First, I just want to say how much I respect Peter King. The guy is a great reporter and one of the writers that I go out of my way to read when it comes to the NFL. He has insights and access that I could only dream of and, perhaps most importantly, you can tell he's just a hell of a nice guy.
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Now, that being said, there are times when his football ignorance astounds me. A perfect example can be found in this week's column on CnnSI. (And, unlike the likeable King, I won't be accused of misquoting.) Here is the actual King quote: "Vinny Testaverde: Story of the Year." Yes, King used the majority of his weekly column to extol the virtues of Testaverde's return to the NFL and how he managed to bail out Carolina with an improbable 25-10 victory in Arizona, a place that Pittsburgh and Seattle could not win this season. King was overwhelmed by the fact that Testaverde joined the team four days before kickoff yet still managed to go 20-for-33 for 206 yards and a touchdown. He called it a "great story" and a "fairy tale".
Well, I was overwhelmed by that fact as well - but for all the wrong reasons. For me that single game marked a new low for the National Football League for me as a fan and as a gambler. I mean, what does that say about your product when a 44-year old, washed-up, never-was-too-good-in-the-first-place guy can literally be pulled of the couch in the middle of the week, play the single most important position on the field - quarterback - and not only cover the spread but lead his team to a two-touchdown road win? I mean, are you kidding me?
In my opinion this is the Era of Mediocrity. The defenders say that parity is good because each year, supposedly, different teams have a chance to make the playoffs. BS. That's an excuse and a cop out. New England, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and a few other teams seem to manage to make the playoffs every year without much trouble. No, the NFL has lowered its standards and the American public is more than happy to lower theirs along with them. It's a sad fact of our country these days and you see it in all walks of life. I live in the South, where it's OK to be an idiot. Around the country we have decreasing expectations for our local, state, and national government. Applebee's is now considered fine dining for a majority of the nation. This is what Thompson called "The New Dumb" and it has infected all aspects of society, including the National Football League.
The NFL has become a dumbed-down version of itself. Yes, it's unpredictable as ever and for some people that is a great situation. But from my perspective as a fan and a gambler the fact that week in and week out we are, outside of a handful of teams, forced to endure shoddy ball handling, poor quarterbacking, shaky officiating, and awful clock management. There's nothing positive about that. I could go on about this topic for days, but that's enough of that talk for a while. There's work to be done - just so it can be blown out of the water by some shaky backup quarterback or another field goal that hits off the goal posts.
Big weekend for the squares last week as the chalk went 8-4-2 ATS (that's counting the Tennessee-Tampa Bay game as a push since the line opened at three. On the season, the favorites are 41-45 ATS if you disregard pushes. Those are coolly efficient numbers from the books and mark a sharp contrast to the past two seasons when favorites covered at nearly 60 percent in 2005 and dogs dominated 2006.
And without further ado, here's Doc's Sports Week 7 NFL Power Rankings:
1) New England Patriots (6-0) - Wow. That's all I can say. Tom Brady is now 8-2 ATS in his last 10 games on turf. Also, now that media members have been pointing out Bill Belichick's penchant for running up the score, it will be interesting to see if he continues to the practice. They will need to in order to keep covering 17-point spreads.
2) Indianapolis Colts (5-0) - Bob Sanders will be OK to play for the Colts on Monday Night. That's a huge development because without him the Jaguars rushed for nearly 11,000 yards last year. The Colts are 8-2 ATS as favorites on Monday Night Football and are 3-0 ATS as road favorites off a week of rest.
3) Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1) - Opponents are averaging just 5.7 yards per attempt against the Steelers this year. Also, they will be lining up the league's No. 2 rush offense against the league's 32nd rush defense this week in Denver.
4) Jacksonville Jaguars (4-1) - After five games the Jaguars are sixth in total offense (355.2 yards per game). That's their highest ranking at this point in the year since 2000. Jacksonville is 6-3-1 ATS against the Colts and have covered against them at least once every year since 2002.
5) Tennessee Titans (3-2) - Turnovers have been weighing down the Titans. They've given the ball up seven times in their past two games. I would say that Vince Young has about a 70 percent chance of playing this week.
6) Dallas Cowboys (5-1) - Dallas has played well in just three of its past 12 quarters (the 2Q against the Pats, the 4Q against the Bills, and the 3Q against the Rams). If you eliminate those three quarters they've been outscored 72-37. Oh, and Patrick Crayton - shut up.
7) Green Bay Packers (5-1) - The Packers have a 67.2 percent pass-run ratio this season. That is excessive, but remember that the Eagles had so much success earlier this decade while throwing the ball nearly 62 percent of the time.
8) Washington Redskins (3-2) - Last year the Redskins allowed teams to convert 44 percent of their third downs. This year they are tops in the league with opponents only converting 31 percent on third down.
9) San Diego Chargers (3-3) - Fantastic trade by the Chargers to get Chris Chambers. Vincent Jackson is a bust and Chambers becomes the first true receiving threat that San Diego has had this millennium.
10) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2) - Jeff Garcia looks tremendous to this point of the season, and I think that Earnest Graham has the chance to be very good. The Bucs are just 10-21-1 ATS in their last 32 road games and are 1-4 ATS in their last five trips to Motown.
11) Baltimore Ravens (4-2) - Defense is still an A- and the offense is still a C-, yet they're one spot out of the Top 10. Welcome to the NFL! Jonathan Ogden's season is likely over, leaving Baltimore with three rookies starting along the offensive line.
12) New York Giants (4-2) - In each of Tom Coughlin's years with the team the G-Men have started the season 5-2, 6-2 and 6-2. However, after the halfway point of the season his teams have combined to go 8-18. New York has San Francisco and Miami on deck, with the Miami game taking place in London, so look for two more strong performances before the requisite second-half collapse.
13) Seattle Seahawks (3-3) - What a flaky team. Opponents have converted 15 of their past 29 third downs against the Seahawks defense. Once again they are not getting enough pressure on the quarterback. Seattle is now 5-24 ATS in October games.
14) Chicago Bears (2-4) - Last year the Bears were by far the most penalized team in the NFL, and this year they are on top of that notorious list again. If they couldn't handle Minnesota's mammoth offensive line last week I don't expect much more defensive success against the Eagles this week.
15) Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) - The Eagles have won five straight against Chicago dating back to 1999. They should be able to move the ball at will against a Chicago defense that is allowing 7.9 yards per pass. Also, I don't think Brian Westbrook will go off for 200+ rushing yards but he should be able to gash the Bears in the same manner that Adrian Peterson did.
16) Houston Texans (3-3) - There is a lot of frustration in Houston these days, but it's nearly impossible for this team to win after the amount of injuries they've had. The system is working, but there is a clear talent deficit. And don't look for Ahman Green to kick-start the running game this week against the No. 1 rush defense in the league.
17) Carolina Panthers (4-2) - Chris Harris and Deke Cooper have made tremendous leaps to shore up Carolina's one true defensive weakness at safety. Carolina has five interceptions in the past two weeks - both road wins. The Panthers are also now an unbelievable 27-7 ATS as a road dog dating back to the end of 2001.
18) Arizona Cardinals (3-3) - It will be interesting to see if there's any hangover from that poor loss in the desert last week. Arizona is 1-3 ATS in its last four trips to the capitol and is 19-82 ATS when they lose straight up. Oh, and according to reports, Kurt Warner thinks his arm will be healed by the power of prayer.
19) Kansas City Chiefs (3-3) - To this point in the season I think the Chiefs have played the most difficult schedule in the league. Kansas City is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 divisional games but 4-9-1 ATS as a road underdog. The road team is 7-1 ATS in this series with Oakland and Kansas City has covered four straight trips into the Black Hole.
20) Oakland Raiders (2-3) - Daunte Culpepper's horrendous fumble to end the first half, denying Oakland a field goal that would have made it 14-10, is the perfect example of why he will never be a winning quarterback in this league. And I'm not sure if it's scheme or talent, but opponents are averaging 6.2 yards per play against Oakland one year after managing just 4.5 ypp.
21) Detroit Lions (3-2) - Keep an eye on how the Lions use Tatum Bell. He's been complaining about not getting carries and made mention to the fact that he's in a contract year. Detroit is last in the league with 19.4 rushes per game and they are second to Green Bay with a 66.2 percent run-pass ratio.
22) Denver Broncos (2-3) - Under most situations I would be betting against the Broncos this week. However, they are an absolutely sensational 12-1 ATS with rest against a non-divisional opponent.
23) San Francisco 49ers (2-3) - Alex Smith will play this weekend, but is he in any condition to play well if he can't throw the ball down the field? Antonio Bryant was a selfish jerk, but the guy made big plays in the 49er passing game last year. If you ask me, that's what they're missing on this team.
24) Cleveland Browns (3-3) - Cleveland is 31st in the league in time of possession, yet they are fourth in points per game (27.8). That, my friends, is a quick-strike offense. I know everyone is ga-ga over Adrian Peterson but Joe Thomas has made the biggest impact of any rookie this year. The Browns are averaging 4.6 yards per carry this year, a full yard's difference from last years 3.6 average.
25) Minnesota Vikings (2-3) - Minnesota is 5-0 ATS in its last five matchups with Dallas and 5-1 ATS in their last six trips to Big D. You have to be concerned about Minnesota's No. 32 pass defense going up against the Cowboys. Minny got beat for TD passes of 39, 33 and 81 yards.
26) Atlanta Falcons (1-5) - If Bobby Petrino was really an "offensive genius" then I think we would have seen at least 10 screen passes on Monday to slow down the Giants defense. Atlanta has scored one touchdown in 10 quarters.
27) Buffalo Bills (1-4) - Trent Edwards is going to continue to start for Buffalo when they host Baltimore this week. I think that's a solid move, although Lee Evans has come out publicly to defend J.P. Losman.
28) New Orleans Saints (1-4) - I too was impressed with New Orleans' road win at Seattle, but I'm not sure that they're ready to be more than a touchdown favorite at home in a semi-rivalry game. Especially when teams are averaging 9.3 yards per attempt against the New Orleans secondary. The Saints are 5-1 ATS against the Falcons.
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29) Cincinnati Bengals (1-4) - This week Tab Perry and Ethan Kilmer became the ninth and 10th Bengals to be put on IR and shelved for the season. Cincinnati is just 5-11-1 ATS in its last 17 home games.
30) New York Jets (1-5) - This team is completely out of rhythm both offensively and defensively. This is just a bad team right now, and Eric Mangini doesn't want to switch quarterbacks because he doesn't want it to seem like a "panic move". Well, if you don't panic at 1-5, when do you panic?
31) Miami Dolphins (0-6) - The Dolphins have lost nine straight games dating back to last year. In fact, if you discount a nice six-game winning streak to close out 2005, the Dolphins are 13-35 SU dating back to the start of 2004.
32) St. Louis Rams (0-6) - In six games this year the Rams have used three left tackles, three left guards, two centers, three right guards and four right tackles. The underdog is 8-1 ATS in this series and the Rams are 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings.
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