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Read the News

   by Al McMordie - 12/27/2004

This is a good week to read the newspapers. Not your hometown local news, but the Internet to read up on NFL teams. You should do this all the time, of course, but if you generally don’t, this is a particularly good week to break your habit and read newspapers of every NFL city. Some teams will be playing as if their postseason life depended on the outcome of the regular season finale. Other teams will not be as interested in playing, and may even bench key players.

Denver, for example, got a huge boost this past weekend with its big victory at Tennessee combined with the Jaguars' loss at home to the Texans. The Broncos now control their own destiny for getting into the playoffs and – before Sunday – the cards were stacked against them.

You can learn a lot by reading local beat writers who regularly cover a team. It’s their job to unearth lots of data, quotes and tidbits regarding a team, such as who is banged up, and quotes from players about how things are going in practice. It’s a smart handicapper’s job to cull this information in search of wagering value. It was printed in several Philadelphia newspapers, for example, that Eagles' coach Andy Reid will be resting many of his key players for the last two games. Philly has already locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC and they certainly don’t want to lose any more players after getting stung by the loss of WR Terrell Owens last week. You can identify potential second half wagers, for instance, with teams that may play their starters in the first half and then bench them in the second.

Another factor that can aid a capper is injuries. I read that Tennessee QB Billy Volek hurt his knee in Saturday’s loss to Denver. Now, the injury might not be serious enough to keep him out of next week’s game, but it’s possible that the coaching staff may go with their third-string quarterback since the game is meaningless. This might not be the case in the middle of the season, as players often play with limps, bumps and bruises. But in the final game, that could change with so little at stake. In short, some coaching staffs already out of it might think more of protecting a player's health, and take an early evaluation of backup players for next year's roster. If you find any key players nursing an injury, keep tabs through the papers daily to see if you can gauge whether that athlete will play, whether he’s 100 percent, or if he might sit.

Quotes from players and coaches can be valuable, too. If a team is off a devastating loss (like the Jaguars on Sunday), see what players are saying during the week. They might be emotionally out of it. Other players might speak of the importance of an upcoming game, or perhaps even have revenge on their minds if they were embarrassed the year before. It will be interesting to see if that’s the case with the Broncos, who host the Colts. You may recall in January when the Colts knocked Denver out of the playoffs in a 41-10 rout.

The important point is that handicapping and analyzing games doesn’t just happen on Friday, two days before the opening kickoff. You can find key information all week long that can help you beat the spread on game-day! Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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