Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Thursday, January 15, 2015 at 1:00 PM
One championship was decided this past Monday Night when the Ohio State Buckeyes throttled Oregon for the college football crown. Two more are on the line this weekend in the NFL as the NFC and AFC Championships determine who will be playing in the Super Bowl two weeks from Sunday.
Handicapping the doubleheader shouldn’t provide too steep a challenge for most of you regular students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping. These are teams you’ve been following very closely all season. Three of the top four overall seeds are still playing, and the other entry has received a lot of media coverage. Still, it’s easy to get complacent and make “reflex” picks that might be leaving out key factors. Be sure you take the time to review your notes, the fundamentals, and the boxscores from last weekend to make sure you’re in synch with how these teams are playing right now.
PLAYMAKERS AND GAMEBREAKERS
All four quarterbacks are capable of making big plays that win championships. Three of the four have already won Super Bowls! Andrew Luck seems destined to win at least one himself, though he may still be too young to go the distance right now. My homework for you in this regard would be to evaluate how well each quarterback is likely to play this week vs. this opposing defense. How do they match up?
*Can Aaron Rodgers succeed in Seattle while battling a torn calf muscle?
*Can Russell Wilson continue to make bailout completions way downfield?
*Can Andrew Luck avoid turnovers on the road in the highest pressure game of his life?
*Can Tom Brady, who’s gone 10 years without a Super Bowl win, finally regain the magic that will take the Pats all the way this season?
Once you’ve done that work, study the impact running backs (or lack of impact running backs in some cases), and the receivers on each offense who gain the bulk of the yardage. Which teams hold the best poker hands with those cards?
THE MOTIVATION FACTOR
As I talked about the other night, this timeworn category for regular season handicapping often turns into “The Nervousness Factor” in championship battles where motivation is likely to be at a peak. Nobody’s going to be “flat” this weekend with a chance to go to the Super Bowl. You could argue that all four have chips on their shoulders and will be playing with something to prove. Who might self-destruct under pressure?
*Will hobbled Aaron Rodgers try to do too much against a great defense?
*Will Russell Wilson fizzle now that he’s EXPECTED to win championships?
*Will Andrew Luck crack in his first Conference Championship game?
*Can Tom Brady avoid temper tantrums on the sideline if things aren’t going his way?
Intangibles still play a big role in playoff games, even if THE MOTIVATION FACTOR doesn’t loom as large here as it does during the regular season. Who will the intangibles favor?
We haven’t really had much market activity so far this week. That could change between now and kickoff. Ideally, you’ll be making your minds up tonight after the guidance I’ve just given you. Then, you can monitor the markets through the weekend in case you’re concerned about price shopping.
*If you like Green Bay, you may want to wait to see if buy a little +7.5 now, and wait to see if you can get +8 or better with the rest of your planned investment. The public usually bets favorites in championship games. Those who bet Seattle as a favorite last week won (while those who bet Green Bay lost!).
*If you like Seattle, try to shop around for -7 now (a few places still showing that as I write this), because it’s likely to be the best price you’ll see unless Aaron Rodgers is shown break-dancing on the sidelines early in warm-ups.
*If you like Indianapolis, you may want to take the +7’s that are out there now, because early sharp money has been pushing the line down to +6.5 in many places. This suggests +7 is the best it’s going to get for dog lovers. Even if the public hits New England hard over the weekend, the Wise Guys will jump back in on the Colts at +7.
*If you like New England, take advantage of the -6.5’s you’re seeing out there just in case the public does drive the game to a solid seven before kickoff.
My personal releases will be at widely available lines at the time of release. You do-it-yourselfers have the freedom to play the market at any time during the full week’s betting window. If you’d like some help making your final decisions, you can purchase my Championship plays this weekend 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.
Ideally, you’ll be building your bankrolls for Sunday’s football with basketball between now and then. Be sure to ask about combination packages when you call the VSM office during normal business hours Thursday or Friday, or Saturday and Sunday before the first games start.
Our next class get-together will be Monday of next week. I’ll either be reading and reacting to Sunday’s NFL results if a major story develops, or talking about college basketball handicapping as we continue our transition to a hoops-heavy focus. Thanks again for your hard work. Best of luck making the right choices this weekend.
Be sure to follow:
Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon
Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters