“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change.”
And make no mistake: for several NFL teams it is desperation time.
For NFL clubs off to a slow start – teams like Philadelphia and Atlanta – this week’s games represent potential turning points for seasons that have gone astray. These clubs are desperate and find themselves in must-win situations to satiate rabid fan bases and front office folks, as well as regain some confidence after entering the year with lofty expectations. Time is running out. And a loss by any of those teams could lead to an avalanche of defeats that buries their respective seasons.
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The pressure is mounting on the teams on the field. But be sure that if you are betting on the NFL that you don’t start to get desperate as well. Maybe the season hasn’t started out the way you wanted. Maybe you find yourself in an early season hole. Perhaps you have turned a profit but haven’t won as much money as you feel like you should have. Regardless, the best thing about being an NFL bettor vs. an NFL player it that every week is a completely fresh start and that we keep track of wins and losses in a completely different way. There are no gambling playoffs to angle for. There are no betting standings. (None that really matter, anyway.)
So don’t get greedy and don’t get antsy. There are still four months of NFL odds to bet and beat. Let’s just keep watching and waiting as the story of this season unfolds. There are some teams off to a hot start that will be in the tank a month from now. And there are some teams either off the radar or left for dead that are going to go on a rush and get themselves in the thick of the postseason picture within the next several weeks. Don’t get desperate and stay sharp. Patience is the best weapon that any NFL handicapper or bettor can ever have.
Here is my Week 6 version of Doc’s Sports NFL Power Rankings:
1. Green Bay Packers (5-0) – It is amazing how comfortable this team is on third-and-13. About 90 percent of the teams in this league simply have no chance of going out and beating this team just because they can’t matchup in the secondary. The other 10 percent needs to hope for a bad day out of Aaron Rodgers. Chad Clifton will be out at least a month and very likely longer. The Packers are 10-3-1 ATS against teams with losing records and they are 7-1 ATS in their last eight in Lambeau.
2. New Orleans Saints (4-1) – The Saints are starting to remind me a bit of the Colts from the last five or six years. New Orleans’ defense has a couple big playmakers, but it’s more opportunistic than anything. And the main thing with this group is that they simply hang around and let teams hang around because they know that their quarterback is most likely going to beat your quarterback in the last five minutes of a one-score game. The road team is 13-3 ATS in the last 16 Saints-Bucs games but New Orleans is just 6-13 ATS after a win.
3. Baltimore Ravens (3-1) – The most overrated angle in NFL betting is pounding teams coming off a bye week. It is as if the belief is that teams off a bye somehow have superpowers and gamblers always overestimate the impact of an extra week of prep. (That said, Baltimore is 8-2 ATS off a week of rest.) The line on the Ravens has steamed from a soft open of -6.5 to currently the Ravens at -7.5 or -8.0. Everyone is on Baltimore this week. And why not: the Ravens are 47-22-1 ATS in their last 70 games as a home favorite.
4. New England Patriots (4-1) – People can doubt this team all they like and rag on the shoddy defense and ridiculous running game. But New England is 4-1 on the field and at the window and they have at least six other “gimme” wins on the schedule. So for all their flaws I can see this team winning 12 or 13 games this year. New England has scored 30 or more points in 13 straight games and they are a sick 20-6 against the total in their last 26 games overall.
5. Detroit Lions (5-0) – Yeah, I guess they are for real. The Lions are playing as well as anyone in the league right now. But we will see how they handle success this week when the Niners come calling. This is a big letdown spot for a Lions team that has exactly one win – over Tampa – against a team that presently has a winning record. That said, the Lions are an unbelievable 13-0-1 ATS in their last 14 games (including preseason) dating back to last year. This week might be a trap game, but you don’t bet against the streak.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) – That is more like it. The Steelers showed that they still have an extra gear when they need it and Pittsburgh absolutely needed a win last Sunday. They slept through their previous three games, including wins over hapless Indy and Seattle, so we’ll see if they are at all motivated this week to beat down a horrid Jacksonville club. The last seven meetings with Jacksonville have been decided by an average of just 4.6 points per game. Pittsburgh is just 6-14 ATS as a double-digit favorite and we’ll see if they can bury a wobbly Jaguars team this week.
7. San Diego Chargers (4-1) – I shudder at the thought that the Chargers are the seventh-best team in football. But they once again boast a Top 10 offense and a Top 10 defense, and even though they never make it look easy the Chargers are 4-1 SU on the season in a feeble AFC West. This bye week couldn’t have come at a better time, as San Diego is as banged up as any team in football right now. If they had to play the Jets this week they would be without both starting running backs and three defensive starters.
8. Houston Texans (3-2) – I still think that this ranking is awful ambitious for this group. Especially when you consider that one of their wins came against horrid Indianapolis in the opener and another came in Miami – in a game they were outplayed in – against a winless Dolphins team. Mario Williams is out for the year and once again the lack of depth on this roster is going to come back to kill them. Houston is 0-4 ATS as an underdog and they are just 1-5 ATS in their last six as a road dog.
9. Chicago Bears (2-2) – There really is nothing new to add to my commentary on the Bears. At this point they are one of the more predictable teams in football: they are going to beat all the teams they should and they are going to lose to anyone that is better than they are. But I can’t say for sure what category this week’s Minnesota game falls into. The home team is 5-1 ATS in the Vikings series and Chicago is an exceptional 7-1 ATS against the Vikes in Soldier Field.
10. New York Giants (3-2) – Just like with Chicago, there is not a lot to add to our breakdown of the Giants. They are the same team they have been for years: an exceptional bet as an underdog and a sucker play as a favorite. The G-Men have excelled when everyone doubts them and they have floundered in the face of any expectations. Oddly, they have only faced in-state foe Buffalo eight times since 1987. The road team has won four straight in the series, but that goes back to 1996, and the favorite in the series is just 1-7 ATS.
11. Tennessee Titans (3-2) – I don’t really begrudge the Titans getting rocked in Pittsburgh last week. That was a brutal spot for Tennessee against a pissed off team that was desperate for a win. But we’re going to find a lot about Mike Munchak in the last two weeks. This team has a week off to get ready for a monster game against Houston and we’ll see how prepared they are when they take the field next week. Perhaps it isn’t a strong suit of his, but I would like to see the Titans split Chris Johnson out and have him catch some non-screen passes. The guy is dancing at the line of scrimmage. They need to get the ball in his hands in space.
12. Washington Redskins (3-1) – I would be 100 percent on board the Washington bandwagon – remember, they were my top futures play, ‘over’ 7.5 wins, last year – if the Redskins had anyone but The Sex Cannon under center. Washington lost 59-28 against the Eagles, in prime time, the last time these two met here. That makes this week’s game a big revenge spot. The Redskins are just 7-15-2 ATS at home. If they are going to go out and prove that they are for real they need to regain a home field advantage.
13. Oakland Raiders (3-2) – Obviously that was an incredible, emotional win for the Raiders last week. Now they need to harness that energy again this week as an unwitting large favorite against Cleveland. Oakland is 2-12 ATS as a home chalk and it is nearly impossible to lay points with this group. Also, Hue Jackson may have this team above .500, but he made some absolutely moronic decisions in last week’s game at Houston. His decision to go for two early in the game, and some of his clock management issues (be it timeouts or play calling) were stunningly bad.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2) – Wow. That’s all I can say about that effort last week. I knew that Tampa was in a letdown/look ahead spot, but I didn’t think that they would roll over. Josh Freeman has just three touchdown passes to six interceptions so far this year, and it appears he is falling into a natural regression year. Tampa Bay is just 5-17 ATS in its last 22 home games and they are just 3-13 ATS as a home underdog.
15. San Francisco 49ers (4-1) – This group continues to thump away as one of the most physical, most underrated defenses in football. They haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 27 games, and so far this year they have helped the Niners to a +10 turnover ratio. That ratio is obscene this early in the year, and it does mask a lot of the issues that this club has. But they are playing with a lot of confidence and Jim Harbaugh will keep his foot to the petal for as long as it holds. The Niners are 11-4-3 ATS as an underdog, but this franchise is just 6-22-4 ATS in its last 32 games after a win by two touchdowns or more.
16. New York Jets (2-3) – I would absolutely be worried about all of the behind-the-scenes distractions that seem to plague this team. And the receiver mini-mutiny is definitely something to be concerned about. But the reality is that this defense isn’t as talented or physical as it was three years ago and they can’t run the ball at all (No. 31 in the NFL). They are putting the ball in the hands of Mark Sanchez and the guy is a joke. The good news is that the Jets absolutely own the Dolphins and are 18-6-2 ATS against them over the past decade. The Jets are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 against a team with a losing record and it will feel good to be home after a brutal three-game road swing.
17. Philadelphia Eagles (1-4) – It is stunning just how bad this team is. I have known – and made my feelings widely known – that Mike Vick is one of the most overrated players in NFL history. So the fact that he sucks doesn’t surprise me. But what does surprise me is just how terrible this defense is. They really can’t stop anyone, and as much as they want to blame their in-way-over-his-head DC, the fact is that outside of some excellent corners they have next to no talent on that side of the ball.
18. Atlanta Falcons (2-3) – It will be very interesting to see how this team responds this week. Will they suffer a letdown after getting beaten down by Green Bay or will they kick it into desperation mode and take care of the Panthers? Atlanta has won four of five in this series and the home team is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings. The Falcons are 10-3-2 ATS against Carolina in the Georgia Dome and Atlanta is 17-5 ATS following an outright loss. I think the Panthers will be a sexy pick this weekend, but this game definitely falls into the “Must Win” category for the Dirty Birds.
19. Buffalo Bills (4-1) – I know that this may seem low for a 4-1 team but obviously I’m still not buying in. This team is avoiding mistakes and they are capitalizing on the opponents’. However, they don’t have a ton of playmakers and they have gone 2-1 SU and ATS in the last three weeks despite getting outgained by a total of 390 yards I those games. Their 11.6 yards per point is unsustainable and this team is going to hit a wall. Soon.
20. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) – Having an early season bye week is usually a disadvantage, but I don’t know if it could have come at a better time for the Cowboys. The two weeks off gave them time to heal up, and when they take the field on Sunday they will be as close to full strength as they have been since the preseason. However, their awful secondary should be no match for Tom Brady and Co. and this is a terrible matchup for The Boys this week. Over the last two years Dallas has been one of the worst teams in the NFL at covering tight ends. This week they will have their hands full with New England’s dynamic duo.
21. Minnesota Vikings (1-4) – Jared Allen is the best defensive player in football and right now he has to be considered one of the two or three best players, period. This guy is an absolute animal and he already has 8.5 sacks on the year. In fact, he has 52.5 sacks in his last 55 games overall. Donovan McNabb is completing just 56.8 percent of his passes this year and at this stage of his career the Cover-2 defense is his nemesis because of his accuracy issues. The Vikings are just 4-10 ATS on the road and just 6-18-3 ATS as an underdog of a field goal or less.
22. Miami Dolphins (0-4) – Count me among those that think that the change to Matt Moore is going to be a positive for this team. And I believe if he had been under center this year this team would be 2-2. Prior to last year’s disaster in Carolina, Moore had been 6-2 as a starter and in 2009 he posted a 98.5 rating in seven starts with the Panthers. So the guy can play a little. And a little might be enough if Miami can keep from beating itself.
23. Carolina Panthers (1-4) – This offense is no joke and they will continue to put up points and be competitive all season long. The Saints were the first team to outgain Carolina this year and this team is on an excellent 4-0 ATS rush. Once they start to get some more balance from the running game they could become truly elite. Also, mark Ron Rivera down as another young coach that made an idiotic game-management decision last week (his timeout just before the half allowed the Saints to kick a field goal) that cost his team. Carolina is 4-9 ATS as an underdog, but they are catching Atlanta at a good time.
24. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) – Hey, I know that the Bengals covered another spread and they appear to be turning into a money team in the NFL. You can have them. I refuse to be on a Marvin Lewis-led team. And he proved why again last week when he blew two pretty obvious challenges that ended up costing the team points. And let’s not get too crazy about this team: their wins have come against Cleveland, Buffalo and Jacksonville and they still haven’t played a 2010 playoff team. This team is on a 7-1 ATS rush, but they are 6-21 ATS as a favorite and they are just 16-33-2 ATS as a home favorite over the last decade. That is a sincere pattern of failure.
25. Cleveland Browns (2-2) – I think that Cleveland’s “methodical” (see: dink and dunk) offense could really bother the Raiders this week. But whether the Browns can cover this week is going to come down to whether or not they have schemed to stop the run. Cleveland is No. 25 in rush defense in terms of yards allowed, but they are actually No. 13 in yards per rush allowed and have only yielded one rushing touchdown on the season. Cleveland is just 1-6-1 ATS in their last eight games, but the line on this game has dropped from 7.0 to 5.5 despite a heavy percentage of bets on the Raiders.
26. Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) – It is tough to tell if this team has righted the ship and is gearing up for a run in the West or if they were simply the beneficiaries of a soft spot on the schedule. We will find out soon enough because after the bye the Chiefs play three of four games at home and three of four games against division foes. They will need to go 3-1 in that stretch to have any hope because they have one of the most difficult schedules in the league between Thanksgiving and Christmas: at Patriots, Steelers, at Bears, at Jets, Packers, and Raiders.
27. Seattle Seahawks (2-3) – I will admit that this team is a little better than I think that they are. And I can’t really understand why Seattle won’t roll with Chuck Whitehurst as the full-time starter. (We know who Tarv Jackson is; we don’t yet know what Whitehurst’s ceiling is.) But I do know that a quarterback controversy could blunt this team’s momentum.
28. Denver Broncos (1-4) – I am willing to bet $1,000 that Tim Tebow will not start the 11 remaining Denver games this year. I think he will get about seven starts and then either because of injury or the fact that he is destined to be about a 50 percent passer will force John Fox to go back to Kyle Orton. But when a team has a back seven as pathetic as Denver’s it doesn’t matter who is quarterbacking.
29. St. Louis Rams (0-4) – I got a call this week and was asked to start at nickel corner for the Rams against the Packers. St. Louis has been just decimated by injuries in the secondary and that is absolutely not where you want to have weakness going into a matchup with the Packers. We will see if they abandon Josh McDaniels’ attacking offense in favor of the ultra-conservative Pat Shurmur approach that worked so well for this team last year. Probably not, because McDaniels is a loser.
30. Arizona Cardinals (1-4) – Wait, so Kevin “Happy Feet” Kolb isn’t a Pro Bowl quarterback? Shocking. And by shocking I mean it is exactly what I have been saying for two years: this guy is an average NFL starter right now, not a savior. This defense has been a debacle and it is about to get worse. Kerry Rhodes broke his foot and there is no word on when he will be able to return. The Cardinals have lost 10 straight on the road and four of their next six games are away from home.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) – I don’t really know how anyone can blame Jack Del Rio for this mess. Look at this team’s roster. They are nearly $30 million under the salary cap and it is just obvious that this city can’t support and sustain an NFL team. Where is the talent? Who are the stars on this team? The Jags are 5-2 ATS against the Steelers and the underdog in the Steelers series is 8-2 ATS dating back to 2000.
32. Indianapolis Colts (0-5) – This team is not as bad as its record and they should have at least two wins by now. However, they have been outgained by an average of 112 yards per game. At this point the issue is not Curtis Painter. It is the fact that they still can’t muster a consistent rushing game and it is that they can’t get off the field. They are allowing opponents to convert 49 percent on third down. This team needs to ditch the Cover-2, maybe just for this year and maybe not fully, and get more aggressive on that side of the ball.
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.