NFL Power Rankings Week 11
by Robert Ferringo - 11/11/2014
The Cover-2 is dead.
Chicago, Carolina and Tampa Bay are the last three teams that still exclusively use the defensive system that was all the rage in the NFL throughout the 2000s. Those three combined to give up a humiliating 127 points on Sunday, with the Bears (55) and the Panthers (45) getting embarrassed on prime time.
The fact is that this defense no longer works in today's NFL. The whole idea of the Cover-2 is to sit back, not give up big plays, put pressure on the quarterback with the front four, and wait for opponents to make mistakes. Forcing turnovers and being stout in the red zone are crucial. But the main crux of this approach, and it is as much of a team philosophy as it is an Xs and Os scheme, is that teams that run the Cover-2 believe that they will make fewer mistakes than their opponent and that will give them a winning advantage.
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But it doesn't work.
Offenses are too sophisticated, and quarterbacks are too accurate, for this approach to be relevant in the league anymore. Carolina (25th), Tampa Bay (29th) and Chicago (26th) are all bottom-tier defenses not because of a talent deficit but because they are running antiquated systems. As recently as five years ago, teams across the league were trying to mimic the success of the Buccaneers, Bears and Colts with their Cover-2 systems. Now anyone using that defense is walking into a game with an enormous bull's eye on their backs.
It just goes to show you that the NFL is constantly evolving. And everyone, from coaches to players to bettors, need to be flexible and ready to adapt to keep up and continue winning. With that in mind here is Doc's Sports NFL Power Rankings for Week 11:
1. Denver Broncos (7-2) - I think that Richie Incognito would be a good fit on the Broncos right now. They are No. 26 in the league in rushing and could use a little toughness. I never understood the Incognito blackball. The guy is a dick. He has always been a dirty player and a jerk. But there are much worse humans in the NFL. And given the importance of offensive lines - and the scarcity of talent there across the league - there is no reason someone shouldn't give him a roster spot. This week is Peyton Manning's first game in a dome this season and just his fourth in the past 40 regular season games with Denver. The Broncos averaged 40.3 points per game in the previous three.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (7-2) - You had to know that the Eagles were going to rally around Mark Sanchez on Monday. But I'm not getting swept away in Sanchez Mania. The guy is still an ultra-questionable decision maker, and I don't care what Colin Cowherd and other media bobbleheads say: he is no one's long-term solution at quarterback. Philadelphia is just 4-12 ATS against a team with a winning record, but they are 4-1 ATS in their last five trips to Green Bay.
3. New England Patriots (7-2) - This week marks the fourth time this season that the Patriots have been installed as an underdog . They are 3-0 in the first three instances, with blowout wins over Denver, Buffalo and Cincinnati by a combined 113-60 score. This is also the first time in over a decade that the Patriots have been dogged this many times during the regular season. The underdog is 14-6 ATS in the last 20 meetings in the Colts series. The Patriots are just 3-11 ATS in their last 14 road games, but they are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games in Indy.
4. Arizona Cardinals (8-1) - I think Drew Stanton can be competent with this team. But when I look at the Cardinals I see the 2013 Chiefs all over again. Kansas City started 9-0 before finishing the year on a 2-5 slide. Arizona is going to come back down to earth as well, and I can see them closing out with a 3-4 mark at best. It is time to sell this stock. This is an outstanding team, and they are excellent on both sides of the ball. But you can't ignore the mental and emotional toll that losing Carson Palmer will have on these guys. The Cards are 19-7 ATS under Bruce Arians and 16-5 ATS in conference games.
5. Green Bay Packers (6-3) - I was surprised to see the Packers installed as such a dominating favorite this weekend against the Eagles. I thought the spread would be 3.0 or 3.5, but the Pack opened at 4.0 and have been bet up to 5.5. They are catching nearly 80 percent of the action in this game, and I can see the number hitting 6.0 by the weekend. However, the Packers actually lost to the Eagles, 27-13, in Lambeau last year. Granted: it was with Scott Tolzien instead of Aaron Rodgers under center. But they allowed over 400 yards of offense to Chip Kelly's crew and will have to be much better this time around.
6. Indianapolis Colts (6-3) - The Colts are favored this week against the Patriots, and now it is time to go out and earn it. The Colts have not been good against teams with a winning record and playoff teams in the Andrew Luck era. The Colts are 18-5 ATS in their last 23 home games and they are 23-9 ATS in their last 32 conference games. However, most of those games have come against their sloppy division. This week's total of 57.5 is the highest in the NFL this season. That hasn't deterred bettors at all as 93 percent of the totals wagers in this game are on the 'over'.
7. Seattle Seahawks (6-3) - I have to say that I think that the Seahawks are the shakiest team in the Top 10 right now. They were able to run over the Giants, but I still don't like what I see from this team on offense right now. Seattle lost Brandon Mebane for the season, and that's a killer injury. Some more players to keep an eye on this week are Kam Chancellor (groin), Bobby Wagner (toe), James Carpenter (ankle) and Malcolm Smith (groin). Seattle is 21-10 ATS after a win and 15-5 ATS in their last 20 against a team over .500. But they haven't beaten a team that is currently over .500 since they took down the Broncos in OT in Week 3.
8. Dallas Cowboys (7-3) - The Cowboys might be 7-3 right now, but things get brutal after they return from their bye week. They close with four of their last six games on the road, and the two home games are against the Eagles and Colts. Four of Dallas' last six games are against divisional opponents. If they want to purge the memories of past December failings, they will have to earn it.
9. Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) - That is now four straight wins for the Chiefs and six of seven. However, their win in Buffalo was their second straight that came despite being outgained. That type of "inside-out" performance is usually an indicator that a team is set for a crash. The Chiefs defense has allowed just 30 points in its last three games and an average of just 14.3 points per game in Arrowhead this season. They have gone 'under' in five straight games.
10. San Francisco 49ers (5-4) - I predicted this season for the Niners months ago: they are going to be 9-7 and find a way to just barely make their way into the postseason. Once they are there they are going to win a game or two and threaten to win another NFC Title. We've seen this type of season from other near-miss dynasties like Philadelphia (early 00s) and Buffalo (early 90s). The 49ers lost Patrick Willis for the season, and that is another crippling blow to their sagging defense. San Francisco is just 1-7 ATS in its last eight games against the Giants.
11. Detroit Lions (7-2) - The Lions actually had a 21-13 lead in Arizona in last year's meeting and they will want revenge this week. Calvin Johnson had no issues with Patrick Peterson last year, catching six balls for 116 yards and two touchdowns in that game. Detroit has gone 'under' in seven of its last eight games, and they are currently No. 1 in the league in total defense and scoring defense. They should be able to tee off on Drew Stanton, but the Lions are just 2-5 ATS on the road, and they are just 2-5 ATS on the road against a team with a winning home record.
12. New Orleans Saints (4-5) - That is another heartbreaking close loss for the Saints, who really could be 7-2 right now. The books obviously see past the record for this team as well because they are massive 7.5-point favorites over the Bengals this week. The Saints are 4-1 ATS against a team with a winning record and 35-17 ATS in their last 52 home games. The key to the Bengals game will be running the ball. If New Orleans can move the ball on the ground as well as the Browns did then they should hammer the Bengals this Sunday.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) - I know everyone has been on the Steelers bandwagon. But it is a massive red flag that two of this team's losses have come at the hands of Tampa Bay and the Jets (combined record: 3-16). Dick LeBeau is 31-14 in his last 45 games against a quarterback facing his defense for the first time. He is also 16-4 in his last 20 starts against a rookie quarterback. That includes this year's 17-9 spread-covering win over Blake Bortles and the Jaguars. I don't think LeBeau will have any issues confusing Zach Mettenberger this Monday.
14. Miami Dolphins (5-4) - Ryan Tannehill's awful second quarter red zone interception - and his almost end zone INT on the next possession - are just quintessential examples of why I don't think he is (or will be) a good quarterback. He just decides where he is going to throw the ball beforehand and lets it rip with no regard for how the defense is playing him. Of course, Brent Grimes' interception was one of the best plays of the year. The loss of left tackle Brandon Albert is a crippler for this team, especially with Buffalo's fierce pass rush coming to town.
15. San Diego Chargers (5-4) - The Chargers are definitely a team to watch this week. They struggled with the Raiders in the first meeting. But they have had two weeks to prepare to face an Oakland team that is just depressing right now. San Diego is just 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games against the Raiders, and they haven't beaten anyone by double-digits since the Jets game in Week 5. I want to see what the Chargers did to fix their running game and their pass defense. They are destined for 8-8 if they don't shore up those two facets.
16. Baltimore Ravens (6-4) - The Ravens offense has obviously regressed. They have converted just 30.8 percent of their third downs over the past three games, and they are at just 39.8 percent for the season. That's a big reason why they have dropped from averaging 30 points per game in Weeks 2-7 to just 22 points per game in Weeks 8-10. They have the bye week to get things figured out and then they have three straight games against teams currently over .500.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (5-3-1) - This defense is embarrassing right now. The Bengals were getting gashed for five and six yards on simple running plays against the Browns. I'm talking first-and-ten, basic counters and off-tackle stuff. They are No. 31 in the league against the rush and No. 30 overall. I think the loss of Mike Zimmer - who is guiding a surprising Top 10 unit in Minnesota - is the biggest issue with this team. The lack of defensive stops is just putting more pressure on Andy Dalton, and he's been exposed as nothing more than a third-tier stopgap starter.
18. Buffalo Bills (5-4) - Losing is just in this organization's DNA. There is just no other way to explain how the Bills could blow so many plays in a game they dominated on Sunday. There is no way that game doesn't linger with this team, psychologically, as they head to Miami this week. The Bills are 4-1 ATS in their last five meetings with the Dolphins, and they dominated the Fins back in September. But the underdog is just 1-6 ATS in the last seven in this series, and the road team just 1-4 ATS in the last five. I know everyone expects a tight game this Sunday, but only one of the last seven Miami-Buffalo games has been decided by less than a touchdown.
19. Cleveland Browns (6-3) - I will give the Browns a lot of credit for being much more prepared to play on Thursday night than the Bengals were. But I still don't think this is a good team. Yes, they are on a rush right now. They have some magic and some momentum working for them, and we've seen that carry teams in the regular season before. But that doesn't mean this is a good team. They have been outgained in three of their last four games and have an 18-point loss to the Jaguars on their resume. They have played one of the weakest schedules in football. But they are on a 6-3 ATS run and are 4-1 ATS in their last five home games. However, the Browns are 2-6 ATS against teams with a winning record and 1-4 ATS following a win by two touchdowns or more.
20. Houston Texans (4-5) - The Texans defense should be well prepared for the Browns this week. Cleveland runs the Shanahan-Kubiak system that Houston has used on offense for the past six years. So Houston's defenders should know exactly what Cleveland is trying to do on offense because they have seen it in practice 1,000 times. I have no idea how Ryan Mallet is going to pan out the rest of this season. But I give Bill O'Brien kudos for recognizing how bad Ryan Fitzpatrick is. How anyone thought that this guy was an NFL-caliber starter is completely beyond me.
21. Chicago Bears (3-6) - This is the most irrationally stubborn organization in the NFL. I don't understand how they can't see what a loser Jay Cutler is. I don't understand how Mel Tucker wasn't fired a month ago. I don't understand how they think that Chris Conte and Shea McClellan deserve roster spots, much less starting spots. Being as lost as they were against Green Bay was 100 percent coaching. To be that bad coming out of a bye week is pathetic, and I wouldn't expect Chicago to have much of a home-field edge this week. Their fan base wants blood.
22. New York Giants (3-6) - For all the talk about changing up the Giants offense, it has been the New York defense that's killed their season. The Giants have allowed 136 points in their last four games and are currently No. 32 in the league in total defense and rushing defense. This is the softest Giants team, on both sides of the ball, that I can remember in a long time. They are still getting respect from the books, though, as only a four-point home underdog. They are 19-44 ATS in their last 63 November games, and the Giants are 0-4 ATS in their last four games against teams above .500.
23. Carolina Panthers (3-6-1) - Cam Newton is basically a larger version of Jay Cutler. I get it: his line stinks, and their defensive system doesn't work with their personnel. But that doesn't make Newton's play any better. I released my 7-Unit NFL Futures Play on Carolina 'under' 8.5 wins, and I'm already spending that money. Their schedule over the past two months has been just brutal, and Carolina has been outgained in nine straight games. Games against New Orleans and Chicago - no pushovers - represent the only teams below .500 that the Panthers have faced since Week 1.
24. Washington Redskins (3-6) - Your guess is as good as mine with this group. I don't think they deserve to be favored by a touchdown against anyone in the NFL right now. Washington is just 1-5 ATS in its last six games, and they have beaten just two teams (the Jaguars and Raiders) by more than seven points in the past two seasons. In fact, if you go back over to the start of the 2008 season - that is 105 games - the Redskins have won by more than one score just 10 times. For comparison, the Broncos have done that five times in the last six weeks.
25. Minnesota Vikings (4-5) - This is a very interesting situation for the Vikings this week. Rookie coaches are normally weak bets off a bye. But the Vikings are catching the Bears at a great time. However, Minnesota has its own off-field distractions to worry about with the Adrian Peterson debacle. It will be interesting to see how their rookie coach and rookie quarterback handle all of the off-field drama surrounding this game. The Vikings are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 conference games, and they will bring the better defense into this game. Minnesota needs Kyle Rudolph to come back from his hernia, but right now he is no better than 50-50 for Sunday.
26. St. Louis Rams (3-6) - This team was supposed to build itself on the foundation of a solid running game and a stout defense. Right now they have neither. St. Louis is averaging just 97.4 yards per game on the ground and just 3.9 yards per carry. It won't get any easier this week against the league's No. 1 run defense. The Rams-Broncos game is the most lopsided of the week in terms of betting action. Just nine percent of the wagers in that game are coming down on the Rams.
27. New York Jets (2-8) - One win against an overrated Steelers team means nothing. This team still sucks. However, I could absolutely see this team finishing the season by going 4-2. They will do just enough to possibly convince ownership that Rex Ryan and Mike Vick deserve just one more chance. The Jets are 3-7 ATS this season. I vote that they get all the chances they need because it will be a sad day for NFL bettors when these two are no longer available to bet against on Sundays.
28. Tennessee Titans (2-7) - Zach Mettenberger is completely lost right now. The game is moving way too fast for him, and I wouldn't expect good things this week against Pittsburgh's blitz-happy defense. Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt - a former Pittsburgh OC - may know some ways to rattle Big Ben, though, and Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton faced the Steelers twice as the Browns DC last year. The Browns won both games and held the Steelers to just 18 total points in the two meetings.
29. Atlanta Falcons (3-6) - I don't care about Atlanta's current standing in the horrific NFC South - this is still a horrible football team. They have been outgained in four straight contests by an average of 113 yards per game. They have lost three straight to the Panthers but won the previous five before that. Atlanta has won two of its last three trips to Charlotte, but the road team is just 3-9 ATS in the last 12 meetings between these rivals. Atlanta is has covered five straight divisional games.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8) - I would just like to take this opportunity to say that there were a LOT of media bobbleheads that predicted the Bucs would make the playoffs this year. Yeah, not so much. I thought Mike Evans was one of the best players in the NFL draft last May, and I think he is starting to prove it now. I know people are in love with Kelvin Benjamin and Odell Beckham. But I think Evans has been the best of the rookie receivers, and he is going to be a stud. Tampa Bay is just 3-9 ATS in its last 12 overall, 2-8 ATS in its last 10 games after a loss, and 1-9 ATS in its last 10 conference games.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) - The Jaguars are gluten free. They have that going for them. That is all.
32. Oakland Raiders (0-9) - This is why you don't start rookie quarterbacks. David Carr is not the reason the Raiders are 0-9. Their roster is horrific, and Reggie McKenzie has earned a pink slip. But Carr is getting crushed, and his mechanics are going to hell. Watch him play. He is constantly under pressure, so he is just throwing the ball up for grabs, throwing the ball off his back foot, and learning all kinds of nasty habits that can take years to undo. Oakland plays on Sunday and has a quick turnaround before another game Thursday. It will not be a fun few days for the Raiders. But then again, when were their last few fun days?
Robert Ferringo is a lead writer for Doc's Sport and he has exploded for $5,800 in football profit over the last seven weeks. Robert demolished the books for $2,700 in football profit two weeksago and has produced more cash for his clients than any handicapper in the country the past two years ($13,700 profit). Robert has 10 of 12 winning football months and 18 of 25 winning NFL weeks and he is going to build on that sensational resume again this week. He is one of the best in the business.
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