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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Thursday, August 13, 2015 at 5:00 PM

As you’ve study this weekend’s NFL Preseason action, you’ve surely noted how many games are near what’s historically been considered the “key” number of “3.” Many games opened right on the home team -3. Others that opened lower moved toward the three. It’s very important that students here in my “College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping” don’t put too much emphasis on that number!

A few reasons why…

*Home field advantage is traditionally worth 3 during the regular season…in a league known for parity. That’s part of why so many games land right on the three. But, in the preseason, home field is worth more like -1.5 or -2 (except in cases where you know for sure that the home team is going to show up with motivation while the visitor could care less).

*Coaches don’t like playing for regulation ties because nobody wants overtime in August. That just creates the opportunity for injuries and keeps you from getting home and getting some rest. That means more two-point conversion attempts…or going for touchdowns rather than field goals late in close games. As a result, more games land on 1, 2, and 4 rather than 3 relative to the regular season.

*Rules changes this year will make extra points more difficult…which could also reduce the rate of fourth quarter ties. Games that might have been 17-17 in the fourth quarter in past seasons might be 17-16 this year because somebody missed a PAT. You know teams will be worrying about that in August.

I don’t want to suggest that the three is meaningless. It’s still partly a critical number because we will have some fourth quarter ties broken by field goals. But, the POWER of the three is smaller than you’re used to because it’s slightly less likely to show up.

In terms of your betting strategies, that means…

*Don’t take favorites of 1 to 2.5 points just because you figure a field goal win covers the spread for you. Those are less common. The “bailout” potential for surviving a disappointing effort from your team just isn’t there in the same way. If you’re going to lay points…do so because you either see blowout potential…or the chance for your backups to beat their backups by at least a touchdown.

*Don’t take underdogs right on the three just because you figure “the worst” that’s going to happen in a meaningless Preseason game is that you push. Remember…home field is worth less than three. Any time you see +3 right now…that means you’re taking the inferior team in the eyes of the market and hoping they stay close. “When in doubt, take the dog” may have been smart 10-20 years ago. Right now…you should only be taking dogs you think can win straight up…or who at least have the best of it with the projected late-game quarterbacks. Handicap the players, not the line! (Also, remember that some players who aren’t good enough to start are actually GAMEBREAKERS and PLAYMAKERS when only backups are on the field!).

The three still matters…but it doesn’t matter like it used to. In terms of finding really big bets of the 50-unit-plus variety…it’s barely part of the picture. You’re looking for THE MOTIVATION FACTOR and high impact players to help you cover by big margins. For “value” bettors….well, honestly, NFL Preseason isn’t a great place to bet “only” for value! Results skew too wildly so that the value of each point isn’t quite the same as in the regular season. Most of you reading this will be better served by passing a game entirely rather than trying to squeeze out fractional value.

You’re trying to become serious bettors. Our coursework isn’t about chasing leans.

If you’d like some help finding the best plays on the NFLX board each week, my personal service selections can be purchased 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. We won the season opener last Sunday when Minnesota (-3.5) cashed over Pittsburgh 14-3. I’m confident that’s a sign of things to come!

The Dean of Sports Handicapping will be back with you early next week for more football discussion. It will largely be NFL and college football coursework for the foreseeable future…checking in on baseball again in early October for the postseason. Thanks for your hard work and attention. Enjoy this first full weekend of NFL action!


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Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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