NFL Power Rankings - Week 12
by Robert Ferringo - 11/19/2013
What did we learn this week in the NFL? Not that much, really — at least compared to most weeks. The Broncos are better than the Chiefs, but we already knew that. The Panthers are for real, but they were favored against New England on Monday night, so the public had already figured that out. New Orleans is better than San Francisco — as long as they are playing at home, at least. Knew that one, too. The Jets are inconsistent? The Falcons are bad? Andrew Luck likes the second half? Check, check and check.
What we had this week was, for the most part, just an affirmation that what we thought we knew stood up to some scrutiny. Or at least for one week. It is the NFL after all, so the only real certainty is that nothing will make sense for too long.
Here are Doc’s Sports Week 12 NFL Power Rankings:
1. Denver Broncos (9-1) – Hard to argue with this one — the top team in last week’s rankings beats the only unbeaten team in the league reasonably easily, so they stay on top. What really stands out is how clean Peyton Manning stayed. His uniform barely needed washing despite facing a ferocious pass rushing defense — at least on paper. Denver’s offensive line showed heart beyond their talent — a very good thing.
2. New Orleans Saints (8-2) – I don’t like the call against the Niners for the high sack on Brees, but I understand why it has to be made in this league environment. The Saints did what they needed to do, and they overcame the type of tough, run-oriented team that has challenged them. Now if only they can perform on the road at the same level.
3. Seattle Seahawks (10-1) – Seattle has won six in a row. Critics would point out that the last time they played a legitimate contender — the Colts — was the last time they lost a game. No more feasting on weaklings, though — after this week’s bye they face the Saints and 49ers in consecutive weeks.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) – They weren’t good enough to beat the Broncos, but few outside of Missouri really thought they were. Of bigger concern is that their once-potent pass rush has withered the last few weeks. They need to get that back on track before facing Denver again. They just need to get back on track in general — after a strong 5-1 ATS start they have limped to 1-3 ATS in their last four.
5. New England Patriots (7-3) – Tom Brady was furious about the mysteriously disappearing pass interference call at the final whistle against Carolina. He should have been — it was a badly blown situation by the refs. New England might not have won, but they deserved the opportunity to try. With Denver up next, though, there is no time to mope.
6. San Francisco 49ers (6-4) – The Niners were supposed to be the most mentally-tough team in the league. The amount of whining they are doing about the end of their game in New Orleans, though, really brings that into question. They have now faced four likely playoff teams this year — and lost all four (1-3 ATS). That could make it tough to repeat as NFC Champions.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) – This team is going to win the AFC North almost by default. At this point, though, they basically have two choices. Either they need to play hard enough down the stretch to secure as much home playoff action as possible, or they need to learn how to play half as well on the road as they do at home. They have won their last two home games by an average of 30.5 points. In their last four on the road they have been in OT three timers — losing twice — and won the other by a field goal.
8. Carolina (7-3) – Cam Newton is officially what we thought he was going to be. There were some very rough spots on the road to here, but at this point he is a mature, talented, dangerous QB who is going to win a lot more games than he loses. Doubt this team at your own peril. Two games against New Orleans in three weeks in December will tell us a whole lot about how good this team really is. How in the world did they start 1-3 straight up and ATS?
9. Chicago Bears (6-4) – We knew all year that the question of what to do about Jay Cutler was a major puzzle. Who really guessed that Josh McCown could provide the answer? The journeyman has been more than solid, and he could provide a couple of years of service at a much cheaper price than Cutler until a long-term solution is in place. Bettors might not be thrilled, though — the team is just 1-3 ATS in games McCown has appeared in this year. Of course, they are just 1-4-1 ATS without him, so the problems aren’t his.
10. Detroit Lions (6-4) – Points in the second quarter in Pittsburgh last Sunday — 27. Points in the first, third and fourth quarters combined — 0. That frustrating lack of consistency sums up the Lions perfectly. Good enough to beat everyone but can’t be trusted against anyone. The arrival of the Bucs this week should be good news, but the team is just 1-4 ATS in their last five against teams with losing records.
11. Indianapolis Colts (7-3) – Note to Indianapolis — the first quarter of games counts. Three weeks in a row they have spotted their opponents big early leads. They are 2-1 in those games, but it’s certainly not a sustainable approach to success. They are a stellar 4-1 ATS on the road this year, though, so a trip to Arizona is good for more than just the weather this week.
12. Green Bay Packers (5-5) – Love the stat — the Packers have had as many different QB starters in the last three weeks as they had had heading into this season since Brett Favre took over the squad. Scott Tolzien has been tabbed for a second straight start this week — not good news unless you are a member of his fan club. He completed more than 70 percent of his passes and had a YPA of nearly 10 last week — both very impressive. The three interceptions more than outweigh all that, though.
13. Arizona Cardinals (6-4) – Carson Palmer was brilliant last week — 419 yards passing and two touchdowns. It was against Jacksonville, though, so it only barely counts. Against real teams he’s still Carson Palmer, and the last six opponents are varying degrees of real. Their current three-game winning streak couldn’t be less meaningful — they have beaten Atlanta, Houston and Jacksonville.
14. Baltimore Ravens (4-6) – An overtime loss to the Bears all but guarantees what we already knew — this team isn’t repeating as champions. Now it’s all about pride. Despite the loss, though, they still covered against Chicago as 3.5 point underdogs. That means they are now on an 8-0 ATS run against teams with winning records. That doesn’t do us much good in the short term, though — none of the next three opponents are any good.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (6-5) – The Eagles can win at home! After 10 straight losses at home we couldn’t be sure. Nick Foles wasn’t other-worldly, but he was more than solid — again — and has really put his stamp on this job. The team is 5-0 ATS when he has thrown at least 100 yards in a game, so his emergence is a good thing for bettors.
16. Miami Dolphins (5-5) – All it took to get past the negative effects of the whole bullying saga was hosting the listless Chargers. The is actually 2-1 SU and ATS in their last three after previously dropping four in a row without a cover, so maybe chaos and scandal was just what they needed.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6) – After beating Detroit last week, the team is now 4-2 SU and ATS since their bye week. It’s the 0-4 mark before the break that has hijacked the season, though. Early in the year it seemed like this team was about to self-destruct. Now they seem much more even-keeled. Largely irrelevant but even-keeled.
18. Dallas Cowboys (5-5) – A bye week — the only way to be certain that the Cowboys won’t find a way to disappoint. It must be tough for the team to find a new way to underperform each week, but they find a way.
19. New York Giants (4-6) – It’s all about streaks. Six losses to start the season. Four wins since. They are neither as bad as they looked early or as good as their record the last four weeks. The wins don’t hide that Eli Manning is a shadow of his former self — and even at his best he was painfully overrated.
20. New York Jets (5-5) – Five wins this year — each followed by a loss. You’d have to ask yourself how a team could be so bi-polar — until you considered who their coach is. With Rex Ryan in charge, there is literally nothing this team could do to surprise me.
21. Oakland Raiders (4-6) – Matt freaking McGloin! Barely good enough to start games at Penn State. Now the best option in Oakland. He didn’t look too bad in beating the Texans, either — certainly good enough to get another chance. No matter who they start at QB, this team is unquestionably the most pleasant ATS surprise this year — now a nicely profitable 6-3-1 ATS.
22. Tennessee Titans (4-6) – The good news — Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t been as bad as expected in his last two games, including a start and a long relief appearance. The bad news — the team lost both games. Losing to Jacksonville and blowing a big lead against the Colts isn’t going to make anyone fall in love with a team
23. Buffalo Bills (4-6) – Every time I am on the verge of giving up on this team, they find a way to show a spark and make me hesitate again. They had dropped three in a row and hadn’t covered a spread in any of those games. But then they came out last week and absolutely destroyed the Jets. Manuel looked a whole lot more like an NFL QB than Smith, too.
24. San Diego (4-6) – Before the bye this team was 5-1-1 ATS and looked to be on a path to a much better place. Now it’s as if Norv Turner never left. They are 0-3 ATS and SU since the bye, and they just don’t seem too bothered by it all. Maybe next year. But probably not.
25. Cleveland Browns (4-6) – At 3-2 through their first five this team was one of the feel good stories of the year. Reality is a heavy burden, though, and it has dragged them to a 1-4 record since that is much more representative of where this team is really at. As their early 13-0 lead evaporated against the Bengals it’s as if you could see their hopes and faith die with it.
26. St. Louis Rams (4-6) – A bye week was a gift for this team — another week to sit back and actually believe that they are good enough to consistently beat teams like the Colts by 30. They really aren’t.
27. Houston Texans (2-8) – Benching Case Keenum in favor of Matt Schaub mid-game — clear proof that Gary Kubiak hasn’t shaken off the negative effects of his mini-stroke just yet. The coach must have bet on the Raiders.
28. Washington Redskins (3-7) – Once upon a time Robert Griffin III wasn’t impossibly bad at football. Those were the good old days. This team has a good look at 4-12 on the year — and since they only cover spreads when they win, betting against them could continue to be a good idea.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8) – Is it a compliment to call a team by far the best 2-8 squad in the league? It’s only Miami and Atlanta, but two wins in a row are two wins in a row, and Schiano hasn’t looked nearly as incompetent lately. Just give him time, though — this guy bathes in gasoline and lights matches for fun.
30. Atlanta Falcons (2-8) – They have quit. Plain and simple. There isn’t a single ounce of pride to be found on this whole roster. Add that to a chronic lack of depth, and you have, well, the mess we are watching unfold before our eyes.
31. Minnesota Vikings (2-8) – What’s the bigger crime — that they have assembled a passing offense so terrible that the best running back of his generation is basically wasted or that they think that because their secondary is good enough to stop their offense in practice it is good enough to contend in the NFL? What a mess.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) – My mother always used to say — if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all. This one’s for you, mom.
Throughout the season I will have my NFL Power Rankings every Tuesday. My next ones will be released on Tuesday, Nov. 26.
Read more articles by Robert Ferringo