Week 8 Reflections – On Rookie Quarterbacks

Doing things a little differently this week. Instead of a deep dive into every game, I’m going to write about an angle that had a meaningful impact on this week’s results and then write a single one-line takeaway from the other games.

First, a very quick Week 8 summary:

  • 8-5 for +4.74 Units, including losing my hedge bet after bad injury and Covid news.
  • Smashed my Game of the Week with NE +5.5 winning outright.
  • Blocked out all external analysis and relied entirely on my system.
  • Season: 45-41 for -2.29 Units.
  • Went 12-3 picking each game against the spread but once again lost on Totals.
  • As a result, I will be focusing on ATS, moneylines, and teasers moving forward.

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Week 8 Bets

BetOddsUnitsDate PlacedResultNet
GB +3.5 @ ARI(-110)210.24.21 (DK)Win+1.82
ATL -3 v. CAR(-105)1.510.28.21 (FD)Loss-1.5
MIA TT O 16.5 @ BUF(-115)1.510.28.21 (MGM)Loss-1.5
CIN TT U 26.5 @ NYJ(+100)1.510.28.21 (MGM)Loss-1.5
TEN +3 @ IND
10.29.21 (DK)Win+1.55
LAR -14.5 @ HOU(-106)1.510.29.21 (FD)Win+1.42
PIT +4.5 @ CLE(-110)1.510.30.21 (MGM)Win+1.36
PHI ML @ DET + SF ML @ CHI(+135)110.30.21 (MGM)Win+1.35
JAC +3.5 @ SEA(-110)210.26.21 (DK)Loss+1.35
NE +5.5 @ LAC(-106)2.510.27.21 (FD)Win+2.36
DAL -2 @ MIN(-110)210.25.21 (MGM)Win+1.82
NYG +10 @ KC(-110)1.510.28.21 (MGM)Win+1.36
*Hedge: ARI -0, MIN +3.5(-120)1.810.28.21 (DK)Loss-1.8

On Rookie Quarterbacks

During the afternoon games on Sunday I watched my best bet of the week (NE +5.5) and my worst bet of the week (JAC +3.5) unfold. My breakdown of each matchup involved many factors obviously, but they shared a common thread: I saw two rookie quarterbacks showing marked progress that I expected to continue. I was correct in one case and incorrect in the other. This contrast stuck with me and reminded me of the importance of environment in a young quarterback’s development.

Mac Jones is playing behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines and is being coached up by one of the greatest coaches of all time. At 69 years old, with his experience and focus, Bill Belichick might have the smartest football brain in the world. Oh, and he developed another young quarterback you might have heard of. Mac Jones is probably not going to ascend to MVP level any time soon. But he was the fifth quarterback taken off the board and is outplaying all of his competition.

Every top quarterback prospect has talent. NFL scouts make mistakes but they aren’t collectively stupid. Yet top prospects routinely fail when put in bad situations. There are exceptions and nuances to every trend, obviously. But in general, young quarterback development comes down to how well they are taught the game as much as their talent. Quarterbacks reach their potential when they are given the reins piece-by-piece, at the pace they can handle, with smart teachers showing them the way, while avoiding bad habits. We’ve recently seen Andy Reid partner with Mahomes in this way and Adam Gase effectively stunt Sam Darnold’s career arc. We don’t know what would have happened in other situations but this happens all the time.

On Sunday we saw this play out in real time. Mac Jones is not more talented than Trevor Lawrence. In my opinion, he didn’t even play all that much better than Lawrence this week. But their situations are drastically different. New England’s defense and running game takes the pressure off Jones. They limited Justin Herbert to 6.4 yards per attempt on 51.4% completions, and picked him off twice. Their running backs ran the ball 35 times for 132 yards. The Jaguars, meanwhile, let Geno Smith complete 83.3% of his passes for 8.1 yards per attempt and forced zero turnovers. Their running backs ran the ball 15 times for 63 yards, with Robinson out for most of the game.

But even taking a broader look, Lawrence is not set up for success. They took multiple delay of game penalties. Receivers had key drops. Players were missing assignments and ended up in the wrong place. The defense had multiple backbreaking penalties that extended drives. Despite losing 31-7, the Jaguars actually gained more yards (309 to 229) and first downs (20 to 17) than the Seahawks. And when you take out first downs gained on penalties, it was 19 to 14 in favor of Jacksonville. They lost because they are poorly coached.

This is why Lawrence’s development will be much more rocky than Mac Jones’. It’s possible that Lawrence never pans out. I personally see enough on the field to have confidence that he will be successful in the NFL, but it will not be a straight up arrow. It’s just really difficult to overcome bad circumstances, and when we are looking for the edge in predicting how things will happen in the future, this is an important angle. This is why I should have had more confidence in the “progressing rookie QB” angle in the Patriots game than in the Jaguars game.

Game Recap Quick-Hits

  • GB 24-21 @ ARI (GB +3.5, W): Cardinals’ flaws in offensive structure revealed with Hopkins in and out of the game and in a mistake-heavy final drive.
  • CAR 19-13 @ ATL (ATL -3, L): Healthy Panthers defense is back to terrorizing opponents with aggressive pressure, helping hide Darnold with 47 run plays.
  • BUF 26-11 v. MIA (MIA TT O 16.5, L): Josh Allen continues to play below 2020 level but the Bills defense is playing elite football.
  • NYJ 34-31 v. CIN (CIN TT U 26.5, L): Despite the close final score, the Jets soundly beat the Bengals on both sides of the ball and got unlucky that it was even close.
  • TEN 34-31 @ IND (TEN +3, TEN ML, W): Dead even match won by the team that made fewer mistakes.
  • LAR 38-22 @ HOU (LAR -14.5, W): For LAR -16 or -16.5 bettors (where it closed), this was the worst backdoor I’ve ever seen as the Rams absolutely crushed the Texans 38-0 before benching their starters; graded as the most lopsided game of the year so far.
  • PIT 15-10 @ CLE (PIT +4.5, W): Browns failed to capitalize on opportunities despite being better overall, but struggle when they cannot run.
  • PHI 44-6 @ DET (PHI ML, W): Eagles did not need to work out any of their offensive identity issues here and did not prove anything meaningful here.
  • SF 33-22 @ CHI (SF ML, W): By far, Justin Fields had his best game as a pro and will be off my “must not bet” list for the first time this week.
  • DAL 20-16 @ MIN (DAL -2, W): Vikings played not to lose and Cowboys played to win with a backup quarterback; the better team won.

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