NFL Power Rankings - Week 5
by Robert Ferringo - 10/1/2013
Last week I touched on the fact that the AFC had been dominating the NFC so far this year and how that had been one of the underlying trends in this first month of the season. The AFC promptly went out and went 5-4 against the spread versus its rival conference, running its mark to 15-8 ATS this year.
Now we’ll see if we can stay ahead of another growing trend heading into Week 5. One of the things that jumped out at me through the first three weeks of the season was the ugly offensive performances and low scoring we had witnessed. But last week teams topped the total in nine of 15 games, with five of the last six games of the weekend going “over” the posted total.
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I think that the books are already gearing up for some higher-scoring games, and the average total this week is already ticking up to its highest mark of 2013. I spoke with Raphael Esparza this week, and he said that he felt the first few weeks were lower scoring because teams put their focus on that side of the ball this offseason. Teams had to find a way to counter the new wave of NFL offenses, so that is where the attention was placed. I thought that was a reasonable analysis.
But now that teams have a few games under their belt, I think October is when we’re going to see the offenses start to execute and the rule changes, which basically outlaw defense, really start to tilt things the way of the attacks.
Here are Doc’s Sports Week 5 NFL Power Rankings:
1. Denver Broncos (4-0) – The Broncos have won 15 straight regular season games all by at least seven points. That is sheer and utter domination. They still drop too many passes, and the secondary is just average. But Denver is absolutely wrecking people, and they should be an automatic bet until someone hangs within two touchdowns of them. Peyton Manning should floss his teeth with Dallas’ Cover-2 defense this week, especially because the Cowboys still don’t know how to play it.
2. Seattle Seahawks (4-0) – It is going to be interesting to see if that miracle overtime win last week rejuvenates this Seahawks team heading into Indianapolis this week. Will the emotion and momentum of Seattle’s win in Houston carry over? Or was that another lackluster road performance – making Seattle 2-for-2 in that respect this year – for a team that consistently struggles away from the 12th Man?
3. San Francisco 49ers (2-2) – I think that this is a huge three-game stretch for San Francisco. I can’t believe they are a touchdown favorite over Houston this Sunday night. But after that they have potentially tricky games against Arizona and Tennessee. We’re going to find out if the Niners are as good as we think they are if they sweep these three games. But their shoddy offense – No. 21 in the NFL; No. 27 passing – and their injury issues are really red flags for this team. The Niners are 16-7-1 ATS in their last 24 home games, but they are just 5-13-2 ATS following a game they won by 14 or more points.
4. New Orleans Saints (4-0) – OK, so maybe I’ve been wrong about the Saints. I released them and bet them this past Monday night. But that is just because they go bonkers on people at home. I still think that the Saints scheme is going to burn them. I also don’t understand why Darren Sproles is returning kickoffs and why the Saints are handing him the ball in a game they are up 20-plus points. He is so important to this offense that I think New Orleans has to do a better job of rationing his touches and not wasting them in frivolous spots. The public is going to be all over the Saints this week after their Monday mauling. New Orleans is 11-4 ATS against a team with a winning record and 7-2 ATS after a win of 14 or more.
5. Green Bay Packers (1-2) – This is a crucial game for the Packers this week. They can’t afford to fall three games behind Detroit in the AFC North, with Chicago standing in the way as well. The Packers are 24-9 ATS in their last 33 divisional games and an amazing 33-16-2 ATS in their last 51 home games. Green Bay is 16-5 ATS after a loss and 8-1 ATS in its last nine games after a bye week. All of these trends are a big part of the reason why this 1-2 team is a touchdown favorite over 3-1 Detroit.
6. Chicago Bears (3-1) – Yes, Jay Cutler still has the ability to singlehandedly crush his team’s hopes. But realistically, the Bears outplayed Detroit for about 50 of 60 minutes last week. Cutler’s turnovers were just too much to overcome. Alshon Jeffrey is a complete beast. But he is also dumber than a box of rocks. For the second time in three weeks he inexplicably ran out of bounds on what would’ve been a touchdown. The Bears lack of pass rush is becoming a serious problem. Chicago has just six sacks this season, third worst in the league. There are six other teams with eight or fewer sacks this year. Those six teams are a combined 4-18 straight up, and Chicago’s 11.2 offensive yards per point is A) unsustainable and B) masking their shaky defense.
7. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0) – We can’t ignore the fact that the Chiefs have played pathetic competition on their way to 4-0. The opponents have combined for a 3-13 record, and the NFC East is a dumpster fire right now. That said, I love the way that the Chiefs are winning. They are grinding teams down with their defense and efficiency. Teams are completing just 53.3 percent of their passes against the Chiefs this year, and now Kansas City gets to face a backup quarterback in Tennessee this week.
8. New England Patriots (4-0) – I can’t recall the last time that the Brady-Belichick Patriots were instilled as underdogs in back-to-back weeks. Bill Belichick has covered the spread 65 percent of the times he has been an underdog in his career with the Pats. The Patriots are 15-7 ATS in their last 22 road games and are 21-7-1 ATS in October. They could be in for a letdown situation and they should not have beaten Atlanta on Sunday night. But I know I’m not running to the window to bet against Tom Brady. Oh, and don’t be fooled by Kenbrell Thompkins’ big game against the Falcons. He is still a terrible receiver.
9. Indianapolis Colts (3-1) – What impressed me most about Indy’s back-to-back road wins was that they were geographically and mentally on opposite ends of the country. They were able to step up their game and travel to the West Coast and topple the defending NFC Champions. But then they were able to travel to the other end of the spectrum and stay above a rotten Jacksonville team down in Florida. The early betting this week is all on the Colts, and the number is dropping after they opened as a home dog of 3.0. I expect that line to close at 1.0 or a ‘pick’ as a lot of people like the Colts as a home dog.
10. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) – This is a team that thinks it is a lot better than it actually is. For all we’ve heard about how great the Bengals front four is, they haven’t impressed me with consistent pressure despite the starters’ eight sacks. But what really bothers me about this team is its lack of creativity on offense. They really miss Andre Hawkins, and they need some shifty, speedy, make-people-miss players on the attack. Andy Dalton’s mediocrity is showing. And were it not for a Green Bay meltdown, they would be 1-3 right now. The Bengals are just 2-8 ATS against teams with a winning record and 8-20-1 ATS in October. But Cincinnati is 5-1 ATS in its last six home games.
11. Baltimore Ravens (2-2) – I think that Jim Caldwell is being exposed. He had kind of a lucky run at offensive coordinator late last season and was one of the number of things that clicked into place at the right time for the Ravens during their championship run. But right now the Ravens passing game consists of throwing lobs down the field and hoping for the best. That jump ball play is about 1/10th as effective without Anquan Boldin going after the ball. Add in a rush attack averaging 2.6 yards per carry, and the Baltimore offense is in shambles right now. They have beaten the Dolphins three straight times since 2008.
12. Detroit Lions (3-1) – I will admit that this looks like a better version of the Detroit teams we’ve seen in recent years. But I’m still not ready to buy in. They still can’t run the ball, are inefficient on the road and on third downs (only converting 30 percent), and they have a defense in the bottom third of the league in passing, rushing and points allowed. So that 3-1 record isn’t as plush as it seems. Their offensive line, a major issue coming into the season, has only given up three sacks this year against some very good pass rushes. Detroit is just 1-9-2 ATS in its last 12 games after scoring 30 points or more.
13. San Diego Chargers (2-2) – I touched on it last week, but now I’m ready to say that Philip Rivers has been the second-best quarterback I’ve watched this year, behind Peyton Manning. He is singlehandedly carrying a team that really is devoid of talent, and the Chargers probably should be 4-0 right now. They are converting 50 percent of their third downs this year, and the offensive line has only allowed nine quarterback hits, among the best in the league.
14. Miami Dolphins (3-1) – The Dolphins looked overwhelmed on “Monday Night Football,” and this young team clearly wasn’t ready for that big stage. But I’m not going to hold too much of that against them. The Saints have been embarrassing good teams in the Superdome for years. Miami is just 1-5 ATS in their last six Sunday games following a “Monday Night Football” appearance. However, they are reasserting some home field edge, going 5-0 ATS in their last five home games. The Dolphins are also 10-4 ATS following a loss.
15. Houston Texans (2-2) – I think I was ahead of the curve this year with the Matt Schaub backlash. And yes, he is a big part of Houston’s failures early in this season. But he’s not the only reason. There is a lack of top-end talent on both sides of the ball for this club. And Schaub has been under constant pressure through four games, getting hit an average of eight times a game, pressured an average of 11 times per game, and sacked an average of three times per game. That, along with perpetually injured Andre Johnson, is sabotaging this offense. Houston is 0-4 ATS this year, and people are jumping ship. I don’t know if I am there yet. But I complained all last season that they were winning games despite playing poorly. A lot of things are coming home to roost. Houston is 0-5 ATS in its last five road games and just 7-15-2 ATS in its last 24 October games.
16. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) – It is as if the same game has been playing on a loop for 10 years for this team. That was a pathetic showing in San Diego last weekend, and Dallas just has not adjusted to their new defensive scheme yet. America’s Team is receiving just 12 percent of the early betting action this week in their showdown with the Broncos. Dallas is just 3-10 ATS in its last 13 home games, and if their secondary plays as poorly against Peyton Manning as it did against Phil Rivers then the Cowboys will be the latest team Denver bombs by 20.
17. Atlanta Falcons (1-3) – There is a lot of blame to go around for Sunday night’s loss to the Patriots. Matt Ryan missed too many crucial, easy throws. Mike Smith completely botched the game management aspect of that one. And Dirk Koetter made some terrible play calls late in that game, forgetting that he could still pick up first downs on Atlanta’s last two drives and instead taking ill-conceived shots at the end zone. Atlanta is in a must-win situation this week. Since 2005 MNF favorites of 7.0 or higher are 30-18 ATS (62 percent).
18. Tennessee Titans (3-1) – Who would’ve thought that Titans-Chiefs would be Week 5’s biggest AFC game? The Titans will definitely feel the sting after losing Jake Locker for 4-8 weeks. I am not a Locker fan. But the team was rallying around him, and his running ability had been a huge asset. Ryan Fitzpatrick is awful. He can’t throw the ball down the field, can’t move in the pocket, and he has a history of turnover issues. The Titans are 3-1 because they haven’t turned the ball over once and because they are plus-nine in turnover ratio. Tennessee is 2-8-1 ATS against teams above .500.
19. Carolina Panthers (1-2) – I think I’m more interested in how Carolina plays out of the bye than just about any other team in the NFL this week. Is this team any good? Realistically, they probably should be 3-0 right now. Will they ever step forward or are they still fool’s gold? Josh Thomas, Quintin Mikell and D.J. Moore are all healthy and return to shore up a secondary that had been decimated by injuries. Carolina’s pass offense is ranked No. 32 in the league. It will be interesting to see if they figured anything out on that side of the ball.
20. Arizona Cardinals (2-2) – My futures bet is very thankful that the Cardinals won last week as they had no business stealing that one from Tampa Bay. But I predicted that Arizona would start the season 2-3, and right now they are 2-2. They should’ve beaten St. Louis also, so Arizona is just a play or two away from 3-1 at the moment even though their offense is painful to watch. They have the second-most experienced offensive line in the NFL in terms of career starts and a veteran quarterback, but this team is converting just 29 percent of its third downs, and they look completely lost and overwhelmed against any defensive pressure. That’s not a good combo.
21. Cleveland Browns (2-2) – This is the sixth meeting with the Bills in seven years. The Browns lost 24-14 at home last September, and the home team is just 1-3 straight up in the last four meetings. The “under” is 4-1 in the previous five. Cleveland’s defensive front is playing out of its mind under new coordinator Ray Horton. The Browns are No. 1 in the NFL in yards per rush defense, allowing just 2.9 yards per run, and they are No. 3 in the league in sacks with 14. Now the Browns need that to rub off on the offensive line, which has allowed a horrific 39 quarterback hits and 17 sacks.
22. St. Louis Rams (1-3) – I have staked my claim that Sam Bradford can be a top-tier quarterback, and then he laid an absolute egg on national TV last week. San Francisco was clearly the better, more motivated team in that matchup. But Bradford missed a bunch of throws that he doesn’t normally miss. The Rams brought back starter Jo-Lonn Dunber, who returns after a four-game suspension. I am absolutely stunned no one else in the NFL picked him up after the Rams cut him. Stupid. He has off-field baggage, but that sums up about 85 percent of the players in the NFL.
23. New York Jets (2-2) – Don’t be fooled by New York’s record or their wins; they are pathetic. The Jets are -10 in turnovers, and I don’t like what they are doing on either side of the ball. They have some gaudy defensive numbers right now. But they have also faced the No. 28, No. 29 and No. 31 pass offenses in the NFL. Their best attack they have faced was New England (No. 18), and that was in a rainstorm, on a short week, while the Pats are still figuring things out on that side of the ball. I do not believe for one second that this is a Top-5 defense.
24. Buffalo Bills (2-2) – Kudos to the Buffalo Bills secondary. They have really taken to Mike Pettine’s system, and teams are completing just 53.8 percent of their passes against the Bills. And that is without stud safety Jarius Byrd in the fold. Stephen Gilmore is becoming one of the top corners in the NFL, and this entire team is looking a little spry at home. Doug Marrone blew the clock management at the end of the first half against Baltimore. He’s a rookie coach, but he can’t afford to cost the Bills possessions. The Bills are 3-11-1 ATS the week after covering a spread.
25. Minnesota Vikings (1-3) – For anyone that thinks that Matt Cassel is the answer for the Vikings, let me just go ahead and shed some light on that: he’s not. Cassel is terrible. He is a fringe NFL quarterback, at best, and that is why Leslie Frazier is waffling on going back to Christian Ponder or rolling with Cassel for the rest of the year.
26. Washington Redskins (1-3) – The Redskins have a pulse. But I can only get so excited about a team that fell behind by two touchdowns to the Raiders. Washington’s front seven is doing its part, registering 15 sacks this year (second-best in the league). But Washington’s secondary can’t cover and can’t tackle. At all. Robert Griffin has also absorbed 26 quarterback hits – in the pocket – in just four games, and I still say he’s not even close to being the guy we saw last year.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4) – Wow, is Mike Glennon is a gomer. He really is one of the biggest tools in the NFL. You can just see that the Tampa Bay offense has no confidence in him and will not rally around him. The Josh Freeman drama is as bad as I can remember between a player and organization, and if they can’t trade him during the bye week (I would dump him to Jacksonville for like a fourth-rounder right now) there is no way the Bucs can have him poisoning the locker room further. The pathetic offense is overshadowing what has been an outstanding effort by the defense, and Tampa Bay games have averaged just 28.5 total points. That is by far the lowest in the NFL.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) – Weird; their hurry up attack isn’t working. Never saw that coming. They are No. 2 in total offense and No. 1 in rushing offense. Which is fine. But they are hanging their defense out to dry and piling on stats in garbage time. Opponents are completing 70 percent of their passes against the Eagles secondary, and this team can’t stop anyone. They are +12 in yards per game but -10.3 in points per game. I like to call that The Vick Effect. Philadelphia is 7-2-1 ATS in the last 10 meetings with the Giants.
29. Oakland Raiders (1-3) – I have mentioned before that the Raiders may be able to stay competitive early in the season, but that depth would be a major factor in their fall. It is starting now. Terrelle Pryor will likely play this week after sitting out with a concussion. But Darren McFadden and Marcel Reese will both probably miss this Sunday night game, and center Steve Wisniewski is also questionable.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4) – Seeing the Steelers play this poorly is a bit like watching a cat play the piano. They have managed just four sacks on the season. Four. From the Steelers. There is no hope for a turnaround, and this is just not a good roster. Every team needs a rebuilding year. It is just surprising when it is this ugly for one of the best organizations in football.
31. New York Giants (0-4) – Part of me thinks that anyone that bets a single dollar in the Eagles-Giants game this weekend is a complete idiot with a death wish. How could anyone even venture a guess as to which of these teams is actually better than the other? Going back to last year, the Giants are on an 0-7 ATS slide. The favorite is 3-13-1 ATS in the last 17 meetings between the Eagles and Giants, and the G-Men are just 1-5 ATS the last six times they have hosted Philadelphia.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4) – At this point you have to question everything about Gus Bradley. The Jaguars were bad last year. They weren’t this bad. Bradley is supposed to be a defensive guy. But for all the talk about the Jaguars pathetic offense – and their quarterback situation is laughable – the Jacksonville defense is just lost out there. I mean, they are completely lost. This team will not win more than one game this year. Not a chance. And, honestly, I absolutely would be going to Tim Tebow right now.
Throughout the season I will have my NFL Power Rankings every Tuesday. My next ones will be released on Tuesday, Oct. 8.
Robert Ferringo is a lead writer for Doc’s Sport and he is off to a strong start to the season. Robert has secured 9 of 15 winning football months and earned nearly $7,200 in profit for his backers in that time. He has banked nearly $4,000 in college football profit this season while picking over 62 percent. He is looking at a 6-Unit Game of the Month play this weekend and you don’t want to miss out. Take advantage of our free, no-strings-attached $60 credit to use toward a purchase of Robert’s football selections and get on this big game. CLICK HERE for $60 absolutely free!
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