Week 5 NFL Power Rankings
by Robert Ferringo - 10/02/2008
Here is a look at Doc's Sports Week 5 NFL Power Rankings:
1. Tennessee Titans (4-0) - The big concern with Kerry Collins is that he's a turnover waiting to happen. He throws a ball that's difficult to catch and he's good for a fumble (or 12) and an interception per game. Well, that hasn't been the case to this point and the Titans are rolling as a result. And the No. 1 reason why they are the top dogs right now is that they have scored on 100 percent of their trips to the red zone (13-for-13). They also have the highest TD percentage in that area (76.9 percent). That is Collins taking care of the ball and their offensive line just imposing its will on people. This team may have peaked from a value perspective, but they will be in the AFC mix all year.
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2. New York Giants (3-0) -In a season full of red flags, the Giants just started to wave another one. This Plexico Burress thing worries me about this team. It shows a lack of discipline and commitment. That is on top of the injuries and questions about their depth. Which was on top of their incredible Letdown Factor and the strength of their division. Mix in a surprisingly difficult win over hapless Cincinnati, at home, and I am just wondering if this team is a ticking time bomb. I know this: I'm not going to be backing them as a large home chalk any time soon. Giants are 1-5-1 ATS in their last seven games after a bye week.
3. Dallas Cowboys (3-1) - Wait - so the Cowboys aren't an Amazing, Unbeatable, Unstoppable Force? We should stop etching their name on the Lombardi Trophy? Look, crowning the Cowboys was way premature. They almost lost to Philly at home two weeks ago, so getting topped by the 'Skins shouldn't be a stunner. Also, maybe someone should remind Terrell Owens what receiver has the most dropped passes in the NFL in the last three years. Barber and the running game are the keys to this team, as well as the Witten mismatch. Owens is there for window dressing. That was the dynamic in the first three games and it works.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) -The Brian Griese Revenge Tour continues in Denver this weekend. After already topping the Bears in Soldier Field, Griese returns to his old haunts, where he still holds the club record for pass efficiency. A big problem with efficiency that the Bucs are having is in the red zone. They have made 18 trips inside the 20, but have only scored seven touchdowns. With a big back like Earnest Graham that number has to be higher.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) -That's three straight games in which I've backed the Steelers and three straight games in which they haven't covered the spread, despite going 2-1. Ugh. I'm done. And now that I'm off them I'm sure they will spring an upset in Jacksonville this week in a Revenge Game. The trouble with that is that the Jaguars have won four straight in this series. And while all the talk is about Big Ben's shoulder, the key injury on this team is tackle Casey Hampton, who is the fulcrum for that entire defense. Hampton, along with Willie Parker and Kendall Simmons, won't play this Sunday.
6. San Diego Chargers (2-2) - Before you start thinking that Norv Turner has righted the ship in San Diego, consider that the Chargers were 15 minutes from falling to a putrid Oakland team. San Diego scummed out a cover in their win on Sunday, but it was as fluky as they come. The Chargers are a solid 6-0-1 ATS in their last seven road games and the road team is 5-1 ATS in this series. However, San Diego has dumped four straight ATS against the Dolphins. Also, don't forget that the Chargers host hated New England next week, so they may be looking ahead.
7. Buffalo Bills (4-0) -Here is a key stat for the Bills: opponents are only converting 19 percent of third downs. Buffalo is getting off the field and allowing their offense to not only control the clock, but also get into its game plan. The last two years the Bills have been in the bottom five in the league in time of possession, so even if they had a great offensive game plan they never had the time to get into it. Also, in 13 career starts Trent Edwards has four fourth-quarter comebacks, including three straight. To this point, Buffalo's four opponents are 4-11 and have been outscored 413-277.
8. Washington Redskins (3-1) -That's three straight for Zorn's boys and Jason Campbell played as well as he is capable of at this stage in the Dallas win. Also, you gotta love what Chris Horton is doing at safety, filling in for the departed Sean Taylor. Four times in the last four years the Redskins played Dallas and then went on the road the following week. The are 0-4 SU and ATS in those situations. They are also just 1-3 ATS against the Eagles.
9. Carolina Panthers (3-1) - The Panthers have to be feeling great about themselves at the moment. They are playing well in all facets of the game, have three wins to show for it, and are now a huge favorite at home against the Chiefs. Carolina seems to have corrected its play at home as well, posting a 4-0-1 ATS mark in Charlotte over its last five games. With three home games in the next four weeks this is a critical stretch for Carolina if it wants to be a true contender. Also, the Panthers will be without stud tackle Jordan Gross (concussion) this weekend.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (2-2) -Brian Westbrook practiced on Wednesday and Thursday and Philly expects him to be ready for this weekend's clash with the Redskins. The Eagles are 7-2 ATS following a loss and 10-4 ATS against a team with a winning record. That said, it's going to be awfully tough to lay wood in NFC East games this year as the division is just so competitive. Divisional underdogs are 2-1 ATS to this point in the year in the East.
11. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) - Tony Ugoh is healthy, which means that the Colts head to Houston with their full starting offensive line for the first time all year. Also, the week off certainly helped Peyton Manning regain some of the timing he had lost with his wideouts by missing training camp. But the bottom line is that the Colts are averaging just 64 yards rushing while allowing 199 yards rushing each game. If they don't address that nothing else will matter and this team will sink into mediocrity. Indianapolis is also 5-1 in Reliant Stadium and 36-13 on the road under Tony Dungy. But they are just 2-9 ATS in divisional games and 1-4 ATS in Houston.
12. Green Bay Packers (2-2) -Aaron Rodgers said he is going to do everything he can to play this week. But the issue he has isn't pain in the shoulder, it's the ability to throw the ball down the field. Ironically, Brett Favre managed 253 straight starts for the Pack, and here Rodgers might not even make it to No. 5. Expect a healthy dose of Ryan Grant this Sunday.
13. Denver Broncos (3-1) -Since I was one of the only Power Rankings in the country that hadn't totally overreacted to Denver's start - on Sunday I actually heard Keyshawn Johnson trying to make a case for why the Broncos were going to the Super Bowl - I didn't have to knee-jerk them out of the Top 10. Bottom line is that they are going to give up a ton of points, and if they turn the ball over or if they run into a defense that can cover Brandon Marshall they are going to struggle. Also, teams are completing 73 PERCENT of their passes against the Broncos secondary.
14. New England Patriots (2-1) - The Patriots are shackled with my, "I don't get it at all" line this week. I mean, are they really dead in the water? Has this team crumbled so much that they can't handle San Francisco on the road after a bye? New England is 6-2 SU coming off their bye week and have won four straight. However, four of those five wins were against Buffalo. This West Coast trip - at San Fran and at San Diego - could be a turning point, for good or ill, in New England's season. The Patriots are in a 1-8 ATS slide. But they are 4-1 ATS after a double-digit home loss and 14-4-1 ATS after any loss.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) -I don't know how its happened, but the Jaguars are dead-last in the league in defensive third-down conversions, allowing opponents to convert 50 percent of their third downs. That is pathetic. Especially for a defense as strong as Jacksonville's. Rashean Mathis and Reggie Nelson should both play this Sunday, giving a much-needed boost to their leaky secondary.
16. Chicago Bears (2-2) -Bears defense came up with a potentially season-saving stop at the goal line against the Eagles Sunday night. And were it not for two blown double-digit leads in the fourth quarter the Bears could be 4-0 and a Top 5 team. But that big Philly win is all for naught if the Bears lay an egg in Ford Field. Chicago is 0-3 ATS in its last three against the Lions.
17. New Orleans Saints (2-2) -Deuce McAllister's return to the lineup - 20 carries for 73 yards - was both welcome and unexpected for this Saints club. They really need a hammer to complement their cute passing attack. However, I don't see him holding up for more than a month so New Orleans either needs to limit him to 10-15 carries per game or ride this train as long as it stays on the rails. I just can't believe that they never went out and got a suitable replacement over the last two years.
18. Baltimore Ravens (2-1) - I could not be more impressed with Joe Flacco at the helm for Baltimore. The kid looks like Big Ben did when he came into he league. Yes, he will be good for a turnover or two on the road. But after Pittsburgh scored to go up 20-13 on Monday Night, Flacco led the Ravens down the field for a tying score. Do you think Kyle Boller, or even Steve McNair in 2006, would have done that? I say no way. Flacco can play. Between Tennessee and Baltimore the underdog is 13-3 ATS.
19. New York Jets (2-2) -You can tell that Eric Mangini is a Belichick disciple. Going for a two-point conversion up 54-35 was just a classless act. What a dick, and karma is a killer. Brett Favre is actually leading the league in fourth quarter passing efficiency (139.6). Last year the Jets were the fourth-worst team in the NFL against the run, allowing 134.8 yards per game. This season they are the fifth-best, allowing just 75.5 yards per game.
20. Atlanta Falcons (2-2) -A developing issue for this young team is penalties. They are No. 30 in the league with 30 defensive penalties and No. 21 in the league in offensive penalties. Expect to see more no-huddle out of the Falcons as well. They had perhaps their best drive of the day in Carolina utilizing it. The Falcons just continue to be one of the most consistent 'over' teams in the league. They are 9-2 against the total in their last 11 and 7-0 against the total following a loss. That said, they are 33-12-1 against the total on the road and are 20-8-1 against the total on grass.
21. Arizona Cardinals (2-2) -Arizona is 7-2 at home under Ken Whisenhunt and after a brutal East Coast swing this is a critical game for the Cards. And they'll be without Anquan Boldin, who I don't believe will play Sunday against Buffalo. Call it a hunch. But perhaps he biggest loss has been Betrand Berry. The Cards have not been able to get pressure since he went down with a torn groin. And if Adrian Wilson (questionable) doesn't play against the Bills I really don't think the Cards have a shot.
22. Minnesota Vikings (1-3) -This has to be the best 1-3 team in the league. But, and I will pile on here, the difference between their 1-3 and a 3-1 is their quarterback play. Gus Frerotte's 266-yard passing day in Tennessee actually marked the highest single-game output in the Brad Childress Era. The Vikings are actually giving up less yards per game this year on defense, but they have allowed more points through four games.
23. San Francisco 49ers (2-2) -Manny Lawson, Shawn Spencer, and Jonas Jennings are all out for the 49ers. But the good news for San Fran is that their passing attack is going up against, statistically, one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. The issue, as always, is that J.T. O'Sullivan has been getting rocked in Mike Martz's offense. He took eight sacks in Week 2 and seven sacks in Week 4 and you have to wonder when the axe will fall and O'Sullivan will get knocked out.
24. Seattle Seahawks (1-2) -The bye week came at the perfect time for the Seahawks, who really needed to regroup. They will line up with Bobby Engram and Deion Branch at wideout and Sean Locklear at right tackle. The Seahawks are 6-24 ATS in October and 5-14 ATS in the Eastern or Central Time Zones.
25. Houston Texans (0-3) -On Tuesday the Texans brought in eight defensive backs to work out and try to find a spot on the roster. The Texans lost starting safety C.C. Brown from their already sagging pass defense. Houston's biggest problem is that they can't get off the field on third down. Teams are converting 49 percent against them. I don't get how anyone could have watched Houston last week and thought that Matt Schaub was the problem. Also, something is wrong with Andre Johnson. I don't know what it is, but he doesn't look like the same guy and he has had chances to make plays but just hasn't made it happen. That's a big problem.
26. Miami Dolphins (1-2) -One key to look at this weekend is Miami's weak kickoff coverage units against Darren Sproles, who has been an absolute game changer for the Chargers. Chad Pennington's offense has only committed one turnover to this point and they are playing against a Chargers unit that has forced eight. If Miami takes care of the ball they can cover. If they lose the TO battle they will get rolled.
27. Oakland Raiders (1-3) -What a goddamn debacle. I don't have anything to add that you didn't already see/hear for yourself with the Davis-Kiffin drama. So, on the field, I am still having a hard time seeing how JaMarcus Russell fits in with this team. Kiffin and Tom Cable had fashioned the offense to be a tough, rugged, grind-it-out rushing team with a mammoth offensive line. Teams like that need an accurate game manager under center, not an erratic athlete that makes as many plays for the defense as he does for his own team.
28. Cleveland Browns (1-3) -The loss of Joe Jurevicius has been huge for this team. Everywhere the guy plays he just catches passes and is a pro. But without him, the Browns offense has absolutely no second receiver. Jurv had 50 catches last year and was a third-down machine. The two players the Browns have tabbed as his replacements have combined for eight catches through four games. And what is lost in Cleveland's offensive disaster is the fact that the defense has held its last three opponents to under 300 total yards.
29. Detroit Lions (0-3) -Matt Millen wasn't playing defense for the Lions. Let's see if his ouster has anything to do with how poorly this team plays on the field. In their first three games the average score at the end of the first quarter was Opponent 21, Detroit 1. The Lions are last in the league in points allowed, rushing defense, total defense and turnover ratio. Other than that, everything's great. The underdog in the Detroit-Chicago series is 7-1 ATS.
30. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) -And that, my friends, is why I never mind backing Damon Huard. The Chiefs offense caught a glimmer of life on Sunday, as most teams do against the Broncos defense. However, what will be interesting to see if how this young team handles their small dose of success. Are they primed for a big-time letdown this Sunday on the road? Or can they play as inspired as they were against the Patriots in Week 1? The Chiefs are 7-2 ATS in their last nine road games.
31. St. Louis Rams (0-4) -If you haven't seen it already, be sure to check out Doc's Sports Blog for my take on the Jim Haslett hiring. Basically, I detail how Haslett is going to take this team from bad to worse, and in New Orleans he was the leader of an undisciplined, schizophrenic, underachieving team. Don't expect miracles with this rabble in St. Louis. However, spreads in Rams games are going to go through the roof so they might be a team to follow.
32. Cincinnati Bengals (0-4) -Everyone whose annoyed with Chad Johnson now needs to realize that it's their fault he is like this. The ONE YEAR that the Bengals were good, everyone hailed Johnson as a "breath of fresh air" and a "great entertainer". But when the Bengals go back to being the Bengals and he keeps begging for the spotlight how can people be stunned? Bengals OC Bob Bratkowski is building a game plan for both Carson Palmer (who is 50-50) and Ryan Fitzpatrick.