The weather is getting colder, the hits are getting harder, and the games are getting more critical as teams ride the elevator of expectations and expanded standings. In my opinion, November is the most crucial of months on the NFL schedule because it really sets the tone for the stretch run: some teams gain momentum and find the will for a strong finish, while others have dirt thrown on their graves and decide to mail it in.
No one is mailing it in yet and everyone is still playing for either pride or the postseason. (Even the Colts, Redskins, and as we saw last week, Dolphins, are still maxing out each week.) With that in mind, here is my Week 10 version of Doc’s Sports NFL Power Rankings:
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1. Green Bay Packers (8-0) – Hey, there’s nothing I can tell you about these guys that you shouldn’t already know. People can rag on their defensive statistics but I think that is misleading. Unlike a team like New England, which has terrible defensive stats and pathetic personnel, the Packers have more than enough playmakers and I completely trust that defense to get a stop when it absolutely needs one. At this point I think that their two games with Detroit and a trip to New York to face the Giants are the only impediments to an unbeaten regular season.
2. Baltimore Ravens (6-2) – After watching Baltimore throw up on itself in Tennessee following their first win over Pittsburgh it’s awful tough to trust them heading out to Seattle on Sunday. The Ravens are in a letdown spot after that emotional win, but they are also in a look-ahead spot with a game against Cincinnati on deck. Baltimore is 5-2 ATS in its last seven as a road favorite (remember what they did to St. Louis this year?) but they are just 4-11 ATS as a road chalk laying more than a field goal.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) – This is a terrible situational spot for the Steelers this week. They are coming off their two most emotional games of the year, beating New England and then losing in the final moments to rival Baltimore. Now they are on the road against a team they have dominated for, oh, about 30 years. Pittsburgh has played four of their last five games at home so they may be a little overvalued right now. The Steelers have gone 7-2 SU and ATS in the Cincinnati series, but they did get swept by the Bengals as recently as 2009.
4. New England Patriots (5-3) – No, I’m not going to bury the Patriots for losing back-to-back games. They lost to the Steelers and Giants, two of the other Top 5 teams on this list. And the problem with the Patriots defense has nothing to do with scheme or coaching; they don’t have any talent! Their depth chart on defense is a train wreck and as a result they are an exceptional regular season team with zero chance to make a Super Bowl run.
5. New York Giants (6-2) – I don’t know how many times I have said it: the Giants are always a terrible bet when they are a big favorite and they are always a great bet when they are a huge underdog. It will be tough for them to regroup this week and make the trek out to Candlestick, though. But, again, the Giants are 30-13 ATS on the road under Tom Coughlin and they are 15-7 ATS as an underdog. I don’t think I would be betting against those numbers.
6. Detroit Lions (6-2) – This team made some minor moves during their bye week, but they were moves that signify bigger issues. One-time starter Kevin Smith was re-signed, which tells me that Jahvid Best won’t be back for awhile. They also signed Leonard Davis, which signifies to me that Detroit is very worried with the team’s shoddy run blocking (the team is No. 27 in rush yards per game) and think that the past-his-prime Davis could offer some help.
7. San Francisco 49ers (7-1) – The 49ers are now a pristine 7-0-1 ATS in their eight games this year, by far the best mark in football. Stanford covered its last five games last year as well, so that means that Jim Harbaugh is now on a 12-0-1 ATS run as a coach. For all the talk of Alex Smith’s “comeback year”, the Niners are still No. 30 in passing yards and No. 26 in total offense.
8. New Orleans Saints (6-3) – The road team is a perfect 3-0 in the last three meetings with Atlanta and the road team has gone 6-3 ATS dating back to 2006. The Saints are just 1-4 ATS on the road this season, with the lone cover coming against Jacksonville (barely). New Orleans has been shaky away from home, but I expect them to be sharp this week in a crucial divisional game. Also, the Saints haven’t lost a game in the month of November since 2008.
9. Chicago Bears (5-3) – The Bears offensive line has given up only three sacks in its last three games and they have been dominating in the running game. I really don’t know what to attribute the massive spike in production to, but if the Bears get that type of protection the rest of the year they will again be a force. They have a revenge angle against the mouthy Lions this week. But the favorite in this series is just 8-17 ATS and the Bears are only 3-7 ATS in the last 10 meetings with Detroit.
10. New York Jets (5-3) – I am not completely buying back into the Jets right now. But they play better with their backs against the wall and they won’t go quietly. The problem, as always, is still Mark Sanchez. As much as the Jets dominated Buffalo, Sanchez did everything he could to keep the Bills in the game as long as he could. He is atrocious.
11. Houston Texans (5-3) – I would be very worried about loading up on the Texans this week. They are catching more than 80 percent of the early action this week despite being a road favorite in Tampa Bay. Houston is just 2-5 ATS on the road and this is a completely unfamiliar role for them. Also, I would definitely expect to see Andre Johnson in some capacity this week. Houston has been cautious, so I would think if he plays he would have to be at least 90 percent.
12. Atlanta Falcons (5-3) – Although the roadie has been the play recently, the dog is actually 4-0 ATS in the Falcons-Saints rivalry. Atlanta is just 1-3 SU and ATS this year against teams with a winning record, and they have been outgained in their last three home games. The Falcons are building some steam but have still been underwhelming all season, especially in the secondary.
13. Buffalo Bills (5-3) – The more tape I see on this team the more impressed I am with them. They are going to face a similarly fearsome Dallas front four this week. However, Buffalo should be able to exploit Dallas’ weakness defending the tight end, and the Cowboy cornerbacks won’t be close to what the Bills saw this week with the Jets. This week’s game, perhaps more than any other yet this year outside of the New England game, will let us know if this team is for real. Rian Lindell is out for this week’s game and that is a big blow to the special teams. They have signed Dave Rayner.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4) – This week is still a chance for the Bucs to earn a big statement win and vault themselves back into the NFC South race. They don’t have any “bad” losses this year, and their last two defeats came against very good Chicago and New Orleans teams. But Tampa is, inexplicably, just 3-14 ATS as a home underdog and just 7-19 ATS in their home games overall.
15. San Diego Chargers (4-4) – The Chargers are either going to lose this week’s home game against pathetic Oakland outright or they are going to win by 20. The Chargers were playing at a pretty high level in the second half against Green Bay last week (Offensively, anyway). That could carry over to this week. But San Diego is 0-4 ATS in its last four against the Raiders and the Chargers have been money burners at 2-6 ATS overall this season. Lay the points at your own risk.
16. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) – By virtue of this team’s pathetically easy schedule, the Bengals are still a fraud in my book. However, I will give them credit that they are executing better than any Bengals team that I have seen under Marvin Lewis. I keep waiting for them to “be the Bengals” (think Oakland Raiders East), but they keep refusing.
17. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5) – This team sure does celebrate a lot for a group that is below .500 and among the biggest disappointments in football. Their rush defense is pathetic, their pass defense is overrated, and Mike Vick is, well, Mike Vick. And if you have been reading anything I have written on that subject over, say, the last six years, you know exactly where I stand there. These guys still stink. Even a blowout win over pathetic Arizona this week won’t change that.
18. Dallas Cowboys (4-4) – I truly have no idea how Keith Brooking still has a job. He was washed up three years ago and is just floundering around out there. Sean Lee is trying to play in a cast this week for the Boys. Jason Witten is talking about the Cowboys and the playoffs this week. Does anyone still buy this crap from this group? Miles Austin is out and the defense is hanging by a thread. It should be a rule that only teams above .500 can talk about playoffs.
19. Tennessee Titans (4-4) – This team just can’t stop the run, plain and simple. They are No. 24 in rush defense despite being in the middle-of-the-pack in terms of yards per rush allowed (4.2). But this is where if you watch them on film you see that the numbers don’t reflect how poor they are in that aspect. You can change schemes, but you can’t make a team more physical in the middle of the season. And their bad losses to worse teams that were more physical (Jacksonville, Cincinnati) are the only thing keeping the Titans from being 5-3 or 6-2 right now.
20. Kansas City Chiefs (4-4) – I am not really sure why Jackie Battle is starting at running back for this team. He is slow and he doesn’t fit the scheme, and Thomas Jones still has something left in the tank. Also, it is a crime if the Chiefs aren’t getting Dexter McCluster at least 15 touches per game. I used to say the same thing about Fred Jackson and look how that is working out.
21. Oakland Raiders (4-4) – I 100 percent know that Carson Palmer is better than Kyle Boller. But Raiders fans need to understand that Palmer is still tainted by the stench of Loser. He threw three interceptions and Denver dropped at least three other balls. Oakland committed a shocking amount of penalties (15 for 130 yards) and after a while it stops being a coincidence that this stuff just follows Palmer around. He can make throws, but he is not a leader. Also, it is ridiculous that people are asking if Hue Jackson knows what he is doing. Obviously he has no idea; it shouldn’t even be a question.
22. Minnesota Vikings (2-6) – I don’t really have much to say about this team, which is coming off a bye and about to be a sacrificial lamb at the altar of Lombardi, so I will take this time to air a grievance: what is going on with kickoffs in this league? Special teams play on kickoffs has been awful, with too many returners taking out kicks and getting stuffed at the 12 or 15. On the flip side, why are so many kickers getting cute and trying to kick the ball short? If you can make an opponent start at the 20 or be forced to return a kick from five or seven yards deep, why even screw around with squib kicking?
23. Carolina Panthers (2-6) – This offense is No. 3 in the league in terms of yards per play (6.6), but they are just No. 16 in scoring and No. 21 in yards per point. Why? Turnovers. If this team takes better care of the ball they will be a very active dog/spoiler in the second half of the season. (Well, that and if they ever decide to stop anyone.)
24. Denver Broncos (3-5) – Again, this week the Tim Tebow seesaw rocks back the other way. But, as I have mentioned, if they can run the ball as well as they did last week they can beat teams. And hell, if John Fox can go to the Super Bowl with Jake Delhomme he can threaten to go .500 with Tebow. Also, Denver needs to keep finding touches for Eddie Royal. I have no idea why they seemingly forgot about that guy.
25. Miami Dolphins (1-7) – This team is only -35 in scoring differential so far this year and, in my opinion, they are about six plays away from being 4-4 or 5-3 and in the mix in the AFC East. I’m not sure how much I trust a team that is 6-29 ATS as a home favorite to lay points, but Miami is clearly superior to Washington. (They will find a way to blow it.) Miami is 17-48-1 ATS at home and they are 0-7 against the total, playing their last seven games this year ‘under’.
26. Washington Redskins (3-5) – Honestly, I can’t believe that I even have them ranked this high. But I really have that much respect for London Fletcher and some of the guys on defense. It is all about karma. And I can think of few worse human beings on the planet than Daniel Snyder. I don’t know if it is possible for the Redskins to “play down” to anyone because they, themselves, are losers, but Washington is 7-21-2 ATS in its last 30 games against sub-.500 teams.
27. Cleveland Browns (3-5) – Pat Shurmur will be going up against his old team this week and that is always an angle that I like to take advantage of, regardless of sport. Peyton Hillis is out again this week and is apparently reaching “cancer” status in the locker room. Montario Hardesty is likely going to miss this week as well, leaving the Browns down to their No. 4 and No. 5 backs. Cleveland is 2-12-2 ATS in its last 16 games and they are 0-7-1 ATS in their last eight home games.
28. Seattle Seahawks (2-6) – It is incredible: with the exception of quarterback play, I think that this year’s Seahawks team is significantly better than last year’s. Yet last season they made the divisional round of the playoffs and this year they are headed for a Top 10 draft pick. As of Tuesday afternoon, Seattle was catching only nine percent of the action in their game against Baltimore despite the fact that the spread has dropped from 7.5 to 6.5. That is a textbook reverse line movement.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6) – The Jaguars always played the Manning-led Colts tough so they should have no problem walking through the Manning-less Colts, right? Well, I was surprised to see Jacksonville favored by this much this week and they are catching more than 70 percent of the early action. The Jaguars are just 2-7-1 ATS in their last 10 games. However, they have only played one team with a losing record (at Carolina) so far this year and have only given up more than 24 points twice this season.
30. St. Louis Rams (1-6) – Never in my life have I seen a team force not one, but TWO safeties in the same game…and lose. That one had to be heartbreaking, even if it hadn’t come against John Skelton. St. Louis is now 1-8 ATS in its last nine games and teams associated with Josh McDaniels (who could be seen arguing on the sideline with Steve Spagnuolo on Sunday) are 6-17-1 ATS over the last two seasons.
31. Arizona Cardinals (2-6) – No, I am not moving the Cardinals past the Rams even though they just beat St. Louis. There was no way you could watch that game and think that the Cardinals were the better team. John Skelton will likely start again this week in Philadelphia, as Kevin Kolb’s normally happy feet are still sad (sprained foot, turf toe).
32. Indianapolis Colts (0-8) – Indianapolis’s starting cornerbacks – Jerraud Powers, Jacob Lacey, and Kevin Thomas – constitute what is by far the worst group in the league and one of the worst trios of the last decade. It is comical to watch.
Robert Ferringo is a professional NFL handicapper and is coming off an exceptionally profitable 2010-11 football season (college and pro). He banged home back-to-back winning football weeks and has banked $3,000 in profit over the last week-and-a-half. He is looking forward to building on his stellar football handicapping resume again this fall and you can check him out here.