NFL injuries are common. With eleven players on the field (and a total of 53 on the team’s roster), it’s no surprise that this contact sport results in a long list of injuries from week to week during the season.
Injuries cause changes to a team’s roster. Different injuries have different impacts on a punter’s overall NFL strategy or the handicapping of an individual game. Injuries in the NFL also affect point spreads and overall odds out of Las Vegas, shifting the line considerably depending on the player injured and the impact of the injury on the team.
Injury Report Basics
News of injuries appear as soon as they occur – whether a player is hurt in practice, in a game, or because of an accident outside the game, the 24-hour news cycle of modern sports reporting will make sure the public hears about it. Bettors that keep up with sports news should be aware of important injuries as soon as they occur, thanks to ESPN and other broadcaster’s near-constant reporting of every nuance of the league.
Officially-speaking, in pro football, each team’s full injury reports appear by Thursday morning and they are updated until 90 minutes before each game’s kickoff time. For Thursday night games, that isn’t much time for bettors to consider the reports for the two teams facing off.
The key fact to remember about NFL injury reports is that teams must post a final list 90 minutes before kickoff time. Reading and understanding the injuries in the final report before a game should be a piece of any pro football betting strategy.
How to Read an NFL Injury Report
It is not difficult to find these comprehensive lists of player injuries. All the major networks carry them online, teams have them listed on websites, and the league posts the official list at NFL.com.
Five main acronyms are used to reflect a given player’s status. The report will list the player’s name, position, the injury in question, and an acronym used by the team to report a player’s likely status at game-time.
“P” – The most common symbol on any NFL injury report, P stands for “Probable.”
The P symbol is often used on players who may have missed a practice or two or are nursing an older injury but will probably still play. A player listed as Probable is very likely to put on a helmet and play in the team’s next game.
“Q” – One rung down the ladder from Probable is “Questionable.”
This is where a player’s likelihood to appear in the team’s next game starts to drop. A player listed this way is just as likely to play as not. Smart bettors see a Questionable status as an indication that even if the athlete does recover and get in the game, his numbers may be off. Sometimes a player earns Questionable status as a precaution, so betting against an athlete just because he earned a Q in the previous week may not be wise.
“D” – A player listed with an injury and a D next to his name is “Doubtful” to play.
When an athlete’s injuries force him to miss enough practice time, and the medical and coaching staffs don’t think he’ll make the roster for the coming week, he earns the D rating next to his name in the injury report. This symbol by no means indicates the player absolutely will not play, but it does make the likelihood of his playing in the next week even less likely than Questionable players. As is the case with Questionable players, in some cases a player’s D status may not keep him off the roster but could lead to a weaker on-field performance.
“O” – Injured athletes listed with an “O” status are “Out” of the lineup for the next game.
Once an NFL team commits to listing a player as Out, it means they will not be playing in the next game – it also could mean an eventual move to the Injured Reserve list. Most O ratings won’t appear until later in the week or closer to a game’s start time, frustrating for bettors because a player’s status as Out impacts their strategy the most.
“IR” – The worst listing on a pro football injury report – IR stands for “Injured Reserve.”
Teams place athletes with long-term injuries on special lists called Injured Reserve lists. Generally, a player’s IR status means he is out for the entire season. A return from the IR list in the same season is a rare occurrence. Obviously, a team that loses a critical piece of its success to the IR list must be evaluated differently after the injury, considering the IR list usually means an entire seasons’ absence.
Using Injury Reports to Make NFL Picks
With as long as two weeks between some NFL games, bettors would be wise to watch the league’s injury reports and wait to place bets until any “questionable” or worse players are determined to be suiting up or not.
The best pro football bettors combine an ability to shop for the best line with the patience to wait for a clear picture of the outlook between two teams. Knowing what those team’s depth charts look like is a big part of the overall evaluation of a team – without knowing the status of injured or questionable players, a bettor isn’t able to make a confident pick.
An injury in the NFL may not affect a team’s overall performance as much as an injury in the NBA, where smaller team size means losing any single piece has an immediate impact. Of course, as in any league, the loss of an elite player like a starting QB or future Hall of Fame linebacker can change a team’s outlook, depending on the severity of the injury and how long it is expected to affect the athlete.