Week 3 NFL Power Rankings
by Robert Ferringo - 09/17/2008
I will admit that Week 2 in the NFL was a pretty exciting and somewhat surprising week. However, for the last three days all I've heard is people talking about how it was "one of the most exciting weeks EVER in the NFL." I mean, c'mon. Give me a break. It's Week 2 people! Everything is still up for grabs. And if you are ever surprised by what happens on Sundays during the fall you just haven't been paying attention.
As we head into Week 2 I issue this warning, "Stay frosty". Right now people think they have a grasp on "who is good" and "who is bad" this year in the pro circuit. Cross those streams with the lingering 2007 impressions and ideas (people still expect the Browns to win 10 games) and it is very easy to get your heads twisted. Let's take a step back, crunch the numbers, and keep an open mind. Because the teams that have started 0-2 are not going 0-16 (except maybe Cincy) and the teams that have started 2-0 are not going 16-0.
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With that in mind, here is a new installment of Doc's Sports Power Rankings:
1. Dallas Cowboys (2-0) - The loss of Roy Williams in the secondary is definitely the bad news that comes out of Monday's key win. But the good news is that this offense is an absolute machine right now, and it's mainly due to the fact that only a handful of teams in the league can A) get pressure on Tony Romo or B) cover Jason Witten. I wouldn't bank on much of a letdown this weekend against Green Bay. The Boys are 7-3-1 ATS after playing Philly and 16-3 ATS off a win over the Eagles and playing an NFC opponent the next week.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) -Mike Tomlin is a fast learner. Taking a page out of the Belichick Playbook, Tomlin is trying to play mind games regarding Big Ben's shoulder and Brett Keisel's calf injury. Unfortunately for Tomlin, Keisel will miss two months and there isn't much word play will do to change that. The home team has won the last five meetings in their series with Philly and the underdog is 7-3 ATS in the last 10.
3. New York Giants (2-0) - I opined last week that I couldn't embrace the Giants as the No. 3 team in the league. Scratch that. And it has little to do with the beat down they gave St. Louis. Yes, I'm worried about their depth on defense if some key guys on the line go down. But other than that, this team is exceptional and are playing with a ton of confidence. They are executing as well as anyone in the NFL, and when was the last time you could say that about a Giants team? The G-Men are 2-1 ATS as a double-digit favorite under Tom Coughlin. And with a bye week on the horizon you can expect maximum effort. (Those veterans know if they play well they will get extra time off!) The last time the Giants started 3-0 was 2000, when they made it to the Super Bowl.
4. Indianapolis Colts (1-1) - Against the Bears, one Colts defender was quoted as saying, "We knew they were going to run the ball but we couldn't stop them." Then they were carved up by Minnesota's rushing attack last week as well. Now they will be without Bob Sanders (ankle) for 4-6 weeks. They may be getting Jeff Saturday back this Sunday, but it looks like we'll have to wait until later in the week on updates for LT Tony Ugoh and TE Dallas Clark, two more keys in the running game.
5. New England Patriots (2-0) - Some questions about Matt Cassel were answered on Sunday. But he still has a lot left to prove in my book. New England's defense has obviously risen to the task, but looking ahead on the schedule there will still be several teams with the speed to challenge this aging bunch. The home team is 12-5 ATS in their series with Miami and the Patriots are 6-2 ATS in Foxboro against the Fins.
6. Tennessee Titans (2-0) - Kerry Collins looked calm and in complete control against the Bengals last Sunday. However, I've seen too many multiple-turnover games from him to ever get too comfortable. But as long as Chris Johnson is getting touches this offense should be just good enough. Tennessee is 4-0 ATS in this Houston series but the last five games have been determined by an average of 5.0 points.
7. Carolina Panthers (2-0) - Winning its first two games was not only crucial because it has helped the Panthers forge an early divisional lead. It's also key because it has helped this team realize that they can win without Steve Smith, who has not been Mr. Reliable over the last three years. Carolina is back on the road this week and they are 8-3 ATS away from home. Jake Delhomme will have to keep his cool this week because against the Vikes I don't expect the Panthers to have as much success on the ground as they have had up to this point.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) -The Bucs are just 2-5 ATS in their last seven road games and they were not able to dispatch the young Falcons as easily as I know John Gruden would have like last week. Also, there was a key report today from the St. Pete Times that suggests that Joey Galloway (foot sprain) won't play this week. That is a tremendous loss and the lack of their top wideout and deep threat will allow the Bears to bring extra men in the box to slow down Earnest Graham.
9. Green Bay Packers (2-0) - Green Bay fits into a fantastic system this week regarding home underdogs off a win against a team that was at home the previous week. In non-divisional situations, the home puppy has covered nearly 70 percent of the time. This game against Dallas is also somewhat of a revenge game for a close loss in Big D last year. That was really Aaron Rodgers' breakout performance and he'll have to maintain his sharp play this week for the Pack to have a chance. Also, they need to figure out who is going to guard Jason Witten this weekend because no one has stopped him yet.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) -Donovan McNabb is clearly playing at a high level and, when healthy, is still one of the best five or six QBs in the game. But he's gotten off to fast starts in each of the past four years only to fade down the stretch. DeSean Jackson has been an arrogant punk. Hey, that's what the Eagles love about him - his confidence. But I think that the coaching staff really needed to send a message to him for his incredible Asshole Moment on Monday Night. Not by benching him (this isn't high school) but by ripping him a new one on the sidelines in a scene that you know would have gotten national play. Only two of the last 10 meetings with Pittsburgh have been decided by 10 points or more. But only once in the last 10 meetings has the spread actually been a factor in who cashes.
11. Buffalo Bills (2-0) -If Buffalo wins this week against the Raiders to improve to 3-0 their probability of making the playoffs is 79.5 percent. And with a trip to St. Louis on the horizon the Bills could actually be set for a 4-0 start. Buffalo is 14-6 ATS as a home favorite dating back to 2004. But this team has to protect against overconfidence this week and simply stick to the game plan. As we've seen the Jags and the Seahawks are not nearly as good as everyone though.
12. San Diego Chargers (0-2) - This ranking could cause a mini-uproar, but the reality is that the Chargers lost two games in the last 30 seconds by a combined two points. One of the games was on the road and should have been a win. So even though it is obvious that Norv Turner is an anchor around this team's neck, I sense the veterans on this club circling the wagons and finding another gear pretty soon. The main problem here is that they haven't been playing good defense without Shawne Merriman. The Chargers have already given up more points than all but three teams in the league. The Chargers are 8-2 ATS versus non-divisional opponents on Monday Night Football.
13. Denver Broncos (2-0) -If the refs get the call right you aren't arguing with me about Denver being behind San Diego. I think that Denver has the look of the 2005 Bengals and the 2007 Browns as the "defensively challenged" team that makes a run to the playoffs behind an offense that simply can't be stopped. But before we start printing January tickets, remember that the Broncos started 2-0 last year as well.
14. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) -In the last 15 years there have been many teams that started 0-3. Only two made the playoffs. That's the level of desperation that faces Everyone's Sexy Super Bowl Pick. Through two games here is the combined stat line for Fred Taylor and Mo-Jo Drew: 35 rushes for 97 yards and two touchdowns. Yikes. Jacksonville is 5-2 ATS against the Colts and the road team is 5-2-1 ATS in this series.
15. Arizona Cardinals (2-0) -Granted, the Cardinals have beaten two of the worst teams in the NFL in San Fran and Miami. However, they looked exceptional while doing it and at no point did I ever feel like they were playing down to the level of their competition in those games. That's a great sign. This is a good football team and they have gotten three times as good executing the little things. I will say this: Neil Rackers is cause for concern. He looks just as erratic as he was last year and I bet you he costs them at least one game. An interesting travel note: Arizona won't fly home between this weekend's game at Washington and their Week 4 game against the Jets. Arizona is 9-4 ATS on the road and 17-8 ATS in their last 25 overall.
16. Chicago Bears (1-1) -That could be a season-changing loss for the Bears. They were just a few minutes from a seemingly improbably 2-0 start with BOTH wins coming on the road. Now the defense will get a crack at former backup quarterback Brian Griese. Chicago's defense looks energized and looks like it has recovered from last year's debacle, which is great news. But this team needs to take more shots in the passing game. Not up the field, per se, but in the intermediate routes. Every pass doesn't have to be either a quick slant or screen or a bomb down the field. The Bears are 6-1 ATS following a loss but just 4-9 ATS playing at home.
17. New York Jets (1-1) -Jets Nation has to be in a collective state of shock and disappointment after last week's loss to the Patriots. This is going to be a tremendous test for Eric Mangini and Suddenly Leader Brett Favre to scrape this team off the mat and put forth a good effort against a desperate Chargers club. As was suspected, the Jets offense has not gotten on track as Brett struggles to learn the system. But they are still averaging over 4.0 yards per rush on the year and perhaps they need to keep pounding the ball until he "gets" it. The Jets are 9-2 ATS as a road dog on MNF.
18. New Orleans Saints (1-1) -I hate to say it after pumping the Saints up so much last week, but that team that played in Washington on Sunday looked an awful lot like the mediocre group that struggled through 2007. Without Marques Colston the entire complexion of that offense changes because the rest of their wideouts are a C- group. The secondary, which had made solid strides, regressed again and the linebackers for this team were invisible. I have no idea how that defense expects to slow down Denver's aerial attack. The Saints are 2-4 ATS on grass.
19. Minnesota Vikings (0-2) -Question: if Vinny Shianco had come up with that perfectly thrown T-Jack throw in the end zone last week would everyone be saying how pathetic the Vikings quarterback situation is? Maybe. Regardless, Brad Childress announced today that Gus Frerotte will be starting against the Panthers this weekend. The Vikings have dumped five straight games against the spread and are just 4-10 ATS at home. Oh, and an offensive suggestion: don't you think that play-action passing would be a vital part of the attack with this team. Through two games it's been an afterthought.
20. Washington Redskins (1-1) -Jim Zorn had some very questionable situations in his win over New Orleans. Not the least of which was his decision to go for a two-point conversion in the third quarter when it was 15-17 and his choice to not go for it to put the Skins up six points when they scored to make it 29-24. He will cost them at least one game this year with shoddy situational management. Great day by Chris Horton, who may be able to ease the loss (on the field) of Sean Taylor.
21. Seattle Seahawks (0-2) -This team is reeling, and I feel like Mike Holmgren should have taken the same level of urgency into his offseason personnel moves as he has in the last two weeks. He is scrambling to add players after the season is already started when he knew about certain injuries and suspensions that would keep key guys off the field. The biggest surprise for this team to this point is how awful their defense has played. They have already given up 67 points to Buffalo and San Fran - not exactly two offensive juggernauts. Seattle is 3-1 ATS when home again after a straight-up home loss but just 7-9 ATS in the second of back-to-back home games.
22. Houston Texans (0-1) -This is a very difficult spot for the Texans. There is no doubt in my mind that they would have pummeled the Ravens last weekend and entered Week 3's trip to the Music City with confidence in themselves and kinks worked out on defense. Instead, they have had two broken weeks, questions yet unanswered, and now head to Tennessee with their minds still on family and friends in tough situations at home. We're going to learn a lot about if this Houston team is ready to compete in the rugged AFC South by how they come out and play in this game this weekend.
23. Atlanta Falcons (1-1) -Can't say enough about how impressed I am with Matt Ryan's attitude to this point. That kid took every lick the Bucs had to throw at him and kept coming, and kept coming, and kept coming last week. However, he is quickly learning that if you miss a throw in college it was incomplete, but if you miss a throw in the NFL it's going the other way. Stunning news out of Falcons camp this week was that All-Around Good Guy Lawyer Milloy was busted with a DUI Sunday night coming home from the strip clubs. There is no update on his playing status, but I expect to see him on the field on Sunday. Atlanta is 1-4 ATS against the Chiefs and just 3-6 ATS as a home favorite.
24. Cleveland Browns (0-2) -After two weeks of railing against the Browns it's time to bring it back a bit. Romeo Crennel is a complete and total joke. He is probably the worst coach in the league, and I've been saying that for two years. However, the Browns showed some toughness and showed some solid execution on Sunday night. Also, they are 0-2 but they have lost to two of the four or five best teams in football. They are 11-1 ATS against a team with a winning record, 5-0 ATS against the Ravens, and the underdog in this series is 4-1 ATS.
25. San Francisco 49ers (1-1) - The Niners are going to be a very live underdog this year precisely because of the Mike Martz scheme. They will never win anything with Martz calling the shots, but they will be just good enough and just feisty enough to put pressure on favorites with their passing attack. The 49ers are 5-11 ATS at home against a team with a losing road record and they are just 4-9 ATS overall. They are also just 2-6 ATS as a favorite dating back to 2003. (And yes, the San Francisco 49ers have only been a favorite eight times in the last five years. Somewhere Ronnie Lott is crying.)
26. Oakland Raiders (1-1) -Same old Raiders: defensive end Tommy Kelly was arrested on suspicion of DUI this week. Mix in the whole Kiffin-Davis debacle and you are right back at Square 1 with this franchise. They have a young nucleus of up-and-comers, but they have no character anywhere in the organization to show these kids how to play in the NFL.
27. Detroit Lions (0-2) -Rumor has it that the Lions are hell-bent on acquiring more washed-up running backs (besides Rudi Johnson). They apparently have worked out Cedric Benson and Shaun Alexander, as Matt Millen reaffirms himself as the Isaiah Thomas of the NFL. The Lions will be facing their old OC Mike Martz this weekend and you can expect MM to further exploit the weaknesses of the league's worst defense. Detroit is 2-8 ATS on grass, 1-7 ATS against the NFC, and 0-5 ATS overall. However, they are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games after a double-digit home loss.
28. Miami Dolphins (0-2) -As long as the Dolphins cannot run the ball they cannot compete, especially on the road. Only once in their past 10 games have they averaged more than 3.8 yards per rush and eight of those 10 games they have averaged less than 3.4 per attempt. The struggling Dolphins secondary should also expect a heavy dose of Wes Welker and Randy Moss this weekend. However, that could actually work to their advantage because they may be able to force Matt Cassel into some turnovers. It's a reach, I know. But if they don't lose by 30 points it will because they manufactured a couple interceptions.
29. Baltimore Ravens (1-0) - The great news for the Ravens is that they had an extra week to sit back and feel good about themselves after their opening win. And they had an extra week to rest and game plan before they host a reeling Browns team that's coming off an emotionally draining 0-2 start. You really couldn't have scripted it any better for this crew. Willis McGahee will get the start, but don't look for much explosion out of him. My sources say he's still overweight and not in full game shape. We will also see if Joe Flacco can exploit Cleveland's porous secondary, and that matchup should determine the winner in this one.
30. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) -As I pointed out on the blog while breaking down the Raiders-Chiefs game, the defensive line did not play as poorly as the stats indicate. One guy who has really been invisible through the first two games is Derrick Johnson. Many thought this was going to be his breakout year but he's had about as quiet of a 12 tackles as you can have through two games. Kansas City is 7-1 ATS in its last eight road games but that could definitely change if they don't settle on a quarterback.
31. St. Louis Rams (0-2) -Before we rail the Rams too terribly much, let's remember that they have played at Philadelphia and at home against the defending Super Bowl champion Giants. That's tough sledding. However, the Rams have played with little passion and little plan on the offensive front. It's as if they know their offensive line stinks but they don't care and don't game plan to protect them. Marc Bulger is probably ducking under tables if someone slams the door too loudly, that's how shell-shocked he looks. The good news is that Seattle hasn't looked much better and that the underdog is 8-3 ATS in this series.
32. Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) -This team, this coaching staff, and this organization are pathetic. Not really much more to say than that and I can't say it enough. They have the second-worst offense in the league and their pass protection should be no match for the Giants' exotic blitz schemes. Also, Cincy is only converting 19 percent on third down. Oh, and Dexter Jackson (out) and Jonathan Joseph (questionable) may not play this week. If you have Eli Manning in your fantasy league: start him. The only positives I have for this team is that Keith Rivers and Domata Peko are both very good football players. Too bad they are the only defensive players that can hit.