NFL betting: The impact of losing J.K. Dobbins for Baltimore

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Preseason football reared its ugly head on Saturday night during the Baltimore Ravens' 37-3 win over the Washington Football Team. The Ravens set a record with their 20th consecutive preseason victory, but the only real takeaway from the game was the injury suffered by second-year starting running back J.K. Dobbins. 

After catching a screen pass, Dobbins was tackled awkwardly and crumpled to the ground. He was in immediate pain, and after a quick examination on the sidelines, he was carted off the field. Immediately, most suspected a bad injury. It's now been confirmed that Dobbins will miss the season due to a torn ACL. 

Dobbins' injury has tremendous impact for fantasy football purposes, but how much of an impact has it had on the betting market? Dobbins was +2500 to lead the league in rushing yards at BetMGM prior to the injury.

Ravens outlook is relatively unchanged

Dobbins is a young running back who flashed in the second half of his rookie season, thanks to an increased role. The 2020 second-round pick was considered to be the focal point of Baltimore's offense alongside Lamar Jackson in the backfield. Most were taking him in the second or third round of fantasy drafts. 

Despite this, the betting market on Baltimore has remained static with the news of Dobbins' injury. Baltimore is still +1400 to win the Super Bowl, tied for the fifth-best odds in the league. These are the exact same odds as last week. 

The Ravens are still the betting favorites to win the AFC North, coming in at +115 at BetMGM. The Cleveland Browns are +150 and the Pittsburgh Steelers are +425. The Cincinnati Bengals are bringing up the rear at +2500. Despite losing their starting running back, Baltimore is still viewed as the best team in a division that sent three teams to the playoffs last season. 

While fans often react to injuries strongly, the betting market doesn't. Outside of a quarterback, an injury won't do much to move a line, even if it's one of the league's more exciting running backs in a run-heavy offense. 

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 21: Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards (35) breaks a tackle during the preseason game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on August 21, 2021 in Charlotte, NC. (Photo by William Howard/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards (35) breaks a tackle during a 2021 preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. (William Howard/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Gus Edwards to the moon?

When a player goes down to injury, another player must step up. In this case, that player is Gus Edwards. Edwards is entering his fourth NFL season and he will now get his biggest opportunity to date. Even with Dobbins healthy and Mark Ingram playing a sizable role in the past, Edwards has made a positive impact over the past few seasons in a lesser role for the Ravens. 

Despite starting the season third on the depth chart, Edwards posted 723 rushing yards and six touchdowns in 2020. He averaged 5.0 yards per attempt, tied for sixth-best amongst all running backs. This mark was equal to Dalvin Cook's and better than Alvin Kamara's. Even in reduced roles, Edwards has posted at least 700 rushing yards in each of his first three seasons while averaging 5.2 yards per carry. 

Currently, Edwards sits at +5000 to win the league rushing crown. While Dobbins might be a bigger name and have more draft equity attached to him, the stark difference in these odds makes little sense. 

Edwards was always going to have a role in the Ravens' offense behind Dobbins, but will anyone have a significant role behind Edwards now? Justice Hill has just 70 carries and 285 rushing yards in his first two NFL seasons. Ty'Son Williams will be 25 years old by the time the season starts and he's never carried the ball in the NFL. Baltimore might bring in a veteran free agent or roster cut, but it's hard to envision anyone usurping Edwards as the lead back. 

Baltimore ran the ball over 55% of the time last season, which was the highest rate in the league. Jackson will obviously handle a significant percentage of those rushes, but Edwards will now find himself as the lead back in what once again projects as the league's most run-heavy offense. 

Edwards should easily eclipse 1,000 rushing yards this season. If you thought Dobbins was a good bet this season prior to his injury, Edwards is a screaming value at 50-1 to lead the league in rushing. Is it likely? No. Does it have better than a 2% chance of happening? I'd say so. 

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