevin Kolb’s uncertainty, but does it really matter? John Skelton has proven to be an efficient QB in going 2-1 this season. The difference between the two is maybe 1-point. The sports books that do have the line up have St. Louis a 3-point favorite.

Michael Vick didn’t practice Wednesday and the line based on him not playing is Patriots -3. Vince Young did very well in the Eagles win over the Giants last week despite throwing 3 picks. For some reason, there seemed to be an urgency with the Eagles, and although Young is not known for leadership, it seemed there was more than Vick has offered.

Matt Hasselbeck is expected to start for the Titans Sunday at home against the Buccaneers. However, the spread hasn’t reflected Hasselbeck’s status in Las Vegas. He‘s been the one reason Tennessee has maintained a decent rating in their games this season, yet the spread (-3 ½) respect him. The difference between him and Jake Locker is worth at least 3-points, but we’ve only seen a change of a half-point.

It’s a quarterback league and there is no better example than week 12 of the season to demonstrate how important they are to the spread and also future odds posted by the Hilton. A large portion of the teams are severely affected right now by their players taking the snaps.

Should Matt Flynn have to start for Green Bay due to another concussion by Rodgers at Detroit, sports books like Lucky’s in Las Vegas will have to do some major changes to their undefeated proposition that says the Packers will go unbeaten in the regular season (Yes +280/No -360).