NFL Power Rankings - Week 17
by Robert Ferringo - 12/23/2013
I almost had to do a double take on Sunday.
For a minute there I thought I was watching real, live football. There was hitting and defense, and each game was not some free-for-all shootout. It was glorious.
Not so glorious was getting caught with my hand in the totals cookie jar. The past two seasons the scoring faucet shut off much earlier than Week 16. December football is grinding, grueling, desperate football. Usually. But the last two weeks were the highest-scoring two weeks in NFL history. With apparently no end in sight, the public bettors spent the days leading up to penultimate week of the regular season piling on the scoring spree, betting every game in sight to fly “over” the total.
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Alas, only four of Sunday’s 15 games surpassed the posted total, including just one of the early games.
Which leads us to the most treacherous, loathsome week of the NFL season: Week 17.
This final week of the regular season is one of the most difficult weekends to handicap on the entire calendar. Besides the handful of games in which playoff motivation is obvious, it is nearly impossible to figure out which teams are going to come to play on Sunday and who is going to mail it in.
Parity has dictated that no fewer than 10 of Sunday’s games feature some sort of playoff implications. That includes a pair of win-or-go-home games between the Packers and Bears as well as the Eagles and Cowboys. The other games feature teams jostling for seeding or organizations desperately trying to elevate themselves into one of the final postseason positions.
However, the books will make bettors pay a premium for backing these “motivated” teams. And that’s not even the most difficult part. We know that Miami, New Orleans, Arizona and San Diego, for example, all have something important to play for. But what we don’t know is whether or not their counterparts, the Jets, Tampa Bay, San Francisco and Kansas City will be taking these games seriously.
It’s a crapshoot. So my advice for Week 17 is always the same: tread lightly. If you are down on the season, this is not the week to try to chase. There is a full postseason and Super Bowl ahead of us. And if you are riding high off a winning regular season, this is not a week to press your winnings in an attempt to spike the football. There is money to be made this week, for certain. But when motivation and emotion outweigh the pure numbers and statistics, as they do this week, that’s when amateur bettors can get into trouble.
Here are Doc’s Sports Week 17 NFL Power Rankings – and Merry Christmas!
1. Seattle Seahawks (12-3) –Despite their reputation for dominance, the Seahawks have flirted with losing at home all season. Tampa Bay and Tennessee both took them to the limit earlier this season. But I think the odds of Seattle dumping two in a row are pretty slim. Seattle is 8-3 ATS after a straight up loss and 7-2 ATS after failing to cover a spread. Seattle is still 21-8 ATS in its last 29 games.
2. San Francisco 49ers (10-4) – These power rankings were written before San Francisco’s “Monday Night Football” game against Atlanta. But even if they win, it wouldn’t be enough to bump them past Seattle. The 49ers look like they are on an upswing, especially offensively now that Michael Crabtree is back in the fold, and defensively they have surrendered 20 or fewer points in 10 of their last 11 games.
3. Denver Broncos (12-3) –I already feel as if Denver is fool’s gold this year in the postseason because of their shaky defense and soft offensive approach. But Von Miller’s knee injury could be devastating. The Broncos have gone 4-0 SU and ATS in the last four meetings with the Raiders, winning by an average of 18.5 points per game. And Denver can’t rest its starters out of fear of losing the No. 1 seed to the Patriots, who hold the tiebreaker.
4. New England Patriots (11-4) –The Patriots have been the best team in the NFL in Week 17 for well over a decade. They are 5-0-1 ATS in their last six season finales, with the “push” coming in the lone outright loss (at Houston in 2009). They are 13-2-1 ATS over the last 16 years in Week 17 and they bombed Buffalo 49-21 in the final game of the 2011 season and beat them 13-0 to close 2008. For as many holes as this team has, just 11 points stand between New England and an 11-game winning streak right now.
5. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) –That was a stunning flat spot for the Chiefs. And all of the issues that plagued Andy Reid in Philadelphia – not having his team properly focused and motivated for big games, shoddy clock management, questionable play calling – reared their ugly heads. It is going to be very interesting to see how this team bounces back, especially because they have essentially nothing to play for this week.
6. Carolina (11-4) –That could be a Pyrrhic victory for the Panthers on Sunday. They won the game over rival New Orleans and probably locked up the division. But if the Panthers are forced to play without Steve Smith, the offense won’t be able to recover. You also can’t replicate the heart and attitude that guy brings out onto the field each Sunday. Carolina has covered three straight against Atlanta, and the favorite is 8-3 ATS in the last 11 in the series.
7. New Orleans Saints (10-5) –Two weeks ago it looked like the Saints were headed toward a first-round bye and a home playoff game. Now they need to beat Tampa Bay to secure another game, period. New Orleans should not have beaten the Bucs when they played back in Week 2, needing a Garrett Hartley field goal at the buzzer to earn a 16-14 win. But the Saints are at home, so this one should get ugly. Should.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (10-5) –The Bengals just wreck people at home. They are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 games in the Queen City, and they have won their last four home games by an average of 25.8 points per game. The early action was actually split between the Bengals and Ravens, but the spread jumped two full points from its 4.0 open. The sharps love the home team – for good reason.
9. Arizona Cardinals (10-5) –The Cardinals would have a legitimate chance to win the AFC. Instead, they are likely going to miss the playoffs in the NFC. And that right there shows you where these two conferences are at right now. There is no spread in the San Francisco-Arizona game as of this writing. How the 49ers fare on MNF will determine their level of involvement in Week 17. And how about Bruce Arians for Coach of the Year – again!
10. Baltimore Ravens (8-7) –That was a staggering loss to the Patriots last week. I am really not sure how this team rebounds from that. The Ravens have been dancing with the devil for a month; they needed last-second comebacks for their last three wins. They are just 1-3 ATS in their last four games, and the road team has only won one of the last eight games between Baltimore and Cincinnati.
11. Miami Dolphins (8-7) –Ryan Tannehill, who left Sunday’s embarrassing loss at Buffalo with a knee injury, is fine. The Dolphins offensive line is not. Miami dominated the Jets back on Dec. 1, outgaining them by 280 yards in a 20-point road win. Miami has won seven of the last 10 meetings with the Jets. But be wary: this series has a history of bizarre endings and results.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) –The Eagles opened as 2.5-point underdogs and were immediately bet to 2.5-point favorites this weekend in Dallas. Obviously, their dominating performance on “Sunday Night Football,” along with Dallas’ reputation as mega-losers, has completely manipulated that spread. But the Eagles are hot, and they have revenge for their 17-3 loss to the Cowboys earlier this year in a game that Nick Foles left with a concussion.
13. Chicago Bears (8-7) –The quarterback controversy is really masking what is the bigger issue for the Bears: Mel Tucker is a clown. This year will make the fifth time in six tries, with three different organizations, that Tucker’s defense will finish No. 23 or worse. He is an incompetent, and he should not have a job. Oh, and yet another turnover-filled game for Jay Cutler. Why he is starting is beyond me. But now the McCown Magic is gone. And even if Marc Trestman went back to McCown, the momentum is shot.
14. San Diego (8-7) –The Chargers are 10-point favorites this weekend against the Chiefs. The expectation is clearly that Kansas City will rest its starters. Here is the problem though: San Diego can only make the playoffs if Miami and Baltimore lose. Those two teams play at 1 p.m. and their outcomes would have been decided before the Chargers take the field. This game could end up meaning as little to the Bolts as it does to the Chiefs. Ah, Week 17.
15. Indianapolis Colts (10-5) –The Colts played with house money in Arrowhead. They were loose and aggressive, and they laid the wood for 60 minutes. However, they also may have sealed their fate. I just don’t think they are good enough to beat the Chiefs – who are slotted in the No. 5 position in the AFC – twice in a three-week period. We’ll see if the Colts bring that same attitude and intensity into this week’s finale against pathetic Jacksonville.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) – I mentioned last week that there was no way that Mike Tomlin was going to let his team quit on the season. The Steelers still need a ton of help to sneak into the playoffs. But they are playing their best football right now, and I suppose stranger things have happened. I am expecting another shootout for this Steelers group, which is really clicking offensively.
17. Green Bay Packers (7-7-1) –Here is another chance for the Packers to drive a dagger through the heart of the Bears. Green Bay won the NFC Championship Game in January of 2011 and they have won eight of the last 10 meetings. Green Bay is just 1-7 ATS without Aaron Rodgers at the helm, but they are 5-1 ATS in their last six trips to Soldier Field.
18. St. Louis Rams (7-8) –The Rams have posted back-to-back double-digit wins over the Saints and Bucs. They are 4-2 ATS in their last six games. They are also 3-0 ATS in their last three games against the Seahawks, and the underdog is 6-1 ATS in the last seven meetings. St. Louis dominated the Seahawks in the first meeting, outgaining them by 204 yards, before coming up just one yard short of the upset as a 13-point underdog. Respect the moustache.
19. Dallas Cowboys (8-7) –“Never underestimate the predictability of stupidity.” Dallas has been such a spectacular failure and such amazing losers over the past decade. Is anyone else giddy at the prospect of another total meltdown in Big D this week?Apparently a lot of people are, because an incredible 96 percent of all early bets on this game have come down against Tony Romo.
20. Tennessee Titans (6-9) –The Titans opened at -6 and were quickly bet up to -7. Mike Munchak may be coaching for his job, if that counts as motivation. Tennessee has been the victim of some last-minute meltdowns and one of the toughest schedules in the league. But this team hasn’t stopped playing hard all year, and I expect another game effort. That said, Tennessee is a big favorite despite going 1-6 ATS in its last seven games.
21. New York Giants (6-9) – Roughly 75 percent of the early wagers on the Giants-Redskins game are coming down on the G-Men. But there is no way that I trust them laying points. New York made a statement last week, winning a meaningful game in Detroit while eliminating the Lions.
22. Detroit Lions (7-8) –Enjoy four more years of the Matt Stafford Era, losers. The Lions are most assuredly going to fire Jim Schwartz after next week’s game. That means that a guy with little to no control over his team should have even less control this week in a road trip to Minnesota. As I mentioned last week, if I’m the Lions, my first phone call to fill the vacancy would be to Cleveland’s Ray Horton.
23. New York Jets (7-8) – The Jets are 1-3 ATS in their last four road games. I am sure they will embrace the spoiler role this week. The Jets are 12-3 ATS in their last 15 games in South Beach, and the road team is 10-3-1 ATS in the last 14 meetings overall. However, the Jets have lost seven of 10 to the Dolphins both SU and ATS.
24. Cleveland Browns (4-11) –You can almost feel Norv Turner’s influence oozing out of the seams of this team. That is now four straight games in which the Browns have coughed up leads in the fourth quarter. They have been outscored 53-24 in that decisive quarter in those four games. The Browns are destined to finish with five or fewer wins for the sixth straight year, and this makes 10 of 11 years at six wins or fewer.
25. Minnesota Vikings (4-10-1) – Now that is the Matt Cassel that I know and love. He had three interceptions, including a pick six, and was completely overmatched by Cincinnati’s athletic defense. I have said it before, but it bears repeating: I just hope some team is dumb enough to hand Cassel the starting job next year so we can bet against him some more.
26. Buffalo Bills (6-9) – What type of grade do we give Doug Marrone in his rookie season? I thought he was a bad hire and that the Bills wouldn’t be any better. Their improvement has been nominal on paper but noticeable on film. Yet at the end of the day they are going to finish below .500 for the ninth straight year and likely finish 6-10 for the third straight season.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) –Horrible Sunday for the Bucs offensive line. They allowed seven sacks of Mike Glennon, and starting tailback Bobby Rainey mustered just 37 yards on 20 carriers. St. Louis has an outstanding front four, but c’mon guys. We’ve seen this group of Bucs mail it in in December before. They are just 3-11 ATS the last three Decembers, and all but one of those losses has come by double-digits.
28. Atlanta Falcons (4-10) –The Falcons were pushed around by the Panthers in the first meeting. I actually do think this team will buck up and play with some pride this weekend. The Falcons could salvage something from this season if they were able to play a role in deciding the division title in the final week. The home team is 8-3 ATS in the last 11 in the series, and the Falcons are 4-1 ATS in their last five times hosting Carolina.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11) –One of the biggest changes to the Jaguars over the last month has been the offensive philosophy. This team looks a lot more like the one I saw doing some interesting things in the preseason. That includes working the screen game with Ace Sanders, who has made 29 of his 45 catches the last six weeks. This group has a lot of work to do this offseason. And of course it will start under center. (Jay Cutler maybe?)
30. Oakland Raiders (4-11) –Is it over? The Raiders have been waiting for this season to end since training camp. Now they can get down to the business of rebuilding this franchise’s foundation. I think they’d be foolish to fire Dennis Allen – unless they have a lock on a guy like Bill Cowher. Allen was handed a pile of dung and has shown progress. Give the guy some players first, and then we’ll see what he’s got. Oakland is just 17-36 ATS in its last 53 December games.
31. Washington Redskins (3-12) –Excellent final drive by the Kirk Cousins-Kyle Shanahan brain trust. Washington should definitely use its first-round pick on a defensive player to replace London Fletcher. Oh, wait; they don’t have a first round pick. Good luck, Skins fans.
32. Houston Texans (2-13) –Wade Phillips, I will miss you. And thank you so, so much for all of your losing.
That will be it for Doc’s Sports NFL Power Rankings this year. It’s been a blast, and be sure to check these out next year!
Robert Ferringo is a lead writer for Doc’s Sport and has been dominating the books lately with eight of nine winning football weeks and eight of nine winning NFL weeks. Robert has gone 39-15 against the spread with his last 54 NFL side plays and he has hit a stunning 64 percent of his last 120 NFL picks overall. Robert has earned his football clients nearly $8,000 in profit this year and is not finished.Take advantage of our free, no-strings-attached $60 credit to use toward a purchase of Robert’s football selections. CLICK HERE for $60 absolutely free!
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