NFL Power Rankings Week 3
by Robert Ferringo - 9/23/2010
Everyone knows that’s the Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. However, a lesser-known but equally important equation on the topic is the Ferringo Theory of Football Relativity. That equation plays out as such:
That is Ferringo’s Theory of Football Relativity. And it translates like so: Who you Are = Who you’ve Played x How you Played x What was Expected. A little convoluted, I’m sure, but there is no doubt that my theory of relativity is a bit more relevant to my gambling brethren as we try to sift through early season NFL results and determine who is legit, who is a fraud, and how teams are going to produce moving forward.
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The basic idea is that in the over-reactionary world of the NFL and of football betting, early season data is very easily misread, misconstrued, and misinterpreted. That can be catastrophic to a gambler’s bankroll and I think it is critical that bettors don’t overreact to results in the first couple weeks. You always have to consider who teams have played (Tampa Bay’s 2-0 is nowhere near the same stratosphere as Houston’s 2-0) and how they have played to get there (Minnesota’s 0-2 is a completely different animal than Dallas’), all against what the expectations were for each team (New Orleans is 2-0 but hasn’t covered yet, while the Steelers are 2-0 and covered both games).
I’m not going to break down every single team’s NFL strength of schedule and how these records relate to one another. But if my rankings seem screwy, or off, or if they don’t match up with the bobblehead media’s “standard” power rankings then you will know that it is because I’m applying Ferringo’s Theory of Football Relativity.
So with that in mind, here is my Week 3 NFL Power Rankings:
1. New Orleans Saints (2-0) – It doesn’t matter how you win, it’s that you win. And the Saints have picked up a pair of wins against teams that the bobblehead media had bequeathed playoff spots to before the season started. However, they haven’t covered yet and are now 0-6-1 in their last seven regular season games. That’s a clear sign of an overrated squad. That’s even though it takes huge stones to wager against them. The Saints are 14-41 ATS as divisional home favorites, even though they are a strong 11-6-1 ATS in their last 18 home games. Reggie Bush is clearly going to be missed. But I think it could lead to more scoring, actually, because Drew Brees now might be more willing to force the ball down the field as opposed to check down to Bush.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) – Charlie Batch will be starting just his fifth game since 2001 this weekend. Batch is the Vince Evans of the new millennium, and there’s no way that he’s up for this. However, I’m betting he’s not going to go out and lose this game for a superior team. Look for the Steelers to continue with the check downs, safe routes, and consistent running attack. But the main issue is: how can they protect this statue when they could barely protect the mobile Dennis Dixon.
3. Baltimore Ravens (1-1) – This week would normally be a letdown situation for the Ravens, after a pair of physical, high-profile matchups with other playoff contenders. But they’ll get a huge boost because they are making their home debut. There has been grumbling about Joe Flacco’s slow start. But this one is all about relativity. The Ravens have faced probably two of the top six or seven defenses in the NFL, and the Jets and Bengals boast two of the best pairs of corners in the NFL. I think Flacco will answer the bell this week and I think that could lead to an ‘over’. The Ravens are 20-11-2 ATS at home over the past several years and they are 11-2 ATS in their last 13 games against a losing team.
4. San Diego Chargers (1-1) – I really just don’t have much to say about the Chargers right now. Seriously. This is kind of a boring team. They started the year with Kansas City, Jacksonville and Seattle. That’s like extended preseason play. So is there really surprise that this team is kind of going through the motions? I think that losing in Kansas City was a good thing for this team. They were sharp and motivated last week. And now with the Chiefs and Broncos threatening, the Chargers know they can’t just put it on cruise control (yet) in the West. I – like everyone else – expect them to hammer Seattle this weekend despite a heavy reverse line movement on the game. But another vintage Norv Turner implosion wouldn’t be a stunner. That’s always the risk you take when you bet on this team.
5. Green Bay Packers (2-0) – I’m telling you, I hate having the Packers, Patriots, Jets and Texans all posted this high. And one of the overriding themes is that they all have issues on the offensive line. The Packers are shuffling tackles this week and they are exposing their Achilles heel from last year. Also, I don’t think there is a team in the NFL that has played a weaker schedule (preseason and regular season) than the Packers. Green Bay has won 13 of 16 games in Chicago outright and they are 12-4 ATS in Soldiers Field. Green Bay is also a sick 21-8-1 ATS on the road. However, tell me that the Packers aren’t the biggest square play on the board this week. They could be ripe for an upset.
6. New England Patriots (1-1) – Yeah, I don’t know how the Patriots have moved up in my rankings either. But whom do I put in front of them? New England is going to be easy to cap this year: they are going to dominate people at home and they are going to get torn up on the road. New England is just 2-7 SU in their last nine road games, and I think that 100 percent has to do with the youth and inconsistency that they have on defense. The Pats are the biggest favorite on the board this week. And they haven’t lost to the Bills in seven years while going 6-1 ATS against them in the last four. But they also only averaged 21 points per game against the Bills last year and their average margin of victory against Buffalo is just 8.0 over the last two seasons.
7. New York Jets (1-1) – I know that they beat the Patriots last week, but I’m still not impressed. This team is still way overrated. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t quality. The Jets have dumped three straight to Miami. But they still absolutely own this series, going 20-7-2 ATS in the last 29 meetings – usually winning or covering the most bizarre, nonsensical fashion. At one point they had covered 10 straight in the series. Braylon Edwards will play this week (he’s “not starting” despite being busted for DWI. That again shows that the Jets are smothered in bad karma and that they are soulless beasts. Teams with low character rarely end up winning the Super Bowl. Remember that Jets.
8. Houston Texans (2-0) – Yeah, unless these guys go about 8-0 this is as high as I see them going in these rankings. They really aren’t that good and there is no way in hell that they should have won that game last Sunday. Ridiculous. But I suppose I can’t rank them behind the Colts and Redskins, the two teams they’ve beaten thus far. I just want to make this clear: I don’t buy this team. Not yet. I am decidedly not on the bandwagon. The Texans are 4-1-2 ATS after a win and they are 3-1-1 as a favorite of three points or less.
9. Indianapolis Colts (1-1) – As bad as the Colts looked in their opener, they were that sharp last week. This team still has the core and still has the ability to roll at home and to run over bottom-tier teams. But this season I think that they are going to really struggle against the top dozen or so other teams. Why: because they are still as soft as they have ever been. The Colts are 8-0 ATS as nondivisional road favorites in September. Indy has won three straight in this series since 2006 and has won five of six meetings going back to 2005. Also, the favorite is 6-1 ATS in the Colts-Broncos series.
10. Washington Redskins (1-1) – I know that I am still numb thinking about Washington’s stunning loss last week in a game that they dominated. So if I’m still feeling that way, you would have to expect that the Skins players are still upset about it as well. This is where having one of the more veteran teams should be a boon; they should be able to get over it more quickly. We will see. Washington has, to this point, the worst rush offense in the NFL. That is why they weren’t able to milk the clock last week and is, in my opinion, why they lost. (I still think that they should have run the ball more in the fourth quarter simply to keep the clock going.) Trent Williams has no structural damage on his knee, which is a huge bullet to dodge. I don’t expect to see him this week. The Redskins are 6-17-3 ATS against teams with a losing record. If they want to step forward they need to stop playing down to their competition.
11. Dallas Cowboys (0-2) – Do I still have this team overrated? I know the wheels are just about off the wagon, but I don’t know that I’m willing to completely jump off. Especially when everyone and their sister is running away from this team and treating it like it is infected with zombie AIDS. That’s normally the best time to buy into a team. A lot has been made of Houston’s preseason win over Dallas. I’m not buying into that. Dallas was exhausted from a hectic travel schedule by that point. (They still may be feeling the effects of a daunting preseason.) And now they are desperate. Dallas is just 5-11 ATS in its last 16 road games. But this is a season-defining game this weekend. If this team has anything to offer – and I think they do – then they find a way to beat a moderately overrated Texans team.
12. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) – Third down is quickly becoming a major problem for this team. And it isn’t as if they’ve been stuck in a bunch of third-and-longs through the first two weeks. Part of that is Carson Palmer just not being sharp early in the season. But part of it is that the Bengals offense just doesn’t seem to flow very well. Last week Cincy had 14 possessions, boosted by a +4 turnover differential, and they scored only 15 points. I know that Baltimore is tough, but that’s another poor outing by the Cincy O. Their offensive line will be tested this week by a very aggressive Carolina front four. But if they hold up this should be a break out week for the offense – if it even still has that potential. Cincinnati was 0-8 ATS as a favorite last year.
13. Minnesota Vikings (0-2) – What a mess. Last year I thought the Vikings were the best team in football. And they were. But right now they are the perfect example of how magic and momentum don’t carry over from year to year. Especially with the Brett Favre of the last half-decade. Here are his QB ratings, by year, starting in 2004: 92.4, 70.9, 72.7, 95.7, 81.0, 107.2 and now 56.1 so far this year. You see the fluctuations? So I think that the Miami game was just a glimpse of what is to come in what could be a messy year in Minny. The offensive line is not playing nearly as well as it has in the past. But that strip-sack for a TD last week was 100 percent Favre’s bad.
14. Atlanta Falcons (1-1) – Although it’s bad for a lot of fantasy teams, I think that Mike Turner’s injury is good for the Falcons. Jason Snelling just looks twice as fast and twice as shifty as Turner does. Snelling looks like 2008 Turner. I have to think that Atlanta is more focused on beating New Orleans than the Saints are on the Falcons. I’m sure the Saints still have that “we’re the champs, they have to beat us” mentality heading into this week. The problem is that the Falcons always play well in New Orleans – they are an incredible 21-4 ATS there – and that Atlanta has to have a lot of confidence from two tough losses last year. The Falcons had serious injury issues heading into both of those games and still put up a great fight. They will do the same this week.
15. New York Giants (1-1) – I keep wanting to bet ‘under’ on the Giants. But I’m starting to get the impression that they have lost their identity and have become seduced by a potent passing attack. They have now gone ‘over’ in seven straight regular season games and they are 13-4-1 against the total since the start of last year. This happened to them once before (remember the Kurt Warner disaster?) but Tom Coughlin was able to turn it around. The G-Men need to get back to pounding the rock and being strong in the front seven. I feel like they are trying to mimic the Saints and Colts – powerful passing attacks and turnover-inducing defense – when that is clearly not their style. Not coincidentally, the Giants are 3-10 ATS overall and 2-6 ATS as a favorite.
16. Tennessee Titans (1-1) – You get what you get with Vince Young. But just like we saw with Matt Ryan and the Falcons the week prior, you can’t pile on a quarterback for having a bad game against the Steelers defense. That said, all I can say is, “Wow” on his first two interceptions. Just pathetic. I felt the Titans outplayed the Steelers they just got killed by turnovers and an opening kickoff return for a TD. Over the last few years, teams have really struggled after playing the Steelers because Pittsburgh just beats the hell out of them. I’m sure the Titans have been sore all week. But Jeff Fisher is 10-1 off a loss against an opponent off a loss. They are also 17-8 ATS as an underdog.
17. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) – I 100 percent support going with Mike Vick. The two main reasons are the offensive line and the offensive line. That line is a train wreck. You need a mobile quarterback who can make plays and Kevin Kolb isn’t it. What’s worse is that Happy Feet Kolb was bound to get creamed back there and/or completely ruin his development because he’s scared for his life. That said; let’s not forget who Vick is. You get what you get. He tore up what has been one of the NFL’s all-time worst secondaries last week. And now he faces a Jacksonville secondary that has looked nearly as pathetic. The Eagles first and second teams dominated Jacksonville in their preseason meeting, if you put stock in those sorts of things. Philadelphia is 60-37 ATS on the road under Andy Reid, and they were the victims (or perpetrators) of one of the worst beats of the weekend.
18. Miami Dolphins (2-0) – I give the Dolphins credit over the last two weeks of holding their ground on defense and essentially just not getting in the way of Buffalo and Minnesota completely imploding. That Miami is good is not a surprise. All offseason I was hell-bent on them as my Sleeper Team. I am not really sure why I have cooled on them so much, but I have. I still feel like they are way too young to hold up. Miami is just 15-39-1 ATS at home and they are just 8-25 ATS as a favorite. Also, because this game is being played Sunday night the Fins will lose the advantage of September heat and humidity.
19. Chicago Bears (2-0) – As a Bears fan, I’ve had people e-mailing and calling me all week to see how excited I must be that Chicago is 2-0. And I am. I’m thrilled. As a fan. But as a handicapper, I know that it is a complete and total mirage. I can 100 percent see them pulling the upset over the overrated Packers this week. But I can also see them going 0-5 after that. The reality is that their offensive line is a debacle. And Jay Cutler has avoided disaster so far, but I know it’s not going to last. What has been most impressive is that the front seven has been better than it has been in three years. They are playing big and the secondary is making plays. I’m not sure if that will last but they have looked good.
20. San Francisco 49ers (0-2) – In the last week-and-a-half we got a glimpse of EXACTLY what I was talking about in my critique of Mike Singletary last year. You have to love the toughness he is instilling in his team. But he and his staff are an unmitigated disaster when it comes to game and time management. I mean, it’s a farce. On top of that, Singletary is kind of bat shit crazy. When the team is winning he is a hard-nosed general. But when things start to unravel his grating, in your face, maniac style can completely throw a team off-kilter. They rebounded to play well against New Orleans. But too many mistakes, preventable, coaching-related mistakes, submarined them.
21. Arizona Cardinals (1-1) – That the Cardinals mailed it in last week shouldn’t be a surprise. They have been notorious for getting blasted at least a couple times a year under Ken Whisenhunt. But going back to the middle of 2006 the Cardinals are 8-3 SU and ATS after a loss of two touchdowns or more. They’ve been a great bounce back team. And the juice from a home opener – remember, with San Fran at 0-2 the Cardinals are still in the NFC West driver’s seat – should lead to a big performance by them this weekend.
22. Oakland Raiders (1-1) – I’m glad that the Raiders are going with Bruce Gradkowski. I don’t fully know why, but I’ve always been a little bit of a fan of his work. He’s played on some absolutely awful teams but he seems like a decent game manager. And as I wrote in this space last week, I have completely given up on Jason Campbell. He is a lost cause. But when you look at the quarterback “controversies” in the NFL there is a very blatant, common theme: terrible wide receivers and/or a horrific offensive line. Outside of Manning and Brady I don’t know if anyone could make the Raiders offense work. That Oakland is 0-2 ATS bust should surprise no one. They are now 20-30 ATS since the start of 2007.
23. Denver Broncos (1-1) – Andre Goodman and Champ Bailey are both banged up and there is a pretty good chance that Denver will be without one or both of them. Even if Bailey plays (he’s the more likely to suit up), he won’t be 100 percent. And with Denver’s dreadful pass rush this is lining up for a Peyton Manning fiesta. Denver is 9-3-1 ATS as a home underdog but they are just 9-21-1 ATS in Mile High Stadium. Kyle Orton has been sharp to start this season. But beware: it has come against two pretty weak secondaries. Denver got rolled in the first half at Indianapolis last year, but then fought back to get within three points in the second half before fading. However, that was with Brandon Marshall and his 46 catches that day.
24. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) – Two wins is two wins. And now the Chiefs are catching San Francisco in a perfect flat spot so Kansas City really could pull a stunner and start 3-0. You have to give them a lot of credit for not coming out flat in a letdown spot of their own last week in Cleveland. I know there are a lot of calls (especially from the fantasy football dorks) to give the ball to Jamal Charles more and let him work. But Thomas Jones is just a horse and he should be the lead back. And part of the reason for Charles’ gaudy yards-per-attempt is that they run him outside the tackles much more and they run him in passing situations (they love that 3rd-and-7 trap draw with Charles) more. Anyone that thinks that Charles can line up and slug away for 25 carriers against a legit front seven doesn’t know football. Kansas City is 6-16-1 ATS at home although they are 4-0 ATS as an underdog.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0) – Josh Freeman has had back-to-back good games and he is just making really good decisions. He throws a real nice ball and his running has been a big weapon to help move the chains. What should worry the Bucs is that his scrambling is the only running they can muster. The other two backs, Caddy Williams and Earn Graham, are combining to average 2.4 yards per carry. That’s trouble. Tampa’s defense is playing fast and aggressive. But they have also faced two of the three or four worst offenses and quarterbacks in the NFL. And now they face Charlie Batch. Tampa Bay is just 2-10 ATS in its last 12 home games.
26. Carolina Panthers (0-2) – Apparently the general betting public doesn’t have a lot of faith in Jimmy Clausen. The Panthers are the second-least bet team this week, behind Buffalo. There is already some innuendo that this team could quit early. John Fox is dangerously close to lame duck status and the idea is that the youth movement at key positions, on both sides of the ball, is waving the white flag on this season and a move to rebuild. It is a shame that Steve Smith and Jon Beason are being wasted among this rabble. Fox is back in his favorite role – underdog – and they are 11-5 ATS after a double-digit loss at home. But with this collection of wideouts and the youth on offense, it doesn’t really matter who is quarterbacking.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) – This defense is just sloppy. And I expect the secondary to continue to get torched because they simply aren’t any good back there (other than Rashean Mathis, who is excellent). The Jaguars are just 8-20 ATS in their last 28 games and they are just 4-13 ATS at home. One thing that could be the best or worst thing for the Jags defense in their attempt to stop Mike Vick this weekend is scattered thunderstorms and a potentially sloppy field.
28. Seattle Seahawks (1-1) – Seattle will need all of its home court edge this week, because this team stinks. Don’t be fooled by their fluke win over San Fran in the opener. Pete Carroll’s cheerleading on the sideline can only do so much. At some point he will have to have some players, particularly on the offensive line and in the secondary, to work with. The Seahawks are 8-2 ATS in the last 10 meetings, but only three of them have come in the regular season. Seattle is 4-1 ATS in its last five at home but they are just 3-10 ATS as an underdog. Red Bryant’s switch to end has clearly beefed up the run defense. The Seahawks are yielding only 57 yards per game on the ground. But without a pass rush they are leaving their undermanned corners exposed.
29. Detroit Lions (0-2) – Don’t be fooled by the final scores or the ATS performance for this team so far. They were outgained by 300 yards against Chicago and they were down 18 points with five minutes to play against Philadelphia. They have been the flukiest team at the window so far this year and I don’t see things improving with Shaun Hill under center. They have lost 21 straight on the road and are just 2-6-1 ATS in their last nine away from home. The Lions are just 2-7-1 ATS in their last 10 games against the Vikings but they are 15-6-2 ATS as a double-digit underdog.
30. Cleveland Browns (0-2) – Yikes. I thought that this team might be ready to build off last year’s strong effort. But their skill players are just atrocious. I mean, they are awful on just about every position on offense. They’ve had two winnable games against weak opponents and haven’t gotten it done. I don’t see this team winning a game until November. Cleveland is 5-2 ATS as a road underdog and they are 7-2 ATS in their last nine overall. Also, the Browns are 4-1 ATS in their last five divisional games.
31. St. Louis Rams (0-2) – The Rams and Redskins are meeting for the sixth time in seven seasons, and the Rams have played the Skins tough in this series. St. Louis is 4-1 ATS in the last five and they have pulled the upset (2008) and nearly pulled the upset (2009) the last two times as a double-digit dog. St. Louis is just 1-27 SU in their last 28 games and if the Skins are sleeping the Rams and Sam Bradford could jump up and bite. This team is going to play much, much better at home this year and if they do score any wins they will come there. St. Louis is just 9-21 ATS on their own turf.
32. Buffalo Bills (0-2) – They are 8-4 ATS on the road. That’s all I have to say about this horror of a team. Oh, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is starting this week. Awesome. Instead, I want to use this space to again point out that NFL official Jerome Boger and his entire crew needs to be cut loose. Booger and his crew are an unmitigated disaster, and as soon as I see them on the field I know that it is going to be a choppy, sloppy, penalty-riddled game. It is nearly unwatchable when Booger and the boys are working the game. It’s a mess. If anyone out there is privy to the rotations of officials, please let me know. Because I would seriously avoid betting on any game that he’s involved with. And the coup de grace is that when he speaks Booger sounds like the idiot son of Forrest Gump and Temple Grandin. Just awful.
Robert Ferringo is a writer and a professional NFL and college football handicapper for Doc’s Sports. Last year he brought home +62.5 Units for his clients for NFL picks and he is regarded as one of the top totals players in the sport. He has turned a profit in 5 of 6 football weeks and has a College Football Game of the Year on deck for this weekend. You can sign up for his college football and NFL picks and get more information here.