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by Bryan Leonard - 11/18/2008
Successful handicappers, like profitable businesses, know the importance of flexibility. Business strategies that worked six months ago might not work now, with consumer tastes changing, interest rate adjustments or simple market shifts. Being flexible to changes is essential. Itâ€™s the same in sports handicapping. Sometimes teams start of 5-0 looking like a juggernaut, but injuries can change their strength in a hurry.
You have to make adjustments to their power rankings and match-up strengths and weaknesses accordingly. The Colts have been a good example the last two seasons, with a huge number of injuries piling up. A year ago, the loss of DE Dwight Freeney was one of many key players that have been lost. They replaced Freeney with Josh Thomas, who was in this fourth season, with only 3 starts, 6 sacks, and he was undrafted. Instead of Pro Bowl WR Marvin Harrison, they had to go with Aaron Moorehead and Craphonso Thorpe. Moorehead was undrafted, as well.
This season they opened with a lot of injuries on offense but have gotten healthy in the second half of the season. Unfortunately, the defense is now taking on injuries, most importantly, S Bob Sanders, the 2007 Defensive Player of the Year.
In the same way we look at injuries, one should be flexible about the weather. In September and October, the weather isnâ€™t really much of a concern for football teams, but November and December can be very different. Wind and rain have been prominent in the southeast, while the northeast has been getting blasted with some early winter cold. If you like to play football totals, cold and windy weather conditions should be fact No. 1 to examine.
Weather can affect even the best players. Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning has thrown 10 career touchdowns and eight interceptions in games where the temperature is between 21 and 40 degrees. Indoors, his TD-to-INT ratio is a stellar 182-75, outdoors itâ€™s 109-74. Others arenâ€™t bothered at all by the elements. Philadelphia QB Donovan McNabbâ€™s ratio is 54-23 in windy conditions, 17-9 when itâ€™s between 21 and 40 degrees and 12-4 in the rain.
The Lions and Vikings are northern teams that happen to play indoors, but teams like the Steelers, Pats, Bengals, Browns, Seahawks, Packers, Jets, Giants, Broncos, Ravens and Eagles play outdoors.
In addition, we can say goodbye to NFL bye weeks and hello to the stretch run. Some teams seem to turn it on down the stretch every year while others appear to run for the bus. The Green Bay Packers (38-13 in December the last 10 years), New England Patriots (35-13), Pittsburgh Steelers (33-17), Baltimore Ravens (27-19) and New York Giants (28-20) have had a strong stretch record of late. The opposite is true for the Cleveland Browns (10-30), Detroit Lions (11-37), Oakland Raiders (14-35) and Dallas Cowboys (18-30). Adjusting to changes on the football field is the only way to turn a consistent profit at the wagering window.