How Broncos QB Kendall Hinton Impacts Sunday’s Spread vs. Saints

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Just when we thought the NFL season couldn’t get any more “2020,” an undrafted practice squad wide receiver is slated to start Week 12 … at quarterback.

With the Broncos’ four QBs deemed ineligible to play against the Saints after Jeff Driskel tested positive for COVID-19 and the other three were identified as high-risk close contacts, former Wake Forest QB-turned-WR Kendall Hinton is getting the nod with less than 24 hours notice.

We know how sportsbooks have adjusted for the news — the Saints went from 6- to 7-point favorites earlier in the week to 16- to 16.5-point favorites as of 11:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, with the total plummeting to as low as 36.5 as of writing (compare real-time odds here).

But how are our experts accounting for the unprecedented news? Three of the five analysts whose models power our NFL PRO Projections weigh in below — including whether they’ll be betting the game at all.

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How Kendall Hinton Impacts Broncos Spread

Chris Raybon

  • Projections Before News: Saints -6; 45
  • Projections After News: Saints -10; 37

With Taysom Hill on one side and some mix of wide receiver Kendall Hinton and running back Royce Freeman on the other, we could see an unprecedented number of running plays for the modern era.

This game is tough to model, so I personally will be staying away. But if forced to choose a play, I would go under the total, as it’s likely that models using present-day data aren’t properly accounting for the effects of Denver not having a true QB, such as how remaining run heavy and/or passing extremely inefficiently in what would normally be considered “garbage time” or “prevent” situations where the offense can pick up easy yards through the air.

Stuckey

  • Projections Before News: Saints -4; 43
  • Projections After News: Saints -13; 35

I personally won’t be betting this game now.

Not only will the Broncos be starting a guy who practiced at WR all season, they also didn’t have any time to practice him at QB. You would think the Broncos would go extremely conservative with a run-heavy game plan, but they are also going up against a historically dominant rush defense that teams aren’t even trying to run on — that just throws another wrench into this situation.

I adjusted the Saints to -13, but there’s a lot of guess work involved.

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Raheem Palmer

  • Projections Before News: Saints -6.5; 45
  • Projections After News: Saints -14.5; 38

With Hinton at QB and the Broncos unable to practice, I’m moving to a market number because I don’t have any data to determine what he’s worth to the spread.

You have to assume that the Broncos will have a conservative and run-heavy game plan with Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay. Initially, I thought taking a shot on the under was the ideal play, but in today’s NFL — where the average total is 50 — you could cough and sneeze and go over a total this low. All it takes is a few turnovers.

I’m personally staying away from this game, but with such a low total, there is an argument for some value fading the line move and taking the Broncos at +16.5 as the spread is more than 40% of the total.

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