If nothing changes between now and September, the Pittsburgh Steelers plan to get a big boost from a new and improved Ben Roethlisberger.
All reports are positive regarding Roethlisberger’s surgically repaired right elbow. He has said he’s feeling no pain when throwing and feels younger as a result. But he’s a 38-year-old quarterback coming back from a major injury, so it’s a tough trick to turn back the clock.
Still, in at least one way, the odds are in his favor. Before throwing a pass that counts in 2020, Roethlisberger is tied atop the list of the NFL’s most valuable quarterbacks in relation to the point spread, according to South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews.
When a starting quarterback goes down, as Roethlisberger did two games into last season, what is the oddsmakers’ adjustment? Andrews has assigned point values to the QB1 for all 32 teams, a task that emphasizes evaluation of the backups. In the Steelers’ case, the backup plan was and still is a big problem.
“I think the Pittsburgh defense is great, and getting to 8-8 last year was pretty good with two stiffs playing quarterback,” Andrews said. “You just look at Big Ben’s backup. Assuming Ben is 100%, it’s a steep drop to Mason Rudolph.”
Imagine filming a Western and being forced to replace John Wayne with Adam Sandler and Pauly Shore. The Steelers turned to Rudolph, who was benched for Devlin “Duck” Hodges. Andrews said if Pittsburgh must go from a full-strength Roethlisberger to Rudolph again this year, the drop-off is a seven-point adjustment to the betting line.
Andrews assigned seven-point values to Roethlisberger and two other quarterbacks for the 2020 season. Andrews rates the adjustment from the starter to the backup to be 3.5 points or fewer for 17 teams.
“These numbers are all as of right now, and for a one-game replacement,” Andrews said. “Obviously, the rookie quarterbacks on the roster could change things dramatically once the season starts, or even in the preseason. Any extended playing time for the backup changes things too. These numbers are not carved in granite. These are all just places to start.
“People have different opinions. That’s what makes betting.”
Andrews’ point-spread adjustments and analysis for the rest of the league:
Buccaneers: Tom Brady 7 over Blaine Gabbert.
If Brady is anywhere near his old self, this number will be higher.
Seahawks: Russell Wilson 7 over Geno Smith.
If Wilson never played another down, he would be a Hall of Famer, and I have to think he still has some big years ahead of him. Smith is serviceable at best. The only reason the team around Wilson is so good is that Wilson makes it that good. He has not missed a game since coming into the league in 2012.
Cardinals: Kyler Murray 6 over Brett Hundley.
Murray has been good. I question the long-term possibilities for such a little guy, but right now he’s a very good quarterback. I don’t like Kliff Kingsbury much as a coach, and Hundley does not impress me.
Packers: Aaron Rodgers 6 over Jordan Love.
This one could really change during the season. I don’t know what to think of Love. It could be as high as nine if Love doesn’t pan out or lower than six if he proves worthy of his first-round draft status. It will be interesting, as it always is with Rodgers.
Rams: Jared Goff 6 over John Wolford.
I’m not crazy about Goff, but the Rams better pray he doesn’t get hurt.
Texans: Deshaun Watson 6 over A.J. McCarron.
McCarron is average at best. I think Watson has a chance to be great, though he lost No. 1 receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who was traded to Arizona.
Titans: Ryan Tannehill 6 over Logan Woodside.
This number looks high, but Tannehill really fits this team, and I couldn’t have much confidence in Woodside.
Vikings: Kirk Cousins 6 over Sean Mannion.
I’m not the biggest backer of Cousins, who played the poker hand of his contract better than anyone with a WSOP bracelet, but he’s significantly better than Mannion.
Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes 5 over Chad Henne.
This could be higher, but the Chiefs have so many weapons that a competent quarterback could be successful for a short time. Plus, coach Andy Reid has had a lot of success with backup QBs.
Eagles: Carson Wentz 5 over Jalen Hurts.
I like these guys, but Wentz has to stay healthy. I think Hurts has some real potential. He needs to work on his accuracy, but I really like his attitude. The way he handled the Alabama benching was totally classy, and he was immediately the leader of a veteran Oklahoma team. In the right situation, he will be good. I can see him helping the Eagles this year in a Taysom Hill-type role. Nate Sudfeld isn’t a bad backup either.
49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo 5 over Nick Mullens.
I can’t help but hate anyone as good-looking as Jimmy G, let alone the fact that he has a contract worth more than $100 million, but he is a pretty good quarterback. I hear some negative rumblings about him, but I still think he is very capable. I hear some of the same rumblings about Kyle Shanahan as the coach, but come on, the 49ers made it to the Super Bowl. That’s the world today. If someone cured cancer, some people would say, “Geez, I can’t believe they didn’t do anything about heart disease.” Meanwhile, Mullens wouldn’t be bad in a pinch, but any longer than a game or two would make a big difference. The team didn’t win when Mullens was at quarterback, though his numbers weren’t awful.
Saints: Drew Brees 4 over Jameis Winston.
I know everyone loves Brees, but I think he’s seen his best days. Winston is like an NFL version of Amare Stoudemire — he keeps both teams in the game at the same time. I like Taysom Hill, but I question his ability to be a starting NFL quarterback for any extended time. Sean Payton’s coaching will help these guys.
Falcons: Matt Ryan 3.5 over Matt Schaub.
Ryan gets knocked a lot, but he’s still pretty good. Schaub is a bit long in the tooth, but he wouldn’t be bad in one game.
Ravens: Lamar Jackson 3.5 over Robert Griffin III.
RGIII still has some ball left in him, but replacing last year’s MVP is a big drop. I think one game from RGIII would be OK, but any more probably would be a higher differential.
Bengals: Joe Burrow 3 over Ryan Finley.
I’m guessing. Meanwhile, I think if Burrow has a pretty good year, the Bengals could be a surprise team. You heard it here first.
Bills: Josh Allen 3 over Matt Barkley.
Allen isn’t much more than OK at this early stage in his career, but I do think he’s a good fit for a Buffalo team with a dominant defense.
Browns: Baker Mayfield 3 over Case Keenum.
I like Keenum, if a coach can use him within his limitations, which are many. Mayfield? It’s time to put up. And shut up, regardless of whether he puts up.
Lions: Matthew Stafford 3 over Chase Daniel.
This number probably would skew higher if Stafford were out any extended time, but for one game Daniel is very capable. It’s a wasted career with Stafford, who could have been a Hall of Famer in another organization.
Panthers: Teddy Bridgewater 3 over P.J. Walker.
I loved Bridgewater coming out of college, but he had one of the worst knee injuries imaginable. He won for the Saints last year in Brees’ absence, though his numbers weren’t much. I hope he can regain the magic, but I’m doubtful. Walker played well in the defunct XFL.
Broncos: Drew Lock 2 over Jeff Driskel.
I definitely have to see more out of Lock before I’m sold, but I don’t think much of Driskel. The Broncos have committed to Lock, so I guess that means something.
Colts: Philip Rivers 2 over Jacoby Brissett.
I’m not even sure Rivers is better than Brissett. And I still can’t believe how the Colts wasted Andrew Luck’s career, because right now they have a very solid all-around team, which they never had when Luck was there. A healthy Luck could win a Super Bowl with this squad. Whatever football hell might be, I hope former Colts general manager Ryan Grigson finds it. What a shame.
Cowboys: Dak Prescott 2 over Andy Dalton.
The Dallas offense has a lot of weapons, and a competent backup could do just fine. Plus I think Prescott is highly overrated, and Dalton suffered from poor coaching that hurt his career in Cincinnati. Dalton is better than his reputation.
Dolphins: Ryan Fitzpatrick 2 over Tua Tagovailoa.
Fitzpatrick is more than a serviceable veteran. Big things are expected out of Tagovailoa. I make Fitzpatrick three points better than Josh Rosen.
Giants: Daniel Jones 2 over Colt McCoy.
I actually like both of these guys — but not the rest of the team. The Giants will probably still stink no matter who is under center.
Jaguars: Gardner Minshew 2 over Mike Glennon.
If the Jaguars are tanking, they couldn’t find two better candidates to do it.
Raiders: Derek Carr 2 over Marcus Mariota.
I don’t think much of either quarterback, but at least Carr has been in the system for a while.
Redskins: Dwayne Haskins 2 over Kyle Allen.
A healthy Alex Smith is certainly better than Haskins, but that is one gigantic “if.” I’m not sold on Haskins or Allen, though I really liked Haskins coming out of Ohio State. Let’s see something this year. Allen is unlikely to get much better, though he does know new coach Ron Rivera’s system better than Haskins.
Chargers: Tyrod Taylor 1 over Justin Herbert.
If Herbert, the first-round pick from Oregon, isn’t the starter by season’s end, there is probably something wrong with him. But I guess we have to give Taylor a small advantage until we see something.
Jets: Sam Darnold 1 over Joe Flacco.
I would say Darnold is one point over a healthy Flacco. I’m not much of a Darnold fan (too many turnovers), but he’s four points above David Fales. If Darnold learns to protect the ball, this could be a few points higher. The Jets are 0-6 when Darnold does not start since 2018.
Patriots: Jarrett Stidham 1 over Brian Hoyer.
Hoyer is OK, but if the Patriots are handing the keys to Stidham, that has to mean something.
Bears: Mitchell Trubisky even with Nick Foles.
There is no difference between the two at this point, but if either could tap into his previous success, he could be good. Or both could be garbage. The Bears have not had much luck at this position since Sid Luckman in the 1940s.
NFL QB POINT SPREAD VALUES
Buccaneers: Tom Brady/Blaine Gabbert/7
Seahawks: Russell Wilson/Geno Smith/7
Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger/Mason Rudolph/7
Cardinals: Kyler Murray/Brett Hundley/6
Packers: Aaron Rodgers/Jordan Love/6
Rams: Jared Goff/John Wolford/6
Texans: Deshaun Watson/A.J. McCarron/6
Titans: Ryan Tannehill/Logan Woodside/6
Vikings: Kirk Cousins/Sean Mannion/6
Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes/Chad Henne/5
Eagles: Carson Wentz/Jalen Hurts/5
49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo/Nick Mullens/5
Saints: Drew Brees/Jameis Winston/4
Falcons: Matt Ryan/Matt Schaub/3.5
Ravens: Lamar Jackson/Robert Griffin III/3.5
Bengals: Joe Burrow/Ryan Finley/3
Bills: Josh Allen/Matt Barkley/3
Browns: Baker Mayfield/Case Keenum/3
Lions: Matthew Stafford/Chase Daniel/3
Panthers: Teddy Bridgewater/P.J. Walker/3
Broncos: Drew Lock/Jeff Driskel/2
Colts: Philip Rivers/Jacoby Brissett/2
Cowboys: Dak Prescott/Andy Dalton/2
Dolphins: Ryan Fitzpatrick/Tua Tagovailoa/2
Giants: Daniel Jones/Colt McCoy/2
Jaguars: Gardner Minshew/Mike Glennon/2
Raiders: Derek Carr/Marcus Mariota/2
Redskins: Dwayne Haskins/Kyle Allen/2
Chargers: Tyrod Taylor/Justin Herbert/1
Jets: Sam Darnold/Joe Flacco/1
Patriots: Jarrett Stidham/Brian Hoyer/1
Bears: Mitchell Trubisky/Nick Foles/0
SOURCE: Chris Andrews, South Point sportsbook director.