Opening Week NFL Power Rankings
by Robert Ferringo - 09/06/2007
If you want my professional advice for the opening week of the regular season professional football here it is: be cool.
That's it; be cool. I know your nipples are hard that the National Football League is back in full effect. All of ours are, including Kelly Clarkson's. I know that you've been reading the magazines, listening to bobbleheads like Screamin' A. Smith, and that your fantasy football foresight instantly makes you a more qualified general manager than Matt Millen. You are the man, and this is going to be the year that you dominate the books with a magical run of parlay winners, backdoor covers, and over/under acumen. You're an unstoppable force and just a few decent weeks away from refinishing the basement. I got it.
But here's the thing - the oddsmakers know more about football than you do. And the moment you don't respect that is the moment that you've agreed to flush your bankroll down the toilet.
Consider the opening lines this weekend. In Week 1, seven of the 16 lines are relatively stable at -3.0. Granted, some are wavering, but in general the books are sending out their stock lines. It's as if they're admitting, "Hey, parity's a bitch. We have no idea either." It was pretty much the same thing last year when 10 of the 16 games closed between 2.0 and 4.0. But you know what happened last year? Underdogs not only covered six of those 10 games but they also won all six of those games outright. Maybe you were one of the few that profited from the Madness. But the odds say that you weren't. See, the books are smart enough not to over commit to offseason hype and preseason bluster. You should be as well.
Now prepare for my Amazing Contradiction: I am a huge proponent of the idea that the first three weeks of any sport is the best time to jump on the books, stick your fist through their rib cage, rip out their liver, stuff it through their ear, and then drive to their home and set it on fire. You do have to take advantage of their uncertainty. But you also have to pick your spots like some stealth Nicaraguan sniper. The last thing you want to do is to get drunk on hubris and dig yourself a hole in the first week of the season. This isn't the week to shoot the moon and rip off a pick on every single game, and it sure as hell isn't the time for fantastic, can't lose, three-team sweetheart teasers. Every time some amateur makes a wild wager like that in Week 1 a Repo Man's right ear starts wringing.
So do your thing. Enjoy your weekend and eyeball the teams that you did wager on, along with those that you were going to bet, like a hawk stalking a field mouse. Take some time to test your radar and then maybe next week we can start your Complete and Total Domination. Trust me, I'm a trained professional.
Doc's Sports NFL Power Rankings will be released on Wednesday or Thursday during the season and will be a weekly guide to tips, trends, traps, stats, buzz and bluster about each team heading into the weekend. It's usually a jolly good time so I hope you'll stop back. For now, here's what I got:
1) San Diego Chargers - Former Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera is now the linebackers coach at San Diego. I think his detailed knowledge of the Bears' personnel is going to pay big dividends for the Chargers this week. San Diego won all eight of its home games last year.
2) Chicago Bears - More than 35 percent of Chicago's points the last three seasons have come off a turnover. That is by far the most in the league. Also, last year Rex Grossman didn't fare well against teams in a 3-4 defense, going 26-for-56 for 295 yards and three interceptions. However, Chicago went 1-0-1 ATS those games.
3) New England Patriots - I had to drop the Pats because Dick Seymour and Cheater Harrison are two of their three best defensive players. They'll really be feeling the burn next week against San Diego. I think the fact that this number (-6.5) in the Jets game hasn't moved should make it a "No Play" for bettors. Something stinks.
4) Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens are 1-4 ATS against the Bengals recently, including 1-3 at Cincinnati. Also, the Ravens are only 2-4 on the road to open the season under Brian Billick. Jonathan Ogden is still questionable for the opener. He didn't play at all this preseason because of a hyperextended big toe. Adam Terry will move to LT if Ogden doesn't play.
5) Jacksonville Jaguars - The Jaguars are 8-0 ATS I their first game of the season, and have won their last two home openers by more than a touchdown. They beat down the Titans 37-7 last year in Jacksonville. They are also14-4 ATS in their first three games of the year over the past five seasons. Basically, they are the new Dolphins - a dominant September team that is dicey in December.
6) Dallas Cowboys - With Terrance Newman's ankle very questionable, this might not have been the right time to dump nickel corner Aaron Glenn. After running one of the smoothest camps in recent Cowboys memory, Wade Philips made this highly unpopular move at kind of a bad time. Is anyone else not surprised? Remember, this is the guy who benched Doug Flutie for Rob Johnson at the height of Flutie Flakes' power.
7) Indianapolis Colts - This is the fourth straight year the Colts have opened the season on national television and this is Indy's first home season opener in eight years. I think that's a significant advantage. The Colts are 1-4 ATS against New Orleans over the past five meetings.
8) Pittsburgh Steelers - The Steelers have won 13 of the past 14 meetings with Cleveland, but the games in the Dawg Pound have been rather spirited. I think that Mike Tomlin made a mistake by announcing in the media that Ike Taylor would be covering Braylon Edwards one-on-one. Why would he make that public? It gives his team absolutely no edge and reveals some of the game plan to the motivated Browns.
9) New Orleans Saints - New Orleans has won its past two season openers, both of which were on the road. They also got DT Brian Young back this week. He had a fractured foot and missed the preseason. I'm going to be keeping an eye on ex-Colt Jason David matched up against Marvin Harrison. I have a feeling Peyton may pick on David.
10) Philadelphia Eagles - If the Eagles are going to shore up the league's No. 26 rush defense it starts with DT's Mike Patterson and Broderick Bunkley. Behind them are Kimo von Oelhoff and Montae Reagor, but those guys are just for insurance. The Eagles are 7-1 ATS in their last eight against the Pack, including three straight at Lambeau.
11) Seattle Seahawks - There are still a lot of question marks surrounding the Seahawks on defense. But I think that the 12th man will be enough in this one.
12) Denver Broncos - Over the past 15 years the Broncos are a stellar 43-22 SU and 38-24 ATS in September games. Mike Shanahan is always a fast starter and this year should be no different. Travis Henry should have a field day going against his former team and its decimated defense this weekend.
13) New York Jets - The Jets brought in Reche Caldwell and Artrell Hawkins, both cut by the Pats recently, to pick their brains about New England's schemes. Always mind games going on with these two teams. New York played the Pats tough in both regular season contests last year, earning a split of the season series before getting housed in the playoffs.
14) Houston Texans - It's time to see if the Texans are for real. They had a sharp preseason but they are still having trouble generating a pass rush.
15) Green Bay Packers - The Packers have been a putrid bet in Week 1, losing seven of their past 10 openers ATS. They are even worse in their first home game, posting a 2-8 ATS mark in their Lambeau opener.
16) Washington Redskins - Washington is still recovering from a dislocated right elbow and could miss time on Sunday. He's wearing a brace and practicing, but there's no word on if he'll be able to hold up. Also, Chris Samuels practiced with the team for the first time this week.
17) Carolina Panthers - The Panthers, who were in desperate need of some defensive depth and some offensive life, were cash-strapped this offseason. As a result, they had to scrape up Marquand Manuel and Dante Wesley to shore up their secondary and they have to hope that they can find an offensive playmaker from within. The reason the books are loath to give the Panthers points is because Jake Delhomme is a ridiculous 19-3-1 ATS as an underdog.
18) St. Louis Rams - For the second straight preseason the Rams didn't score an offensive touchdown. Last year it carried over into the regular season, as they averaged no more than 18 points in any of their first three games before they picked up steam. The Rams are 0-4 ATS in their last four games against the Panthers.
19) Cincinnati Bengals - Not having Chris Henry in this game is big. You never want to be shorthanded on offense - but especially not against the Bengals. Also, Cincy has had all kinds of problems with its special teams this preseason. They'll be facing a dangerous return man - Yamon Figurs - this week and I think that a special teams play could make the difference in this game.
20) San Francisco 49ers - We are going to find out if Tully Banta-Cain and Manny Lawson can live up tot the hype. Unfortunately for the Niners, nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin won't be 100 percent for the game. In S.F.'s new 3-4 base the nose is critical. In fact, the D-line has been a mess for the entire preseason.
21) Kansas City Chiefs - Herm Edwards and his teams are notorious for slow starts. Herm is just 2-4 in opening games with the Jets and Chiefs, and K.C. wasn't exactly sparkling in the preseason. Kansas City managed just two offensive touchdowns in its exhibition games (granted, that was without L.J.) and they had their starting offense on the field together for the first time on Monday.
22) New York Giants - The secondary for NY is mangled. Sam Madison isn't going to play, leaving very inexperienced CB's Corey Webster and Aaron Ross as the starters. Also, the safeties are incredibly suspect. Keep in mind: the Giants have covered three straight trips to Big D and won two of those games outright.
23) Oakland Raiders - Adam Schefter of NFL.com is refuting all of the rampant bobblehead speculation claiming that Daunte Culpepper is going to be the starter. Daunte is still one of the most overrated quarterbacks in NFL history and he is unfamiliar with the offense. Schefter is convinced that it's going to be Josh McCown. To me that is the difference between a play on Oakland (with McCown) and no play on them.
24) Miami Dolphins - Cam Cameron had three of his starting linemen - Rex Hadnot, Chris Liwienski, and L.J. Shelton - playing with the second team throughout the preseason. Now all three will be starting. We'll see if his little high school motivation ploy works this week at Washington.
25) Tennessee Titans - If the Titans don't score they don't win. Well, that seems like a Woody Paige comment, I know. But the Titans are just 7-28 ATS when they fail to score 20 or more points in a game. I got news for you - they ain't getting 20 in Jacksonville this weekend.
26) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - This trip to Seattle is one of the longest road trips in the NFL. Tampa Bay is just 1-3 ATS in its last four games against the Seahawks, including a 23-7 beat down in Week 17 of last season.
27) Detroit Lions - I can't wait to laugh in the face of all of those people projecting the Lions as a Wild Card team. The Lions are the new Cardinals.
28) Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals have covered three of four against the 49ers and have won their last two trips to San Fran outright. The Cards' new look along the O-line has rookie Levi Brown and second-year guard Deuce Lutui guarding Matt Leinart's blindside. Also, Arizona has lost 32 of 37 road games since the start of 2002.
29) Cleveland Browns - Reading interviews with Cleveland players this week it really sounds like they have been gearing up for this game all preseason. They know that their biggest rivals own them and they seem determined to stem the tide. Yet, they are so focused that starting corner Leigh Bodden gets arrested four days before the home opener.
30) Minnesota Vikings - Not a good sign when a home opener is likely to get blacked out because it isn't a sellout. Not good at all. Shows me the city isn't exactly buzzing for Tav Jackson. This game's total (36.0) is also one of the lowest you may ever see in a dome game involving two dome teams.
31) Atlanta Falcons - The Dirty Birds have been exceptional in Week 1 over the past few years. They have won five straight season openers and they are 13-5 ATS as an underdog in Week 1. I do think that their could be some hope for this squad, but so much depends on if they can get marked improvement from their secondary, if they pick up Bobby Petrino's system, and if they can keep their front seven healthy. Look for Jerious Norwood to have a big, big season.
32) Buffalo Bills - I started Buffalo here last year and they proved me wrong. Can they do it again? I don't know. But what I do know is that Denver is likely to roll through a defense that is patchwork at best. Also, listen for the boo birds when the Denver corners completely shut down the Bills' wideouts.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his Insider Page here.