The first quarter of the season is finished, and the momentum is building for a lot of teams that have come out of the gate fast. Clubs like Minnesota, Philadelphia and Arizona are riding the wave of their clutch September. But the oddsmakers are taking note, and now those teams are going to have to continue to perform as expectations rise.
Conversely, teams off to a slow start are running out of time to get things turned around. The NFL is a momentum league. And it is tough for clubs to get their trajectory turned around quickly with just 17 games on the schedule. Teams like New Orleans, Detroit and Kansas City are sinking quickly. But while some people are still holding out hope that these teams will get things turned around I believe that they are all doomed.
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October is a new month, but not a fresh start. Let’s continue to soldier on.
Here is Doc’s Sports Week 5 NFL power rankings:
1. Houston Texans (4-0) – There isn’t much that I can say about this team that will do them justice; their play is speaking for itself. The Texans are simply dominating people right now and I don’t see a glaring flaw. I do not believe that this is the most talented team in football. But there is no area that they are not among the Top 5 or Top 10 teams in the NFL. The Texans are 16-5-2 ATS in their last 23 games and they are a spectacular 7-1 ATS on the road. I think this team is looking forward to a coming out party on “Monday Night Football”.
2. San Francisco 49ers (3-1) – That is the beauty of how San Francisco is built: there are some teams that, physically, just are not going to be able to compete for 60 minutes. This team looked focused and prepared last week and I expect another strong effort from them at home this Sunday. The Niners are 20-7-3 ATS in their last 30 home games and they are 18-7-1 ATS in their last 26 games overall. However, the 49ers are just 8-25-3 ATS in their last 36 games off a win of two touchdowns or more.
3. Baltimore Ravens (3-1) – Once again – just like they did in their loss to Philadelphia – the Ravens nearly blew a game because they were throwing the ball when they should have been running the ball. Despite a 23-10 lead into the fourth quarter, the Ravens ran the ball nine times and threw the ball nine times while trying to ice the game. Their shaky play calling – right out of the Kyle Shanahan playbook – allowed Cleveland in the back door last Thursday, and I think this could be a long-term problem for Baltimore backers throughout the year.
4. Atlanta Falcons (4-0) – Atlanta has been a ground-and-pound team over the last eight years. But this season they are obviously cutting it loose and living and dying with Matt Ryan and the passing game. Atlanta has run the ball on just 44 of 143 (30.7 percent) first half snaps in their four games this year. Not only are they running a lot less, but they are also running a lot less effectively, gaining just 148 yards (3.4 yards per carry) on those 44 attempts. That is a long-term problem that hasn’t jumped up to bite them just yet. But it may.
5. New England Patriots (2-2) – Realistically, this team should be 4-0 right now. (Sorry futures bettors – of which I am – I doubt we’re clearing the 12.5 wins.) But just like Green Bay, which is averaging two touchdowns less this year than last, it is obvious that the Patriots are missing last year’s offensive coordinator, Bill O’Brien. Don’t be misled by the 52 points the Pats hung on hapless Buffalo. This offense is still out of rhythm. The Patriots are just 2-5 ATS in their last seven home games and just 1-4 ATS after a blowout win of 14 or more.
6. New York Giants (2-2) – I am not worried in the slightest about this team. The Giants don’t even stretch their legs until December, and even that only occurs after they get backed into a corner. New York finds itself back in its worst role – large favorite – this week and the Giants are 0-8 ATS going back to 2009 when they are favored by more than a touchdown. That includes an ATS loss, and nearly an outright loss, to Tampa Bay in Week 2. The Giants may also be looking ahead to a date with San Francisco next week, and this game with Cleveland reeks of a letdown/look ahead situation.
7. Green Bay Packers (2-2) – The Packers are enjoying a year of living dangerously. Yes, they should’ve beaten Seattle last Monday. But they should not have beaten New Orleans, and this defense still struggles in a major way to stop people. Greg Jennings will be out this week, but Aaron Rodgers has more than enough weapons to compensate. The Packers are 10-2 ATS in their last 12 games following a loss against the spread.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2) – Five sacks in three games is extraordinarily un-Steelers-like. I expect a lot more pressure from Pittsburgh this week, and I think that they are going to be able to bait Mike Vick into another four-turnover performance. Oddly, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have only played twice in the last decade, with the home team winning both times. The Steelers are 9-0 ATS after a loss and 9-3 ATS in their last 12 home games. They have had two weeks to get healthy, regroup, and prepare for this weekend’s dogfight. (Oops. Sorry Mike.)
9. Chicago Bears (3-1) – The Bears are in a prime letdown situation this week heading to Jacksonville off their “Monday Night Football” victory. And after Chicago’s dominating performance in Dallas, the spread on this week’s game spiked from 4.0 to 5.5. There are still some issues bubbling below the surface for this team (they have been outgained on the season), but Chicago has blown out three of four opponents and is 5-2 ATS after a win of two touchdowns or more. They are built for the long term and this team is legit.
10. Denver Broncos (2-2) – Yeah, I said last week that this team is much, much better than people realize right now. Their losses have come against two of the best teams in football (by less than a touchdown apiece), and this group is only going to get better once it gets all of its suspended/injured pieces back on defense. But Denver is still severely limited by its lack of overall talent and explosiveness at the receiver position. The Broncos are still growing and are just 5-11-1 ATS in their last 17 games after covering a spread.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) – I know I might be late to the party here, but I think that Cincinnati might be a really, really good team. I mean, really good. Like 11-5 good. Their rushing attack and defense have underperformed to this point in the season, yet their record is still solid. And Andy Dalton looks a lot steadier than several more experienced quarterbacks *cough, cough, Mark Sanchez, cough, cough, Josh Freeman* and this is a team that is building confidence. But can we trust Marvin Lewis laying points? The Bengals are just 3-11-1 ATS in their last 15 games as a home favorite.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) – No, I’m still not completely buying the Eagles. Yes, they are 3-1. But their wins have come by an average of 1.7 points per game and they are 1-3 against the spread this season. This defense is much better than it is given credit for (hence the 1-3 mark against the total), but this team is winning in spite of Michael Vick, not because of him. Philly’s schedule is brutal for the remaining 12 weeks, and I will be stunned if they do better than 7-5 the rest of the way. Do not buy the hype on this team; they are overrated.
13. Minnesota Vikings (3-1) – If you have never learned anything from the Ferringo Report or from these NFL power rankings, learn this: IF YOU RUN THE BALL AND PLAY GOOD DEFENSE YOU WIN GAMES AND COVER THE SPREAD IN THE NFL. Point. Blank. Period. What Minnesota is doing should not be surprising. They play football the Right Way, and they win games because they are tough, physical, and aggressive. This is another team that I wonder about transitioning from the role of underdog to the role of favorite. Like Arizona last week, the Vikings are laying points for the first time this year this weekend. The Vikings are just 4-10 ATS after an ATS win.
14. Arizona Cardinals (4-0) – That is now an 11-2 straight up rush for the Cardinals dating back to last season. They did not cover last week against Miami, but you have to give them credit for surviving an obvious letdown/look ahead situation. I do think that a lot of the value from this team is gone, though, and I am interested to see how they handle being installed as a favorite on a consistent basis. Kevin Kolb’s feet have not been as happy so far this year. But I still think this team needs to go back to John Skellton when he is healthy. Kolb is still too shaky for my liking.
15. Seattle Seahawks (2-2) – I have to give a hat tip to Colin Cowherd, that somewhat clueless half-wit, for his call about Pete Carroll. His main critique of Carroll is that he (and his team) doesn’t mind the details. Seattle has the most penalties in football through four games and they are simply too sloppy. Seattle is making the dreaded West-to-East cross-country flight for a 10 a.m. local start against a desperate Carolina team. We will see what the Seahawks have in the tank after two very emotional games against Green Bay and St. Louis. Seattle is just 17-37-2 ATS in their last 56 road games.
16. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) – Tony Romo – certified loser. When you have to try to make excuses about an interception or two, OK, I get it, fluke bounces happen. But when you are trying to make excuses for five interceptions time and time again then you are an idiot. These guys are losers. Period. And the Cowboys will continue to wade in mediocrity as long as they have a loser head coach (from the poisoned Wade Phillips tree), a loser quarterback (Romo is the epitome of loser), and several overrated, overvalued losers on defense and at the skill positions. Dallas is 0-3 ATS since its season-opening win against New York, and the Cowboys are perfectly mediocre.
17. Washington Redskins (2-2) – This offense looks obscenely effective to the naked eye. They have been playing faster than every defense they have squared off against, and the Skins are an easy 4-0 against the total in their four games. (Yes, an equal factor is that that their defense can’t stop ANYONE. But still.) But Washington is last in the league in third down conversions at just 26 percent. I am curious how long they will fool opponents with their college-style offense. But if they ever start converting third downs they may begin to average 35-40 points per game.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) – I have to admit that I was completely, 100 percent wrong about Vincent Jackson. I always thought he was merely the product of a receiver-friendly system in San Diego. But Jackson is an elite receiver that will help keep this offense above water. In my opinion, this is one of the best 1-3 teams in the NFL. Josh Freeman is an anchor around Tampa’s neck. But I think this team is much better than its record suggests, and I believe the Bucs will be a very active underdog over the next two months.
19. Detroit Lions (1-3) – The Lions are now 0-4 ATS on the season and 3-13 ATS in their last 16 games. I really don’t think this should be surprising to anyone. This is an undisciplined, arrogant, inattentive group. The special teams failures – which are historically bad – are just a symptom of the larger problem. These guys aren’t going to turn anything around and they are headed for a 6-10 season. Sell any stock you are still holding on this team now!
20. San Diego Chargers (3-1) – This is the worst 3-1 team in the NFL right now. San Diego has beaten Oakland, Kansas City and Tennessee, and hasn’t even been that impressive in those victories, aided more by their opponents’ incompetence then by their own dominance. The Chargers are walking wounded in the secondary and are bringing guys (well, Chris Carr) off the street to play this week in New Orleans. They are 6-0 ATS in their last six games against a team with a losing record. But New Orleans isn’t your normal 0-4 team.
21. Carolina Panthers (1-3) – Last year I didn’t completely buy into Cam Newton because I had some character and integrity questions. Those are starting to bear themselves out now. This secondary, and the back seven in general, is horrific against the pass, and they have no one to turn to. The focus will stay on the childish antics of Newton and Steve Smith (quit celebrating basic accomplishments!), but the real problem with this team is that they can’t stop anyone from throwing the ball around.
22. New Orleans Saints (0-4) – I can’t believe it either. But the Saints aren’t 0-4 SU and 1-3 ATS because of their coaching issues. New Orleans can’t stop anyone. I mean ANYONE. That is their biggest issue. And that is why only suckers are sticking around waiting for this team to “turn it on”. They will not turn anything on because they simply do not have the personnel on their roster to be a Top 20 defense. New Orleans is still 9-2 ATS in its last 11 home games and 18-8 ATS after a loss. But I don’t know how much I trust them to keep teams out of the end zone.
23. St. Louis Rams (2-2) – I have been saying it all offseason: Jeff Fisher does his best work when expectations are the lowest. St. Louis is a solid 3-1 ATS this year as an underdog and they are catching points at home against Arizona. Also, this team is about 30 seconds away from being 3-1 after coming up just short in Detroit in the season opener. To this point the “under” is 4-0 on Thursday night football and the Rams have gone under in their last two games. We will see if low-scoring mid-week games continue.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) – This was my sleeper team entering the season. And to this point they have flopped. However, the Jaguars beat Indy on the road, and their losses have come at Minnesota (3-1), vs. Houston (4-0) and vs. Cincinnati (3-1). So I think they are still a bit undervalued. But the Jaguars have just two sacks – TWO – through four games this year. Things are only going to get worse for this group if it doesn’t find a pass rush.
25. New York Jets (2-2) – Don’t overthink it: this team is a train wreck. The Jets are headed for a 5-11 season. This is one of the least talented rosters in the NFL, and the only thing keeping their spreads within range is the fact that Joe Public loves Rex Ryan and buys into his hype. Don’t. This team is pathetic. I do expect them to play over their heads on “Monday Night Football”. The Jets are the type of team that relishes the underdog role. But they will lose that game and then are headed for an ugly October.
26. Buffalo Bills (2-2) – Do not underestimate the letdown factor for the Bills this weekend. That game against New England is Buffalo’s Super Bowl. And the Bills are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven games following a tilt with the Patriots. Buffalo’s defense is horrendous, and I do not see them being able to physically hold up against San Francisco this week. When the Niners squash the Buffalo running game, what will the Bills turn to? Ryan Fitzpatrick? Haha. The Bills are 0-5 ATS in their last five games following a double-digit home loss. Buffalo is also 2-6 ATS in its last eight on the road and 2-6 ATS against above .500 teams.
27. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) – What a bunch of ass-clowns. I truly can’t say enough bad things about this team or its clueless coach, Romeo Crennel. Throw out the final 20 minutes of their game at New Orleans and they have been outscored by 15.5 points per game in their other 15 quarters. The Chiefs are on pace for a -52 turnover differential and right now they are shockingly disorganized on both sides of the ball. The early betting this week is all coming in on Baltimore (89 percent to 11 percent), and I expect Kansas City to be catching at least six points by kickoff on Sunday. The Chiefs are 0-6 ATS in their last six games following a double-digit home loss and Kansas City has covered less than 40 percent of their last 50 home games.
28. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) – Our thoughts and prayers definitely go out to Chuck Pagano. Unfortunately, we still have to handicap this team in light of their coach’s battle with cancer. And I imagine that their bye week wasn’t as productive as this team would like. Andrew Luck looks the part. But to this point he is completing just 53 percent of his passes and the Colts are 20th in the league in yards per pass attempt. Making mattes worse for the Colts is that they have allowed their opponents (and they haven’t faced a quarterback as strong as Aaron Rodgers yet) to complete 63.7 percent of their passes. This secondary is going to get shredded this week.
29. Cleveland Browns (0-4) – I have been saying for two years that Cleveland has the worst crop of skill players in the NFL. I think that people are starting to catch on. Greg Little is a disaster, and at this point I don’t think that anyone beyond Trent Richardson is going to survive the inevitable coaching/front office purge that is coming for this franchise. The line on Cleveland’s game in New York dropped from 13.0 to 10.0 following New York’s Sunday night heartbreak. That is a red flag. Cleveland is 6-1-1 ATS in its last eight games, is 5-0-1 ATS on the road, and they have already battled with Philadelphia and Baltimore, so I don’t think the Browns will be intimidated this week.
30. Miami Dolphins (1-3) – I know people are looking at Miami’s last two games – two overtime losses – as proof of progress. However, opponents aren’t taking this team seriously. They are getting their opposition’s “C” game. I do like the physicality of Miami’s front seven. They are allowing just 2.4 yards per carry against and have yet to give up a rush of 20 yards or more. However, I think their talent level is still comically short of the rest of the league and that this team is only going to get worse as the season pushes on and their lack of depth is exposed. Random stat: the visiting team is 45-22 ATS in Miami’s last 67 games.
31. Tennessee Titans (1-3) – I think that this team is infinitely more dangerous now that Matt Hasselbeck is under center. He is a severely underrated veteran quarterback that commands much more respect in the locker room than injured Jake Locker (who will likely miss at least three weeks). I think Hasselbeck will get more out of this offense than Locker was able to and I am not in a rush to bet against him as an underdog. Unfortunately for the Titans, Hasselbeck can’t help this horrendous defense. And we’ll see if the Titans can stand their ground better against Minnesota’s rushing attack than they did last week against Houston’s. The Titans are on a 1-7 ATS slide and are 0-4 ATS in their last four road games.
32. Oakland Raiders (1-3) – Honestly, I have nothing to say about this bunch of losers. If you bet on them you are an idiot. That is my honest, professional opinion. Now, that is not to say you can blindly fade this team or that you want to bet against them every week because even the worst NFL teams beat some numbers. I am just saying that if you willingly put money down on Carson Palmer and the rest of these losers then you deserve every heartbreaking, soul-crushing thing that comes your way. You’ve been warned!
Robert Ferringo is a professional NFL handicapper has banked nearly $10,000 in football profit over the last 11 months he has had football picks. He will keep it going this week and is looking forward to building on his stellar football handicapping resume again this fall. You can check him out here.