I crave the chaos of another football betting season.
It has been six months since the Super Bowl. It was literally a life ago. That moment marked a sort of cosmic pivot, with that final crescendo of another football season giving way to six of the longest, most grueling months of my life. From my wife’s excruciating pregnancy to my newborn son’s struggles in the hospital to a litany of personal and professional dramas, adjustments and experiences that have played out incrementally from February to the present, the anarchy of these last few months has been an endurance trial.
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But, as is nature’s way, order is being restored. The tides are receding. Summer’s lawlessness is seeping away, making room for the reflections of Fall. The school calendar, that societal skeleton, is looming. And as we, a collective consciousness, nonchalantly pick up the final pieces of our debauched, temporary midyear vacation from The Things We Must Take Care Of, one can’t help but cast an eye toward a near-future filled with so much predictable uncertainty.
The NFL does not bring answers – only more questions. It brings pain and destruction, riches and realization. Empires are built and destroyed. Dreams and futures crushed and created with seconds at the intersection of so many fates.
In football there is chaos. And that is the only thing that can truly restore order.
It is approaching. Another football season marching toward us with the rhythmic beating and confidence of undeterred inevitability.
I welcome the violence. I look forward to the bazaar and the bizarre. I await the structure and routine that encases my purpose and harnesses my focus. And I embrace the fervor, frustration, panic, exhilaration, anticipation, anxiety, delirium and elation of so many things gone horribly, unknowably wrong and supernaturally, predictably right.
It is back.
And I am ready.
Here are Doc’s Sports Preseason NFL Power Rankings:
1. San Francisco 49ers (0-0) – I wish I had something provocative or surprising to offer you in the way of The Best Team in Football. But it is the 49ers. San Francisco is the best team in the best conference in the game. The offseason didn’t sabotage them. Each loss to free agency or injury was replaced by a comparable part. The 49ers have the best defense and one of the best running games in the NFL. They play old-school football at a time when everyone seems to be going soft. I love that. And going back to his last year at Stanford, Jim Harbaugh-coached teams have gone 32-16-2 against the spread, making him the best bet in football.
2. Denver Broncos (0-0) – I actually had the Broncos at No. 1 when I first sketched this power ranking out a couple weeks ago. But then Von Miller got suspended. Then they cut Joe Mays. Then Dan Koppen was injured. And I still can’t shake the Elvis Dumervil fiasco. It’s as if the Football Gods have conspired against Peyton Manning ever playing with a top-tier defense. But Denver’s schedule is such that Manning could play with his neck in a cast and they’d win 11 games. An unstoppable offense may be their best defense. But we’ve been down that road with Manning before, haven’t we?
3. New England Patriots (0-0) – What, are you surprised? Did Tom Brady get thrown in jail? Did Bill Belichick enter witness protection? No? Then the Patriots are still in the mix. They have massive weaknesses, and I don’t believe that they can win a Super Bowl with this team. But are you betting against them? The offense will be less effective. But in 2012 the Patriots ran the ball better than they had in years, and very quietly the defense is improving. Oh, yeah, and their division is chock full of losers.
4. Baltimore Ravens (0-0) – I am very wary of the Ravens. I have said for years that John Harbaugh would be exposed if he didn’t have Ray Lewis and Ed Reed holding that locker room together. We’ll find out. Ozzie Newsome might be the best talent evaluator in football and has restocked this roster. But the Ravens were a veteran team that scaled the mountaintop. It’s tough to gear back up after that. There are too many indicators pointing downward yet too much raw physical talent for that fall to be far.
5. Green Bay Packers (0-0) – I know I have the Packers at No. 5, but I actually am not all that high on this group. They lost more than they gained in the offseason, and their defense is suspect beyond Clay Matthews. The Packers also have perhaps the most difficult schedule in football. Truly, it is absurd. But Aaron Rodgers is a magician (no matter what Greg Jennings says), and Green Bay is the top team in one of the most competitive divisions in football. That has to count for something.
6. Atlanta Falcons (0-0) – Pardon me, Denver, but the Falcons have the best offense in football. Atlanta has let its line leak talent, but, even so, this attack should be able to score at will. However, Atlanta’s defense is horrendous. Mike Smith and Mike Nolan can only scheme so much to cover up the talent deficit this team is dealing with on that side of the ball. And eventually when they run into a legit opponent, the Falcons defense is going to get manhandled – again – and let this team down. Atlanta’s defensive yard-per-point numbers were beyond the norm last year. A regression should be swift and severe.
7. Houston Texans (0-0) – The Texans will once again be good enough to wail on bottom-feeding teams but not quite good enough to overtake the other top-tier squads. Fortunately for the Texans, their division is the worst in football, so they can sleep walk through another regular season before being punched in the face in the playoffs. Houston went just 2-4 against the spread against teams made the playoffs last year. We know who this team is.
8. New York Giants (0-0) – I may be a little optimistic with this ranking. The Giants defense has some major question marks, particularly in the back seven. But the Giants usually don’t stay down for very long. They have finished .500 or better in eight straight seasons, with two Super Bowls to boot, and I think that this year’s offense could be the best of the Eli Manning era. They open with three of their first four games on the road but also face just two 2012 playoff teams in the first 10 weeks of the season.
9. Chicago Bears (0-0) – Last year the Bears were one of the luckiest teams in the league in regards to team health. They lost just 23 starts to injury, fourth-fewest in football, and they do have an aging core, so that’s something to watch. But they finally addressed an offensive line that had been an anchor around this team’s neck. Marc Trestman is one of the biggest X-Factors in the NFC this year, as he inherits an extremely talented veteran team that has a 29-19 record over the last three seasons with just one playoff berth to show for it.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) – A transition is still underway in the Steel City as Pittsburgh continues to turn over its roster. This is a much younger team than the one we saw in the Super Bowl just two years ago. But there is no rebuilding in Pittsburgh. Over the last 20 years the Steelers have missed the postseason in back-to-back years just twice, and both occurred during a three-year dry spell from 1998-2000. Their turnover differential was a pathetic -10 last year, and they still went 8-8. Improvement in that stat should mean a couple more wins.
11. Seattle Seahawks (0-0) – This ranking is obviously at odds with the prepackaged storyline making its way through the bobblehead media right now. The thinking is that the Seahawks are one of the Super Bowl favorites and one of the best teams in the league. That thinking is wrong. A tricky schedule, some statistical regressions, and poor injury luck (the Seahawks had one of the fewest totals of starts lost to injury in 2012; they already have several starters hurt in 2013) are just some of the things conspiring against the Seahawks this year. I don’t think they will go in the tank. But this team isn’t going back to the postseason.
12. Washington Redskins (0-0) – I think Washington is better than Dallas heading into this year. But I actually believe that the Cowboys will finish with a better record. The reason: the schedule. The Redskins have a much more difficult schedule thanks to their newfound popularity. They have four primetime games this year, and they have three short weeks as a result. Those high-profile affairs can tax a team mentally as much as physically. Also, Washington’s secondary is a sieve. And when you look at the quarterbacks they face – Rodgers, Romo, both Mannings, Cutler, Ryan – the Redskins are going to have a tough time stopping people.
13. Cincinnati Bengals (0-0) – The Bengals are a solid football team. But it is premature to include them with the league heavyweights. Cincinnati has won 23 games over the past three years. But only two of those wins came against teams that finished the year over .500, and one of those came in Week 17 last year while Baltimore was resting its starters. Cincinnati’s yard-per-point numbers on offense and defense were anomalous, and their strength of schedule took the second-biggest jump in the league (Atlanta). The Bengals open with the Bears, Steelers and Packers, and that leads into a stretch of five road games in seven weeks. There are warning signs with this group.
14. New Orleans Saints (0-0) – Sean Payton’s return is going to make a noticeable difference for this team. The Saints went 7-9 and actually outscored their opponents last year despite a horrific offseason and an all-time terrible defense. This offseason has been a marked improvement. But I don’t expect the defense to be all that much better. New Orleans is pathetic on that side of the ball and just doesn’t have much talent in that arena. They didn’t make things better by bringing in defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who has a history of failure everywhere he has coached.
15. Kansas City Chiefs (0-0) – If you’re looking for “This Year’s Colts” you should look at the Chiefs. As with Indianapolis heading into last season, the Chiefs are coming off a disgusting campaign that was the perfect storm of awful, with both on- and off-field problems wreaking havoc throughout the franchise. Kansas City has made major upgrades at head coach and quarterback. They have a much easier schedule and lower expectations. And the Chiefs have a host of other statistical indicators that suggest that they will be in the hunt for a postseason berth late in the season. You might not buy it, but I certainly do.
16. Dallas Cowboys (0-0) – Perhaps the biggest thing that the Cowboys have going for them is that their strength of schedule differential from 2012 to 2013 is the best in the league. They went 8-8 last year, and their Pythagorean Wins number suggested they should’ve been 9-7. So if the team can simply not get worse, an easier schedule this season should equate to double-digit wins. The big question mark with this squad is how will they take to Monte Kiffin’s switch back to the 4-3 defense? If things go well there, and if Tony Romo doesn’t give away too many games, then Dallas could be a playoff team.
17. Carolina Panthers (0-0) – I have absolutely no idea why the Panthers haven’t been calling every free agent safety within 1500 miles to come in and play for them. The Panthers have big-time breakout potential this year if two things happen. First, they still need a second receiver to emerge; Cam Newton is good at what he does but he isn’t like a Brady or a Rodgers or a Manning where he can take mediocre receivers and make them exceptional. And second, Carolina needs its secondary to magically outperform its feeble talent level. Carolina is set up and down the roster. But that secondary is a blown two-touchdown lead waiting to happen.
18. Minnesota Vikings (0-0) – If you run the ball and play great defense you can win in the NFL. Period. Last year the Vikings did both things well enough. Sure, their playoff push in 2012 benefitted from some late-season luck (Houston and Green Bay had nothing to play for in Weeks 16 and 17, respectively, and the Vikes barely held a tiebreaker over Chicago). But the Vikings earned their place at the table. They also improved in the offseason. But the reason no one has any confidence in Christian Ponder is because he hasn’t done anything to deserve it.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) – If the Panthers falter then the Bucs could definitely be the team in the NFC South that jumps up and disrupts the social order. Both teams face absolutely brutal schedules. But both teams have talent. I like the attitude that Greg Schiano has instilled in this team (although the kneel-down drama is bush league). And Tampa’s offense is much more explosive than people give it credit for. Tampa lost three games by a field goal or less and blew a two-touchdown lead in the last 16 minutes at the Giants. They were a lot closer to being a 10-win team than people realize, and this is one of my sleeper teams this season.
20. Miami Dolphins (0-0) – I want to like Miami this year. I really do. But the Dolphins are becoming a little too trendy for my taste. I am hearing a lot of glowing predictions for the Fins coming from media bobbleheads. Right now it seems like the main thing Miami has going for it is that they aren’t the Bills or the Jets. I am still gun shy about jumping on Ryan Tannehill’s bandwagon, and this team is light on depth. Miami’s offense can be explosive if Tannehill takes a step forward. And the Dolphins defense is really underrated after back-to-back seasons in the Top 10 in points allowed. But Miami has disappointed before and I’m wary of buying in too soon.
21. Arizona Cardinals (0-0) – The Cardinals are putting an awful lot of faith in a quarterback that has gone 13-37 as a starter since 2010. But when your signal callers have been Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley, it is easy to get excited about a renowned loser like Carson Palmer. I’m skeptical of Palmer’s ability to lead and to absorb contact. But Arizona quietly had a big offseason, adding several nice veteran pieces. If the defense can avoid a steep drop-off after losing coordinator Ray Horton, then the Cardinals could be lurking in the West.
22. Detroit Lions (0-0) – People need to quit it with Detroit as a sleeper team in the NFC. They are still a sloppy, undisciplined, poorly-organized, injury-prone squad. They have physical talent. But they don’t execute well enough and aren’t detail-oriented enough to finish games. Detroit’s underachievement compared to its Pythagorean Wins number and compared to their Las Vegas win total last year means that they have over a 70 percent chance of beating their Vegas win total this year. The number is set at 8.0. But I’m not holding my breath since Detroit faces the second toughest schedule in the league this year based on their opponents’ 2012 winning percentage.
23. Cleveland Browns (0-0) – I think the Browns have a chance to be one of the “best” bad teams this year. That is to say that any improvement this year may not become evident in the win-loss column, but it should reveal itself at the betting window with Cleveland becoming a very good ATS squad. Cleveland was a lot more competitive last year than people realized. Their level of underachievement compared to their Pythagorean Wins total gives them a 61 percent chance of winning seven or more games this year. But they are still clearly the fourth-best team in one of the toughest, deepest divisions in football and I think threatening .500 under the new regime is being overly optimistic.
24. Tennessee Titans (0-0) – I want to like the Titans this year. I really do. But I’m afraid they are bound to become the latest in a long line of teams that tried to buy their way out of mediocrity and failed. And, unfortunately, I think it is going to take another two years for them to realize that Jake Locker, in fact, sucks. At 6-10 the Titans actually overachieved last year. They were outscored by 141 points on the season. That’s major ground to make up, and I don’t think Delanie Walker and Andy Levitre are worth 10 points a game.
25. Indianapolis Colts (0-0) – Lest we forget, the 11-5 Colts were actually outscored by 30 points and outgained by 200 yards last year. By comparison, Cleveland (5-11) and Detroit (4-12) were only outscored by 66 and 65 points apiece, respectively. The Colts exceeded their Pythagorean Wins by a stunning 3.8 victories, and they caught lucky break after lucky break last season. The Colts face a much tougher schedule, and they are due for an emotional hangover after a surreal 2012. They are fortunate to have one of the easiest schedules in the league.
26. St. Louis Rams (0-0) – In my opinion, Jeff Fisher is one of the best coaches in football. I love his program, his toughness, and his approach to the game. But the Rams are one of the youngest teams in football, and they played a bit over their heads last year. I am a big Sam Bradford fan, and I hope he doesn’t get the blame for another losing season. He has nothing to work with offensively (although I really like St. Louis’ o-line), and the back seven on defense is shaky at best.
27. Philadelphia Eagles (0-0) – I think that Chip Kelly is going to be a train wreck in his first season at the helm in Philadelphia. The players and the fan base are both skeptical, and there has already been a season’s worth of locker room drama. Even if Kelly is better than I suspect, there is still the Eagles overhyped roster to deal with. The Eagles have some indicators suggesting a bounce-back year, specifically their turnover differential and their offensive and defense yard per point stats. Also, Philadelphia has only finished below .500 six times in the last 25 years, so this franchise doesn’t stay on the mat for long. But things aren’t going all that well, and I don’t have a lot of optimism.
28. Buffalo Bills (0-0) – I am firmly on record as saying that Doug Marrone was a low-budget, low-rent hiring by a third-rate organization. Marrone allegedly re-built another rotting Northern New York football institution, Syracuse University. But the Orange went just 25-25 in his four-year tenure, and eight of those wins came against teams from D-IAA or the MAC. Buffalo has some high-end skill people. But they have a horrid quarterback situation, and it’s going to take a while for them to learn the new systems.
29. San Diego Chargers (0-0) – Here we have another roster rebuild that is being spearheaded by a questionable coaching hire. Who is Mike McCoy and is he capable of leading this team back from the dead? The Chargers offensive line is still a mess, and their skill players are only slightly above average. Defensively this group is young and undistinguished. San Diego has a relatively soft first seven weeks. But their most winnable games are on the road, and most of those are early starts on the East Coast. That never works out well for California teams.
30. New York Jets (0-0) – If you think that the Jets have been a circus this offseason, just wait about two months. New York has a brutal schedule through the season’s first two months. They should be 2-7 or 3-6 heading into their bye week, and I think Rex Ryan is a prime candidate for a mid-season firing. If that happens, the tent could go up in flames. The Jets “quarterback battle” between Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith reminds me a bit of last year’s “battle” between Kolb and Skelton out in Arizona; does it even matter who wins?
31. Oakland Raiders (0-0) – The Raiders wish they could close their eyes and when they open them have it be 2014. Oakland is going to suffer through this season knowing it has $50 million in cap space next offseason. This year they will keep the focus on trying to develop young players and continue to install the systems of Dennis Allen (the seventh coach in 10 years). Oakland has won five or less games in eight of the past 10 years. Get ready to make it nine of 11. Last year they lost five games by three touchdowns or more. We will see if they can improve in that area at least.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0) – Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who also purchased English soccer club Fulham this summer, should be happy that there isn’t relegation in the NFL. The Jaguars had an opportunity to be much better than they were in 2012. But Blaine Gabbert is a CFL-quality quarterback, and Chad Henne may be even worse. Which is fine, because they don’t have any receivers to throw to, anyway. Jacksonville’s defense is overmatched, and there is zero interest in this team inside or out of their home market. The Jags have finished above .500 just three times since the turn of the century and – spoiler alert – they won’t top that mark this year.
Throughout the season I will have my NFL Power Rankings every Tuesday. My next NFL PR will be released on Tuesday, Sept. 3.
Robert Ferringo is a lead writer for Doc’s Sport and he has earned over $9,000 in football profit for his clients over the last 15 football months. He is looking forward to another amazing season on the gridiron and has banked five of six winning NFL seasons, two of three winning years and 27 of 39 winning football months. And this fall, for the first time ever, Robert will release selections from his incredible KING College Football Betting System. (Learn more HERE.) We are so confident that you will be amazed by this moneymaking system we are going to give you a free, no-strings-attached $60 credit to use toward a purchase of Robert’s football selections. CLICK HERE for $60 absolutely free!
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