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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 7:33 PM

The month of December brings unique challenges to pro football handicapping. I’ve put together some principals of Advanced Handicapping that you must consider from this point forward as you try to pick winners against the Las Vegas numbers.

The most important element to remember now is that WEATHER comes into play in the Northeast and Midwest in terms of colder temperatures, the chance for precipitation, and often increased winds. It can also get rainy in California in some years, which really messes up the fields in Oakland and San Francisco. The game changes when the conditions change!

*Great quarterbacks have trouble throwing downfield accurately in high winds, particularly when it’s very cold. This can take some playmakers out of the game…turning what seem like good bets on paper into bad bets.

*Great defenses become even more potent because it’s so hard to do anything downfield in weather games. Scoring on Pittsburgh is tough enough in the best of conditions.

*Teams who are out of the playoff race often lose their spirit in games like this. They just don’t have the heart to battle through the conditions because nothing important is at stake. You don’t want to invest in a dog that makes sense in the numbers if they’re just going to go through the motions in cold rain.

Global warming looks to have pushed back the coldest of conditions until later in the month. We’re seeing a lot of games in the 50’s this week that would have been in the 40’s in past years. But, there are some wind concerns across the league. Let me briefly run through some notes about today’s conditions…using home sites in schedule order:

BUFFALO: 51, but very windy

CHICAGO: 43, and very windy

MIAMI: 79, but a chance for rain and some high winds

CLEVELAND: 52, but very windy

Things are better than you might expect in Pittsburgh, New York and New England, but Advanced Handicapping requires that you adjust for the impact of wind on the games in the cities I mentioned.

The second most important thing to remember in December is MOTIVATION. I generally give professional athletes the respect of assuming they’re going to show up and earn their money each week. But, you often see in December that teams pick their spots for their best efforts. We’re in the final month of a long grinding season. Bad teams are ready for it to be over. Top teams don’t want to peak too early because there’s no prize for being the kings of December. Many elite teams will pull back a bit to save themselves for the playoffs.

NFL teams tend to poritize games this way in December.

1…any game that will help get them INTO the playoffs (teams have proven that they’re much more interested about getting into the postseason than they are worried about their position in the seedings). You’ll get peak motivation from teams trying to clinch playoff spots.

2…games against divisional rivals. Even bad teams will show up for their rivals, either because of bad blood that happened in the first meeting this year…or because of an intensity that dates back a few seasons. Be cautious backing bad teams in games that don’t get their juices flowing. But, some will be live dogs vs. divisional foes (as Cleveland was last week vs. Cincinnati for example

Teams are LEAST motivated about:

1…games that have no relevant influence in the standings or playoff picture.

2…games that come against non-conference opponents who they only see once every four years…

3…games that are played outside their home climate (don’t ask a team from the South to win for you in the snow!).

I’d advised you to use a scale of 1-10 to rank the importance of every game on the schedule for each team. You will find some motivational mismatches that are worthy of your betting attention at Las Vegas sportsbooks. Can you find any today?

I’ll talk more about NFL handicapping in the coming weeks of course. We have a short break between the end of the college football season and the start of the bowls…and that will allow us more time to go in depth in the pro’s. I’ll also have room now to devote to college basketball as well. I greatly appreciate all of you checking in for these online installments from my College of Advanced Handicapping. Be sure you watch my latest videos here at the website for big play bulletins and other major developments.

I do have some big plays planned for Sunday’s NFL card. Those games can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. See you again early next week for my next report.

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