NFL Power Rankings Week 7
by Robert Ferringo - 10/15/2014
I think that Week 6 of the NFL season was, without a doubt, the strangest week that we've seen thus far. There were surprising upsets (Dallas) and near-upsets (Oakland), thrilling last-second wins (Green Bay) and last-second losses (Houston), some blowouts (Philadelphia and Baltimore), and a tie for good measure.
But by far the most bizarre trend of the season's oddest week was the rash of spread- and total-covering pick-sixes that we saw in the final seconds throughout the weekend.
It started in the Denver-New York game. The Broncos led by seven points, facing a spread of anywhere from 8.5 to 10.0, with less than 30 seconds to play. The Jets had the ball inside their own five-yard line, and it was obvious that Geno Smith wasn't going to lead some miracle touchdown drive. Instead, Smith was sacked in the end zone for what should've been a safety. The refs missed what I thought was an obvious call, and Smith proceeded to throw an interception on the next, hurried play, which Aqib Talib took 22 yards to the house. Square bettors across the country rejoiced in unison as the Broncos claimed a spread-covering 31-17 win.
Next came the Washington-Arizona game. The Cardinals had held the Redskins at arm's length for most of the entire game, staking a 23-13 lead in the fourth quarter. But Washington, sitting at +3.5, managed to score what seemed like a backdoor touchdown with just 2:17 to play. After failing to secure the onside kick a bet on the underdog 'Skins seemed secure. But Washington got the ball back with 30 seconds to play, and Kirk Cousins unleashed his third interception of the quarter, which Rashad Johnson took 28 yards to the house. That locked up a front door cover for the home chalk as well as pushing the game "over" the total (47 points).
Finally, a strange "Monday Night Football" game between San Francisco and St. Louis ended much the same way as the previous two games. The Rams had blown a 14-0 lead and should've been blown out by the 49ers. But thanks to some ridiculous fourth-down failures (and a dropped touchdown pass), San Francisco was stuck clinging to a 24-17 lead with a minute to play. But Austin Davis, who was awful in the second half, threw a pick-six with 53 seconds to play. Dontae Johnson took the INT 20 yards - to the house - and those seven points not only locked in a San Francisco cover but also pushed the game over the posted total of 44.0.
You might see one of those plays happen each month of the season. It is rare, but not unprecedented. However, to have three interceptions returned for a touchdown in the final 60 seconds, completely altering the direction of the money in these games, made for one of the more curious weekends of NFL betting we will see all year.
Despite the chaos on the field, there wasn't much of a shakeup in the rankings. Here is Doc's Sports NFL Power Rankings for Week 7:
1. Denver Broncos (4-1) - It is difficult to make an argument that the Broncos aren't the best team in football. However, I will say that I have been unimpressed with this unit and that they have been priced out of the market. They are only 2-3 against the spread this year, and last week's win came via a miracle pick-six on one of the final plays of the game. The Broncos hammered the 49ers back in the preseason (34-0), and these two have seen one another in two straight Augusts, so there is some familiarity with personnel.
2. San Diego Chargers (5-1) - I will admit: I didn't see this coming either. But the Chargers are a blown double-digit lead in Arizona away from being undefeated and have a win over Seattle on the resume. The Chargers opened as a strong 6.0-point favorite this weekend against Kansas City, but that line was quickly bet down to -5.0 by Monday morning. It has since dropped even further to 4.0. It is not a reverse line movement because the majority of bettors (55 percent) are on the Chiefs. But it is a significant line move against one of the top teams in football.
3. Seattle Seahawks (3-2) - Seattle played with fire quite a bit last year. They played a lot of tight games that they managed to pull off late against inferior opponents. But for the second time this season they got burned. The spotlight is being shined on Seattle's shaky passing offense (man, do they ever miss Golden Tate). But facing a horrific St. Louis pass defense this week should be just what the doctor ordered. Seattle has won eight of 10 from the Rams. But the underdog has been the play in that series, going 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (5-1) - Screw you Eagles. I lost with this team three weeks in a row - with them winning two of those games but letting opponents in the back door - and then once I jump off the train they cash. Ugh. Darren Sproles' injury is a significant one for this team, and he should miss at least the next three weeks. The bye week has come at the perfect time for this banged up team.
5. San Francisco 49ers (4-2) - I know a lot of people are enamored with the way that Colin Kaepernick can contort his body and make throws on the run. But every time I see him do that I cringe. His mechanics are awful. Instead of cranking up and throwing on the run why not set your feet and make an accurate toss. Kaepernick can make some great plays. But he also misses a lot of throws that an above-average quarterback should hit. The 49ers are 10-3 ATS in their last 13 road games and are 30-13 ATS in their last 43 games overall. They are just 4-3 ATS as an underdog since the start of 2012.
6. Dallas Cowboys (5-1) - All right, I'm on. They've got me. I'm on the Cowboys bandwagon. Finally. I made an expensive mistake by doubting this team. But there's no doubting that they are playing winning football right now by being physical on both sides of the ball. Also, they are simply on an emotional rush right now, and every fluke, semi-miracle play is breaking their way. Sure, the Cowboys still show signs of trying to be losers. But they have a horseshoe up their asses right now, and apparently there's no money to be made betting against them. That is, until the Giants beat them by two touchdowns this week. The favorite is just 3-7 ATS in that series.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (3-1-1) - The Bengals have allowed over 30 points in consecutive games for the first time since 2008 - former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's first season with the team. Their defensive yards per point number is still a bit above the norm (No. 7 in the league at 17.6), so I don't know that the scoring binge is complete. The Bengals have not been the same team on the road, going 3-8 ATS in their last 11 away from home. The road team is also just 1-4 ATS in this series. Cincinnati is 6-2 ATS as an underdog over the past three seasons, including a Week 1 win as a puppy at Baltimore this year.
8. Green Bay Packers (4-2) - That's now three straight wins both on the field and at the window for the Packers. However, I'm still not on the bandwagon. The Pack has been outgained by 292 yards on the season and has outscored their opponents by only 32 points this year. (Those 32 points represents their margin of victory in the Vikings blowout.) Rodgers should be very familiar with attacking Carolina's version of the Cover-2 since Ron Rivera is a former Bears farm hand, and the Panthers essentially run essentially the same system.
9. Arizona Cardinals (4-1) - Apparently Bruce Arians is not at all worried about Carson Palmer's shoulder because Arians had his quarterback rear back and throw it 44 times last Sunday. The Cardinals have been outgained in three of their last four games by a total of 498 yards. They have somehow managed to win two of those inside-out tilts and have covered three of four spreads.
10. Indianapolis Colts (4-2) - Andrew Luck is on pace for 24 turnovers again this year. And believe me: it should be much worse. I've literally never seen a quarterback have opposing defenders drop as many would-be interceptions as I have seen with Luck. The Colts are 17-5 ATS in their last 22 home games and 22-8 ATS against the AFC. They have covered four straight games, and over the past three years the Colts are 11-4 ATS when the spread in their game is posted between +/-3.0.
11. Baltimore Ravens (4-2) - I actually don't think that Baltimore's offensive explosion against the hapless Bucs was that much of a fluke. Statistically the Ravens had been massively underachieving on offense, due in part to shoddy red zone play. Torrey Smith was just aching for a breakout game, and the Ravens running attack has adjusted perfectly to the enhanced zone-blocking scheme they are running. I think the Ravens will be able to pour it on against a pathetic Atlanta defense this week, and it would not surprise me if Baltimore managed to top 35 points for the third time in four weeks this Sunday.
12. New England Patriots (4-2) - The Patriots offensive line is still a major issue for this team, and Tom Brady spent most of last Sunday scraping himself off the turf at Orchard Park. I still don't think that Brady has been that great of a leader on this undermanned Pats team. But he has had back-to-back strong games, and the Pats have scored 30 or more points in three of their last five outings. Bill Belichick has a chance to drive a stake through Rex Ryan's heart once and for all this Thursday is New England can administer a primetime blowout.
13. New York Giants (3-3) - Wait, so the Giants aren't going to the Super Bowl? Reality slammed the G-Men in the face after a misleading three-game winning streak. The Eagles blowout marked the seventh time in the last 22 games that the Giants were blown out by 18 or more points. The Rashad Jennings injury has gone a bit under the radar, but his absence was obvious on Sunday night. The Giants miss his pass blocking and receiving skills as much as they do his running ability. The Giants are 4-1 ATS in their last five trips to Dallas, and the road team has won six of eight meetings between these teams outright.
14. Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) - Four of the last six Chiefs-Chargers games have been decided by just a field goal, including both of last year's meetings. The home team has won seven of the last nine meetings, and the Chiefs have won just two of the last 10 meetings. Andy Reid is an incredible 13-2 straight up in his career after a bye week. But he has actually lost his last two post-bye games after winning 13 straight.
15. Detroit Lions (4-2) - I thought last week's game was a critical one to show the character of this team. Without Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush, and playing as a shaky road favorite against a divisional opponent, that was the perfect time for Detroit to play like the "same old Lions". But they were mentally and physically tough and picked up a needed victory against an overmatched opponent. Lions offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer will be facing his old team this week when the Saints come to town. That is generally a big advantage for the former coach. Detroit is 0-4 ATS against the Saints, and they are 2-6 ATS following a SU win.
16. Chicago Bears (3-3) - Finally - blitzing! The Bears finally brought extra pressure against the overmatched Falcons offensive line, and the results were impressive: four sacks, just 13 points and 287 yards allowed, and a third road win of the season. But it is folly to think that their defense can maintain that production without its top four linebackers and with glaring holes in the secondary. The Bears are just 8-18 ATS in their last 26 games, and they are back in their worst role this week - home favorite - with a game against New England on deck.
17. New Orleans Saints (2-3) - The Saints have won five straight games following a bye week, and I'm interested to see if they have pulled their heads out of their asses during their time off. New Orleans is just 2-9 ATS in their last 11 road games. It will be interesting to see if the Saints, who are No. 21 in the NFL in rush attempts per game, attempt to run the ball more to try to protect their porous defense.
18. Carolina Panthers (3-2-1) - This team, along with Buffalo, has a misleading record. They should be 2-4. They rank No. 25 or worse in five major defensive categories, including total defense, rushing, passing and points allowed. The Panthers allowed opponents to convert just 35.8 percent on third down last year. They are No. 31 while allowing 50 percent conversions. In five games without Greg Hardy they are allowing 418 yards and 28.6 points per game.
19. Miami Dolphins (2-3) - I think that Joe Philbin will be a good coach. At his next stop. But right now the Dolphins are a rudderless mess. They don't have an offensive identity. They don't have any leaders. Their quarterback and "No. 1 wideout" are both awful. They don't have any cohesion. But they are still not that bad of a team. They have actually outgained their opponents on the year and are only -4 in net scoring differential.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) - That Markus Wheaton drop early in the first quarter was the play of the Browns game. If he makes that grab the Steelers are looking at first-and-goal and a potential 10-0 lead. Maybe the Browns still would've come back and won. But Wheaton's terrible drop - not the first missed opportunity this year for the sketchy receiver - set off a horrid chain reaction. Pittsburgh is 12-7 ATS as a home favorite on Monday Night Football, and they are 6-1 ATS on MNF coming off a double-digit loss.
21. Houston Texans (3-3) - Perhaps more than any other team in this No. 15 to No. 25 range, I probably have less of an idea about who and what the Texans are this year. Are they any good or not? The strange part is that I am 4-0 ATS betting on or against them the past four weeks. So maybe clarity is overrated. Houston is 0-6 ATS in its last six Monday Night Football games, and they are just 5-11 ATS in their last 16 conference games. But home teams on MNF are just 3-4 straight up and 2-5 ATS so far this season.
22. Cleveland Browns (3-2) - It was somewhat of a pyrrhic victory for the Browns on Sunday as they lost star center Alex Mack and yet another defensive line starter. This week is actually a revenge game for the Browns, who lost 32-28 at home to the Jaguars last December. This is the fifth meeting between these franchises since January of 2010, and the clubs have split the first four matchups. All four were decided by six points or less.
23. Buffalo Bills (3-3) - The Bills defense is dominating the line of scrimmage. That alone will keep them in the picture for at least another six weeks. But they need to find some offense somehow. They're only averaging 16.5 points per game. The key this week is for the Bills to avoid a letdown. They are 14-7 ATS following a loss to the Patriots (they have a lot of practice), and they are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 games following a loss. But they are 0-8 ATS following a blowout (double-digit) home loss.
24. Minnesota Vikings (2-4) - To say Norv Turner's offense is sputtering is an understatement. That game against Atlanta's pathetic defense is a complete outlier for this team. If you remove that 41-point outburst the Vikings are averaging 7.3 points per game in their last four. Having a rookie quarterback doesn't help. Not having Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph doesn't either. But the fact is this team needs to find some answers quickly, and I don't see them coming in a trip to Buffalo.
25. Washington Redskins (1-5) - This team should have covered the spread against both Seattle and Arizona in the past two weeks. But I attribute their horrible luck late in games to the terrible karma that hovers over this franchise and its scumbag owner. I was a Kirk Cousins defender. But this guy has got to be kidding me with three interceptions, including a pick-six, in the fourth quarter. Somehow the Redskins were -3 in turnover margin and still only losing by three points with the ball and 30 seconds to play. Washington's defense has forced just one turnover in the last three games, compared to 10 turnovers committed by the offense. Their -9 differential on the season is the worst in the league.
25. Tennessee Titans (2-4) - A win has to at least remove some of the pressure from this locker room and make this team feel a little better about itself. The fact is that had the Titans been able to hold a 28-3 lead against the Browns they would be 3-3 right now despite playing four of six games against teams above .500. And they've been doing it with The Headless Horseman at quarterback. I've said it before: this isn't a bad roster. The defense is just a little lost, and if they had just a shred of competent quarterback play they would be a tough out. They are going to pull off at least one upset this year as an underdog of a touchdown or more.
27. Atlanta Falcons (2-4) - Roddy White has been a complete and total loser this year. Dropped passes. Missed blocks. Poor routes. White has been horrible. I never bought into him being a superstar receiver - I always thought of him as a very good but not great player - but right now he is one of the worst players on one of the worst teams in the league. There is absolutely no hope for this team, which is woefully undermanned along the offensive line and the defensive back seven.
28. St. Louis Rams (1-4) - Anyone that's read this space over the past two years knows I think Janoris Jenkins is absolute garbage. He is one of the worst corners in the NFL, and Monday's 80-yard touchdown by Brandon Lloyd was another humiliating long score surrendered by Jenkins. Not only was it idiotic coverage (who bites on a double-move with only 14 seconds left in the half and 80 yards to go?) but also it was another massive miscue that turned the tide of another potential Rams win. If you remember, it was Jenkins who was beaten - comically, I might add - for a game-changing 68-yard touchdown pass against the Cowboys. The Rams blew a 21-point lead in that game and a 14-point lead against the 49ers on Monday. This secondary just cannot cover. Anyone. At all.
29. New York Jets (1-5) - It's over. The Ryan Era is done in New York, and I think right now everyone knows that the head coach is a lame duck. I still don't think that this young team will quit, though, and there may be some value backing this bunch the second half of the year - if you can stomach placing the wager. The Jets are 3-1 ATS in their last four against the Pats, and the underdog and road team have gone 4-1 ATS in this series. The Jets have fallen victim to a brutal schedule this year, and it won't be any easier going to Foxboro on a short week this Thursday.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5) - It is a testament to just how bad the Raiders and the Jaguars are that a team that already has 56-14 and 45-14 losses under its belt isn't even considered the worst squad in the league. Tampa Bay's defensive personnel have absolutely no clue how to play the Cover-2. And when your guys don't know how to play Cover-2, your team ends up playing what looks like a perpetually confused prevent defense. That will not be the last time that the Bucs allow nearly 50 points this year.
31. Oakland Raiders (0-5) - Because I have absolutely nothing to say about this dumpster fire of a franchise (they've covered two of their last three games!), I am going to take this opportunity to express my horror at the Macaroni Grill commercial that has a version of "Baby Got Back". It is the one for the disgusting fatbread pizzas. Every time they play that commercial a unicorn dies, and everything about it represents the now-black soul of Western civilization. That is all.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6) - At least they finally covered a spread. Gus Bradley has a 4-18 record and a 4-7 record with challenge flags. He's at 36.4 percent and that's well below the league average of 52.2 percent. The Jaguars are allowing 4.2 red zone trips per game, No. 31 in the NFL. But they actually have the second-best red zone scoring defense. They've allowed a touchdown on just 40 percent of their opponents' red zone opportunities.
Throughout the season I will have my NFL Power Rankings every Tuesday. My next ones will be released on Tuesday, Oct. 21.
Robert Ferringo is a lead writer for Doc's Sport and he has posted four of five winning NFL weekends and back-to-back winning football months. Robert demolished the books for $3,900 in football profit the last three weeks alone and has produced more cash for his clients than any handicapper in the country the past two years. Robert has 9 of 11 winning football months and 15 of 21 winning NFL weeks and he is going to build on that sensational resume again this week with more. He is one of the best in the business and will be back with more this week.
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