NFL Power Rankings Week 11
by Robert Ferringo - 11/18/2009
Here is a look at my Doc's Sports Power Rankings:
1. New Orleans Saints (9-0) - The cracks are starting to show with this team as injuries start to mount. It really started with the losses of Sedrick Ellis up front. That softened up the run defense. But now with Darren Sharper, Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter all banged up and likely not to play this week the Saints pass defense is extremely vulnerable. They signed Chris McAllister this week, which I think is a great choice. However, when you're picking guys up off the street (even if they are three-time Pro Bowlers) that's not a good sign. Three straight ATS losses after a six-game profit streak is a sign that the Saints are coming back to the pack. And with a game against New England on deck you have to wonder how focused they'll be in Tampa this week. New Orleans is 11-4-1 ATS overall but just 2-5 ATS in divisional games.
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2. Minnesota Vikings (8-1) - For all the drama that surrounded this team during the offseason it's surprisingly quiet around the Metrodome right now. But in a good way. This team is just keeping its head down and doing what it's got to do to lock up a bye and take a shot at home field advantage. Be a little careful this week. Seattle is clearly in a letdown spot after losing a key game at Arizona. But Minnesota's No. 23 pass defense kind of plays right into the Seahawks' hands. Minnesota is stunningly bad at 1-11-1 ATS as a double-digit favorite.
3. Indianapolis Colts (9-0) - They don't make mistakes and they capitalize on the mistakes of others. That's the Colts in a nutshell. They have faced the weakest schedule in the NFL this year and are 0-3 ATS in their last three games. But this team is undefeated and is certainly a threat. If they get past Baltimore this weekend I think that there are just three other potentially "losable" games on the slate for Indy, and they all come in the next few weeks. The Colts are 5-0 ATS in their last five games against the Ravens and are a steady 5-2-1 ATS overall.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) - Troy Polamalu likely will not play this week against Kansas City. Rumor has it that the injury isn't as serious as the one he suffered earlier in the season. That's great news, and I think they should give him a couple weeks off since any shot at a repeat title has to involve him. This week it shouldn't matter. This game is all about how angry the Steelers are after losing to Cincinnati last week. I they want to win by 30 this week against the Chiefs they can win by 30. But it's all about motivation. This year Pittsburgh is 0-2 ATS as a double-digit favorite while last year they were 3-0 ATS.
5. New England Patriots (6-3) - There is no defense for Bill Belichick's decision on Sunday night. None. That's my take. I'm just glad it didn't cost me the cover. New England's game against the Jets this week reminds me a bit of the Florida-Tennessee college football game this year. It's just assumed that the Patriots are going to lay a serious ass kicking on the Jets this week so it seems obvious to lay the points. But I think this one has a chance to be close. New England is, in my opinion, still a little stunned. But they are also 20-5-1 ATS after a loss so play against them at your own risk. The Patriots are 1-10 ATS as a double-digit favorite.
6. Cincinnati Bengals (7-2) - Talk about a letdown spot. Cincinnati has to be careful heading out to Oakland this week to face the Raiders. I have been on the Bengals bandwagon all season. But even I am surprised to see them laying nearly 10 points on the road, even if it is to Oakland. The Bengals are 0-8 ATS in their last eight games after playing the Steelers, including coming up short as a six-point favorite against Cleveland this year. Cincy is also 5-11 ATS against a team below .500. Don't expect much from Larry Johnson this week. He has no experience with Carson Palmer (and his weird, left-handed handoff style) and he doesn't know the offense or the blitz pickups. I do know this though: Kansas City comes to Cincinnati Dec. 27. Look out.
7. Baltimore Ravens (5-4) - It's about time that Baltimore dumped kicker Steve Hauschka. I mean, how many more games (and, for me, spreads) was it going to take this guy costing them? You can't overstate the importance of losing Terrell Suggs from that defense. That's a tremendous loss. The good news is that Haloti Ngata believes he'll be back over center this weekend, proclaiming himself at "75-80 percent". Baltimore is 0-5 ATS when playing on a Sunday following a Monday Night Football game. Baltimore is also just 2-7 ATS as a home dog of less than three points.
8. Denver Broncos (6-3) - Kyle Orton is going to play this weekend. This game is off the board at a lot of books, but knowing Orton from his Chicago days I will be stunned if he isn't under center for Denver. Really big game for the Broncos this weekend. They absolutely pushed the Chargers around in the last meeting and if they runt he ball this week I think that they will win again. But after talking to my Broncos sources they have said that the problems the last few weeks have mainly involved Josh McDaniels and his inability to adjust to what other teams are doing. He's getting outcoached. So the question is whether the experience and talent in the locker room is enough to overcome that.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (5-4) - Pretty good chance that Brian Westbrook's season - and maybe his career - is over. That said, there is still no excuse for the Eagles to quit running the ball. I know that throwing the ball on 3rd-and-2 has been in the playbook for most of this decade. But maybe that's why this team never won anything past a division title and one conference crown. The Eagles lost in Chicago last year when they were stopped on fourth down at the goal line in a four-point game. The Eagles are 12-5 ATS in their last 17 conference games.
10. Dallas Cowboys (6-3) - If you wonder why I dog Wade Phillips so much, here is Reason No. 4,862: Dallas is the second-most penalized offense in the NFL. They can't help but take critical penalties at inopportune times. It's a Phillips trademark. If Dallas had won at Green Bay then I would have bet my house on Washington this week (they likely would have been catching around 14-17). But unfortunately the worst-case scenario took over (Dallas loss, Washington won) so we aren't getting as much line value.
11. San Diego Chargers (6-3) - That is now four straight wins for the Chargers, who seemingly have 12 lives. I am hesitant to throw them back in the Top 10 in the Power Rankings because, like we saw with the Cowboys last week, as soon as everyone jumps back on the bandwagon the coaches (Wade Phillips and equally awful Norv Turner) allow their teams to lose a game that they "shouldn't". San Diego has been fortunate. Over the last two weeks the Giants and Eagles did not stay committed to the running game and exploit the obvious weakness on this Chargers team. I feel like San Diego should have lost both of those games.
12. Arizona Cardinals (6-3) - As good as I think that Arizona is, I am really hesitant to get behind a team that A) has one win of substance (at New York) and B) stumbles around at home. The Cards have shown signs of a running game the last few weeks, which is a positive. But some troubling numbers are starting to sneak in for the Cards. They are one of the worst teams in the NFL on third down (33 percent conversions) and their pass defense is so atrocious that it's sucked down the team's overall D ranking to just No. 22 in the NFL.
13. New York Giants (5-4) - The Giants are No. 4 in the NFL in red zone possessions this year (36) but they are just No. 28 in converting them into touchdowns, at just 41.7 percent. For a team that has made it bones running the football that's a problem. What's worse, the G-Men have by far the worst red zone defense in the NFL, allowing 75.9 percent of opponents' drives inside their 20 to end in a touchdown. You can't (completely) blame the secondary for that.
14. Atlanta Falcons (5-4) - And this is why teams in the NFL have such a hard time putting back-to-back great years together, and why the Falcons have never had back-to-back winning seasons. A sophomore slump by the quarterback, some key injuries (Michael Turner, Brian Williams), a brutal schedule and a couple unlucky bounces will sink a season faster than you can say Ron Mexico. If you don't believe me, ask the Giants, Ravens, Dolphins and Titans, four other 2008 playoff teams that are on the outside looking in. Atlanta needs to attack a weak Giants secondary. And if their front seven can hold up against the G-Men's running game than I think this will be a one-score game.
15. Green Bay Packers (5-4) - Not only have the Packers been the most sacked team in the NFL, but they are also the most penalized on offense (74 in nine games). So quit blaming Aaron Rodgers for this team's failures. Here is the other teams that have been sacked 27 or more times: Oakland, San Fran, Detroit, Washington, and Kansas City. Only one (the Niners) is averaging more than 16 points per game, compared to Green Bay's 26 ppg.
16. Houston Texans (5-4) - Speaking of sacks, remember when the Texans used to be record setting for their offensive line futility? Well, right now they are tied for No. 7 in the NFL with just 15 sacks allowed, and with just three fewer sacks they would be No. 3 in the NFL. This week has the chance to be yet another defining game in the Gary Kubiak Era. A rare Monday Night Football appearance for Houston this week. But they are catching a red-hot Tennessee team (with Vince Young coming back to Texas) that is playing with revenge.
17. Miami Dolphins (4-5) - Ronnie Brown's season is done, leaving all of the workload to fall on Ricky Williams. I think that's also going to lead to more Pat White because Ricky isn't nearly the passing threat that Brown was in the Wildcat sets. The Dolphins are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 road games and this Thursday's matchup will be decided by which defensive front seven holds up the best.
18. Chicago Bears (4-5) - I have said before that the Cover-2 is essentially a prevent defense if A) you don't have guys generating turnovers and creating sacks or B) you are facing an extremely accurate passer or a team that can execute in the red zone. This year the Bears have allowed a touchdown on an incredible 75.9 percent of opponents' red zone drives (21-for-30). And anyone that is surprised by Jay Cutler's performance this year has obviously never seen Cutler quarterback. The guy has some talent, but is a head case with awful decision-making tendencies. All of that conspires to make him a mediocre NFL quarterback (my comparison at the start of the year was to a young Kerry Collins) so I can't understand what all the fuss is about. Of course, taking a shaky quarterback that likes to throw the ball into traffic and pairing him with Chicago's offensive line is a bit like making an alcoholic a bartender in Las Vegas.
19. San Francisco 49ers (4-5) - There is no way that I'm "on the bandwagon" with the Niners after their win against Chicago last week. Their front seven has still looked strong but that was also against one of the worst offensive lines in the league. And even though they benefited from five interceptions they were still about 13 yards (and some horrendous Lovie Smith clock management) away from losing to a putrid Bears team. The Niners are now 2-0 ATS against the NFC North, having covered a tight one at Minnesota before their close win over Chicago. San Fran is also 6-0-1 ATS as an underdog.
20. Carolina Panthers (4-5) - Running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams are both listed as questionable on the Carolina injury report. From what I hear, Stewart is going to play but it's probably 60-40 that Williams will be used sparingly. Only four NFC teams have less than four losses, so if the Panthers can win on Thursday night they really are back in the playoff mix. Carolina has covered four of five after having been written off early in the season, but they are just 2-5 ATS as a road favorite.
21. Tennessee Titans (3-6) - The Titans are 5-2 ATS against the Texans recently and they have revenge from a stunning 34-31 loss at home earlier this year. All Vince Young has done in relief is win games and cover spreads. His success is also directly correlated to the improved health of Tennessee's secondary. But even with help in the back the Titans have still been a strong 'over' play, sailing the total in six of their last eight outings. The underdog is 9-3 ATS in the Texans series.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-4) - Jack Del Rio has shelved Jacksonville's attempted shift from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4. Over the last two weeks he's gone back to the 4-3 base and the Jaguars have been much, much better against the run. They allowed just 110 yards to the Jets (on 29 carries) one week after yielding just 60 to Kansas City. Both totals are much better than their previous average of around 125 yards per game.
23. New York Jets (4-5) - Rex Ryan was crying in a team meeting on Monday after the Jets lost to Jacksonville. I mean, are you &#ck*ng kidding me? For all of the trash talking that this guy did when things were going good, who knew he was such a sissy? The road team in the Pats series is 19-6-1 ATS in the last 26 meetings and the Jets have covered three of four.
24. Buffalo Bills (3-6) - It's about friggin' time. I have said for two years that the Bills won't win anything with Tricky Dick Jauron at the helm. As a Bears fan, I am intimately aware of the disaster that is Dick. So good riddance. Bills fans need to be praying for Mike Shanahan. Oh, and if Bills fans thinks that things are bad now I promise you that they will get 25 times worse if the rumors are true and this organization goes out and gets Jim Haslett. Ryan Fitzpatrick gets the nod this week under center. Have to be thinking 'under' since he can't throw the ball further than 25 yards down the field. Not without a catapult anyway.
25. Seattle Seahawks (3-6) - It's going to be tough for the Seahawks to bounce back after blowing a late lead against Arizona last week. That game essentially ended any shot that they had at making a comeback to win the West. Seattle is 0-5 ATS in their last five road games and 0-5 ATS against a team with a winning record.
26. Washington Redskins (3-6) - Well, it was only a matter of time before the Redskins jumped up and bit someone. Because, as I've been saying all year, with the exception of a shoddy offensive line this roster has the talent of a .500 team, but pathetic coaching is what's holding them back. Albert Haynesworth has not been practicing this week. I feel like if he doesn't play this Redskins team will get run off the field - again. The underdog is 20-7 ATS in this big-time NFL rivalry and Washington has covered four of five against Dallas.
28. Cleveland Browns (1-8) - I just don't know what anyone, ever, has seen of Brady Quinn to make them think that he could actually be an NFL quarterback. Cleveland has been outgained by an average of 239.8 yards per game over the last four weeks. But if you look at Cleveland's schedule, I just don't see any games (outside of Buffalo) where this team had a realistic shot of winning. They have played, by far, the toughest schedule in the NFL.
29. Detroit Lions (1-8) - This week the Lions are playing another one of those games where it's like, "How the hell do you take the Lions as a favorite?" No team in this contest should be laying points. Remember: Detroit is 1-25 straight up in its last 26 regular season games (2-32 in the last 34), so how the hell are they laying points? Detroit is also 3-10 ATS at home. These teams met in the preseason, for what that's worth, with Cleveland winning 27-10.
29. Kansas City Chiefs (2-7) - Todd Haley admitted this week that he may be in a bit over his head. Thank you. I said that four months ago. And his just idiotic decision to go for it on fourth down at the Oakland 14 in a 13-10 game (he was winning, mind you) just proves that this guy has no idea what he's doing. And just when the Chiefs were finding some life in the passing game with Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers, Bowe gets the boot for an illegal substance. Don't be surprise if the Chiefs go hard after Anquan Boldin this offseason. But the trouble is they can't afford to give up the draft picks to get him.
30. St. Louis Rams (1-8) - I suppose we shouldn't be altogether stunned that the Rams played New Orleans so tough last week and covered as the ugly dog. Remember, this team really took it to Minnesota, but turned the ball over three times inside the red zone (twice near the goal line) and had a fumble returned for a touchdown. But can Steve Spagnuolo keep building on last week's effort? The Rams are still 7-18 ATS at home and they are just 1-4 in their last four home games against Arizona.
31. Tampa Bay Bucs (1-8) - Josh Freeman has definitely given this team a spark and I am quickly, quickly turning around on the kid. He has been accurate and athletic, and I can say that he has been the biggest change in why this team is starting to show some life. And you'll never guess which team has the most efficient red zone offense in the NFL? That would be Tampa Bay with a 70.6 percent touchdown rate. Antonio Bryant will be back this week and against a banged up New Orleans secondary you have to like the idea of points being abundant.
32. Oakland Raiders (2-7) - Still have nothing to say about this franchise. I don't think that they have the worst talent in the NFL. I think they are about No. 25. But they are permanently listed at No. 32 in these Power Rankings until Al Davis, um, steps down. I tried to tell my buddy, the Vegas Sports Informer, last week that there is no way in hell that anyone, ever, in any situation, should be laying points with Oakland. Unfortunately he didn't listen. Bruce Gradkowski will be under center this week for the Raiders and I clearly think that if he had been the starter from Week 1 the Raiders would be AT LEAST two games better than their current record.
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.