How NFL Backup Quarterbacks Have Done in 2023

NFL backup quarterbacks

The quarterback is often called the field general of the NFL team, but this season NFL backup quarterbacks have had more of the spotlight. That’s true for fans and customers at legal online sportsbooks alike.

It’s always been a high-profile position, and with players like Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert each signing contracts worth more than a quarter of a billion dollars, it shows just how much value teams put in their starters.

But while the offseason talk was about those megadeals, the chatter in the regular season has been about NFL backup quarterbacks in many cases. This season has seen stars like Burrow, Herbert, Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins suffer injuries that prematurely ended their seasons. The spotlight moved to the guy holding the clipboard when they went down, which often also affected odds at NFL betting sites.

This season has seen several backups shine, especially in primetime games. Jake Browning revived Cincinnati’s playoff hopes after Burrow injured his wrist, thanks in large part to his 32-of-37 passing performance for 354 yards in Cincinnati’s 34-31 overtime win Dec. 4 at Jacksonville. Then this past Monday, Seattle’s Drew Lock engineered a last-minute touchdown drive to secure the Seahawks’ victory at home over Philadelphia.

Performances like those have sparked debate on whether 2023 is actually the year of the backup quarterback, but do the stats back that up? USBettingReport.com took a look at how NFL backup quarterbacks have done, which is worth watching for bettors at legal sports betting apps.

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Not All NFL Backup Quarterbacks Successful

Using ProFootballReference.com, USBettingReport.com compiled statistics from the 2023 season to determine if NFL backup quarterbacks truly have been difference-makers. The results are mixed.

The fact is that for every Browning, who is 3-1 in four starts, or Joe Flacco, 2-1 in three starts for Cleveland, other backups have struggled. Zach Wilson is 4-7 in starts for the New York Jets since Aaron Rodgers suffered an Achilles’ rupture in the season opener. Nine backups are a collective 0-12 when pressed into starting duties for their teams.

Overall, backups are 37-56, for a winning percentage of .398, this season (all QBs not listed as Week 1 starter were included for our research). And how many NFL backup quarterbacks have been in the weekly top five passing leaders in any week? Only 12 of 75, or 16%.

Beyond the wins and losses, though, there’s also a question about their productivity, and again, the results are mixed.

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What To Watch For

Backups have shined the most in recent weeks. In weeks 13-15, QBs who had been second, third or fourth on the depth chart at one point in the season accounted for seven of the top spots, or 46.7%. In Week 15, Browning, Flacco and Minnesota’s Nick Mullens were among the league’s most prolific passers. Browning and Flacco also have been on the list twice in the past three weeks.

Still, there is something to be said for stability and keeping your starting quarterback healthy. The top eight teams in Super Bowl odds at BetMGM Sportsbook all have had a steady starter this season, including the betting favorite, the San Francisco 49ers (+220 odds) with Brock Purdy.

The discussion will linger through the rest of the regular season and perhaps into postseason play. Currently, the three teams holding the AFC wild card berths (the Browns, Bengals and Indianapolis Colts) all rely on backups. Houston and Pittsburgh – two of the teams just outside the playoff bubble – have also started reserves in some games.

NFC teams in playoff contention have endured fewer QB injuries than their AFC brethren, but the Minnesota Vikings and the Seahawks are battling it out for the seventh seed in that conference.

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Steve Bittenbender


Steve is an accomplished, award-winning communicator with over 20 years of experience in journalism, public relations/public affairs, marketing, and business development. He currently covers a diverse set of beats for several publications focusing on legislation, litigation, government regulation, and oversight. This includes commercial and tribal gaming, commercial fishing, and state and local government reporting.

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