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What is Depth in Sports?

When you are analysing a sports team, it is important not only to pay attention to the starters, but the secondary and tertiary players as well.  In the sports world, we talk a lot about “depth.”  If you are new to following team sports and not just to sports betting, you may not be very familiar with the concept.


When we say that a team “has depth,” we are saying that the non-starters are strong.  Sometimes we also talk about a specific part of the team.  For example, a team may not have great offensive depth, but may have great defensive depth.  Depth ensures that a team will perform well not only now, but later down the line as the season unfolds.  Depth applies to any team sport where there are backup players.  So whether you are following football, hockey, baseball, basketball, or NFL, depth is an important consideration.  


How can you analyse depth?  For a team that you are trying to handicap, look up the depth chart.  This will show you the placements of both the starters and the backup players.  Usually you will find the starters listed along the top.  The backups will be listed beneath them.  The layout of the chart may also reflect the actual positions. 


Why is depth so important?  At the start of the season, teams field their star players.  As the season progresses, there are changes.  Star players may need rest, and teams may decide to reserve their power for key games.  Other times, starters may get injured and have to sit weeks out of the season.  On occasions when injuries are really bad, they may be out for the entire season. 


When that happens, the team has to fill those positions with the backup players.  That means that partway through a season, there may be a lot of starters sitting out.  This may even be the case during championship games.  As you can imagine, a team with excellent starters but no depth is going to suffer when they have to rely on those backup players.


A team with great depth on the other hand does not have to panic (at least, not too much!) when a starter has to sit out a game.  A strong backup will keep the team’s performance strong.  He will be able to fill the gap until the starter returns—or even play through the rest of the season successfully.


If a team lacks depth, you need to concern yourself about their long-term potential for the season.  They may get off to a flying start and then fall apart as the season unfolds and they start getting injuries.  If a team has awesome depth, they have a much better chance at making it to the playoffs and even playing the championship game at the end of the season.  They may even have a better overall shot than a team with better starters which lacks depth!

Also read here other ways to assess a football team's form.


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