Wow….these are tough times for NFL starting quarterbacks. Jacksonville Jaguars’ starter Nick Foles was already sidelined in Week 1. Then it was the Jets’ Sam Darnold coming down with a bout of mononucleosis that could keep him out up to 7 weeks. Finally, it was the carnage on Sunday that claimed two of the biggest names in the business–Saints’ starter Drew Brees is out for at least six weeks while Steelers’ franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is out for the season.
We’ll address the rest of the situations as they become relevant but tonight the New York Jets will host the Cleveland Browns with Trevor Siemian starting. The line on the game before the announcement that Darnold would miss had the Browns favored by -2.5. After the word came down within an hour and a half it had shot up to -6.5 with a few books now showing -7.
From a situational standpoint, this looks like a strong spot for Cleveland. The Browns bumbling Week 1 performance at home found them on the wrong side of a 43-13 decision to the Tennessee Titans. There’s a profound need for the team to get into the win column as they’ve got a gauntlet of tough games coming up–the LA Rams, at Baltimore, at San Francisco, home against Seattle then at New England. The dynamic of the division now looks completely different with Roethlisberger sidelined. Baltimore looks like the team to beat and you can make a case that Lamar Jackson is the MVP to this point.
The Jets have a pretty nasty scheduling stretch ahead of them as well. They’ll host Cleveland tonight then play at New England and catch a bye week before they play at Philadelphia then home against Dallas and New England. The 10/27 game at Jacksonville could also be a tough one. New York had ‘lower expectations’ than Cleveland coming into the season but the wheels could be starting to come off the Jets by the time that Darnold gets back under center.
Let’s get back to tonight’s game and the big line move. Hard to conclude anything other than it being an overreaction. The first thing you consider in this situation is the ‘replacement value’ of the backup quarterback relative to the starter. Is Sam Darnold 4 points better than Trevor Siemian? Probably not. revor Siemian will start Monday night against the Cleveland Browns. Based on statistics, there looks to be little dropoff. Siemian has more experience as a NFL starter. In Siemian’s rookie season (2015) he was third on the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos’ depth chart behind backup Brock Osweiler and Peyton Manning. He took over as the team’s starter in 2016 and 2017 with a 13-11 record. During his two seasons as the Broncos’ starting quarterback he completed 59.3 percent of his passes for 5,686 yards with 30 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. Siemian has nearly twice as many NFL starts as Darnold and their quarterback ratings are nearly identical—78.3 for Darnold, 79.9 for Siemian.
The Browns are likely a better team than they showed in Week 1 but it’s just not possible to lay the points at this inflated price. We’ll take the points with the home team.