NFL Power Rankings Week 13
by Robert Ferringo - 12/2/2009
December football is playoff football.
Now, this isn't the playoffs in the winner-take-all, take-your-ball-and-go-home, you-better-bring-your-ass-to-the-store-with-that manner that January heralds. But the playoffs have begun in the NFL, with teams in both conferences playing for their postseason lives every week from here on out. Teams across the league should be playing their best football of the season right now and this is the period where we find out whose best is good enough and who just isn't up to snuff.
It's at the point now where you want to be looking for a couple things. First, look for teams that start to pick up steam, both against the number and against opponents over the next few weeks. They are usually strong bets early in the postseason. (Oh, and even losing teams can "get hot" ATS in the last month and build on that momentum for next year. Ask Cincinnati.)
Second, you want to be careful on betting teams in "must-win games". Teams are generally in must-win situations because they aren't that good in the first place. I know you want to pile on the Giants to make that late-season push, but the reality is that if this team was any good they wouldn't be playing must-win games for the next month. The same goes for Jacksonville, San Francisco, and a host of other teams clinging to playoff life.
Without further ado, here is a look at my Doc's Sports NFL Power Rankings:
1. New Orleans Saints (11-0) - I love how everyone in the NFL is just dumbfounded by the New Orleans defense, even though I was screaming throughout the preseason about how strong this unit was. And how are people surprised that Mike McKenzie and Chris McAllister - two Pro Bowl-level guys - have stepped in and gotten the job done? Perfect letdown spot for the Saints this week heading off surface, after a huge MNF win, to face a pathetic team, with a division rival on deck. Not saying that the Redskins have a chance in hell if the Saints just made the Pats look that bad, but just saying.
2. Minnesota Vikings (10-1) - Just not much more I can say about this team. They are dominant in all phases right now and, along with New Orleans, are clearly one of the two best teams in football. There is no line on this Arizona game, but I actually expect it to be around -2, one way or another. The Vikings are the better team. There is no doubt. And the NFC North has had its way with the NFC West this season. But Minnesota hasn't played on the road in over a month and is on a 3-0-1 ATS rush. A team this public is going to get tripped by the books sooner or later.
3. Indianapolis Colts (11-0) - Kudos for yet another underwhelming win. I mean, yes, you have to be impressed by the sheer domination and total control that Peyton Manning displays each week. And this team is never out of a game because they believe that he can bring them back (as he has so many times). But at the same time, are you kidding me that you're going to fall behind 17-0 to the Texans? I seriously think if you replaced Manning with Matt Schaub that this would be a 4-7 team. Indy has dominated the previous two meetings with the Titans, winning by 22 and 23 points in the first meeting this year and the last matchup last December.
4. New England Patriots (7-4) - I bet you're wondering why I have the Patriots ranked ahead of the Bengals and the Chargers right now. Well, try this: if tomorrow the Patriots were playing either of those teams on a neutral site, for your soul, who would you rather bet your soul on? That's what I thought. However, the Patriots have to get it together on the road and in that mess of a back seven. The road team is 5-0 ATS in the last five matchups with the Dolphins, New England is 18-7 ATS as a road favorite, and the Pats are 21-5-1 ATS after a loss.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (8-3) - I love the new tough, physical Bengals. This team is grinding out wins. And even if it is coming against weak opponents I love to see Cincinnati winning this way. The Bengals are, somehow, 11-0-1 ATS following a game against the Browns. However, they are a pathetic 4-15 ATS as a favorite over the last three-plus seasons, including a wretched 0-5 ATS mark as a chalk this year.
6. San Diego Chargers (8-3) - He doesn't have a chance of in hell of winning the award with Brees, Manning and Favre slugging it out, but Philip Rivers definitely deserves some MVP love. This team has no running game, had a banged up line for most of the year, and a defense that started the year three steps to slow. Rivers has brought them back to the point where people are talking Super Bowl yet again.
7. Baltimore Ravens (6-5) - Talking to a radio guy in the Baltimore area about this team this week and he made a great statement, "A lot of talent but they just can't get out of their own way. And I'm a Cowboys fan, so I know a team that can't get out of its own way." Just a great call about this Ravens group. They need to figure out how to get some quarterback pressure in a hurry. The once fearsome Ravens defense has mustered just 22 sacks this season.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) - We are about to find out what desperation does to the defending champions. There is no line yet on the Oakland game but once it is verified that Big Ben is suiting up under center I'll be stunned if its less than 14.5. Can't overstate how much this team misses Troy Polamalu, even with the NFL's No. 3 overall defense. Pittsburgh is 7-3 ATS at home and 48-22-2 against the total in Heinz Field. Also, the Steelers have suffered eight three-game losing streaks (SU) since 1999. They are 6-2 ATS in the following game.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (7-4) - The Eagles beat Atlanta, 27-14, at home last October and they are 7-2-1 ATS in the last 10 meetings. That said, the home team has won eight of the last nine games when these two get together. Philadelphia will be without game-breaker DeSean Jackson this weekend. The Eagles are 15-7 ATS in their last 22 road games and this could be the start of another vintage Andy Reid-Donovan McNabb December push. Philly is 6-1 ATS after an ATS loss.
10. Dallas Cowboys (8-3) - If you want to know why this team appears less shaky than in year's past it boils down, to me, to one simple number: 5.3. The Boys are averaging 5.3 yards per rush this year, second best in the NFL. I still don't think that they run it enough (they are 19th in attempts) but they are controlling the line of scrimmage and using the running game to set the tone. This is the most physical Cowboys team we've seen since Bill Parcells left.
11. Denver Broncos (7-4) - It burned through some money, but I'm glad we didn't give up on this team. With their defense (No. 5 overall and No. 5 against the pass) they are built for a late-season push. The Kansas City Chiefs may define Denver's season. The Broncos play a critical game in Arrowhead this week and then close the season hosting their nemesis. The Broncos are just 2-5 ATS in the last seven meetings and just 1-4 ATS in their last five trips to Arrowhead. Denver is also just 6-21-1 ATS as a favorite and 5-15-1 ATS in divisional games.
12. Arizona Cardinals (7-4) - And that right there is why I don't take Arizona seriously as a contender to win the NFC. They have all the tools on offense and their front seven is exceptional. But this team lost the Super Bowl because its secondary was one of the worst in football, didn't make a single change in personnel, and then somehow expected that this year it would magically be better. Well, it isn't.
13. Green Bay Packers (7-4) - Guess who has the No. 1 defense, statistically, in the NFL? You got it. The Pack. And if you give them New Orleans' offensive line and schedule and they would be 11-0 too. Unfortunately, this team has lost Al Harris and Aaron Kampman, two staples of this unit, for the season. Their scheme is still sound and this is still an outstanding unit. But in the last month of the season not having that pair is going to wear on The Pack.
14. New York Giants (6-5) - Things have gone from bad to worse for this browbeaten defense, as Antonio Pierce is done for the year as well. Here are New York's wins since fluking out a 'W' in Dallas in September: Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Oakland and Atlanta in overtime. That's it. This team has dumped six straight games against the spread and the home team in this series is just 3-5 SU. Also, the underdog is just 3-6-1 ATS in the last 10 meetings.
15. Atlanta Falcons (6-5) - Chris Redman gets credit for a potentially season-saving fourth down touchdown dart to Roddy White last week to earn a comeback win. But the bottom line is that the guy was missing throws all game and really struggled against a Bucs secondary that is among the worst - if not THE worst - in the NFL. I just don't see how he is going to hold up against the Philadelphia secondary and Philly blitz packages.
16. Tennessee Titans (5-6) - I have nothing more to add over last week's breakdown: It's déjà vu all over again. In 2006 we saw Vince Young step in and the Titans went on a sick 10-1 ATS run that featured an amazing seven-game ATS winning streak. That included a 8-2 SU winning run in which the Titans won a plethora of tight games, with seven of the eight victories by a touchdown or less. Well, here comes Vince and now the Titans have won five straight, covered five straight, and three of the wins were by a touchdown or less, with all coming in pseudo-miracle style. I don't know if you want to jump on this train but I certainly know that you don't want to bet against them.
17. Miami Dolphins (5-6) - In a way, Miami's collapse against the Bills last week was completely predictable and was one of the worst bets of the season. This team was off a nationally televised upset, on the road against a sagging team that they dominated the first time out, with a perfect Look Ahead spot against the Patriots on deck. Miami is 3-1 ATS in the last four meetings with the Patriots and 6-4 ATS against them going back to 2004. But in four of the last five meetings they have been catching double-digits in points. Also, Miami has lost by 20 or more points in their last two home games against New England.
18. Houston Texans (5-6) - I have no idea how the Texans can get back up for a road game against the Jaguars this weekend after losing back-to-back heartbreakers at home. It wasn't just that they lost or even how they lost. It's that the stretch of games (on MNF and then hosting the Colts) was a potentially franchise-lifting one. And yet again this team failed. Houston's offensive line is still one of the worst in football, allowing the third-most hits on the quarterback and owning the worst rushing average in the league.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-5) - I told you so. I know that there were (and probably still are) some people on the Jaguars bandwagon that think this is a decent team. I am not one of them. They just haven't beaten anyone. They are also 2-11 ATS at home, 4-11 ATS against the Texans, and 7-19 ATS against a team with a losing record. Knock yourself out. Here's what two rookie tackles will do for you: the Jaguars lead the NFL with a whopping 88 quarterback hits.
20. Chicago Bears (4-7) - These guys suck. How is that for analysis? But if there is one team that can make Chicago look a lot better than they are it's the Rams. Chicago is 4-0 ATS in its last four meetings with St. Louis (6-2 ATS if you count preseason games, though I don't know why you would.) Also, I would be willing to wager that the Bears do not fire Lovie Smith. It is too convenient for them to blame this season on injuries and poor personnel. But the bottom line is that Lovie is a weak coach and I think he only has one more year left before getting the boot.
21. San Francisco 49ers (5-6) - In theory, a San Francisco win and an Arizona loss can put the Niners within a game of Arizona for the division lead with a home game against the Cards on deck next week. San Fran can't get caught looking ahead. San Fran is 7-3-2 ATS in its last 12 games and is 5-1 ATS in its last six divisional games. They are also 4-0-1 ATS on the road. However, the Niners are just 6-18-3 ATS off a blowout win of 14 or more points. Regardless of whom you like between San Fran and Seattle, it will be a close game. Only one of the Niners' six losses this year was by more than a touchdown.
22. New York Jets (5-6) - I'm not calling out Rex Ryan (wouldn't want to bring him to tears or anything), but right now the Jets have just 21 sacks and are on pace for about 29 for the season. Last year the defense managed 41 sacks, good for No. 7 in the NFL. The favorite in the Jets-Bills series is just 7-20 ATS. New York did dominate the first game between these teams but was done in by a cornucopia of turnovers.
23. Carolina Panthers (4-7) - Carolina is going with Matt Moore at quarterback this week as Jake Delhomme is out with a broken finger. But you have to ask yourself (as everyone piles on Tampa Bay) - is that a bad thing for the Panthers? Is a quarterback change, even to Matt Moore, a move backwards? The more pressing issue is that DeAngelo Williams and Jon Stewart haven't been practicing this week. Carolina is still 12-5 ATS against the Bucs and 6-2 against them at home.
24. Buffalo Bills (4-7) - There is no quit in this team and if you're looking for the Team To Quietly Have A Great December And Make Their Record Look Much Better Than The Team Really Was team you should start right here. Buffalo is 26-10-1 ATS against teams with a losing record and is 5-1 ATS in the last six against the Jets.
25. Seattle Seahawks (4-7) - I don't think that I'm buying into the "late season push" theory being thrown around Seattle's way these days. They still have two road games, which have to be chalked up as losses with as bad as they have been away from home the last couple years. They also have tricky games against the Niners and Titans (Week 17). So if by "late season push" you mean that they avoid 10 wins you might be onto something. Seattle was actually much closer with San Francisco in the first meeting than the 23-10 score indicates. They were down just 10-3 when Matt Hasselbeck was put out of the game. Also, I think Justin Forsett can be really, really good.
26. Kansas City Chiefs (3-8) - I am still looking for this team to make a little push at the end of the season. I suggested to a friend that is a Chiefs fan that it wouldn't be beyond the realm for the Chiefs to win six games this season. I still think that's possible. The home team in the Broncos series is 12-4-1 ATS in the last 17 meetings. Also, this has been a high-scoring series, with the 'over' coming through in 11 of the last 15 matchups. The dog is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings.
27. Washington Redskins (3-8) - How much pride do the Redskins have left? They have managed to cover three straight spreads after a 1-6 ATS slide. And they have gotten significantly better against tough competition, playing three of their last four on the road and playing their last five (Philly twice, Dallas, Denver, Atlanta) against playoff competitors. I hate the "what if" game, but if Washington has four losses by five points or less already this season. An offensive play here or there and this is a 6-5 team. Welcome to the NFL.
28. Cleveland Browns (1-10) - Shaun Rogers is done for the year and it may be time for the levy to break for this Browns team. Cleveland has actually gone 5-3 ATS in its last eight games - against a ridiculous schedule - and they have covered back-to-back games on the road. Now, last year this team completely mailed it in during December and 0-5-1 ATS in its last six games. I know they have a whole new cast of characters but will they do it again? Will Eric Mangini's oppressive style lose this team down the stretch or will they show the resolve that he is trying to instill?
29. Detroit Lions (2-9) - Dear NFL: please take Detroit off my television on Thanksgiving. It is embarrassing. Oh, and putting Oakland AND Detroit on the same Thanksgiving - brilliant. Why not just have had them play each other at 1 p.m. so everyone would have known when to plan dinner. Lions are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games and haven't covered since Oct. 11.
30. St. Louis Rams (1-10) - After a full month at home it will be interesting to see how the Rams respond to going back on the road. They also haven't played a game on grass since a trip to Jacksonville back on Oct. 18. The Rams are 3-1 ATS in their last four road games, nearly beating Washington, going to OT at Jacksonville, beating Detroit, and losing 35-0 at San Francisco.
31. Tampa Bay Bucs (1-10) - Everyone is very taken with the Josh Freeman Train and the Bucs have gone 3-1 ATS since he has taken over under center. However, this is a game this week where I think that the public might take a bath. Nearly 70 percent of the action in the Tampa Bay-Carolina game is going on the road dogs and the six points. That's an awful lot of faith in a rookie quarterback on the road and a 1-10 team.
32. Oakland Raiders (3-8) - It's just about time for this group to fold up the tents. Oakland is a tidy 16-37 ATS in its last 53 games in December. Ouch. Oh, and where can I sign that petition asking Al Davis to sign a general manager? With the luck of Raider fans he'll sign Isaiah Thomas to be the GM.
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.