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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, December 10, 2018 at 1:00 PM

Earlier this season, it felt like the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs were on a collision course for the Super Bowl. Then, the New Orleans Saints replaced the Rams, New England started looking like its old selves on the scoreboard, and a little doubt was cast on who would play in the big game.

With three weeks left in the regular season, there’s now A LOT of doubt about who will play in the big game.

*The Los Angeles Rams continue to be overrated by the market (2-7-1 ATS their last 10 games), and unable to get meaningful scoreboard distance from quality opposition. They’ve also lost road games to both New Orleans and Chicago.

*Kansas City lost a key player that shouldn’t have been on the roster in the first place according to league rules. That’s knocked them back a step or two, in a conference were a few teams were within a step or two of them. Baltimore just took the Chiefs to overtime at Arrowhead with a backup quarterback.

*New Orleans cooled off tremendously from earlier heights. And, the Cowboys showed two weeks ago that a good defense CAN disrupt Drew Brees. There will be some good defenses in the NFC brackets.

*New England looks like garbage on the road unless it’s playing the Jets or Bills, and is far from a sure thing to win playoff games at home.

As the big four stumble, up-and-comers like the Bears and Los Angeles Chargers are making noise. Pittsburgh has veteran experience. The winner of the AFC South is going to be a tough out if not a great Super Bowl choice. Whoever wins wildcards in both conferences will be capable of playing spoiler.

Normally we don’t talk about betting futures prices here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping. And, we’re not going to start today! You don’t get true odds on futures bets. You’re almost always better off just betting your chosen team to win its way through the playoffs. If you’re wrong, you’ll lose either way. If you’re right, you’ll win more going game by game.

But, I do want you thinking about what it’s going to take to thrive in the playoffs…and recognize that many teams NOW must begin playoff mode. None of the favorites have so much margin for error that they can relax. Even New England, who should have locked down the AFC East already, only has a two game lead over Miami after Sunday’s “miracle.” Teams are either fighting for top seeds, fighting for home field, or fighting to get into the playoffs.

Your homework today is to evaluate all the contenders in the following areas:

*Defensive yards-per-play

*Defensive red zone performance

*Defensive ability to sack QBs and force turnovers

*Offensive yards-per-pass

*Offensive red zone performance

*Offensive ability to AVOID sacks and giveaways

At the very least, make a list of all the possible contenders, then write down their rankings in those categories. Make it a beauty pageant if you want and judge each team to determine the likely conference winners. I’d prefer you go more in depth. I’d like you to evaluate what happens in those categories when contenders play each other. Some teams are running up their stats vs. the weaklings on their schedules. That won’t matter in January when all the weaklings are home watching games on TV with the rest of us. Who can get the job done in games that matter vs. non-pushovers? Who turns mortal? Who only looks good at home but can’t thrive on the road?

Answer those questions now…and you’ll be picking bonus winners these next three weeks as well as when the playoffs begin.

What if NOBODY jumps off the page at you after an in-depth analysis? That’s not wasted time. That’s information suggesting you should focus on underdogs in big games (never a bad idea, anyway). There have been a slew of “false favorites” the past couple of weeks in pro football. It’s possible that we see that continue into January. All depends on the vulnerabilities of the bye teams.

Now, if you have some extra time on your hands, it would be a good use of your time and resources to evaluate those categories for all the COLLEGE BOWL teams. Action starts this weekend. I’ll talk more about that at the end of the week. Needless to say, knowing which teams get the best of turnover differential and red zone performance is going to help you through the college postseason. Do you think oddsmakers or the general public knows that stuff about the Sun Belt, MAC or Mountain West teams about to take the field?

Hard workers are rewarded in the field of sports wagering. If you don’t have the time or energy to pull that off right now, KELSO STURGEON’S top plays can always be purchased at this website by credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters office by calling my office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. You always get the most bang for your buck on longer term packages.

The Dean of Sports Handicapping will discuss more bowl handicapping strategies in our next class get-together Friday. That will be just in time for the SIX bowl games scheduled for Saturday, including the Las Vegas Bowl to be played right here in my backyard. Though most major conference teams won’t hit the field until after Christmas, there’s a lot of money to be made in all the mid-major “preliminaries” if you focus on the right keys.

Thanks for your attendance and hard work. See you at the usual time Friday.  

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