Re-Double Your Study of Defense

I'm now more convinced than ever that DEFENSE is going to be the decisive factor in determining success down the stretch and through the postseason in both college and pro football. That doesn't mean I believe games are about to become low scoring. But, the ability to get stops or force turnovers will be the DIFFERENCE-MAKER that separates the great from the very good.

Imagine everyone in pro tennis having a big serve. It's the guys who can also break serve who are going to win championships.

We've reached a point in the evolution of the sport where most offenses who know what they're doing can drive the field, or strike for big plays. That leads to shoot outs at both the college and pro levels when top teams square off. Even late-game "defense" involves offenses using their skills to run the clock out in these kinds of matchups (the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints are a master of this). It's like Dean Smith running the old four-corners at North Carolina back in the day. Call it the "four downs" offense that runs out the clock.

Now...there are still bad teams who can't move the ball. We saw that Thursday night with the Oakland Raiders...and in recent weeks with a few of NFL or college teams who are starting inexperienced quarterbacks or who have poor offensive lines. But, CONTENDERS can all score. And, there's not much real-world difference between one that averages 7.0 yards-per-play while marching down the field and another that averages 6.5 yards-per-play while doing the same thing. Both get to the end zone.

Last year's Super Bowl was a shootout between New England and Philadelphia. The Eagles' defense made more plays, got more stops, and won the championship. Get ready for a lot of THAT coming up in marquee matchups Saturdays and Sundays.

With that in mind, here's this week's homework.

*First, look up and study the "total defense" rankings for all 32 NFL teams and all the college teams in the sphere you handicap. If you only handicap your local conference, find out where those teams rank nationally at any of the stat websites. If you handicap the Power 5, look them all up. I will even make it an official assignment that you write down each team's defensive ranking on your schedules. You're going to watch West Virginia/Texas? Where do the defenses rank? Is Bears/Bills your local TV game on Sunday? What are their defensive rankings? Write them all down on your schedules or in your handicapping notes. Winning handicappers MUST focus on defense right now in any game they handicap.

*Next, for the same teams, grab defensive stats and rankings on third down conversion percentages. That's literally GETTING STOPS because preventing a conversion usually forces a punt or a field goal attempt. I'm always surprised at how many casual bettors here in Las Vegas will invest in teams that are BAD at this. They focus too much on the offense, and not enough on getting stops.

*Third, go to the turnover stats and look at takeaways per game. I'm not concerned with "turnover differential" here, because the focus is only on defense in today's discussion. Which defenses play aggressively and force mistakes? Which play passively and get bullied? Don't believe the old myth that turnovers are random in football. That was debunked long ago. Aggressive defenses force a lot more turnovers than passive ones do.

*Finally, try to decipher which teams toughen up in the red zone in a way that turns potential touchdowns into field goals. Red zone stats can be handy for this, but the sample sizes are very small and sometimes give false reads. In college football, the fact that defenses can shut down patsies in scoring territory in September doesn't mean they can do the same vs. better offenses in November. Consider using points-allowed-per-drive, or other metrics to isolate strengths and weaknesses.

I can promise you that you'll start seeing edges you had been missing before. You'll make fewer "bad" bets because you'll be culling vulnerable defenses. You'll make more "smart" bets because games perceived as market coin flips will no longer look that way to YOU.

I'm sure I'll talk more about this in the future. Particularly come playoff time. But, I didn't want to wait until the playoffs because the theme is going to matter throughout November too. I can't be too specific because I need to protect my service selections for may paying customers...but I'm confident it's going to be a big deal THIS WEEKEND!

If you'd like some help isolating the best football and basketball bets every day, 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 by calling my office at 1-800-755-2255 during normal business hours. I strongly encourage serious investors to consider multi-sport packages that have you in action every day. When you have an edge over the market, you want to profit from that whenever you can.

Back with you Tuesday with my first college basketball discussion of the new season. The Dean of Sports Handicapping knows you'll be watching that big TV doubleheader Tuesday November 6 featuring Michigan State vs. Kansas and Duke vs. Kentucky from Indianapolis on ESPN. Interesting matchups will fill out the rest of the week and month in the colleges. I'll provide homework that will get you up to speed quickly in this very popular betting sport. Then, it's back to football a week from today.

Thanks very much for your hard work and attendance. Best of luck to you this weekend.