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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 2:11 PM

I’ve talked a lot in recent days about the importance of recognizing gamebreakers in college and pro football, and then uncovering mismatches where one team has them and the other doesn’t. This has been the key to my recent very hot streak on the gridiron…and my decades of success in this industry.

To some, this may seem like it’s the opposite of Advanced Handicapping. Anyone can pick the best teams to beat the worst teams. What’s so advanced about that?

That’s not what I’m doing. Yes, many of my 100-unit and 200-unit releases do involved mismatches that seem obvious in retrospect. But, I’m clearly passing the vast majority of games that are projected to be blowouts. And, you’ll note that I’m generally finding games that WEREN’T expected to be the biggest blowouts of the day. Washington over Colorado wasn’t a national power against a mid-major cupcake. The Buffalo Bills over the Washington Redskins had a Vegas spread of less than a touchdown.

Playmakers

Intangibles favoring the team with more playmakers

Line Value!

It’s those two factors working in harmony that create the best betting situations. Any two of those factors can yield a release for my clients. But, it takes all three (and usually some additional aces up my sleeve) for a game to become a 100-unit or 200-unit mega play.

Today let’s focus on playmakers. A new week of football is about to get started in earnest Thursday Night with Jets/Broncos in the NFL and three games in college football. Then we have two more games Friday Night in the colleges before the full weekend card gets going. I challenge you to, right now, make a list of gamebreaker athletes on each team taking the field. If you don’t have time for that, focus on a set of games that you do have time for…maybe just the NFL this week…or maybe your one or two favorite college conferences.

Some keys to remember:

*You want running backs who can bust long runs and take it to the house. Possession backs aren’t playmakers in terms of covering Vegas pointspreads, unless you’re looking for value underdogs. Look for explosive running backs.

*You want receivers who can either fly past the secondary, or make moves once they’ve caught the ball that add a lot of production. I’m not looking for guys who catch the ball and head straight out of bounds. Find receivers who get you to the end zone.

*You want quarterbacks who are either great passers, or who are dual threats who can break off long runs on scrambles or bootlegs around the end. Many college football quarterbacks are neither, which is why I have so many big releases each week in the colleges. But, even in the NFL, you have some quarterbacks who just don’t scare anybody. Fading the Washington Redskins has made us a fortune in recent weeks because they don’t have a quarterback, and their best playmaker was lost to the season with an injury.

*Some teams have tight ends who are also playmakers. It would behoove you to know who these teams are because that’s often the tie-breaker in a close game. It’s unlikely that I’ll have a Game of the Year release keyed by a tight end. But, my record on TV games has been so strong over the years because I account for EVERY playmaker while pondering line value.

*Special Teams play can’t be left out. Devin Hester is one of the best playmakers in the NFL…but most of that comes on punt or kickoff returns. Special Teams scoring often adds 7-14 “bonus” points in college blowouts whenever talented teams face non-entities. This is one of the problems many stat modeling systems have. The yardage doesn’t suggest a big pointspread…computers would be smarter if you told them about speedy return men!

*Occasionally, there are also great defenses that I will count as a playmaker. I’m looking for defenses who force turnovers and set up cheap points on a consistent basis. Now, don’t start awarding credit willy-nilly here. Everybody lucks into a defensive touchdown occasionally. Be sure you’re focused on the teams who make a habit of it…particularly when they’re matched against mistake-prone quarterbacks.

If you’ve been handicapping football for any length of time, I’m guessing you already look at many of the intangibles that are in play…and that you already have fairly good gut instincts for line value. But, for some reason, you’ve been conditioned to think that betting on talented teams is a sign of weakness, and “true” intelligence comes from grinding out underdogs who make up for a lack of talent with guts and character. Hey, I like underdogs too. TCU was my DOG OF THE YEAR when they upset Boise State last Saturday. Do you want to grind for a little money? Or, step up big with the biggest proven edges and make a lot of money?!

Pay extra attention to playmakers this weekend, and you’ll see the results immediately.

Thanks for reading this entry in my continuing College of Advanced Handicapping course. I’ll be back again early next week for another report. As promised, it’s been A NOVEMBER TO REMEMBER already…and we just passed the midway point of the month

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