Family and feelings are the enemy of good gambling and good writing about gambling. So I apologize for the soggy lead in this week, but I am trapped in Northern New York with my kin and only have a quick moment here in between dodging passive-aggressive barbs from my in-laws and skirting out to refill my cocktail from my depleting liquor supply to pass on this week’s NFL Power Rankings.
Here is my Week 12 version of Doc’s Sports Power Rankings:
1. Green Bay Packers (10-0) – This is Green Bay’s third game in 11 days. That’s a tall task. At this point I think the only way to beat this team is to just hang around and hope to have a chance to drive for a winning touchdown. Think about it: who is going to hold a lead against this offense?
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2. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3) – Big Ben’s thumb will be fine. Honestly, when was the last time that Roethlisberger played in a game where he wasn’t nicked up at all? Pittsburgh is 8-3 ATS as a favorite and 8-3 ATS against a team with a losing record. But they are 6-15 ATS (0-4 ATS on the road) as a favorite of 10.5 or higher.
3. Baltimore Ravens (7-3) – Joe Flacco absolutely has to throw the ball down the field for this offense to be effective. When he gets too comfortable checking down this offense sputters. And the defense can only bail you out so many times against teams of equal talent.
4. New England Patriots (7-3) – I still don’t buy the “improving” Patriots defense. It is a matter of talent and they are still shy of it. According to the Boston Herald, Tom Brady has targeted his tight ends 84 times for 56 receptions and 675 yards since Week 5. This team cannot beat teams on the outside. But so few teams have top-end cover men to play on the interior and match up with New England’s unique attack.
5. San Francisco 49ers (9-1) – Going back to his last two months at Stanford, John Harbaugh-coached teams are now 14-0-2 against the spread. Playing at 8 p.m. EST should mute the impact of the Niners having to play another game in the Eastern Time Zone.
6. New Orleans Saints (7-3) – The Saints have dominated their opponents in the Superdome this year, going 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 22.5 points per game. Even if you throw out their 62-7 pasting of Indy, the Saints are 3-0 against the Bears, Texans and Bucs, with their MOV at a healthy 11.7 points per game. The Saints have had two weeks to prep, and the last time the Giants came to town New Orleans mauled them 48-27.
7. Chicago Bears (7-3) – I had been praying that Chicago was able to get Kyle Orton back. Praying. But the Chiefs made a waiver claim – although Orton had made it clear he didn’t want to play for them – and now the Bears are stuck with Caleb Hanie. If he can just protect the ball and treat every game like Game 4 of the NFL Preseason the Bears should at least be competitive. Damn crappy Chiefs.
8. New York Giants (6-4) – I still am not 100 percent sure what to make of this team. They have scored 228 points this year and given up 228 points this year, giving them a 0 differential. That suggests mediocrity, as does their one scant win against a team over .500. But their victory at New England and their near miss at San Francisco shows that this team still has enough high-end talent to compete with some of the best teams in the game.
9. Houston Texans (7-3) – This week’s matchup with Blaine Gabbert will be one of the few times the rest of the year where the Texans actually enter the game with the better quarterback. But the best news for Houston is that Andre Johnson is back and ready to rock. Look for Leinart to go his way about 35 times this week.
10. Atlanta Falcons (6-4) – This team has quietly rebounded from its feeble start and the Falcons are a team that I am expecting a strong December push from. Atlanta does have just one win over a team that currently has a winning record. But they don’t have to worry about that this week. Matt Ryan needs to focus and take some shots down the field here and he should easily outplay Christian Ponder.
11. Detroit Lions (7-3) – I don’t think that the Lions have the secondary to slow down Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay attack. However, there is no quit in this team and Ford Field should be electric on Thursday afternoon. Detroit is 10-3 ATS at home and 12-4-1 ATS in conference games, and they have won the last matchup. (However, they did lose the 10 prior to that.)
12. Dallas Cowboys (6-4) – People have been falling all over themselves to pat Tony Romo on the back lately for his incredible play. Sure. But his last five games have come against Washington, Buffalo, Seattle, Philadelphia and St. Louis. Those teams stink and all of them have leaky secondaries. Dallas is just 1-4 ATS in its last five games and I don’t see them running away from Miami.
13. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4) – How will the Bengals handle being big favorites this week after back-to-back emotional games with Pittsburgh and Baltimore? The favorite is just 1-8 ATS in the Browns-Bengals series and six of the last nine meetings have been determined by one score or less.
14. Oakland Raiders (6-4) – Maybe things are falling into place for the Raiders. They are coming off back-to-back dominating road performances and now head home to catch a Bears team that just lost its starting quarterback for the year. Oakland is 8-3 ATS in its last 11 games but is just 3-14 ATS when laying points in the Black Hole.
15. New York Jets (5-5) – I wouldn’t get sucked into the whole Rex vs. Mark soap opera being a distraction for this team. The Jets are like the Giants – they seem to only thrive during chaos. But the bottom line is this: Sanchez is not a very good quarterback and anyone – like Colin Cowherd – that doesn’t acknowledge that doesn’t know what they hell they are talking about.
16. Tennessee Titans (5-5) – Matt Hasselbeck will start this week for the Titans and this is a critical game for Tennessee. He likely wouldn’t be making many deep throws against Tampa’s Cover-2 anyway, but it is critical that he maintain his patience and accuracy. Tennessee has a puncher’s chance in the AFC North, but this game is absolutely crucial if they are to make any sort of move.
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6) – Tampa has been a see-saw team this season and it will be interesting to see how they bounce back from last week’s tough game at Lambeau. Despite a lackluster record, Tampa’s last six games have come against San Fran, New Orleans, Chicago, New Orleans, Houston and Green Bay. No team in football has had a tougher stretch.
18. Buffalo Bills (5-5) – Fred Jackson has already been ruled out for this week’s game in New York and the Bills may have to soldier on without him for the rest of the year. This team is falling fast. But then again, tantalizing their desperate fan base with hope only to slam them in the face with a sledgehammer is something this franchise has mastered over the last 20 years.
19. San Diego Chargers (4-6) – This is simply a vintage Norv Turner collapse. And what is funny is that NFL bobbleheads – especially at ESPN – still describe this team as having “Super Bowl talent”. Where??? Who is the stud player on either side of the ball? What position group does San Diego have that is among the best in the AFC, forget the best in football? This roster has rotted out and like I said at the start of the season: their championship window closed two years ago but no one wanted to admit it. This team is mediocre at best.
20. Philadelphia Eagles (4-6) – Mike Vick will not suit up again this week, so Vince Young and his three interceptions will be on the field again. DeSean Jackson has been missing practice, but Jeremy Maclin looks like he will return, although he likely won’t be 100 percent.
21. Denver Broncos (5-5) – I still think it is hysterical that the concept of running the ball and playing great defense is being seen as a “gimmick” by NFL bobbleheads. The story for this team isn’t Tim Tebow; it is the improvement of the defense and offensive line, period. Outside of the 45 points they gave up to Detroit the Broncos have allowed just 15.5 points per game in their last four games.
22. Miami Dolphins (3-7) – I have been saying for months now that this team isn’t nearly as bad as its record suggest and they continue to prove it. Matt Moore throws a good ball. And when Brandon Marshall and Reggie Bush don’t have their heads up their asses they are legit weapons. The defense has given up an average of just 11.6 points per game in their last five games and the Dolphins are currently on an 0-8-1 run against the total.
23. Seattle Seahawks (4-6) – This week will be the first time in 16 games that Seattle has been posted as a favorite. They have been laying points just three times in their last 30 regular season games. But they have gone 2-1 ATS as a chalk, although it is an unfamiliar role.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7) – The home team in the Houston-Jacksonville series has gone 8-1 SU and 6-2-1 ATS in the last nine meetings dating back to 2006. Jacksonville’s rush defense has been torn to shreds. They are now without Terrance Knighton, Matt Roth and Clint Session, and the team is already without Rashean Mathis. I don’t see them getting too many stops, even against Matt Leinart.
25. Kansas City Chiefs (4-6) – Um, yeah, so, I guess Tyler Palko isn’t ready for the NFL, eh? Kansas City isn’t necessarily out of the race in the AFC West. But they have been outscored by 108 points on the season and are generally a debacle. I will forever hate this team for jock-blocking my beloved Bears and snaking Orton from us!!!
26. Minnesota Vikings (2-8) – It looks like Adrian Peterson will not play this week, making it a wrap for a pretty pathetic Minnesota offense. Times like this I wish the NFL was like baseball, where veterans like Steve Hutchinson and Jared Allen could be traded to contenders for the stretch run.
27. Carolina Panthers (2-8) – It is amazing how Cam Newton and some flashy offensive skill players are making everyone forget just how bad this team is. Carolina has lost 12 straight on the road and their atrocious defense has given up an average of 31 points per game in their last seven games.
28. Cleveland Browns (4-6) – I don’t know what is, but I have a feeling that the Browns are going to bury the public this weekend. Cleveland is catching just 18 percent of the action against Cincinnati, which is second only to Houston (89) in terms of the highest percentage this week. The Browns are 5-15-1 ATS in their last 21 games and 0-7 ATS as an underdog.
29. St. Louis Rams (2-8) – St. Louis is just 1-8 ATS in its last nine conference games and just 2-9 ATS in its last 11 overall. However, the Rams will be laying points for the second straight week. This is a decent revenge spot for the Rams after that brutal overtime loss to the Cardinals just three weeks ago.
30. Arizona Cardinals (3-7) – Can you really call John Skelton vs. Kevin Kolb a quarterback controversy? Was Skelton vs. Derek Anderson a quarterback controversy? The Cardinals are 6-2 ATS in their last eight against the Rams.
31. Washington Redskins (3-7) – Santana Moss is back this week. No one cares. Everyone not named “London Fletcher” or “Brian Orakpo” is just mailing it in for this group.
32. Indianapolis Colts (0-10) – I think that this week is Indianapolis’ last chance to win a game in 2011. They have had two weeks to prepare for a team that is 4-22 in its last 26 games and the Colts are at home. After this they go to New England, to Baltimore, have Tennessee and Houston at home, and then finish at Jacksonville. It is now or never for this group.
Robert Ferringo is a professional NFL handicapper and is looking forward to building on his stellar football handicapping resume again this fall and you can check him out here.