NFL Power Rankings Week 3
by Robert Ferringo - 9/24/2009
The sportsbooks cleaned up in Week 2 of the NFL, catching unsuspecting squares in a snare of unrealistic expectations and overreactions based on Week 1 results. However, Week 3 is the "swing week" or the "show-me week" in the first quarter of the season. Records and statistics, for the most part, are still relatively meaningless in NFL betting. So this week's action should be driven more by realistic expectations heading into the season and how teams have matched up to that so far this year.
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Also, there have already been a slew of misleading final scores and curious outcomes that can skew perspective. For example, Pittsburgh completely outplayed Chicago last week in Soldier Field, but ended up losing. If Pittsburgh was heading into Week 3 at 2-0 and Chicago at 0-2 I think that the betting public would have a completely different attitude toward those teams and their long-term prospects this season. I also think that the spreads on their respective road games this week (-4 for Pitt at Cincinnati and -2 for Chicago at Seattle) would likely be about three points the other way if the final score had been 17-14 the other way last week.
Statistics lie. And they are particularly devious early in the season. Stick with your convictions and base your moves on what you have actually seen on the field this year, not what people have been talking (or, more likely, screaming) about on Monday and Tuesday.
Here is a look at my Doc's Sports Power Rankings:
1. Minnesota Vikings (2-0) - Granted, the Vikings have played two of the worst teams in the NFL en route to 2-0. And they were losing to both of them early. But the offense is slowly but surely starting to mesh and make up for that lost time that Brett Favre didn't have in the preseason. I still love that defense - which is Top 5-quality - and their offensive line - which is among the five or six best in football. That alone is enough to secure them in the Top 10. Mix in a quarterback that could, if he had to, go out and win you a game as well as the best running back in football and this is just a team that can beat you a lot of different ways. This week they could possibly be looking ahead to a huge Monday Night Football game with Green Bay (Favre vs. the Packers) next week. The Vikings are 3-6 ATS as a home favorite also.
2. Baltimore Ravens (2-0) - The Ravens are heavy chalk this week against a division rival. And they are also in kind of a "sandwich" game, having beaten San Diego last week and taking on New England next week. The Ravens are 34-15 ATS in their last 49 games as a home favorite. And since Cleveland can't run - at all - that means Brady Quinn would have to beat them. Gotta like those odds.
3. New York Giants (2-0) - New York is absolutely dominating on the road. They are 16-3 ATS in their last 19 road games and they are 10-3 ATS as an away favorite. The Giants really beat up bad teams last year and I don't see why they wouldn't here. It is somewhat of a letdown situation after a big win in Big D. But Tampa Bay can't stop anyone. The Giants are 26-10 ATS in their last 36 overall. By now we should have just been betting them blind.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) - Much like New England and Indianapolis, I actually like this team a bit less than their ranking suggests. This team has issues. That said, if not for some horrid Santonio Holmes drops last week and some odd Jeff Reed missed field goals this team is 2-0 and everyone is all smiles. The Steelers' game in Cincinnati is sold out due in large part to a large Pittsburgh contingent heading down to the game. The Steelers have owned the Bungles over the last several years and they are 7-0-1 ATS in their last eight overall meetings.
5. New Orleans Saints (2-0) - What's not to like? The Saints are wrecking people and they look unstoppable. New Orleans is 6-2 ATS in the second of back-to-back road games going back to 2004. New Orleans has also been amazing at 13-1 SU and 12-2 ATS as a road favorite with Drew Brees at the helm. Also, the Saints are 17-6 against the total in their last 23 games. This number has sailed up over 50 - it's at 52 - but about 70 percent of all totals over 50.0 stay 'under'.
6. Atlanta Falcons (2-0) - Even I may be overrating this team. The Falcons are just No. 17 on offense and No. 22 on defense. Yes, they played two playoff teams from a year ago. But both Miami and Carolina were huge overachievers last year and are due to come back to earth. As a matter of fact, Atlanta is another playoff team that was a huge overachiever that should come back down to earth. Atlanta likes to sit back in the secondary, rather than attack on defense. I don't think that will work. At all.
7. Green Bay Packers (1-1) - Chad Clifton is likely out this week for the Packers, making their offensive line situation even messier. And against blitz-happy Steve Spagnuolo that could cause some serious problems. Drops and penalties just slaughtered this team last week against the Bengals. It's Week 3. They need to clean that crap up. The Packers are 17-7 against the spread in their last 24 road games and the favorite is 5-0 ATS in the last five meetings with the Rams.
8. Indianapolis Colts (2-0) - I am speechless about how soft Indianapolis' defense played on Monday night. But hey, it worked for them and they won the game, right? However, since we don't have much to go on with Jim Caldwell I think that the MNF game was a bit telling. If the Colts play that soft against the Cardinals they may give up 50 points.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) - Kevin Kolb wasn't terrible last week. The pass defense was. Remember: the Eagles are down one DC, one MLB, and one Pro Bowl S this year. The defense is not going to be a Top 10 unit. I think we have to sit on the 'over' with this squad. I also don't think that in their present condition they can simply mail it in and get a 20-point win over a team like Kansas City. Then again, Eagles have been a great bounce back team under Andy Reid. They are 6-1 ATS after a double-digit home loss.
10. Tennessee Titans (0-2) - It's desperation time. The odds of making the playoffs after an 0-3 start have to be next to none for last year's No. 1 seed. The Titans actually have a revenge angle in this game. Their loss to the Jets last year was their first of the season after 10 wins. Tennessee is 11-5 ATS after a loss and they are 18-7 ATS on the road. Also, Tennessee is 17-7 ATS as an underdog under Jeff Fisher and they are 2-9 against the total on the road.
11. San Diego Chargers (1-1) - Losing Jamal Williams has completely shifted the balance of power in the West. He was, without a doubt, one of the most valuable players in the entire NFL to his team. I think that the window for this team is closed. Remember: for all their supposed talent, this was an 8-8 team last year. And they have been beating up on terrible AFC West teams for the last few years. That said, the Chargers are still 18-10 ATS at home and they do have revenge for a loss at Miami last season. San Diego will be without center Nick Hardwick until December. That means they are now without two of their best players in the trenches.
12. New England Patriots (1-1) - Take Tom Brady and Randy Moss off this roster, then tell me what is the difference between the Patriots and the Chiefs. I say there is none. New England is 9-0 SU after a loss but a putrid 3-11 ATS at home. I also think that I might be 100 percent done betting on or against the Patriots as long as Bill Belichick is the coach. No chance I wouldn't have pounded the Jets if I had known Wes Welker wasn't playing last week. This team has a lot of problems. Not the least of which is that they won't get stops against good offenses.
13. New York Jets (2-0) - OK, I'm a believer. This team still has significant issues on offense. But they do have a load of small, fast game breakers behind a stout, athletic offensive line. There are also as many as eight Pro Bowl-caliber players on that defense right now and they are just dominating people. The Jets are 5-0 ATS against the Titans but are just 1-7 ATS after back-to-back wins against a team off a loss.
14. Chicago Bears (1-1) - Somehow, despite playing two backup linebackers and with one of the five or six worst secondaries in the NFL, the Bears are No. 5 in total defense. And that's playing against two pretty good offenses. Chicago is 7-19-2 ATS after a win and they are just 3-7-1 ATS overall. Also, the Bears have actually been outgained in 24 of their last 34 games. The home team has won in this series five straight times, and this is the fifth meeting between the clubs since 2006. Other than a 37-6 Bears blowout in 2006 the last four games have been determined by an average of five points per game, with two games in overtime.
15. Dallas Cowboys (1-1) - Dallas is a pathetic 5-11 ATS as a home favorite on Monday Night Football and they are a really thick favorite this week against Carolina. They are also 1-6 ATS at home on MNF after a loss. Last week I was talking up the "underrated" defense. Well, they are 2-0 against the total - by a LOT - and they are No. 30 in the NFL in yards per game. They have gotten pushed around against the run and one of the biggest offensive lines and best rushing attacks in the league is coming to town. No sacks and no turnovers through two games this year.
16. San Francisco 49ers (2-0) - Don't be fooled by San Fran's rushing offense last week. Thanks to shoddy safety play by Seattle on two plays, the Niners posted 160 yards on two runs. Other than that they were held to just 3.4 yards per rush against a soft Seattle front four. That was one week after earning just 30 yards on 22 carries. The Niners are actually 8-2 SU and 7-2-1 ATS in their last 10 games dating back to last year and Shaun Hill is 9-3 as a starter. This is a perfect letdown spot for them this week.
17. Arizona Cardinals (1-1) - Forget about the offense: Arizona's front seven has been awesome through two weeks of the season. Again, you have to consider that they were beating up on two soft offensive lines. But the Cards have allowed just 2.5 yards per rush and have eight sacks. Arizona has a bye week next week so they shouldn't be holding anything back. They are 9-5 ATS in their last 14 home games.
18. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) - The Bungles are coming back after a huge upset for this team. And the Steelers brought up Hines Ward's season-ending hit on Keith Rivers last year, which some thought was a dirty play. This one should be a slugfest. Have to say though: I hope this team gets blasted so that some value will be injected back into them. A win or a strong showing against the defending champs could make them a tough team to bet on the rest of the way.
19. Seattle Seahawks (1-1) - Walter Jones is back practicing, but there is still no word on his availability this week. With Chicago's speed rush off the edge he better be near full strength, especially if he is going to be protecting a banged up Matt Hasselbeck. My gut tells me that Hasselbeck doesn't play. And my gut also tells me that might be OK. I think Seneca Wallace's scrambling ability could fit in perfectly with Seattle's hodgepodge offensive line. And with the talent this club has in the passing game I could see him making a lot of plays down the field. A huge loss would be Lofa Tatupu, who I don't think will play. He is the leader of that unit and is critical.
20. Houston Texans (1-1) - Guard Chester Pitts had season-ending surgery and creates another hole in the always-awful Houston offensive line. The Jets and Titans have manhandled this team up front; so losing another starter is never a good sign. Houston is 8-2 ATS against the Jaguars and are 6-1 ATS at home against them. Also, Houston remains one of the best 'over' bets in the NFL, going 24-14-1 against the total in their last 39 games.
21. Miami Dolphins (0-2) - Ted Ginn Jr. has just one yard after the catch - with 13 catches - in two games. If it wasn't already obvious, the guy is a bust. And when he's your top "weapon" in the passing game you are in trouble.
22. Washington Redskins (1-1) - I am still smarting by Jim Zorn's move not to kick the field goal on fourth-and-one inside the 10-yard-line with less than a minute left and a two-point lead. And not only was that a terrible call, but what about the soft play call? Just pathetic. Washington has scored 17 points or less in nine of their last 12 games and they are 3-13-3 ATS against teams with a losing record. Two die-hard Redskins fans said last Sunday that this would be the team that loses to Detroit. I can't say that I disagree with them, even though the Redskins have - historically - owned the Lions. I believe they have won 20 of 22 straight up against Detroit.
23. Carolina Panthers (0-2) - After two straight losses this team is back in its best role: road dog. Carolina is 28-15-1 ATS as a road dog under John Fox. While everyone is pointing the finger at erratic and untalented Jake Delhomme, the real problem with this team is the defense. Carolina has allowed 28 or more points in nine of its past 12 games. They have to get stops and keep games low scoring so that the Panthers can wear teams down with that solid running game.
24. Buffalo Bills (1-1) - Buffalo is 6-3 ATS as a home dog and is 14-3 ATS as a nondivisional home dog. And here is a stat that you don't want to have with Drew Brees coming to town: the Bills have the No. 31 pass defense in the NFL. Buffalo's flimsy offensive line took another blow last week, as tackle Brad Butler was put on IR and center Geoff Hangartner missed practice this week with a bad back. If Hangartner can't got his week the Bills entire offensive line will have combined for just 20 career NFL starts. That's between five of them.
25. Denver Broncos (2-0) - Somehow Denver is one of only three teams (Indy, Jets) to be in the Top 10 in the NFL in both total offense and total defense. These stats have to be lying. They have not looked good in either of their two wins. However, if they keep winning while Kyle Orton and Brandon Marshall get on the same page this team - actually - could be in business. Denver is 9-3 SU in their last 12 against Oakland. However, they are just 5-10 ATS as an away underdog, 6-21-1 ATS as a favorite, and just 4-14 ATS in games against the AFC West.
26. Oakland Raiders (1-1) - This week's game is a tremendous swing game for the Oakland season. A win here actually would put this team in first place, and from there the confidence could definitely snowball. A loss would bring out the "here we go again" sentiment. I think that the loss of Robert Gallery (4-6 weeks, broken leg) is a big one. This team was fashioning itself as a team that just pounded the ball up front, and he was a large piece of that. Also, they have to regain some manner of home field edge. The Raiders are just 8-21 ATS in their last 29 home games.
27. Tampa Bay Bucs (0-2) - The secondary has already given up five plays of 30 or more yards this year. They are already playing without suspended safety Tanard Jackson and now starting safety Jermaine Phillips was put on injured reserve. On a positive note, this team has the No. 4 offense in the NFL. But part of that is because they can't stop anyone from scoring so the Bucs are having to chuck the ball down field in desperation during garbage time.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) - Eight rookies are starting for this Jacksonville team so there is no real question about why they are struggling or if they will struggle all year. In the meantime, the Jags have to watch castoffs Brian Williams and Mike Peterson do nothing but make plays for Atlanta, while Marcus Stroud is doing yeoman's work in Buffalo. Oops. The Jags are 26-16-1 ATS as road dogs and they are 12-4-1 ATS as a divisional away dog. However, those were different teams.
29. Cleveland Browns (0-2) - Every week I am reading more and more stories about how much Cleveland players dislike Eric Mangini, and how agents and players across the league are steering clear of this organization. This club has scored just one offensive touchdown in eight games dating back to last year. But they may have gotten a break with the injury to Jamal Lewis this week. This team will continue to be pathetic on offense as long as they are giving the ball to Lewis 20 times per game.
30. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) - Everyone was just in shock that Miami could control the ball for 45 minutes and lose to Indianapolis on Monday. How about the Chiefs? This team rolled to 409 yards and 25 first downs, keeping the ball for almost 39 minutes, and they lose. The Chiefs are 11-5 ATS in their last 16 road games, and that includes their near miss in Baltimore to start the year. Matt Cassel will start at quarterback this week. But this game is more about whether or not the Chiefs secondary can slow down Philly's passing attack. Thus far they are only allowing opponents to complete 49 percent of their passes.
31. St. Louis Rams (0-2) - This is currently a team on a 12-game losing streak that is seemingly just happy to be playing teams close. They did have success running against the Redskins last week and their quick passing game was a step in the right direction. But the loss of center Jason Brown is a tough one, to go along with the benching of first round pick Jason Smith. The Rams are 7-21-1 ATS in September, 12-22 ATS overall, 6-15 ATS at home, and 7-14-1 ATS as an underdog of 7.0 or more. All signs point blowout.
32. Detroit Lions (0-2) - As long as they stick with Stafford this team is a loser. As a few writers pointed out this week, the secret to Detroit's lack of success has really been their complete and utter failure in pass defense. So far this year the Lions are allowing teams to complete 80 percent of their passes. And looking at the lack of talent they have there (and, combined with Stafford's 40.9 passer rating) the Lions will continue to suck while they can't pass or stop the pass.
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