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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, January 22, 2016 at 7:00 AM

Even though there are dozens of basketball games for sports bettors to attack between now and Sunday afternoon, the whole world is focused on those two big NFL Conference Championship games. Vegas sportsbooks have already been flooded with betting action in New England/Denver and Arizona/Carolina. The final handle will be staggering, particularly with what might be the last match up of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Those are probably the two most-bet quarterbacks in NFL history!

How should you handicap these games? You regulars already know about focusing on PLAYMAKERS AND GAMEBREAKERS as well as THE MOTIVATION FACTOR. No need to dwell on those any more. You know who matters. You know nobody’s going to be “flat” for a championship game. There’s a chance that Carolina will be overconfident. There’s a chance that Arizona will get frustrated by turf issues and lose some motivation. Both Brady and Manning have chips on their shoulder right now…so motivation is probably a wash in the AFC.

What else to look at? The Dean of Sports Handicapping encourages you to study these issues…



Don’t just look at yards-per-game and yards-per-play allowed. Look at high impact plays like takeaways and sacks. Frankly, I was surprised by how passive NFL defenses played last week. Most were content to sit back and dare the opposing offense to drive the field. The four survivors only forced five combined turnovers. Carolina did get a bunch of sacks against Russell Wilson…but that’s because he’s more prone to run than throw the ball away. I would expect less passivity this week. Who does that favor?



This could definitely be a tie-breaker this week because the four survivors are so evenly matched. Which team is more likely to break off a long return on a punt or kickoff? Which team’s punter has the best shot of pinning opponents deep in their own territory? Which field goal kicker could blink at just the wrong time? The bulk of media coverage is being given to the quarterbacks and the head coaches. YOU need to find that one additional GAMEBREAKER that will sway the straight up and ATS result.



Generally speaking, the public puts too much weight on what happened last week, while the growing set of quants who use advanced math put too much weight on what happened in the first half of the season. The “porridge” is just right, in my view, if you split that difference to get a read on recent form over the past several weeks. Throw out September and October. Respect last week while not over-valuing it. Spend some time focusing just on the stretch run and the playoff openers. You have time to do the following homework between now and Sunday’s kickoffs.

*Calculate average scores from the beginning of October onward

*Evaluate strength of schedule during that period

*Look at the defensive categories I just mentioned above, but only for this period

*Put more emphasis on what happened when playoff caliber teams faced each other

Clarifying the last point…the NY Jets were a playoff caliber team even though they just missed the brackets. It’s okay to include what New England did vs. the Jets as a decent playoff indicator. You may personally decide to include some other teams in that same light.



I emphasized this category for you back at the beginning of the playoffs. Even though the Seattle Seahawks may have been playing the best football of anyone entering the postseason…they were significantly neutralized by horrible weather in Minnesota (where they almost lost), and by horrible field conditions in Carolina (where they fell behind 31-0 in the first half before getting some traction).

For each of Sunday’s matchups, look at:




*Field Conditions

*Crowd influence (if any)

Obviously you have to throw altitude into the mix in Denver too. Ask yourself which sets of PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS are best suited to perform in those conditions. As much as I won with Seattle down the stretch, I still faded them in both playoff games because they weren’t suited to conditions. Is there a team this Sunday that’s going to be in real trouble because of wind or turf? Can Carolina get any distance from Arizona if the Cards have learned from Seattle’s mistakes? Think this through very carefully, particularly when you consider the Over/Unders.

If you’d like some help making your final decisions, KELSO STURGEON’S best bets can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters’ office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. Smart bettors will try to build their bankrolls between now and Sunday with some basketball. The more you win in the prelude…the more you can win when those championships are on the line.

Best of luck to you this weekend. I’ll be back on Monday to either review Sunday’s action or talk more about college basketball. I always try to read and react to real world developments to keep our coursework fresh and relevant. Thanks again for your attendance and hard work.


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Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

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