In last week’s column I talked about the injury to Aaron Rodgers and what it could mean for the team moving forward. On Sunday, we had two more prominent NFL starting QB’s suffer injuries that will leave them out of action for some time with Arizona’s Carson Palmer and Miami’s Jay Cutler both exiting their respective games.
Backup QB Matt Moore came in to lead the Dolphins to a come-from-behind victory to beat the NY Jets. Moore completed 13 of 21 passes for 188 yards through the air with 2 TD’s and an INT, and was responsible for engineering a pair of TD drives in the 4th quarter to tie that game before a Josh McCown INT lead to Miami’s game-winning FG. Moore is capable of playing well and to me there is not much of a downgrade whatsoever going from Jay Cutler to him. He played extensively for Miami last season after Ryan Tannehill was lost for the season and Moore ended up with solid numbers.
In five appearances, including three starts last season, Moore had a 63% completion rate, 721 passing yards, a 105.6 QB rating and an 8-3 TD-INT ratio. Compare that to Jay Cutler who has a 62% completion rate this season, 995 passing yards, a 78.8 QB rating and a 7-5 TD-INT ratio. Miami is a 3-point road dog at Baltimore on Thursday.
Arizona may find it more difficult to compete without their No. 1 QB than Miami. First of all, the Dolphins are still in a solid position right now with their current win/loss record with a backup QB that is not significantly worse than the original starter. The same cannot be said for the floundering Cardinals who are now 3-4 in a tough conference and must try to plow through the next eight weeks if not the rest of the entire season without Palmer, who suffered a broken left arm in Sunday’s 33-0 whipping at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams.
Drew Stanton is a bigger downgrade from Palmer than Moore is from Cutler in Miami. Palmer has been criticized a lot but he has had to play behind an injury-riddled offensive line and without their biggest weapon on offense in RB David Johnson. The Arizona Cardinals season isn’t over yet but it’s looking like an uphill climb without Palmer on the field for them to make inroads in the NFC playoff picture.
Time to pay my respect to two of the more amazing pointspread success stories of the season to this point. Fresno State suffered through a truly dismal season last year going 1-11 but head coach Jeff Tedford in his first season with the Bulldogs has orchestrated one of the truly epic turnaround seasons in quite some time.
Fresno State is 5-2 SU (only two losses came to Alabama and Washington) and most importantly they are a perfect 7-0 ATS in their first seven games of the season and have absolutely annihilated the spread by a combined 129 points and an average of 18.4 points per game.
Central Florida is another squad having a phenomenal pointspread run this season with the Knights now 7-0 SU and ATS after their first seven games of the season, and they have absolutely crushed the pointspread as well beating teams ATS by a combined 103 points at a 14.7 points per game clip during their perfect start to the season. Scott Frost in a season-plus as head coach of UCF is now 15-5 ATS in 20 games since the start of last season. He has found his QB in dual threat McKenzie Milton to run his uptempo offense, which is 1st in the country in points per game and 6th in total yards per game.
The UCF defense has been very good as well, ranked in the Top 30 in the country in total yards, rushing yards and total points per game allowed. The common thread between UCF and Fresno State is that they have not just beaten the spread by a point or two in their games but they have crushed the number in the majority of their contests. The betting markets have been far off with both teams all season long and the adjustments have not come quickly enough.
Tread with caution perhaps if you have not bet either of these teams to this point and are looking to do so in the future. But if you have been riding UCF and Fresno State (who have taken a lot of $$ repeatedly in the betting markets on most weeks), it may be worth it to stay on the ATS train for both of these teams at this point until the train comes to a stop.