What Star Injuries Mean When Wagering

Unless a quarterback goes down, injuries don’t alter odds significantly

Superstar injuries happen. It’s a fact of life.

Whether it’s Steph Curry going down with an Achilles injury or Aaron Rodgers hampered with a broken collarbone, a team’s chances to win are greatly diminished with superstar injuries.

What those superstar injuries mean at the sportsbooks is anything but standard.

“It’s different every time,” said Jason Simbal, CG Technology Sportsbooks vice president. “There’s not a standard value per player, it’s very situational. For example, if a start quarterback misses a game against one of the best defensive teams in the league he will be worth more than if they are playing one of the worst teams in the league.”

Simbal likes to use LeBron James as an example. Let’s say his former team the Cleveland Cavaliers were a 20-point favorite at home against the Sacramento Kings, LeBron’s perceived point value might be as low as three, since the game was likely to be a blowout anyway and James might sit out most of the second half.

In Game 7 of the NBA Finals with his erstwhile Cavs going up against Golden State, James’ value could be 10.

“It’s 100 percent situational,” Simbal said. “It’s so hard to determine a player’s worth.

When Aaron Rodgers went down prior to Week 7 in the 2017 NFL season, the next week’s game against New Orleans Saints saw the spread swing 11 points as backup Brett Hundley was named the starter,” Simbal said.

“A lot of times, it’s all about who the backup coming in is,” Simbal said. “I mean, look at the Philadelphia Eagles—they have a backup quarterback in Nick Foles, who comes in and wins nine games and is named Super Bowl MVP.”

Superstar injuries do, however, attract action. Potential bettors are now talking about those teams afflicted by injury, so they’re front of mind. Whether it’s because the bettors think the injury-plagued team now has less of a chance or the other team has a better chance at a better price, the talk sparks action.

“They’re thinking about it more, so now they’re more likely to make the bet,” Simbal said.

When Eli Manning was benched in favor of Geno Smith in 2017, the spread for the week’s game moved half a point, not because Smith was better than Manning, but because the New York Giants were just that bad.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the importance of players and what potential injuries could mean for their teams.

Quarterbacks in football are the clear-cut number-one most influential player in sports when it comes to injuries, closely followed by a star player on an NBA team.

Following those two, there’s a significant drop-off.

“Hockey and baseball are much more of a team sport,” Simbal said. “There’s no guy in hockey that’s a non-goalie that will affect a game that much.”

In baseball, the line is only as good as the starting pitcher, and scratches are taken into account. Hitters have the least value.

Quarterbacks touch the ball every offensive play, so that value is easy to understand. To sum up why basketball stars hold more value than a hockey player, Simbal said it comes down to points per game.

“A really solid hockey player will score a goal every other game,” Simbal said. “In basketball, the star player scores 30 points a game. There’s a difference in value there.”

In very rare instances of player injuries, sportsbooks will restrict betting.

“There are a lot of times when there is uncertainty and teams are very secretive about a players condition, therefore we don’t know, and the bettor doesn’t know,” Simbal said. “In these situations, often times a sportsbook won’t let you bet on the game until more solid information is available. You could have the situation like Tom Brady’s finger in the playoff game, where you couldn’t bet on it until they find out if he’s starting.”