The 2012 NFL season is only two weeks old and there have already been a ton of scrambling going on from the players, the coaches, the league, and even the oddsmakers. What’s the biggest reason behind all of this?
Look no further than on the men – and woman – wearing the stripes.
By now, you probably know that the NFL is being officiated by a group of replacement officials whose backgrounds don’t exactly scream credibility. Some are from Division III football, some are from high school football, and even one of them is from the Lingerie Football League. Lingerie Football League, everybody! For the most part, these replacement referees have done an adequate job in their high-pressure gig. Sure, there have been some dumbfounding calls in the first two weeks of action and the lack of control and procedural know-how have reared their ugly heads from time to time. But these refs haven’t been too bad, at least if you’re expectations of them were low to begin with.
But if there’s one circle that has had to scramble the most with the use of replacement refs in the league, it’s the oddsmakers. Like any other team sport with an attached gambling line to it, the officials play a critical part in determine the lines that come out for games. With the locked out refs, a lot of whom have served years upon years as officials in the league, there was that recognition of tendencies and relationships that oddsmakers can point their fingers at to determine how to breakdown a particular matchup and the subsequent line that will be released on that game.
But with these replacement refs, you can pretty much throw the entire textbook out the window. While the lines haven’t been dramatically altered in the first two weeks of the season, oddsmakers are getting a little concerned that replacement refs will have a bigger factor on the games than previously thought. Mike Colbert of Cantor Gaming even told the Washington Post that if the season continues with these replacement refs at the help, it could swing the lines for a number of games that wouldn’t have otherwise happened if the regular refs were in charge of officiating the games.
“It’s starting to concern us a bit,” Colbert said. “Officials should have no influence on the total or the side.”
To be fair, the sample size is still pretty small, but if you’ve been watching some of the games and look at how the replacement refs are calling them, subtle hints on how they interpret a penalty could make for a huge headache for a lot of oddsmakers. Even procedural mistakes like spotting the ball on the wrong spot or stopping the clock when it should be running accounts for a dramatic change in in-game variables that could adversely affect the final score of the game.
It’s going to be a headache for oddsmakers and according to Colbert, a lot of guesswork will be done in the coming weeks to create lines that account for replacement refs taking the field and calling the games.
Suffice to say, oddsmakers have their work cut out for them this season. And with the amount of money being bet on NFL games on a weekly basis, these guys have to be as sharp as they’ve ever been if they want to successfully account for the “variable change” that are the replacement referees.