Week 4 NFL Power Rankings
by Robert Ferringo - 09/24/2008
Here is a look at Doc's Sports Week 4 NFL Power Rankings:
1. Dallas Cowboys (3-0) - To beat Dallas you have to be able to do two things: guard Jason Witten and get pressure on Tony Romo. Thus far, no one has been able to do that. And if it doesn't happen then the Cowboys are going to be in the neighborhood of 14-2 this season. Dallas is converting 60 percent of its third downs. Over the last three years just one team (Indy, 2006) has converted over 50 percent for the season. Even if Dallas is the best team in the league, I think you can forget about trying to consistently get paid with them because of the inflated lines.
2. New York Giants (3-0) -I was surprised that the Giants didn't play sharper prior to their bye week. The result would definitely be a tougher two-week stretch under Herr Coughlin. Perhaps not coincidentally, Plaxico Burress was suspended for at least one and possibly two games for insubordination because he didn't show up to practice on Monday and Tuesday. That's a huge hit on the field and in the locker room for the champs.
3. Tennessee Titans (3-0) - Yes, the Titans are this good. Why? Because they run the ball and they play good defense. This might be the most physical team in the league right now and their secondary is playing out of its mind. Cortland Finnegan and Michael Griffin have combined for seven INTs already. So no, I don't think they miss Pac Man. The Titans are 7-0 ATS in September games. Teams that start the season 3-0 ATS are just 17-22-1 ATS in Week 4. No Titans (or Oilers) team has ever started 4-0. The Titans are No. 1 in the league in both red zone offense and red zone defense.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) -The most impressive unit of any team last week was Philly's defense. That was an utterly dominating performance and the seven sacks they were credited for doesn't nearly account for the way they shut down the Steelers passing attack. Donovan McNabb, a Chicago native, always seems to carve up the Bears secondary. I expect more of the same this weekend. And he's going to have to be sharp throwing the ball because to this point no one is running on the Bears. I really don't think that Brian Westbrook would have changed that. The Eagles have covered in seven straight road games and the visitor is 5-1 ATS in their Chicago series.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) -No Willie Parker this Monday night for the Steelers, but that doesn't seem to have affected the line much at all. It's clear that the books are expecting to be pounded by public money on the Steelers and I don't see this line holding under a touchdown. The most disappointing thing about Pittsburgh game at Philly last week was the way they were completely outcoached. They simply never adjusted their offensive game plan or their protection schemes to account for the fact that they were getting dominated up front. It was stunning to watch, really. They gave up running the ball and refused to either max protect or throw timing routes with three-step drops. Pittsburgh is 8-2 ATS as a home favorite on Monday Night Football and are 10-4 ATS at home.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) -Can't say enough about the moxie that Brian Griese showed in his comeback win last week. And THAT, right there, is why I was always SCREAMING for Griese to be Chicago's quarterback in 2006 instead of Rex Grossman. But I'm not bitter. That is a huge win for Tampa because in two road games this year neither their defense nor their running game has not looked nearly as stout as it has at home, where the Bucs are 7-3 ATS recently.
7. Green Bay Packers (2-1) -I just can't wrap my mind around The Pack. Are they a threat or aren't they? I didn't expect a win against the Cowboys last weekend. But I certainly expected a better effort. That is now two games at home in which the Packers have been out-statted and, really, outplayed by their opponent. And let's not forget the red flag we saw in Detroit, where the Packers were actually losing with about six minutes to play. I am still very, very wary of this crew. And I believe that teams with top-tier secondaries that can match up with the Green Bay wideouts will have not problem beating this team. Green Bay is 10-2-1 ATS on the road and 16-6-2 ATS in conference games. They are just 4-9-4 ATS against teams with a winning record.
8. San Diego Chargers (1-2) - San Diego has dominated the Raiders, going 9-1 ATS in the last 10 meetings and 6-0 ATS in their last six trips to Oakland. But do you know who was the most unstoppable player on the field for most of those last six meetings? Shawne Merriman. It will be interesting to see if San Diego can generate as much pressure against the Raiders as they have in the past.
9. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) - Soft. The Colts are soft on both sides of the ball and that is a recipe for disaster. Not even The Great Peyton Manning - who still looks very tentative on his surgically repaired knee - can make up for the lack of toughness and attitude that the Colts are playing with. I give them the benefit of the doubt while keeping them in the Top 10, but this is not a Super Bowl contender. This team is 31st in the league with a pathetic 64 rushing yards per game and 32nd in time of possession (24:42). And don't look now, but their schedule after this week's bye - which includes road games at Green Bay, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, and San Diego, and home games against New England and Baltimore - is absolutely brutal. This team is clearly on the downslide.
10. Buffalo Bills (3-0) -That was a very mature comeback at home against the Raiders last week. However, we can't overlook the fact that they were really outplayed for three quarters by one of the worst teams in the league. This Bills team is no joke. And I see a 10-win season shaking out for them. They are just 23rd in the league in rushing at 99 yards per game. That's an area they need to improve on if they're going to be in it for the long haul. They also need to keep up their red zone defense, as they've allowed just two touchdowns in eight opponents' trips there. The Bills are 38-18-3 ATS against a team with a losing record.
11. Denver Broncos (3-0) -This team is a solid blend of the 2005 Bengals and 2007 Browns. Denver is a touchdown machine and no one can cover its primary wideouts. However, their defense is atrocious. But I will say again what I said about them in the preseason: their defense is fluky good. They get random stops at key times. Case in point: they stopped New Orleans on fourth-and-goal from the 1 last week and also stopped the Saints on third-and-one just prior to Grammatica's missed field goal. Denver is 5-13-1 ATS in conference games and is 3-10-1 ATS in divisional games. They are also 3-13-1 ATS after a win.
12. New England Patriots (2-1) - Now there is the Matt Cassel that I was waiting for. Watching Mighty Matt during the preseason he looked lost and had no idea how to read NFL coverages. So I found it odd that, even in a blowout, Bill Belichick chose to bench Cassel in favor of Kevin O'Connell when Cassel clearly needs all the reps he can get. The Patriots defense was showing signs of aging last year and I think they will wear down over the rest of the year. New England is actually hurt by having its bye week this early.
13. Carolina Panthers (2-1) - Once again - and I can't say it enough - Jake Delhomme is a child. And like all children, he is completely unpredictable and unreliable. Carolina sits at 2-1 and is a talented team. But let's not forget that they are just a couple plays away from being 0-3. That said, let's not jump off the bandwagon just yet. Carolina gets five of its next seven games at home. That includes tussles against Detroit and Kansas City. So this team is in a very strong spot after three games. The Panthers are 43-21 ATS after accumulating less than 250 yards in their previous game. However, they are just 3-7-1 ATS at home.
14. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) -The Jaguars have mustered up touchdowns in just three of their 11 trips inside the red zone on offense. I thought that was the rationale for employing all of their large, lumbering wideouts? Jacksonville also has to beware the letdown. They are just 3-5 ATS following Indianapolis over the last four years and they have struggled a bit with Houston, posting just a 1-3 ATS mark at home against the Texans. The favorite in this Houston series is just 2-5 ATS. The Jags are 11-5 ATS in conference games and 4-1 ATS at home.
15. Arizona Cardinals (2-1) -Believe it or not, but travel actually may play a factor in this weekend's Cards-Jets game in the Meadowlands - against the Jets. Arizona stayed on the East Coast following its loss to Washington on Sunday while the Jets had to fly west-to-east after a Monday Night beat down. That's a short week and some jetlag for the home team. Arizona is 10-3 ATS after a loss and needs a bounceback performance to continue all the warm and fuzzy feelings this group had after its 2-0 start.
16. Atlanta Falcons (2-1) -Yes, the Falcons are for real. And despite his youth and inexperience I would take Matt Ryan over at least 10 other NFL starters right now. Atlanta is so impressive because Mike Smith has instilled the same mauling, maiming, physical attitude that Jacksonville has had over the past several years into this Falcons team. These guys hit. They run the ball and they hit people on defense. This weekend will mark the secondaries stiffest test and I'm interested how they will match up against Steve Smith. The Falcons are 13-6-4 ATS in the last 23 meetings and are 5-2-1 ATS in their last eight trips to Carolina. Yet they are 0-7-1 ATS after a win by two touchdowns or more and are 0-4 ATS in division games.
17. Washington Redskins (2-1) -The underdog is 17-4 ATS in the last 21 meetings in this rivalry matchup with Dallas. And the Redskins are 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings. Obviously the loss of Jason Taylor is going to cripple the Redskins pass rush, and that is one of the keys to beating the Cowboys. However, they were catching 11 points heading into Big D last year, sans Taylor, and managed to cover the spread in a 28-23 loss. Jason Campbell was completely baffled by 3-4 defenses in the preseason. It will be interesting to see how far he's come with that.
18. New Orleans Saints (1-2) -Those are the types of games that Reggie Bush is built for: soft shoot-outs against teams that don't hit on defense. But against any physical front seven he is nearly worthless. New Orleans just can't shake the injury bug, as Jeremy Shockey and starting guard Jamar Nesbit will both be out for the next several weeks. I also wouldn't feel too confident about that Saints secondary holding up against San Francisco's passing attack this weekend. The Saints are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 against the 49ers and the favorite is 4-1 ATS. New Orleans is just 3-9 ATS at home.
19. Chicago Bears (1-2) -If the Bears were a baseball team you would say that they lack a closer. That is now consecutive weeks that Chicago has blown double-digit leads in the second half despite owning one of the league's best defenses. I think one of the major reasons for that is their soft Tampa-2. Chicago completely loses its attack mentality in the second half of games and are content letting teams move the ball down the field with the hopes of getting red zone stops. The problem is that teams are generating big plays in the heart of the defense and teams have found the soft spot - straight up the middle of the field. Hunter Hillenmeyer cannot cover tight ends and the Bears need to go to a more athletic strong side backer. The underdog is 5-1 ATS in the Philly-Chicago series.
20. New York Jets (1-2) -It's never too early for a must-win game. And that's the situation I believe the Jets are in this week at home against Arizona. A loss would drop New York to 0-2 at home and leave the Jets a full two games behind New England and three games behind Buffalo. The schedule definitely eases up after New York's Week 5 break, which comes at a great time for this team. The analysts have been dead on at pointing out the Jets' offensive shortcomings due to Favre's lack of familiarity with the offense. And something about Favre tells me that he's not exactly Mr. Studious when it comes to studying up on the offensive attack. I think New York needs to use Thomas Jones much, much more. Jets are 2-6-1 ATS at home.
21. Minnesota Vikings (1-2) -Jared Allen is definitely having the desired impact on Minny's defense. The Vikings front four is getting enough pressure where they don't need to blitz. That's allowing their linebackers to make more plays and not hanging their secondary out to dry. This Sunday is also the last game of Bryant McKinnie's suspension. The Vikings are 4-1 ATS against a team with a winning record. And do we really have Gus Frerotte vs. Kerry Collins this weekend? What is it, 1998 or 2008?
22. San Francisco 49ers (2-1) -Justin Smith, who is kind of a Jared Allen Lite, is starting to pay dividends for the 49ers front four. Smith was really the only defensive player that the Bengals had over the last several years - so it was no wonder they let him walk. Stunningly, the Niners are one of the best teams in the league in red zone defense. They have allowed just three touchdowns in 11 trips inside the 20. This is a dangerous team. But I still need to see more before I believe. The road team is 5-2 ATS in the San Fran-New Orleans series but the 49ers are 5-14-3 ATS after a win by two touchdowns or less.
23. Seattle Seahawks (1-2) -Deion Branch and Bobby Engram wait on the opposite side of the bye week for Seattle, which really came at the perfect time for them. Mike Holmgren is actually letting the players run "unregulated" practices this week, which I think will be great for morale and for their work ethic. The main issue, as I see it, is that they still aren't efficient at controlling the ball on offense and that their defense is nowhere near the rugged group that was playing in January.
24. Baltimore Ravens (2-0) - I still don't think that the Ravens are very good. Or that they will be very good. But the important thing is that they think they are good, so that's going to make them play infinitely harder and with reckless abandon. But we still can't get too much of a read on this team because both of their wins came with extra prep time, were at home, and were against two of the worst teams in the league. The Ravens have also had the ball for an average of 37 minutes per game in their two wins. That number is likely to change. In a big way. Baltimore is 5-1 ATS in its last six games against the Steelers but 6-21 ATS on the road.
25. Houston Texans (0-2) -The Texans are playing their third-straight road game, and since 1997 teams are 14-7 ATS in their third road game if they lost their previous two. Houston is also 9-3 ATS in the last 12 meetings with Jacksonville. Houston's problem is that they do not have the athletes to match up with teams as physical as Pittsburgh and Tennessee. They were completely overwhelmed. It hasn't helped that their offense is converting just 25 percent of its third down chances. Houston matches up with softer teams and I still think they could be a nice "Buy Low" team for the second half of the year when the schedule loosens up. And they get a home game.
26. Oakland Raiders (1-2) -How about this: how about Oakland loses Al Davis AND Lane Kiffin? Kiffin proved once again that he is not ready to be an NFL coach with his terrible mismanagement of a seemingly insurmountable lead at Buffalo. Good thing the game ended with those two timeouts in his pocket. He must've gone to the Crennel-Edwards school of clock mismanagement. On top of that, DeAngelo Hall is getting humiliated on a weekly basis. Hall was a stud in Atlanta. But now he is being exposed and exploited by guys like Trent Edwards and Tyler Thigpen. The home team is just 2-5 ATS in the San Diego series and the underdog is just 1-8 ATS. Oakland is 8-23 ATS at home.
27. Miami Dolphins (1-2) -Wow. Can't say that I saw that coming. Can't say that anyone saw that ass whooping in Foxboro coming. But this does validate my impressions of Miami through preseason. I thought that they would be much, much more competitive this year and I still think they could muster a winning record ATS this season. The biggest difference last week was their ability to run the football. They finished 22nd and 23rd in the league in rushing the last two seasons at right around 100 yards per game. In their first two games they rushed for about 120 yards combined. Then hey erupt for 216 yards against the Pats. Bad teams need to run the ball in order to cover the spread and win games. Period.
28. Cleveland Browns (0-3) -I loved all the cutaways to Romeo Crennel on the sidelines at Baltimore last week. Well, actually, I didn't love it because for some idiotic reason my money was on the Browns. But with every shot it just brought Crennel clearer into focus as the worst coach in the NFL and the worst in the league in the last decade. Cleveland is 5-2 ATS in divisional games and 10-2 ATS on the road against a team with a losing home record. And counting the preseason the Browns are now 0-7 this year. So much for Everybody's Sleeper.
29. Detroit Lions (0-3) -In a move that was just comically overdue, Matt Millen is finally out as Detroit general manager. Dating back to 2001 the Lions are an NFL-worst 31-84. This year the Lions are the proud owners of the second-worst defense in the league (37.6 points per game) and at 0-3 they show very few prospects for improvement. Teams that start the season 0-3 ATS are just 13-20-2 ATS in their fourth game.
30. Kansas City Chiefs (0-3) -My man Damon Huard is back in action. And, I know this will sound crazy, but don't count the Chiefs out this weekend. They should be able to move the ball against a suspect Denver defense. And if they can create a turnover or two then I actually believe they can pull the upset. That is, as long as Herm doesn't figure out a way to blow it. Which I'm sure he will. Herm has guided the Chefs to 12 straight losses and this year K.C. is averaging just 10.7 points per game. The home team is 11-3-1 ATS in the last 15 meetings between these teams and K.C. is 6-2-1 ATS at home against the Broncos. The 'over' is 10-3 in the last 13 meetings.
31. St. Louis Rams (0-3) -Let me end the suspense: Trent Green isn't going to make a difference for the Rams. And Scott Linehan will not be fired this year because of the fact that the current owners are brokering to sell the team. All in all, this franchise is in limbo and simply is not very good. St. Louis is 5-21 ATS after gaining 250 yards or less in their previous game. The Rams are 18-39-1 ATS after a loss and 5-16 ATS against a team with a winning record.
32. Cincinnati Bengals (0-3) -You're sitting at 0-2. You have the ball inside the red zone and are down three points with less than 20 seconds left in the game. You have one timeout and a shot to beat the defending Super Bowl Champions on the road. Do you take a shot at the end zone? Do you use that timeout? Not if you are Marvin Lewis, one of the worst coaches in the NFL. The Bengals played it soft and lost and proved once again that Lewis should not be running an NFL team. Cincinnati is 5-2 ATS against the Browns but 1-11 ATS in Week 4. Cincy is also just 7-19-1 ATS at home against a team with a losing road record.