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The Challenges of Handicapping Brock Osweiler

This Sunday (November 29th), the Denver Broncos went up against the New England Patriots in their home stadium.  The Patriots were 10-0, and with the Broncos’ Peyton Manning sitting out the game, it seemed pretty unlikely that they’d win the game.  And yet if you were watching it, you know they did: 30 to 24.  They turned it all around in the second half, quite a surprise all told.


What is really interesting about this game from a handicapping perspective is Brock Osweiler.  Osweiler is the Broncos’ 25-year-old quarterback.  While he has been on the team for four years, he has served as an understudy that entire time, basically following Peyton Manning around and asking lots of questions.  In fact, according to ESPN, Osweiler has spent more time with Manning than any other player or coach currently with the Broncos. 


As a result of the fact that he had next to no actual experience on the field, no one had a clue how to handicap him.  There is a big difference after all between theory and practice.  Despite clocking plenty of observation time, he had few chances to take what he learned from one of the game’s all-time greats and put it in play.  On top of everything, he was going up against Tom Brady, who is one of the best of the best.  Brady himself derided the Broncos before the game, and has still refused to acknowledge that Osweiler bested him fair and square.


Handicapping Osweiler as a new quarterback was very challenging for anyone who tried, given the lack of play data.  Who would think that a player with scarcely any field experience would be able to take on a record-setting QB like Tom Brady and win?  You would have had to look at the time he has spent with Manning, the few examples we do have of his past performance, and his attitude.  While all of those were very positive signs, none of them could have prepared anyone for his groundbreaking debut on Sunday.


It is hard to draw a conclusive lesson from all this, save to say that this is a great example of something in sports that no one could have predicted—at least not on this scale.  There are certainly people who predicted Osweiler would play well and that the Broncos would win, but popular opinion was very much against it.  And no one could have guessed Osweiler would be amazing—except perhaps his teammates and coach.


Broncos linebacker Von Miller said, “He’s just Brock, he’s Brock, he’s the Brock we know.  Maybe everybody else didn’t know him, but we did.  We saw it every day, and now he’s just showing everybody else.”


This is a great reminder that no matter how much you do know about a sport or a team, there is a lot that you don’t know.  Until the other day, no one outside the Broncos really knew Brock Osweiler.  No matter how confident you are when you place a bet, there is always something you can’t predict.  It’s not always a fluke, and sometimes, it’s huge.


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