NFL Power Rankings Week 15
by Robert Ferringo - 12/16/2009
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.
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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 were 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 (13-0) - Don't overlook the fact that this New Orleans-Dallas game is kind of a regional rivalry game. They don't play often but when they do there is usually plenty of vitriol. And like any rivalry game the favorite has been a money burner, going 0-6 ATS in the last six meetings. The Saints and their fans will be way, way up for this game. But they are now just 2-5 ATS in their last seven games.
2. Minnesota Vikings (11-2) - While everyone is wondering if the Saints and Colts are going to rest their starters I'm actually much more curious about how the Vikings are going to play these last few weeks. Minnesota plays a much more physical brand of football and their defense is better. There is no real way for them to ramp-down their level of play, so what do they do? The favorite is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings with Carolina, a fellow head-buster.
3. Indianapolis Colts (13-0) - Heavy line movement against the Colts this week. They opened up at 6.0 and this game has dipped to 3.0 and even 2.5 at some books. Apparently oddsmakers didn't like the fact that Indy didn't show up for two-plus full quarters against Denver. The Colts are going to be the squarest play on the board this week. But, as always with the Colts, that doesn't mean a damn thing.
4. San Diego Chargers (10-3) - I was asked by someone if the Chargers could win the Super Bowl. On one hand, better teams than this San Diego version have come up short and there is still the big Norv Turner Problem. On the other, they have pretty much sown up a first round bye and they seem to be one of the few teams that can handle the Colts. So can they get there? Yes. Can they win? I don't think so. They have a ton of motivation this week to lock up that bye. But they need to be stronger against the run if they want this 'w'.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) - The Eagles continue to be the anti-Cowboys: playing their best football in December and always up for a challenge. I don't think that they are the fifth-best team in the NFL but if you've watched them play over the last two weeks how could you say differently? Philly has covered three straight against San Francisco, including a two-touchdown beatdown last year. The last five meetings, since 2001, have all gone 'over' and Philly is 4-1 ATS.
6. Green Bay Packers (9-4) - Beware: Green Bay is catching two of every three bets in this Pittsburgh game. That makes the Steelers a disrespected favorite and is setting the Packers up for a letdown loss, in my opinion. Green Bay should be able to carve up Pittsburgh's secondary. But the Steelers won't be as thrown by Green Bay's 3-4 defense - they see an even better version in practice every day - as some of the Pack's unsuspecting opponents this year.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (8-5) - Cincinnati's offense, particularly its shaky offensive line, is a big problem for this team. They have topped 18 points just twice in their last eight games and have consequently gone 2-6 against the number. Two of their last three are on the road, with a home game against Kansas City - a perfect letdown spot and situation for the Bengals to become the Bungles once again - sandwiched in between. Don't completely count out a collapse by this team. After all, it is Marvin Lewis. Cincy is 8-1 ATS as an underdog and this week is going to be a great test to see if they are up to the task of playoff football.
8. Arizona Cardinals (8-5) - Man, when it goes bad for Kurt Warner it goes REALLY bad. He should be able to cut loose against a Detroit secondary that has mustered just eight interceptions all season. But before you go rolling the bones on a bounce back performance keep in mind that Arizona is just 4-10 ATS on turf and just 7-21 ATS against a team with a losing home record.
9. Baltimore Ravens (7-6) - Baltimore has been great in this role lately. They are 10-2 ATS as a double-digit favorite and they are 10-1 ATS against a team with a winning record. They've also become the best home bet in football, covering 41 of their last 58 home games.
10. Denver Broncos (7-6) - Yet again Josh McDaniels is making me think he doesn't know what the hell he is doing. His decision to go for a two-point conversion, down 21-16 with nearly 10 minutes to play, was not only shocking but dead wrong and poor game management. If Denver plays like it did in the second and third quarters against Indy they are a player in the AFC. If they play like they did in the first and fourth their stay will be short.
11. Dallas Cowboys (8-5) - At this point, how can you expect anything but losses and a total collapse out of this team? How many times does Jerry Jones need to see a Wade Philips team collapse before he admits that Wade is one of the worst coaches in the NFL? That said, there is something very intriguing about their game at New Orleans this week. They can push the Saints around with their running game and if New Orleans struggled with Washington and Redman-led Atlanta they could have their hands full here.
12. New England Patriots (8-5) - A trip to Orchard Park might be exactly what the Patriots need to snap out of their funk. New England is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings with the Bills and has won their last four trips to Buffalo by an average of 27 points per game. They are 1-5 against the total.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-6) - We'll have to see if the Dolphins get road-weary this week. This is their fourth road game in five weeks. They are fortunate that none of the trips have been particularly far but I still wonder if it will wear on them. Miami has won four of five games outright and they are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games (7-3 ATS in the last 10). This is a perfect example of how a power running game and a physical defense translates into long-term success. Miami has played back-to-back weeks in essentially playoff environments and have answered the bell.
13. Tennessee Titans (6-7) - Vince Young didn't practice on Wednesday and is still 50-50 to go this Sunday. I do think that he'll be under center on Sunday, but if he can't run then half of his value is gone. Tennessee is coming off a peak performance last week but they are actually 1-7 ATS against a team with a winning record. They are 14-6 ATS in their last 20 games after a win and are 6-2 ATS the week after a blowout (14 or more) victory.
15. New York Giants (7-6) - This team sucks. They are on a 1-7 ATS slide and that one win was over Dallas in a game in which they were completely outplayed. Now, that said, they are still 22-7 ATS on the road and have won six of seven outright against the Redskins, winning by an average of 10 points per game. Yet, with that defense - which has gotten lit up for an average of 32.3 points per game over its last eight games - I don't see that road mark keeping up.
16. New York Jets (7-6) - Kellen Clemens is getting a second chance to make a first impression. But I have to say that I wasn't impressed, at all, with his work last week in Tampa. Facing a Downey-soft Cover-2 he barely completed half of his passes. The Jets pounded away for 42 rushes and 175 yards last week. They are leading the league with 36.4 attempts per game and they have gone 'under' in four straight contests.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-7) - Unfortunately, I have no insight into Pittsburgh's problems that hasn't already been espoused, ad nausea, in the bobblehead media this week. However, the fact is that this team is completely disinterested. Yet, despite that fact, they are still in the hunt. And there is no way that the home crowd will let them play with no heart this week. The Steelers are just 1-11 ATS as a home favorite of less than a field goal and they are 7-20-1 ATS overall as a chalk of less than 3.0.
18. Atlanta Falcons (6-7) - The buzz around Atlanta and the Falcons this week was whether it would be better for this team to mail it in, tank the rest of the season and get a better draft pick or to keep fighting and try to get back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. We'll find out where they are leaning this week based on how they handle Mike Turner and Matt Ryan. But from what I can gather I wouldn't expect to see either.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-6) - The average margin of victory in the last four Jags-Colts games is just 3.5 points. Jacksonville has played Indianapolis tough while going 4-2 ATS in the last six meetings, including a tight 14-12 loss to open this season. Jacksonville is still an above .500 fraud but this game will be their Super Bowl.
20. Houston Texans (6-7) - Houston is a solid 7-3 ATS in their last 10 road games and is coming off their best performance of the year. Things are setting up for another vintage late-season, it-doesn't-matter-but-we'll-save-our-coach's-job-and-go-into-next-year-as-everyone's-sleeper-because-of-our-strong-finish run of wins and covering.
21. San Francisco 49ers (6-7) - Arizona clearly gift-wrapped that win for the Niners. But you can't overlook the fact that this team fights and fights hard. They are now 6-3-1 ATS in their last 10 games and so far this year are 5-0-1 as an underdog. Also, if they can stifle the Arizona passing attack twice this year they should be able to slow down Philadelphia this week.
22. Chicago Bears (5-8) - After last week's embarrassment it's gotta be tough for the Bears to get up for this one on the road at Baltimore. Chicago is 1-10 ATS as an underdog and 0-8 ATS as a road dog. They don't matchup well at all with Baltimore, or much of anyone for that matter.
23. Carolina Panthers (5-8) - This is actually the fourth game between Carolina and Minnesota in the last five years. The home team is 3-0 ATS in the last three and the host is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings. It's also pretty obvious that Carolina would have been better all season if they had gone with Matt Moore, or some other game-managing quarterback, for the full season. The negative this week for Carolina is that their strength (running game) plays right into Minny's strength (rush defense).
24. Seattle Seahawks (5-8) - This is the fourth straight season that the Seahawks have faced Tampa Bay and Seattle has covered all three of the previous meetings. They are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games against a sub-.500 team and they have earned their last four home wins by an average of 21 points per game.
25. Buffalo Bills (5-8) - If you recall, Buffalo nearly beat New England to open the season in a game that they absolutely gave away. But even though they will be way, way up for this game and are trending upward, the Bills seem to always disappoint when they face the Pats. They have gone 5-3 ATS overall in their last eight games and are 2-7 against the total in their last nine outings.
26. Washington Redskins (4-9) - The Redskins are 3-1 SU and ATS in their last four games against the Giants in December. They have revenge and are in a really good spot here, catching New York off another poor performance in a national TV game. Washington is a MNF home dog with the public pounding the Giants to the tune of 70 percent. We may see back-to-back upsets here.
27. Oakland Raiders (4-9) - Bruce Gradkowski is out this week with a knee injury and Oakland is going with Charlie Frye instead of JaMarcus Russell. Looks like the Raiders are finally catching on and starting to realize what everyone else already knew. The Raiders are 4-2 ATS this year as a double-digit underdog. The Raiders are also 5-2 ATS in their last seven against Denver and the road team is 5-2 ATS as well.
28. Kansas City Chiefs (3-10) - Well, by only losing by six points at home to Buffalo last week Kansas City lowered its average loss over the last three weeks to 22 points per game. Todd Haley's play calling has been suspect all year, but his fourth-down decisions last week against Buffalo (Not only going for it when he did, but a naked bootleg with Cassel? Really?) show again that this guy was just the wrong choice for this job and in way over his head. He is trying to do too many jobs and his team looks just as disorganized as he is.
29. Cleveland Browns (2-11) - Watching that Cleveland-Pittsburgh game from start to finish it's obvious that the win wasn't a fluke. They have now covered four straight games and seven of 10, making them one of the best bets in the NFL. However, like most of these crappy NFL teams we'll see how they react to the unfamiliar role of favorite. It hasn't worked out for most of the other bottom feeders. I am also curious how the shaky front office situation will impact players. Will they continue fighting to impress for jobs or will they mail it in?
30. Detroit Lions (2-11) - The home team has covered eight straight in the Detroit-Arizona series. The Lions are just 1-7-1 ATS in their last nine games overall and are 3-12 ATS in their last 15 home games. Basically, if you bet on them you are a moron.
31. St. Louis Rams (1-12) - This line is off the board because of St. Louis' unsteady quarterback situation. As if it matters. The Rams are just 8-19 ATS in their last 27 home games and they are shuffling the offensive line again. They finally released head case Richie Incognito, who took some shots at Steve Spagnuolo on the way out the door. This team is just a long, long ways away from competing. Look for young Keith Null to get another look this week.
32. Tampa Bay Bucs (1-12) - I thought this week's Seattle line was a little low considering that Tampa Bay has to make one of the longest road trips in the league just a few days after being pummeled and humiliated at home. They are 4-11 ATS overall and 4-9 ATS as an underdog.
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.