Week 3 NFL Power Rankings
by Robert Ferringo - 09/21/2006
Here's a quick breakdown of the three key matchups between undefeated teams this weekend:
Chicago (-3) at Minnesota, 1 p.m. on Sunday
The Bears roll into the Metrodome as a favorite for the first time in more than a decade. That's a bit curious since Minnesota is a place Chicago has not performed well at lately. The Bears are just 3-7 straight-up, but 6-4 against the spread, on the road against the Vikings.
Lovie Smith announced that rookie free safety Daniel Manning will replace Chris Harris in the starting lineup. That's also odd considering how well the defense has been playing. Last year then-rookie Harris replaced Mike Green in week four last season, only to get roasted for two touchdowns in a loss to Cleveland.
Minnesota is 10-2 at home against NFC North opponents since 2002. The Vikings have scored a pair of impressive three-point victories against 2005 playoff teams. The key has been the defense, and the Vikings possess by far the top secondary the Bears have faced yet this season. I don't think the three points will come into play, seeing as Minnesota is 6-76 ATS when they lose SU to a division opponent and Chicago is 57-5-2 ATS when they win.
Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-7), 1 p.m. on Sunday
This line was set at 9.5 before the Jaguars Monday Night Football performance against Pittsburgh. These teams have been very competitive with one another over the past four years, as all eight of their meetings have been decided by 10 points or less. The Jaguars are 5-2-1 ATS in those contests despite just a 2-6 SU mark.
Don't be mislead by the 21 players that the Colts placed on their injury report this week. They have had no less then 15 men on the list so far this season and that hasn't stopped them from two impressive victories. If anything, Jacksonville should be the sorer team after busting heads with the Steelers.
Winners on MNF are 25-17 SU in their following game since 2003. However, if you take out absurd mismatches (for instance, Indianapolis followed a MNF game against Houston twice last year) then MNF winners are closer to .500 the following week.
Atlanta (-3.5) at New Orleans, 8:45 p.m. on Monday
Heavy action is rolling in on the Falcons. And why not? The past two weeks they've looked like teens lying about their age so they could play another year of Pop Warner against the little kids. Or that kid with the late birthday that got to play an extra year of Little League. It's been domination.
Obviously, everyone knows that this will be the Saints first game back in the Super Dome since the horrors that took place there during Hurricane Katrina. It's taken a full year to repair the roof and get the venue ready. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to get the smell of urine and dead people off those seats. It was rough; especially since the federal government was supposed to help with the cleanup but decided to they had more important things to do.
This is a tough draw for Atlanta, which has historically had a tough time in New Orleans. The emotion should be off the charts, and hopefully everyone will be so happy for the Saints that they forget all about the fact that Tom Benson was begging to move the team last fall. Go Saints!!!
And without further ado, here are my Week 3 Power Rankings:
1. Indianapolis (2-0) - The Colts are converting an absolutely ridiculous 71.4 percent of their third downs (20-for-28). Does Dwight Freeney really have a pulled butt muscle? Allegedly he was injured after a savage towel-whipping from punter Hunter Smith.
2. Chicago (2-0) - The Bears run game (2.8 ypg) has been nonexistent, but anyone who thinks that Cedric Benson should be starting hasn't been watching Thomas Jones as a pass blocker. He's outstanding at picking up the blitz, something Benson doesn't do.
3. Seattle (2-0) - Stop me if I'm wrong here, but couldn't Seattle have taken the money they poured into Nate Burleson and Deion Branch and used it to keep Steve Hutchinson? And kept their first- and third-round picks? Would that have made sense to anyone else?
4. Jacksonville (2-0) - The Jaguars have won eight of their past 10 road games, but the two losses both came in domes. Jacksonville is 3-1 ATS at Indy, including a straight-up win there in 2004.
5. Pittsburgh (1-1) - The Steelers are 8-3 SU and 7-4 ATS against the Bengals since 2001. Understand that they also have a severe mental edge over the Bengals. It's like a big brother-little brother scenario. And imagine Joey Porter as your big brother. Scary.
6. Baltimore (2-0) - The Ravens are only 24th in total offense with just 267 yards per game. The passing game is 28th with 294 yards and just 55 percent completions. Those look like Kyle Boller numbers to me.
7. Atlanta (2-0) - The Falcons are 7-3 ATS in the Crescent City, but 0-2 in their last two trips. Warrick Dunn is averaging 25 carries per game after averaging 15 hauls during the last nine seasons.
8. Cincinnati (2-0) - Of all the injuries facing the Bengals this weekend, the biggest might be the loss of center Rich Braham. The center is responsible for setting up blitz protection and the Steelers attack more than any team in the league with exotic schemes.
9. San Diego (2-0) - San Diego is playing very well, but they seem like they're licking themselves a bit too much after beating awful Oakland and terrible Tennessee. I mean, you still have Marty Schottenheimer as your coach so it's not like you'll win anything.
10. New England (2-0) - The Patriots, realizing their LBs aren't as strong and that they need help stopping the run, showed a 4-3 look against the Jets. They go with Ty Warren, Richard Seymour and Vince Wilford - all 300+ pounds - and another end.
11. Minnesota (2-0) - In their last 11 regular season games the Bears are 9-2. So are the Vikings. Minnesota is 11-4 ATS off back-to-back wins. They're streaky. And no, that wasn't a subtle Love Boat crack.
12. Denver (1-1) - Mike Shanahan is 4-2 against Bill Belichick, but this is just the second meeting between these two in Foxborough. The Over/Under on passes Jake the Snake throws up for grabs is 5.5.
13. New York Giants (1-1) - That was much more of an Eagles collapse than a Giants comeback. One year after combining for 26 sacks, Osi Umenyiora and Mike Strahan have just one. The Giants are 7-1 ATS with revenge.
14. Carolina (0-2) - Deshaun Foster will start, even though DeAngelo Williams is clearly more explosive. Carolina is 8-2 ATS against the Bucs and 3-0 ATS in their last three at Tampa.
15. Dallas (1-1) - Drew Bledsoe is completing just 49 percent of his passes. Also, good call with No. 1 pick Bobby Carpenter. The guy was inactive in Week 1 and played sparingly against Washington.
16. Philadelphia (1-1) - The Eagles lead the league with 13 sacks. But without Javon Kearse and with a slowed Darren Howard, DC Jim Johnson will have to get creative in applying pressure. Unlike the overtime against the Giants. D'oh!
17. New Orleans (2-0) - Monday night is going to be a lot of fun in the Bayou. Vick vs. Bush. Saints vs. Falcons. Benson vs. his own greed. Good times. But to win the Saints front seven is going to have to crowd the line, plug rushing lanes and force Vick to beat them.
18. Miami (0-2) - Yuk. I'm still so disgusted by their performance last week that I have nothing to say about them. The Dolphins are dead to me.
19. St. Louis (1-1) - The Rams have not taken to Scott Linehan's offense, especially in the red zone. Including preseason they are 1-for-25 this year, and going back to 2005 the Rams have converted just 25 of their past 76 trips in the red zone into touchdowns.
20. Washington (0-2) - Over the past decade, the Redskins are 7-16 SU in the regular season in the second game of back-to-back or three consecutive road games. Al Saunders' offense has succeeded on just six of 27 third down attempts.
21. Arizona (1-1) - Starting CB Eric Green (groin) likely won't play, and former starter David Macklin was inactive last week in Seattle. One place you don't want to have instability when the Rams come to town is in the secondary.
22. Kansas City (0-2) - The Chiefs have just one sack so far this season. The off week should be a tremendous help in getting the offense back on-track.
23. Buffalo (1-1) - I still can't get over that special teams performance last week. It was flawless. But the offense looks like something out of the 1910s. They are 31st in the league in passing, averaging 103 ypg.
24. Detroit (0-2) - Teams are completing a whopping 79 percent of their passes against the Lions secondary. The Lions are 8-1 ATS when Brett Favre comes to the Motor City.
25. Tampa Bay (0-2) - I hope John Gruden doesn't plan to throw the ball 56 times against Carolina unless his wants to get Chris Simms killed. Maybe that's the idea. The Bucs are averaging 14.6 points in Simms' last 13 appearances.
26. San Francisco (1-1) - The 49ers have yielded an average of 36 points per game to Philadelphia in their last three meetings. That includes last year's 42-3 whitewashing. The 49ers are 91-38 SU at home since 1990, winning by an average score of 26-18.
27. Houston (0-2) - David Carr is completing 76 percent of his passes. I think it shouldn't be a surprise the effect that Gary Kubiak has had on Carr, as well as what Kubiak's absence has done to Jake Plummer.
28. New York Jets (1-1) - The Jets are just 3-7 SU and 4-6 ATS in Orchard Park. They are also 3-10 ATS against a team coming off a win as an underdog.
29. Cleveland (0-2) - The Browns have totaled just 64 yards - combined - in the first five drives of each of their two games. No thanks to Kellen Winslow Jr. or Sr.
30. Tennessee (0-2) - I like Jeff Fisher a lot. Think he's a great coach. But this is the second quarterback in the last four months to leave the team under shady circumstances.
31. Green Bay (0-2) - The Packers offensive line is having trouble with the zone-blocking scheme the offense employs. They face Detroit, which is allowing just 3.0 yards per rush.
32. Oakland (0-2) - According to Peter King, 92 percent of all of Oakland's pass plays have been off a five- or seven-step drop. One year after catching 70 balls, LaMont Jordan has zero catches.
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