The NFL is now officially the Arena League.
Philadelphia’s absurd 59-point outburst on Monday Night Football was the coup de grace for what was another record-setting weekend off offensive output in the NFL. The game, as we know it, has changed.
Scoring is not optional in the NFL these days. Every team looks like it’s running a seven-on-seven drill each Sunday, and I don’t think I’ve seen a defense make a stand since Week 3. Last season the Saints were ringing up more than 31 points per game and three other teams were good for 28 or more each week, on average. This year just two teams – the Patriots and, now, the Eagles are over 28.0 – are topping the 28.0 plateau each week and I don’t know that anyone can say that there is one dominant offense in the entire league.
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Yet, no one can stop scoring. And whether it’s something to do with talent, rule changes, or the increasing pussy-fication of the league, there is simply nothing stopping these teams from putting up points and going ‘over’ the posted total at record-setting rates.
For the season the ‘over’ has hit at a 58.5 percent rate. That is absolutely unbelievable. But it gets better: over the last 30 days the ‘over’ has hit at a 64.7 percent clip and in the last eight days the ‘over’ is a ridiculous 12-3 (80 percent). If I walked in and handed you an 80-percent NFL betting system, or even one at 60 percent, you would think I was the Messiah himself. Well, look no further.
What is most stunning is that the books have been so slow to adjust to this totals domination. Especially when the ‘over’ is the play of the public. Totals are still being rolled out in the same usual ranges – low 40s – and I haven’t seen any variance in the total numbers that you know we’d see in spreads if a 64-percent trend had popped up.
It’s like the 2010 playoffs all over again: bet ‘over’ and don’t think twice. We will see if it continues. But to this point I haven’t seen anything in this week’s numbers to suggest we’ll be set for an ‘under’ run any time soon.
Here are my Week 11 NFL Power Rankings:
1. New England Patriots (7-2) – I can’t believe it either. I really don’t see how the Patriots could be the best team in football. But how do you bet against them? New England has actually done its best Indianapolis impression this year. By that I mean that they have been able to play terrible, bend-but-don’t-break-too-much defense and still win because of exceptional coaching and quarterback play. New England is 4-1-1 ATS in its last six games but the Pats are just 1-5 ATS in the last six against Indianapolis.
2. New York Jets (7-2) – It’s pretty amazing: the Jets have basically been outplayed in each of their last four games – at Denver, vs. Green Bay, at Detroit and at Cleveland – yet they have moved up to the No. 2 slot in the league. The Jets have gone an amazing 7-1 against the total in their last eight games. The improved play of Matt Sanchez is quantifiable and the improved talent at the skill positions is paying dividends. Also, there is no doubting the Jets defense isn’t as unbreakable as last year. And they’ll get one of their stiffest tests this week against the Texans.
3. Atlanta Falcons (7-2) – All the Falcons do is make plays. They have a great system and this team has been excellent at executing in tight places. They are starting to have the look of a “destiny” team. They don’t have the catchy back-story, but they simply keep finding ways to win games and keep finding ways to catch breaks (like that non-pass interference call on the game-winner last Thursday.) in big spots. Atlanta is 9-4 ATS overall and they are 5-2 ATS on the road. They are also a solid 6-2 ATS as a road favorite of a field goal or less.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) – I’m starting to slide the Steelers into the same category with the Giants. Who has this team beaten? Their best win was in OT in Week 1 over Atlanta, but that game was really a great situation for Pittsburgh and the crowd was able to will that team to a win. But past that they have come up small in their three biggest games (Baltimore, at New Orleans, New England). Pittsburgh is just 2-5-1 ATS at home and if they don’t find a way to protect Big Ben this week the Raiders will make them pay. The ‘over’ is 52-24-3 in Pittsburgh’s last 79 home games.
5. Baltimore Ravens (6-3) – I know I have said this before, but I’ll say it again: I have serious, serious questions about John Harbaugh as a coach. There are just too many instances where this team isn’t prepared, plays sloppy on the road, or makes critical errors that cost them wins. I think that they have been an underachiever the past two seasons. Also, Joe Flacco looks like he is regressing a bit. His accuracy is really going down the toilet.
6. New York Giants (6-3) – Steve Smith will miss the next month and that is definitely a blow to this team’s passing attack. If the Giants get caught trying to play the speed game against the Eagles they are going to get run this Sunday night. New York needs to go back to its roots and try to pound the Eagles on both lines of scrimmage. Only one of New York’s six wins this year has come against a team that currently has a winning record. And that was against not-as-good-as-you-think Chicago in a spot where the G-Men had a great situational edge.
7. New Orleans Saints (6-3) – I have to think that the bye week came at the perfect time for the Saints. This team has been up-and-down and on cruise control for most of the season. But Atlanta is a real threat and now we’re into the no-joke stretch run. Those two factors should be enough to grab this team’s attention and get them to start to play their A-game. The Saints are just 1-6 ATS as a double-digit favorite and just 5-13 ATS in conference games.
8. Green Bay Packers (6-3) – Last year the Packers were swept by the Vikings and had their hearts ripped out by the Brett Favre Comeback Machine. Now they have a chance to drive a stake through Favre’s career and Minnesota’s near-lifeless season. With two weeks to prepare how stoked do you think this team is going to be this weekend? Green Bay’s offense has been significantly worse on the road this season (scoring eight points fewer each week). But their defense has also been much better, surrendering just 14 points per game. Green Bay is 12-5-1 ATS in its last 18 overall and 22-10-1 ATS in their last 33 road games.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (6-3) – I am trying not to get swept up in Vick-mania. It’s impossible not to admit that he has looked dominating in stretches this season and that he is a legit MVP candidate. But I’ll leave all the gushing and slobbering over him to the mainstream media. This is a good team that has stood tall to an exceptional schedule. But I still think bigger, stronger teams can push them around. The good news is that other than Dallas and perhaps the Giants, there aren’t any of those left on the schedule. Philadelphia is 4-0 SU and ATS in the last four against the G-Men, but the road team has gone 5-1 in those meetings.
10. Indianapolis Colts (6-3) – The underdog is 11-3-2 ATS in the Colts-Patriots series. That said, I am actually surprised that the Colts weren’t catching 4.0 or 5.0 points from the Pats this week. Indianapolis is 12-4-2 ATS in its last 18 road games and they are 9-1-2 ATS against a team with a winning record. As beat up as this team is the injury report has but one name on it: Bob Sanders.
11. San Diego Chargers (4-5) – The Chargers are just 5-4 SU coming out of a bye week, yet they are massive favorites this week on Monday Night Football. A big part of that is that they are 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight games against the Broncos. As well as the fact that the “idea” of San Diego is more potent than the actual team right now. These guys still haven't fixed the special teams and I have seen a steady decline in the defense's toughness over the last month. Be wary of trusting them too much.
12. Miami Dolphins (5-4) – Jake Long dislocated his shoulder, yet is still going to try to play on Thursday against Chicago. I don’t see how that will be possible and that will be a big loss for the Fins. I don’t have much doubt about Tyler Thigpen. He has always been an NFLX All-Star and he was surprisingly effective as a starter with Kansas City two years ago. He is very mobile and I don’t think it’s going to have a huge impact on Miami’s run-first mentality.
13. Tennessee Titans (5-4) – Randy Moss just continues to lose everywhere he goes this year. That’s not an accident. That said, Chris Johnson’s 6.9 yards per carry average was his best of the season, and that may not be an accident either. Kerry Collins is out, so now Tennessee is just one Vince Young twisted knee away from trotting out Rusty Smith. The Titans are back in their worst role this week: favorite of less than 10 points. They are just 17-40 ATS in their last 57 games laying chalk.
14. Kansas City Chiefs (5-4) – Apparently the Chiefs need to work on handling success. You could tell last week in Denver that their heads were actually still in Oakland. That 20-point loss was embarrassing. But that’s now three straight ATS losses – all as favorites – and Kansas City is just 1-3 ATS laying points this year.
15. Chicago Bears (6-3) – Maybe I am selling this team short. Chicago’s defense continues to find ways to get it done and the Bears keep beating teams that they are supposed to. Since coming out of the bye week Chicago has given up just four sacks in two weeks. Prior to that they had surrendered 29 in seven games. If Chicago is going to make a move and stay in the NFC race they need to keep stringing back-to-back efforts together. This team is just 10-22-1 ATS the week after a win.
16. Washington Redskins (4-5) – I don’t even know what to say about this disaster right now. I am not a McNabb sympathizer. No one watching him play right now could possibly think that he’s getting the job done. But I still don’t think that Kyle Shanahan has any idea what he’s doing and I think he’s done a horrible job adapting his style to the team’s talent. This offensive line can’t pass protect for a damn. But instead of plowing forward, running the ball, and resting/relying on the defense they keep trying to throw the ball 45-plus times per game.
17. Houston Texans (4-5) – it’s going to be rough for Houston to bounce back from last week’s just brutal beat in Jacksonville. Houston is now on a five-game ATS losing streak and they are just 2-5 SU in their last seven games. I’m sorry, which NFL handicapper was it at the start of the year that suggested that this team wasn’t for real? The ‘over’ is 8-3 in Houston’s last 11 games and their defense is just a farce out there. These guys can’t stop anyone. But they should cut it loose against the Jets and I think the back door is going to be open this entire game.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3) – Much like Chicago, Tampa Bay keeps winning but I absolutely refuse to budge and buy into this team. They have won and covered four of six games. But if you look deeper at their wins they have been either fluke, last second, goofy come-from-behind nonsense (Cincy, St. Louis, Arizona) and/or wins against dead-end teams that simply aren’t competitive (Carolina, Arizona). Their next four games are at San Fran, at Baltimore, home against Atlanta, and at Washington. If they win more than one of those games I’ll give this team some respect.
19. Cleveland Browns (3-6) – That was a heartbreaker for the Browns after they had built up so much momentum. We’ll see how they respond, but my instincts are that they are going to be fine. Their style of play is portable, meaning that they are going to bang heads no matter whom they are playing or where they are playing. But they need to avoid the same type of letdown that bit Detroit last week. The Lions had the Jets beat, blew it, and then folded on the road against Buffalo. The Browns are in a similar spot against a weak Jacksonville team this week. Cleveland is 11-5 ATS overall and 9-4 ATS as a dog. But they are just 4-10-1 ATS after a loss and things have spiraled out of control for this group before.
20. Oakland Raiders (5-4) – It doesn’t look like Nnamdi Asomugha is going to suit up this week. It will be interesting to see how the Raiders react to the bye. They are catching Pittsburgh after a big game against New England. But Oakland is also traveling east to play a game that kicks off at 10 a.m. PST. That’s been a terrible situation for West Coast teams over the last three years. Also, the Raiders are just 3-7 SU after a week off over the last decade. Oakland is 4-1 ATS against Pittsburgh and the underdog is 6-1 ATS in that series.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-4) – Much like their Tampa brethren, Jacksonville keeps finding ways to fluke out wins. And as they continue to have success they become more convinced in what they are doing. But, like Tampa, three of their five losses have been fluky (Denver, Indy and Houston). And when this team has lost this year they have lost big. Their average defeat has come by 24 points.
22. St. Louis Rams (4-5) – Even though the Rams lost last Sunday, that is still as well as they have played in San Francisco in some time. This week they are back home and they are 3-1 ATS this season as a home dog. St. Louis is 8-3 ATS against the Falcons and the home team in this series is 6-1 ATS. I think that their game against Atlanta is one of the most interesting of the week and that the spread suggests that the Rams are more than capable of winning this one. Over 85 percent of all bets this week are coming in on the Falcons, yet the line has held firm. This could be the biggest square play of the week.
23. Minnesota Vikings (3-6) – Get ready for a complete and utter free fall. This team has given up on life and I don’t anticipate them giving it the ol’ college try down the home stretch. Even though the books are giving the Vikings credit for playing at home this week in the NFL lines, I think that being in Minnesota could actually be one of the worst things for them. If Minnesota gets down early or is lackluster then I expect the crowd to turn on them quickly.
24. Dallas Cowboys (2-7) – After five straight losses, both straight up and ATS, the Cowboys were due to breakout. I think that it will carry over to this week’s game for the simple fact that this team has yet to win a game in its shiny new stadium. I do think it’s tough to lay a touchdown on a team that only occasionally comes to play. They are 0-5 ATS as a favorite.
25. Seattle Seahawks (5-4) – Matt Hasselbeck broke his wrist on his non-throwing hand last week, but it shouldn’t impact his play at all. Seattle is just 3-11 ATS on the road and just 2-8 ATS against a team over .500. The Seahawks have played only two teams this year that I have ranked in the Top 20 in the league – the Giants and Chargers. They beat the Chargers despite being outgained by 250 yards and the Giants hammered them by 34. I think this week’s trip to New Orleans to face the rested Saints will end up somewhere in the middle. Seattle is 3-21-2 ATS after a win of two touchdowns or more.
26. San Francisco 49ers (3-6) – The home team has won and covered seven straight in the Niners-Bucs series, and going back to 1990 the host is 9-1 SU. You have to love what Troy Smith has done with this team. I still think it is way too late to undo the damage for this team, and as much of a disaster as the West is I still don’t see the Niners getting back into the race. But they still may be able to finish strong with Smith at the helm. The problem is that they are riding a high right now. And one more loss could pop that bubble. And when that happens I can see this team mailing it in.
27. Denver Broncos (3-6) – Over the last two years the Broncos are 8-3 when they are leading after the first quarter and 3-9 when they are trailing after 15 minutes. The Broncos are just 7-18-1 ATS in their last 26 divisional games and just 2-5 ATS on the road. But I think that they are going to be able to move the ball with relative ease against San Diego on Monday Night Football. The ‘over’ is 12-2 in their last 14 games overall, 7-1 when they play on the road and 10-1 in their last 11 conference games.
28. Cincinnati Bengals (2-7) – I would say that it’s about time that the Bengals stick a fork in Carson Palmer and go to their young backup to try to light a spark and/or start building for next year. But when your backup is the idiot younger brother of your current lackluster starter, that’s a problem. The Bengals are 16-33-2 ATS as a home favorite and 6-20 ATS as a favorite overall.
29. Arizona Cardinals (3-6) – You just never know what you’re going to get from this team and, I hate to say it, this looks like another club that is ready to mail it in. It will be interesting to see if the Cards get motivated by going up against former offensive coordinator Todd Haley this week. The two weaknesses that this team has been hiding the last two years – a terrible offensive line and horrid secondary – are starting to cripple this team once again. They are tied for the league-lead in sacks allowed and they are No. 27 in pass defense.
30. Detroit Lions (2-7) – I know that vultures are starting to circle in Detroit. However, I think it is ridiculous not to realize the strides that this team has made. They are two years removed from being the first 0-16 team in history and now they have actually outscored their opponents on the season. Their seven losses are by an average of 5.3 points per game and four of their seven losses have been by a field goal or less.
31. Buffalo Bills (1-8) – Hey, hey, nice win by the Bills. But I am not expecting much of a winning streak. Buffalo is 11-4 ATS on the road and 28-11-1 ATS against teams with a losing record. However, they are just 1-8 ATS after an outright win and haven’t been able to build any forward momentum.
32. Carolina Panthers (1-8) – It is simply depressing to watch this team right now. There is nothing redeeming about this club, outside of its underachieving offensive line – which is actually the highlight of this team. And it is only going to get worse.
Robert Ferringo is a writer and a professional sports handicapper for Doc’s Sports. He has banked profit for his clients after five of seven winning football weeks and is rolling out more predictions this week. You can sign up for his college football and NFL picks and get more information here.