NFL Power Rankings Week 4
by Robert Ferringo - 9/23/2014
A cluster of bye weeks sucks the life out of the NFL Week 4 card and offers an early-season challenge for bettors that are just starting to get into a groove. I also suspect that the teams that have been granted the week off aren’t all that happy about it as last week was the first time that, league-wide, it looked like things were clicking for most groups.
Week 3 was the first week of the season in which more games went “over” the total than “under” (9-7), and scoring took a drastic turn upward. I expect that trend to continue. But at just 23-25 against the total to this point it will be interesting to see if the books lose their stranglehold on totals bettors.
Road teams have been the best bet of this young NFL season, with visitors going 28-20 against the spread. That’s a healthy 58.3 percent success rate. Road underdogs have been the best of the bunch in going 22-15 ATS (59.5 percent), while road favorites are a pedestrian 6-5 at the window.
Here is Doc’s Sports NFL Power Rankings for Week 4:
1. Seattle Seahawks (2-1) – That’s a great win to head into the bye week on. And they get an extra day to prep for their next contest – a “Monday Night Football” game at Washington. Not only do they have lots of prep time but also the evening start eliminates a potential obstacle of playing a 10 a.m. PST kickoff on the East Coast. It’s good to be the king.
2. Denver Broncos (2-1) – That could have been a demoralizing loss for the Broncos. But they still have two weeks to think about it, and they are now 0-3 against the spread. The Broncos are still the best team in the AFC by a wide margin, though, considering that the Bengals can’t win in the postseason.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) – The Eagles offensive line is officially a catastrophe. Center Jason Kelce is out for two months, and Lane Johnson (suspension), Allen Barbre (OFY) and Evan Mathis (knee) are unavailable as well. This is not the type of system where you can just pick guys up off the street and have them keep up. The Eagles are 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings with the 49ers, and they are 5-2 ATS on the road.
4. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0) – I have no idea how Cincinnati’s game against Tennessee didn’t go over, and I have no idea why the Bengals didn’t attempt a 44-yard field goal with six minutes left in a 33-7 game. They were still passing the ball up 26 points. Why not kick the field goal? Their 32.1 defensive yards per point is absolutely ridiculous, and there should be some nice value betting this team over on the opposite side of their bye, especially with games at New England and at Indianapolis looming.
5. Arizona Cardinals (3-0) – I’ve said it 1,000 times: Bruce Arians is a genius. Both the Steelers and the Colts have been trending downwards since his departure, and he has this Cardinals team playing brilliant football with Drew Stanton – Drew Stanton! – at quarterback. They have two weeks to prepare for Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
6. New Orleans Saints (1-2) – There is still nothing exceptional about this team, and I thought it was somewhat of a red flag that it took so long to put the Vikings away. Yes they won. Yes they covered. But that was not an impressive win by the Saints. They demolished the Cowboys 49-17 last year in prime time, outgaining them by 433 yards. But Darren Sproles was a big part of that. And The Saints have only won their last two trips to Dallas (in 2012 and 2010) by three points apiece. The Saints have won nine of 10 in this rivalry going back to 1994.
7. San Diego Chargers (2-1) – The Chargers get three of their next four games at home, and they should be a significant favorite in each of those contests. The Bolts were double-digit favorites just twice last year and just three times over the past three years. All of those were divisional games (1-2 ATS). However, they were 6-3 ATS as a nondivisional favorite of 10 points or more in the seasons prior. This week would be a good time to get Keenan Allen on track. He has been banged up and has yet to find the end zone.
8. Chicago Bears (2-1) – That was very much an “inside-out” win for the Bears on Monday night as they were dominated statistically but still managed to win because of the Jets’ poor red zone offense and turnovers. But Mel Tucker’s scheme is still comically simple and ineffective. The Bears simply can’t get pressure with a four-man rush. They have faced E.J. Manuel, Colin Kaepernick and Geno Smith. When they finally face a competent quarterback that secondary will get dismantled unless Chicago starts to blitz. This is a tremendous revenge situation for Chicago, which lost a playoff slot and the division crown in the final seconds last December. But they are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven versus the Pack.
9. New England Patriots (2-1) – I was one of the guys that brushed aside the offseason whispers that Tom Brady’s skills have started to diminish. But now I will admit there’s something to it. Hey, I would still take him over 95 percent of the other starting quarterbacks in this league. But he missed two pretty easy throws that should’ve been touchdowns against the Raiders, and the Pats are barely cracking 300 yards per game. The Patriots are 5-1 ATS in their last six Monday Night Football games. But they are just 5-4 ATS as Monday night road favorites and 2-7 ATS on Mondays against an opponent off a win.
10. San Francisco 49ers (1-2) – This team has stopped doing the things that great teams do. The penalties (41 for 308 yards) are just a symptom. There is a deeper disease with this group, which now looks like a slightly more talented version of the Lions. There is a killer reverse line movement with the 49ers this week. Just 36 percent of the action is coming in on San Francisco, but the spread has leapt from an open of 3.5 to its current state at 5.5. The sharp money is all over the 49ers right now. But how can you trust this team? Bad karma abounds, and their disgusting second half differential (52-3) is a weakness playing right into Philadelphia’s strength (74-24).
11. Green Bay Packers (1-2) – It has been proven that you can’t build a winner exclusively through free agency. But the Packers are proving that you cannot build a consistent winning program through the draft alone. You can’t lose more than you gain each offseason and maintain a high level of play. They’ve slid from 15 wins to 11 to eight and now are off to a sluggish start. Their point differentially has also fallen precipitously, going from +211 in 2011 to +97 to -11 last year to -25 to open this season. They still own the Bears, though, going 9-2 straight up in the last 11 meetings.
12. Carolina Panthers (2-1) – I usually think the early-season bye is a disadvantage, but would have come at the perfect time for Carolina. Their offensive backfield has been destroyed by injuries, and had they played this week it would’ve been with a practice squad guy starting at RB and his backup coming in off the street. Also, I know all the focus is on Steve Smith's revenge quest against the Panthers this week. But don't you think there are some guys on the Panthers that would just love to take a shot at the little punk?
13. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) – Just imagine if the Colts had to face a real opponent last week. Indy was 0-2, on a short week, off a demoralizing loss. But instead of having to play an NFL game they got to face the Jaguars. Now they get to host the horrid Titans. That right there is the real secret to Andrew Luck and Indy’s recent success: they are the tallest midgets in the worst division in football. The Colts are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 divisional games and 14-2 ATS against teams with a losing record. They are good enough to beat up on the lowlights.
14. Detroit Lions (2-1) – Forget how he did it: that Stephen Tulloch ACL tear is a killer for this defense. The Lions are the biggest public play on the board this week, garnering 84 percent of all action in their game against the Jets. Detroit is just 5-15 ATS in its last 20 road games and they are just 3-14 ATS in their last 17 games following a straight up win. They failed in this exact same spot – off a win, on the road, against a defensive-oriented opponent – when Carolina slammed them in Week 2.
15. Baltimore Ravens (2-1) – How can you be a Super Bowl-winning head coach and mismanage a fourth quarter as badly as John Harbaugh did? He was lucky that the Browns handled the pressure even worse than he did, though, and Baltimore escaped with that win. The Ravens are starting to look more comfortable in their new offense. But they still need to take some shots down the field. They are just No. 26 in yards per completion and have just 11 pass plays of 20 yards or longer.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) – Look, that was a great win over Carolina on Sunday night. But – much like the next team on my list – that doesn’t mean that all is well with the Steelers. Pittsburgh is on an 8-3 ATS run and is 5-2 ATS in its last seven at home. But they are just 4-10 ATS following a win of two touchdowns or more, so they always seem to let down after blowout wins. I like the James Harrison addition. He will help in short yardage situations, and I think that he will be great in the locker room. Also, if you haven’t been paying attention to Le’veon Bell, that kid is special.
17. Atlanta Falcons (2-1) – I saw one power ranking that had Atlanta at No. 9 in the NFL. No. 9! Are you kidding me? Their offensive line is still a mess, and their defense still stinks. And even though everyone and their sister will be betting the Falcons this weekend in Minnesota (they are currently getting 82 percent of the action), does anyone really feel comfortable about this team as a road favorite? Me neither.
18. New York Giants (1-2) – A good friend of mine made a great point about the Giants last week when he said, “The Giants are not a team that goes 2-14, or 3-13. At worse they seem to be 6-10 or 7-9. They always seem to find ways to win a certain number of games.” It’s very true. I still don’t think one win clears up all their issues. But I do agree that Tom Coughlin won’t let these guys bottom out. The first three visiting Thursday night teams this year are 0-3 ATS and have lost by a combined score of 118-36.
19. New York Jets (1-2) – I know everyone wants to throw the blame on Geno Smith – and that first pick-six was atrocious – but ask yourself: who the hell was he throwing to? The Jets skill players are terrible. No, Smith isn’t good enough to carry this offense. But if he had, say, Buffalo’s skill players or Houston’s skill players, I think this Jets team would be a threat for 9-7 and a potential playoff berth. The Jets are an outstanding 13-6 ATS when playing on Sunday following a Monday Night Football game.
20. Washington Redskins (1-2) – Anyone that is still having a conversation about whether or not Kirk Cousins or Bob Griffin should be starting needs to get a clue. Washington isn’t just better offensively with Cousins under center… they are a better team on the whole. This team is playing with confidence and with an edge right now. The problem is that they were decimated by injuries in that Philadelphia slugfest. They had 17 players on Monday’s injury report, including nine starters. Washington has had New York’s number of late, going 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings. But the Skins are just 4-10 ATS in their last 14 conference games and just 15-31 ATS against teams with losing records.
21. Houston Texans (2-1) – Ryan Fitzpatrick was awful last week against the Giants, but several crucial penalties really cost the Texans in New York. We still don’t know who this team really is. But I expect a game effort this week against a wobbly Bills team. Fitzpatrick will be extra motivated going up against his old team, and he should be very familiar with the weaknesses in that defensive backfield. Houston is just 2-7 ATS at home and 6-14 ATS in their last 20 games overall.
22. Minnesota Vikings (1-2) – If the Vikings are going to call for a bunch of short, safe throws to “protect” Teddy Bridgewater, he needs to hit on them. Bridgewater’s three worst passes last Sunday were on short throws and dump-offs out of the backfield. He was much more confident and accurate throwing the ball down the field, so the Vikings should just let it rip. The killer this week is no Kyle Rudolph (hernia). He led the team in targets and would’ve been a nice security blanket for the young quarterback. Minnesota is 5-1 ATS at home when coming off a road loss. But remember: they aren’t home in the Metrodome.
23. Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) – That was some vintage Andy Reid last Sunday. And I mean that in a good way. Reid had his team prepared, and they bounced back brilliantly after a deflating loss in Denver the week prior. The Chiefs still have massive issues on their offensive line, though, and Alex Smith has been sacked on 10.8 percent of his drop-backs this year, second worst in football. Kansas City likely won’t have Eric Berry back this week, and Brady and the Pats will test that secondary. The Chiefs are 0-6 ATS in their last six games at Arrowhead and just 3-7 ATS against opponents above .500.
24. Dallas Cowboys (1-2) – The stars absolutely aligned for the Cowboys last Sunday. And even though they still did plenty to try to lose that game – including Romo’s bad miss on third-and-five with under three minutes to play – Dallas has to be commended for their comeback win. That said, they were getting blown off both sides of the ball for 60 minutes. And anyone trying to sell me on Romo’s health has to be joking. This week is a big revenge spot for Dallas after getting humiliated last year. And the underdog is 9-1 ATS in the last 10 meetings. But Dallas is just 1-9 SU and 2-8 ATS in its last 10 games against the Saints.
25. Tennessee Titans (1-2) – I have said it 1,000 times : Jake Locker is a total loser, and he is not an NFL quarterback. I find it comical that anyone has ever watched that guy play and said, “Yeah, he’s my guy.” It just proves once again that a lot of scouts and football analysts are just making things up. Charlie Whitehurst is a joke as a backup. But you can see the body language on this Titans team: they have absolutely no faith in Loser Locker anymore. It is time to move on. The Titans are 3-13 ATS in their last 18 games against divisional opponents and 1-5 ATS in their last six trips to Indianapolis.
26. Buffalo Bills (2-1) – Did any of you really think the Bills were for real? After two emotional home games they now leave their bubble and head back out on the road against an angry Houston team. The Bills are 0-7 ATS as a nondivisional road underdog, and since their 41-7 win at Kansas City in the 2011 opener the Bills are 1-10 ATS as a nondivisional road dog. Those 10 losses were by an average of 22.3 points per game, including a 21-point loss at Tampa, a 13-point los at Pittsburgh, an 18-point loss at New Orleans and a 13-point loss at Cleveland last year.
27. Miami Dolphins (1-2) – Of course Joe Philbin should bench Ryan Tannehill for Matt Moore. Of course he should. Tannehill never should’ve been the starter to begin with, and he is a clear first-round bust. Moore has charisma. He plays hard and is a great leader. Tannehill has a better arm. But there is so much more to being a quarterback than that. Miami is not a very good team and will come up short anyway. But if they have a prayer of saving their season – and a bunch of front office jobs – going with Moore is definitely the right decision.
28. Cleveland Browns (1-2) – Was Brian Hoyer kidding me with that illegal forward pass? Also, I loved the extra shot that John Manziel took in his illegal cameo play. Andrew Hawkins has been untouchable for this team. I used to write about how the Bengals needed to get him more touches, and now he’s showing what he can do with them.
29. St. Louis Rams (1-2) – I will admit that I may have been wrong about Austin Davis, who looked pretty good. But I’m not wrong about anything else with this team. They are awful. When Kenny Britt is your go-to guy on offense you have serious problems. And Janoris Jenkins may have had a pick-six, but he was also embarrassed on that simple out-and-up that Dez Bryant ran for a wide-open touchdown. Jenkins is still a pretty terrible corner.
30. Oakland Raiders (0-3) – These London games are all about motivation. This is a veteran Raiders team – one of the older rosters in the league – and it will be interesting to see how they respond to their trip across the pond. Also, Oakland has massive injuries on defense, and they could be down to just two healthy linebackers. It’s not like they can pick someone up off Abbey Road and plug them into the Sam spot this week. Oakland’s 20.6 yards per point on offense is lowest in the league, and they are 0-3 against the total. I wouldn’t be surprised if they busted out for 20 or more points against the Fins in England.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3) – On Thursday you saw a team that doesn’t know what it is doing on either side of the ball. The defense has no clue how to play Lovie Smith’s Cover-2, a defense that I think isn’t suited for today’s NFL. And offensively they hired Jeff Tedford to be the offensive coordinator. Unfortunately he has medical issues and I wish him well. But he hasn’t been there to install the offense, and this team is rudderless. Interesting stat I came across: nonconference underdogs off a loss of four touchdowns or more are a solid 30-13 ATS.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) – I am normally against starting rookie quarterbacks. I understand why Minnesota has to, and I think they will be better for it. But even though Chad Henne is a train wreck, I still think he should be starting. The reason is that the Jaguars are so pathetic on offense that there’s a chance Blake Bortles could get hurt, get shell-shocked, or just pick up a bunch of bad habits because he’s used to running for his life. If the management is taking a long-term view then take a long-term view. Since the start of the 2012 season the Jags are 6-29, and an amazing 21 of those losses have come by at least 10 points.
Throughout the season I will have my NFL Power Rankings every Tuesday. My next ones will be released on Tuesday, Sept. 30.
Robert Ferringo is a lead writer for Doc’s Sport and he has posted back-to-back winning NFL weekends while also raking in nearly $2,000 in profit already this year. In 2013 Robert hit 62.1 percent of his NFL selections (95-58) and over the last two years Robert has hit nearly 60 percent of his last 240 football plays. He has banked $18,000 in profit the last 21 months he's had selections and has posted 31 of 45 winning football months (68.8 percent) overall. He is one of the best in the business and will be back with more this week.
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