Week 2 NFL Power Rankings
by Robert Ferringo - 09/14/2007
Panic and overreaction. Yes, those are the two emotions most closely associated with coming home from Las Vegas and having your wife ambush you with a credit card bill with a $750 charge at Treasures or Swingers or any other establishment with multiple Xs in its name. But panic and overreaction are also the standard operating procedure for fans, gamblers, and fantasy football freaks heading into Week 2 of the National Football League season. Those feelings are weakness, and they spread like VD.
The opening week of the 2007 NFL betting schedule was a square's delight, with the chalk posting a solid 9-5-2 record against the spread. That was in keeping with opening weekend 2005, but marked a reversal from last season's 6-10 ATS mark by the favorites in Week 1. So, obviously, this year these teams ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!!! The good teams are, well, good, and the piss-poor teams are piss-poor, right?
If you believe that then you probably believed Trixi when she told you that she really liked you and that she was only stripping to work her way through college.
Clearly the sports books are looking to capitalize on the natural overreaction from the general betting public heading into Week 2. In the opening round the spreads were all pretty stock, with nine of the numbers originating between three and 4.5 and the largest line checking in at just 7.5. Well, the Week 2 spreads are more 'roided up than David Boston or Rodney Harrison. There are five double-digit lines and three other games where the favorite is laying a touchdown. Last week there were just three road favorites, and this week that number is nearly double.
All of this stinks and I think a lot of squares could get caught with their pants down this weekend if they're not careful. Between 1997 and 2005, favorites of eight or more went just 8-17 ATS in Week 2. Last year the monster chalk did manage to cover five out of six in those situations, but that still only runs the 10-year profit on these large favorites to 41.9 percent.
I know it's next to impossible to imagine teams like Chicago, Jacksonville, Baltimore and Pittsburgh not dominating their weak-willed opponents this weekend. I would say 34-6, give or take a field goal, sounds about right for all four games. And if that's the case then laying a 10-spot has to be considered a bargain. But just like no-interest, no-payment deals and exotic mortgage rates there's always a catch. As a double-digit favorite the Bears are 1-4 ATS over the past two years, the Jaguars are 0-3 ATS under Jack Del Rio, and the Steelers are 2-10 ATS over the past decade. Add that up and you have three teams that are 3-17 ATS as monster chalk.
I suppose that's why God invented teasers. But the moral of the story is to stay cool after the opening weeks of the NFL season. It's a five-month grind and if you get caught in the roller coaster of judging teams on a week-to-week or half-to-half performance you're head is going to end up spinning faster than when Trixi was sliding in your lap.
Anyway, onto my Week 2 Power Rankings. Last week Tennessee was by far the team that impressed me the most, so they saw the biggest jump. Pittsburgh also made a significant jump but beyond that there was just a lot of minor shuffling. Again, I wouldn't be much of a sage if I didn't practice what I preached and not panic and overreact. For now, here's what I got:
1) San Diego Chargers (1-0) - The Chargers are just 2-6 ATS in their last eight games against the Patriots, but did hammer a Richard Seymour-less Pats team in Foxboro back in 2005. I actually thought they got outplayed for a majority of that game with Chicago, but they earned the "W" and that's all that matters. Also, I've said it before and will say it again, this team talks a lot of junk for someone that's never won anything.
2) New England Patriots (1-0) - I find it striking that no one in the league is all that surprised that New England is a bunch of low-life cheaters. Regardless, the offense looked spectacular against the Jets. They used a lot of max protect in order to allow their wideouts to get up the field. I'm not sure if they'll have that luxury against the hard-charging San Diego front seven. New England is 1-2-1 ATS over the past three years as a home favorite of 4.5 or less.
3) Chicago Bears (0-1) - If you had the 'under' on the Inevitable Season-Ending Mike Brown injury you won easily. They're now left with two young, up-and-down backups (Danielle Manning, Brandon McGowan) at safety. Last year the Bears won their first four home games by a combined score of 152-30. Also, Chicago is 9-3 against the total at home when the number is between 33.5 and 35.5.
4) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) - I had been saying all preseason that Big Ben is poised for a big year and he proved me a soothsayer for at least one week. Bill Cowher teams were just 5-14-1 as a favorite of eight or higher over the past 10 years. We'll find out if a Mike Tomlin team (and a club with a more pass-happy offense) shows more of a killer instinct. Pittsburgh has covered in seven straight against the Bills.
5) Indianapolis Colts (1-0) - Remember that the Titans actually beat the Colts last year and a combined four points decided their two games. Indy has covered six of eight in this series and they are 19-7-1 ATS in their last 27 September games. They are also 90-39 SU in the regular season since 1999 and 23-7 SU in AFC South play.
7) Dallas Cowboys (1-0) - Losing nose tackle Jason Ferguson for the season is a devastating blow to this offense, no matter what anyone says. And wasn't Wade Phillips brought in as a defensive guy? Giving up 438 yards and 35 points to a shaky Giants offense may have been a red flag. The Cowboys are also just 4-15 ATS on the road against an AFC opponent.
8) New Orleans Saints (0-1) - It couldn't have been fun having those extra two days to stew over that thrashing in Indianapolis. The Saints didn't have one completion over 25 yards against Indy one year after leading the league with 41 such passes.
6) Baltimore Ravens (0-1) - No matter who is quarterbacking, the Ravens have owned the Jets. Baltimore is 6-0 ATS versus New York and has covered three straight at home. The Ravens have also gone 11-2 ATS after a straight up loss when facing an opponent off a SU loss.
9) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) - After the Titans humiliated the Jags by rushing for nearly 300 yards on the ground, Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher suggested that it may have to do with Jacksonville resting 30 regulars in the final preseason game. Prior to that game the Jags had held teams below 100 yards rushing in 12 straight games. They are 9-1 ATS at home in September against a non-divisional opponent.
10) Seattle Seahawks (1-0) - Keep in mind that Matt Hasselbeck hasn't had a ton of success against the Cardinals in Arizona. However, the Hawks are 3-1 ATS in their last four against 'Zona. Seattle's defensive line showed some interesting new wrinkles against Tampa Bay and it led to five sacks. Now they're matched up with an offensive line starting two rookies and one second-year player.
11) Philadelphia Eagles (0-1) - Andy Reid is 10-1 ATS off a straight-up loss as a favorite and Donovan McNabb is 16-7 ATS following a loss. The Eagles are 17-10 ATS as home favorites after a loss and 11-3 ATS as home favorites on Monday Night Football. In other words, they're a good bet this weekend. However, they will miss Lito Sheppard.
12) Green Bay Packers (1-0) - Brett Favre hasn't piloted a 2-0 team in over six years. Green Bay is 4-1 ATS against the Giants and 6-1-1 ATS in conference games. However, the Pack is just 3-9 ATS following a straight-up win. Their offensive line was shaky, at best, against the Eagles and that's a huge key to their season.
13) Denver Broncos (1-0) - You want to talk about a team that did nothing to warrant being a 10-point favorite this week, here you go. Denver's defense was moderately impressive, although the Bills offense isn't exactly a juggernaut. And if they couldn't take advantage of a limping Buffalo defense I think the Raiders could cause them some problems.
14) Washington Redskins (1-0) - Jon Jansen is as important to the Redskins as Orlando Pace was to the Rams. The guy isn't just a great player, but he's also a team leader. The Redskins are just 3-7 ATS in their last 10 MNF games.
15) Tennessee Titans (1-0) - The Titans are now an incredible 10-1 ATS as an underdog dating back to last season. We'll see if Peyton Manning will pick on Nick Harper the same way that he went after Jason David. The Titans were by far the most impressive team on both sides of the ball in Week 1, pounding their divisional rivals on the road.
16) Houston Texans (1-0) - Ho-ho, look who is as good as we thought. I will have to say that I am one of the only NFL analysts that started the Texans this high on my rankings and they backed it up, for one week anyway.
17) Carolina Panthers (1-0) - Oh, those wacky Panthers. They ran for nearly 200 yards against the Rams. But they did the same thing in the preseason - had a monster opening game rushing and then fell on their faces in the next two. Carolina is now 20-3-1 ATS as an underdog and 7-19-1 ATS as a home favorite.
18) Cincinnati Bengals (1-0) - Six gift turnovers and it still took some help from the officials to win a home divisional game. Sorry, I'm not impressed. Also, there's a reverse line movement on their game in Cleveland this week. Beware - road divisional favorites off a Monday Night game are a dicey, dicey play.
19) San Francisco 49ers (1-0) - Yawn. I do give the Niners credit for beating their nemesis, but it's still pretty pathetic when the Cardinals are your nemesis to begin with! San Francisco has covered five straight against the Rams and three straight in St. Louis.
20) New York Jets (0-1) - Trouble. That's what the Jets are in - trouble. They have the look of a five-win team this year, and that's not an overreaction to getting hammered by one of the best teams in football. The Jets are notorious for this: sleeper one season, sleepwalking the next. They are 0-8 ATS against the Ravens and will be riding their backup quarterback.
21) St. Louis Rams (0-1) - When you look at how poor a lot of the No. 1 running backs across the league played last year - fumbles, falling, etc. - I would hope people would realize that just because it's OK for LT doesn't mean it's OK for them. I'm looking at you Steven Jackson.
22) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) - Weird, Cadillac Williams is hurt again. Didn't see that coming. The bigger loss is CB Brian Kelly. You don't really want Drew Brees coming to town and facing your backup corners. Tampa Bay has lost six straight divisional games but is 15-4 ATS as a home dog.
23) Detroit Lions (1-0) - This is a fantastic spot to play the Lions. They are facing an inexperienced offense this week, one that isn't set up to exploit its weakness in the secondary, and if Detroit can get up early I think they could run away with this one. The Lions are just 5-10 ATS as a favorite, dating back to 2003.
24) Miami Dolphins (0-1) - The loss of Yeremiah Bell is huge for this team because he was the glue in an otherwise suspect secondary. The Dolphins have no depth at safety, and that's not an area they want to be week in a game against a team that managed four TD passes the week before.
25) New York Giants (0-1) - A majority of the New York City media outlets are refuting ESPN's knee-jerk claims that Eli Manning would be out for a month. Always trust the beat writers over shady ESPN reporting. The Giants are just 1-3 ATS against Brett Favre recently.
26) Kansas City Chiefs (0-1) - The Chiefs had all kinds of protection issues against the Texans - a team with one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL - so what do you think is going to happen against Chicago this week? Also, the loss of Eddie Kennison is going to break the levy on what has been a weakness on this team for years.
27) Oakland Raiders (0-1) - It wasn't just that Oakland gave up 36 points to the Lions that was so bothersome last week, it was how it gave them up. The Raiders were gashed in the secondary and after the defense was given a lead with under eight minutes to play they allowed Detroit to score on three straight possessions. The Raiders did hold Denver to an average of just 15 points per game last year.
28) Minnesota Vikings (1-0) - The Vikings have won 14 of their past 15 meetings with the Lions, including 10 straight, and have covered in four consecutive outings. I do think the loss of Chester Taylor is going to hurt them in this game. It's a lot to ask a first-year starter at quarterback and a first-year starter at running back to carry a team on the road.
29) Arizona Cardinals (0-1) - New season, same Cardinals. I refuse to buy into this organization until I see them close out games that they should win. Arizona is just 1-3 ATS in their last four against Seattle and are 2-11 ATS at home in September divisional home games.
30) Buffalo Bills (0-1) - After a week full of questioning their own mortality in the wake of the Kevin Everett injury, how can you expect the Bills to be as physical as they'll need to be against the Steelers? Also, they are pretty much out of healthy bodies, losing Coy Wire, Ko Simpson and Jason Webster - all defensive starters - last week.
31) Atlanta Falcons (0-1) - I think people underestimate what Rod Coleman means to this team, and he will be out for four more weeks. Atlanta's line continues to struggle, and their pass blocking deficiencies were always glossed over because Ron Mexico could scramble out of trouble. Well, the Falcons were actually second to Oakland for the worst sacks-per-pass-attempt ratio last year (8.85) and I think they may be No. 1 this season.
32) Cleveland Browns (0-1) - The worst part about the dreadful, awful, pathetic effort of the Browns against the Steelers last week was that before the game the entire organization talked like they had been preparing for that game for months. Not so much. They stink, and Romeo Crennel is not an NFL coach. Period. The Browns are 1-12 against the NFL North under Crennel.
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