NFL Power Rankings Week 1
by Robert Ferringo - 9/10/2009
I did not change the order of my NFL Power Rankings from last week to this week. Sure, some things have changed around the NFL. But after months of projection, conjecture, and pontification I am done trying to establish my imaginary landscape of professional football. I'm done. For now. It's time to play some football and then base our predictions and projections on some visceral experience.
With that in mind, here is a look at my Doc's Sports NFL Power Rankings for Week 1:
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) - The Steelers are 5-1 against the spread in season openers and 6-2 ATS in home openers over the last several years. And their lone season-opening loss was by a measly half-point at home against Oakland in 2004. The Steelers do have revenge in this game
2. San Diego Chargers (0-0) - The Shawne Merriman situation may be a distraction as the season wears on (who knows where that story is going?) but I don't see how it's anything to be worried about for Monday night. It's this simple: San Diego is 11-1 ATS against the Raiders and 7-0 ATS in Oakland. They last lost to Oakland in 2003. And since then they have gone 10-0 SU with an average margin of victory of 15.8 points. Only two of those 10 wins was by less than 10 points.
3. Minnesota Vikings (0-0) - Minnesota might not be the No. 3 team in the NFL right now but I don't think it will be that long before they are considered the best in the NFC. Say what you want about Brett Favre, but he's five times better than what Gus Frerotte gave the 10-win Vikes last year. Huge news (literally) is that Kevin and Pat Williams will play this weekend and it's looking like their four-game suspensions might not take effect at all this year.
4. Indianapolis Colts (0-0) - Indy starts the year looking to build on their NFL record of six straight years of 12 or more wins. Bob Sanders is reportedly feeling better but he's not going to suit up on Sunday. The Colts are an outstanding 7-2-1 ATS in season openers over the last decade. In an odd quirk, this is only Indy's fourth home opener (2-1 ATS) in the last 11 years.
5. New England Patriots (0-0) - I know that prognosticators have all pretty much made the correlation that Brady equals Super Bowl. But how on earth could the Pats be a legit Super Bowl threat with the defense they are now trotting out each week? They can't. This team is still in the top tier out of respect for Belichick and Brady. But in the long term this team has no chance of winning the Super Bowl. They are 5-0 ATS against the Bills and 6-2 ATS against Buffalo at home.
6. Green Bay Packers (0-0) - The Packers are a solid 11-5-1 ATS in their last 17 meetings with their archrivals. However, the home team is just 6-13-1 ATS in this series so that does not bode well for the Lambeau faithful. Green Bay's 3-4 defense has looked very good this preseason but this will be their first true test. I do think it was a huge mistake to release safety Anthony Smith. His presence against the run would have been a great asset against the Bears power running game.
7. New York Giants (0-0) - This team is banged up. They lost key tackle Jay Alford for the season, Chris Canty is likely not going to play this Sunday, and now corners Aaron Ross and Kevin Dockery are not practicing. I'm interested to see if there is a difference in New York's Bill Sheridan-led defense compared to the magic that Steve Spagnuolo weaved with this group.
8. Tennessee Titans (0-0) - Tonight's game is going to come down to what most NFL games come down to: turnovers. Pittsburgh defense is going to hold up against the Tennessee running game and the Titans don't have the weapons in the passing game to keep the Steelers honest. Tennessee's front four should be able to get pressure on Big Ben (everyone else does) and their secondary is good enough to slow down the Steelers passing attack. So he who doesn't make mistakes gets the cash. The Titans are an exceptional 16-5 ATS as an underdog and the dog is 5-1 ATS in this series.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (0-0) - What was once a strength of this team is now a weakness. The Eagles have big question marks up the middle of their defense, and we're still unsure of which middle linebackers (Mays or Gaither) the Eagles will go with. They are also very suspect at the safety position. Since 2003 the Eagles have alternated loss-win-loss-win in their preseason openers. They won last year. Philadelphia is on a solid 12-5 ATS run on the road.
10. New Orleans Saints (0-0) - Big news for the Saints this week concerning the defensive line. Charles Grant and Will Smith look like they are going to dodge their four-game suspension and are at least going to start the season in the Saints' opening lineup. New Orleans beat Detroit, 42-7, on the road last year and I think they are in an even better spot now. But be wary: teams favored by 9.0 or more in Week 1 are just 1-12 ATS in season openers.
11. Baltimore Ravens (0-0) - Baltimore is 37-15-1 ATS as a home favorite and should smother Kansas City's rag-tag offense. Last year Baltimore was an 11-point favorite over Jacksonville and took care of business, 27-7, and over the past decade this group is a solid 10-4 ATS as a double-digit favorite. The offense has looked very sharp this preseason but we'll see if that translates into regular season success.
12. Atlanta Falcons (0-0) - Last year the Falcons topped 30 points at home in five of their eight games, going, simply enough, 5-3 against the total in those games. Nice pickup by Falcons this week in nabbing Brian Williams off the scrap heap. But what does that tell you when a team is still trolling for starters on defense in the leftovers from the rest of the teams? It tells me that I have no idea how the Falcons are going to stop anyone this year. And that's why I don't understand why everyone is all over Atlanta to win the South. I have them second. The Falcons have been the NFL's best bet in season openers over the last 11 years, posting a sweet 9-2 ATS mark.
13. Dallas Cowboys (0-0) - I am very leery of this Dallas team. On the one hand I kind of dig it that they are trying to become more of a run-the-ball-and-play-great-defense team. On the other hand I wonder if they have it in them. I really expect the Cowboys to be more of an 'under' team this year. Well, that is if that makeshift secondary holds up. Going to learn a lot about that unit this week. If they can't control Tampa Bay's passing attack then this Dallas team is going to be worse than I think.
14. Miami Dolphins (0-0) - Miami's young corners are going to have their work cut out for them this weekend against Matt Ryan's offense. But even if the Fins can't stop the pass, we know that Atlanta can't stop the run. Each defensive weakness should be on full display here. The Dolphins are 2-8 ATS in September games. Don't really have much to say about this team right now. They're solid, but unspectacular.
15. Chicago Bears (0-0) - Charles Tillman is back at practice this week for the Bears. That's great news moving forward because the Bears' secondary has been a mess this preseason and they are facing one of the top passing attacks in the NFL. The Bears can cause some matchup problems with their offense. But under OC Ron Turner the Bears are just 1-5 SU and ATS against teams that play the 3-4 going back to 2006. They have averaged just 13.5 points per game in those contests and lost by an average of 12.6 points per game.
16. Arizona Cardinals (0-0) - Everything I have read about Arizona's training camp has just backed up what I've seen on the field. Everyone is talking about how sluggish and sloppy this team has been and how they haven't had the same energy that they did last year. Super Bowl Hangover, anyone? Super Bowl losers are 65-95-2 ATS over the last eight seasons after their SB loss. Arizona swept the Niners last year but the games were both extremely close. Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston are both banged up heading into this weekend so I'm wondering what impact that will have on the offense.
17. Seattle Seahawks (0-0) - Seattle could get Walter Jones and Chris Spencer back on the offensive line next week, which is great news for them. But it doesn't help this week. Seattle's line is in shambles right now and is a big part of the reason that they did not run the ball effectively at all this preseason. Also, the defense only gave up an average of about two touchdowns this preseason. But remember: they were playing the sorry-ass AFC West so let's step back when trying to break down where this team is at. The favorite is 4-0 ATS in the Rams series and Seattle is a solid 9-4-1 ATS in its last 14 home games.
18. Washington Redskins (0-0) - Washington lost at New York in last year's season opener and they are just 1-5 SU in the last six meetings. But the 'Skins always play the G-Men tough. They are 3-1 ATS in the last four meetings (they didn't cover in last year's opener as a 4.5-point dog) and 3-1 ATS in the last four matchups in the Meadowlands. I know the offense hasn't looked good this preseason. But they've played the toughest defenses in the NFL and haven't been going full out. I think they will be better than expected on Sunday.
19. Carolina Panthers (0-0) - The Panthers allowed a stunning 70.5 percent completions in their passing defense this preseason. I don't even know what to say to that. This team as been playing short-handed all preseason on that side of the ball, but c'mon. Jon Beason and Thomas Davis, their two best linebackers, have both been practicing this week after missing time with injuries. John Fox is just 1-3 in his career against Andy Reid's Eagles.
20. San Francisco 49ers (0-0) - The underdog in the Arizona-San Fran series is a stellar 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings. Also, the road team is 7-0 ATS over the past four years and San Fran is 4-1 ATS in its last five trips to Arizona. Two key stats in the same family to keep an eye on: sacks for and against. In the preseason it was three for and 10 against. San Fran has to generate a pass rush and protect its quarterback if they truly want to be a sleeper this year.
21. Houston Texans (0-0) - Only seven other teams in the NFL are taking more action right now than the Texans. I have to say - be very careful. They are just 1-4 ATS in season openers and this is a team that is just 4-8 ATS as a favorite prior to Week 11. Houston's modus operandi has been great finishes to the season. But they have gone 4-7 ATS, 3-5 ATS, and 3-7 ATS to start each of the past three years. Also, they only managed 3.4 yards per rush on offense and gave up 5.2 yards per rush on defense this preseason.
22. Cincinnati Bengals (0-0) - Everyone is high on the Bungles because they have been watching "Hard Knocks". I've said that before and I believe that it's a big reason why are taking a stunning 80 percent of the action as favorites against Denver. Well, that and the fact that Denver is a mess. But the Bungles are just 5-13 ATS as a favorite in the first five games of the season dating back to 1999. That said, they are 3-1 ATS in season openers during the last four years.
23. New York Jets (0-0) - A few weeks ago I thought this team was one of the worst in the league and set for a healthy 4-12 season. However, they have been mighty feisty this preseason and this team is playing tough, rugged, physical football. Starting a rookie quarterback on the road is never a great spot to be in. And this could be a situation where a team looks misleadingly good in the preseason.
24. Cleveland Browns (0-0) - I'm not going to pile on Eric Mangini. I'm just going to say that this Browns team absolutely has some talent and has some pieces. But they also have a Loser's Mentality. And everything I've seen and heard out of this camp this fall has been bad karma. Shaun Rogers has been back at practice for the Browns. He'll have to be on his game this week if the Browns have any hope of taking down the Vikings.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0) - The Jags always play Indianapolis tough and they are 4-1 ATS in their last five trips to the RCA Dome. Jacksonville is one of those teams that I'm just really not 100 percent on. I know that they aren't very good right now because the defense just is not up to par. But their No. 1s outscored their opponents (Miami, Tampa, Philly) 41-40 this preseason. So they aren't that far off. Are they any good or are they not? One thing is for certain: their 2.9 yards per rush this preseason won't cut it.
26. Denver Broncos (0-0) - Have to say that I'm stunned that Kyle Orton is looking like he'll be back pretty soon for the Broncos. His bone was popping through his finger as of a couple weeks ago and now he's apparently going to start in Cincinnati. Denver is a dangerous team right now mainly because no one knows what, if, or how much Brandon Marshall is going to bring to the offense. And despite 80 percent of the action on the Bengals this week the line has dipped from 4.5 to 4.0 mainly due, I believe, to Marshall's return.
27. Kansas City Chiefs (0-0) - Have to say that I'm stunned that Matt Cassel is looking like he'll be back pretty soon for the Chiefs. He is allegedly 50-50 to start for the Chiefs this weekend at Baltimore. But to be honest, I have a hunch that his odds of playing on a bum knee against one of the most savage defenses in the league are closer to about 10 percent. Or zero. No wins this preseason for the Chiefs. But they are 8-0 ATS as an underdog of 10.5 or more.
28. Buffalo Bills (0-0) - What a mess. Turk Schonert took several parting shots at Tricky Dick Jauron on his way out of town. He said that Jauron wants to run a "Pop Warner offense". I have to say, based on the disgusting displays that I saw from Jauron's teams when he was in Chicago, that assessment is 100 percent correct. The Bills simply suck. And if you think T.O. isn't going to quit on this team when things go wrong you obviously haven't been paying attention.
29. Tampa Bay Bucs (0-0) - Byron Leftwich just doesn't do it for me. He is way too inconsistent for me to ever put money on the Bucs so they are either a stay away or a play against team. Tampa Bay is an exceptional 17-5-1 ATS as a home underdog. But with a new coaching staff, an odd running back rotation, and a defense with some question marks in the back seven I'm not sure how much that is going to hold up this weekend.
30. St. Louis Rams (0-0) - Marc Bulger was back under center taking snaps for the Rams on Wednesday. That's good news. But how sharp is he going to be? The Rams offense isn't exactly a well-oiled machine. With a shaky offensive line and no receivers to work with Bulger is still in trouble. The Rams are still on a 6-13 ATS slide and they have gone 1-7 ATS in their last eight divisional games.
31. Oakland Raiders (0-0) - This Richard Seymour deal is just the latest in a long line of debacles by the Oakland front office. I just don't understand what the hell it is that they think they are doing. But since they only piss away their draft picks anyway I guess this Seymour debacle wasn't that big of an issue. Of the 37 losses that the Raiders have taken in the last three years 23 of them have been by 10 points or more.
32. Detroit Lions (0-0) - I just can't say enough what a terrible decision it was to name Matt Stafford as the starter. I was a Dante Culpepper basher back when he was still a Pro Bowler, before he was exposed. But Culpepper came back in shape and motivated to revive his career. And he looked good this preseason. Stafford is still an accident waiting to happen. And I don't understand why they don't let the kid watch and wait and then insert him after their season is lost. The Lions No. 1's were outscored, 41-13, in their first three preseason games. I think it will only get worse with Stafford at the helm despite the fact that this is a more talented team than last year's group and capable of a five-win season.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and you can purchase a full season's package of his football selections for just $25 per week! Click here for details.