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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, December 26, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Week 17 of an NFL season is, in many ways, the most difficult challenge that sports bettors and handicappers can face in the entire calendar season. Traditional strategies by themselves won’t work because there are so many unique circumstances in play.

*Some games feature a team that absolutely HAS to win vs. a team that has literally nothing at stake at all. How many points is that worth? Sometimes it’s a few touchdowns. Sometimes it’s hardly any. Sometimes that pressure is a NEGATIVE that causes a team to play well below its norms.

*Some games feature two teams who have absolutely nothing to play for. Are you confident you can guess who’s going to show up and who isn’t?

*Some games feature two teams who are already in the playoffs, but are jockeying for position. At first glance, you might think this is business as usual. But, part of jockeying for position involves the recognition that one or both teams will be playing again next week in one of the Wildcard games…and you can’t risk exhausting yourself for a PLAYOFF game just six or seven days in advance. Let’s say you think Detroit may give Green Bay a tussle this week in the battle for first place in the NFC North. If Detroit falls behind in the first half, can they really risk a failed comeback knowing that a road game is on deck next weekend. It’s likely that both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati will be playing again next week, on the heels of a Sunday Night game that will determine the AFC North champ. Can either afford to go at “playoff intensity” all the way through?

*Wait…I can’t forget to mention that many bad teams will be motivated to LOSE as they worry about position in the NFL draft. Are you sure who’s in the tank…and who is going to go for a win anyway because they don’t care if they’re #2 in the draft of #4?

Stat and trend handicappers have little relevant to go on this week because non-traditional elements will have a large impact in determining the final score. I, personally, will still have my eye on PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS…but that will be secondary to THE MOTIVATION FACTOR. Here’s my best advice for you do it yourselfers this Sunday.

*Reduce your play volume significantly. Don’t try to “play the board” just because it’s the last full week of the season and you want to have a party. I think every NFL bettor learns this lesson the hard way the first time they come across it. They believe they can “read the minds” of the coaches and quarterbacks. They start firing away at everyone who needs to win only to find out that the lines have adjusted or over-adjusted. I want to prevent YOU from making that mistake this weekend.

*Spend as much time as you can Friday and Saturday reading online coverage from the home newspapers of all 32 cities. See what the coaches are saying. See what the key players are saying. Do your best to get a read on the TRUE mindset of each team. Some will make their lack of enthusiasm clear. But, you might be surprised by how many non-contenders are still excited because they’re in good form of late and want to close strong.

*Go through every game, and make a determination on what the pointspread “would” have been if the game was played two weeks ago. This will help you determine the size of the adjustments that have already been made. For example, the New York Giants are -3 at home vs. Philadelphia as I write this. Not long ago, the Eagles might have been the three-point favorite on this same field. Maybe the market has adjusted properly…or maybe the hard-finishing Giants should be favored by any more. Just be sure you’re aware of adjustments that have already been made.

If you’d like some help with a conservative Week 17 approach that focuses mostly on saving big play investments for the very best options on the schedule, you can purchase daily BEST BETS or the postseason package right here at this very website with your major credit card. Questions about extended service can be answered personally by one of my representatives in the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155. Please call Friday afternoon, or Saturday before the bowls start for more information about postseason possibilities.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday week. Now that Christmas is behind us, we can focus on the big bowl games leading up to the annual New Year’s extravaganza. Our next class get-together here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping will be Monday…and I’ll talk more in depth about major bowl handicapping at that time. You can be sure I’ll devote some attention to the national semi-final games featuring Oregon vs. Florida State in the Rose Bowl, and Alabama vs. Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. The creation of a championship tournament has made the biggest day in college football postseason handicapping even bigger!

As always, the Dean of Sports Handicapping appreciates your hard work and attendance. Be sure you bet responsibly this weekend. See you next time.


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Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

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