Dress Rehearsals Were Awful!

I have to say that was one of the worst weekends of pro football I've ever watched in my life. Yes, I know it was the preseason...but it was the worst week of preseason football I've ever watched in my life!

At least, in earlier exhibitions this month you got the sense that many players were fighting to win jobs. Even if they knew they were destined to be cut (or squeezed out) by their current team, they could latch on elsewhere. Remember all those high scoring early games with second, third, and fourth-team quarterbacks putting up big numbers.

But, when it came time for teams to "simulate" the regular season in the traditional Week Three dress rehearsal, the focus seemed to be on:

*Avoiding injuries
*Settling for field goal attempts
*Running out the clock

We can all hope that's a reflection of conservative approaches from head coaches who want to keep their stars healthy. What worries me is that those same principals could be used once the season starts for real in September. You have to keep your quarterback and receivers healthy then too. You also might try to win low scoring games with a bunch of field goals. Obviously you want to run out the clock with a lead. What if THIS is what pro football is about to become? Heaven forbid.

I don't want anyone to think I'm speaking from a position of sour grapes. My service won its top football release this past weekend with a 25-unit play on Arizona (-2.5) over Dallas 27-3. And, my top play overall was a 100-unit baseball winner on Oakland over Minnesota Saturday 6-2. I'm concerned about the future of a sport I've loved to handicap for decades. And, I'm worried this new timidity will limit the value of what's always worked so well.

For example, how can PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS do their damage if the head coach is asking quarterbacks to dink and dunk all day before receivers sprint out of bounds or dive to the ground right away when they catch the ball? How can clearly superior teams win by impressive margins if the top priority in the second half is to run clock, punt, and trust your defense?

And, what if THE MOTIVATION FACTOR gets neutered because staying healthy is now more important than revenge, or bouncing back after a loss, or sending a message to the league?

Don't worry, KELSO STURGEON isn't telling you the sky is falling. But, I will be watching these issues very closely. And, I'm open go to making some tweaks because skilled talent will win out no matter what the "game" is.

*Maybe, moving forward, PLAYMAKERS are the guys who can move the chains rather than failing on third down. Possession receivers will be more important deep threats. Smart quarterbacks with quick reaction times will be more important than the classic tall, strong-armed prototype.

*Maybe GAMEBREAKERS will be the best defenders. Those who get sacks to force punts (or create turnovers). Secondaries that are in the right place at the right time.

Making plays and breaking open games will be done differently. Finding the players who can do thrive in this new world will still help you beat the oddsmakers.

Here's your homework for this week. Go back and review SACKS from last season, both from an offensive and defensive perspective.

*Offenses who get sacked a lot are going to suffer quarterback injuries (it's unavoidable) and are going to have more stalled drives than opponents. Even if a sack doesn't cause a turnover on that play, those are virtual turnovers because they usually force the team to punt...or to try a field goal rather than driving for a TD. This may be the most important indicator stat for offenses in 2018. Sacks allowed and third down conversion rate could be the top two.

*Defenses who sack opposing quarterbacks the most will have the greatest control of their destiny. How can any team win if their opponent has all day to do whatever it wants?

Have this information from 2017 handy as you prepare to handicap the season openers after Labor Day. Record sack data from every box score in your handy schedules or in a separate notebook as 2018 progresses. Make yourself an EXPERT on sacks.

Now, I will have a few NFL selections this week in the exhibition closers. But, they won't be tied to first string talent unless there's a spot where a head coach announces his starters will play more than expected. I'm not expecting that. Last week was rife with the opposite...coaches deciding NOT to do a dress rehearsal on offense. Of course, the college football slate is loaded this week, as the full season gets underway across the country.

If you'd like some help finding the smartest bets on the board, 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 office at 1-800-755-2255 during normal business hours. Full season packages are always your best option because you get the most bang for your buck. Combining football with the rest of baseball makes that principle even more powerful.

You've got your homework. Get busy! The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your attendance and hard work. See you again at the end of the week for our next class get-together.