The National Football League is a monolith. It is an all-encompassing, all-enveloping, all-controlling pillar of our American sports and entertainment scene, and the league has become fundamental to our overall economy. It is Big Business. And over the last six months we've all borne witness to The Dark Side. Corruption, scandal, sexual violence, shady back-alley dealing and manufactured, hype-driven controversy have suffocated the national football scene.
But now we are ready to see the light. The games. The glorious, glorious games will be a welcome change of pace from the scourge that is the Business of the NFL. We are on the eve of Week 1 of the 2015 season. And once the pads start popping and the passes start flying and the scent of violence gets in the air then all will be forgiven. Our collective consciousness, and the short-term, knee-jerk, Monday-Through-Saturday Morning Quarterbacking that comes with it, will once again become drunk on the power of this grand game.
I have run the gauntlet of pro football betting for over a decade. And during that time I've become one of the most accomplished, most successful, and most profitable football bettors in the country. I've hit nearly 60 percent of my last 600 football picks and have posted six of seven winning NFL seasons. I've tallied four of five winning overall football seasons and have rung up 36 of 52 winning months.
But that was yesterday.
The circus begins anew, and this weekend everyone is reset back to zero. Forget what you've done. Forget what you've lost and won. Forget what you think you know. The symphony of savagery is ready to be cranked to full blast. And anyone with the stones to make the dance of decadence and destruction will either be rewarded with the riches and arrogance of a successful bettor or be afflicted with the soul-crushing weight of loss and regret.
Either way, we are ready to make that dance. And every gambling man I know is ready to toss the ancillary absurdity of the football-industrial complex aside and get back to the one thing that matters to us: the games.
Below are my Week 1 NFL Power Rankings. This is a brief outline of how I see these teams heading into the beginning of the season. I'll release these rankings every Wednesday from now until the end of the season, and this is your go-to place for a primer on the league landscape.
Also, for previews and Las Vegas season win totals odds and picks for all 32 teams you can CLICK HERE.
Here is Doc's Sports NFL Power Rankings for Week 1:
1. Green Bay Packers (0-0) - For all the talk about Seattle's epic Super Bowl choke, Green Bay's collapse in the NFC Championship Game was probably worse. Green Bay was three minutes from going to the Super Bowl and brought back 21 of 22 starters this year. Their only missing man is Jordy Nelson. While he is tough to replace, I think the Packers scored a coup in bringing James Jones back. He knows the system and still has some juice. The Packers are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 games in Chicago and have owned the Bears, going 21-8 ATS in their last 29 meetings.
2. Seattle Seahawks (0-0) - There are a lot of troubling signs for the Seahawks this year. There's the residual disappointment from their Super Bowl loss. There is the brain drain that's occurred the last two seasons with their assistant coaches. There is also the lingering bad karma that has come from the contract and money issues that have tailed them this season. But the fact is Seattle's starting 22 is as good as any in football, and their home-field edge is still dominant. This team is not as strong as the last two versions. But they are still plenty nasty. Seattle is 1-2 straight up and 0-3 ATS in its last three trips to St. Louis.
3. Denver Broncos (0-0) - The talk and focus this preseason has been on Denver's offensive changes. Peyton Manning isn't a great fit for Gary Kubiak's system, especially at this age and stage. But who are we kidding: it's Peyton Manning. He'll be fine. Denver won't be as explosive or up-tempo. But they should be able to wear teams down with a lot of sustained, efficient drives. The strides this team has really made are on defense. They have overwhelmed every offensive line that they've squared off with this preseason. Don't forget that Kubiak was the OC in Baltimore last year. He knows all Baltimore's personnel, along with their strengths and weaknesses. The Broncos are 16-7 ATS in their last 23 games as a home favorite.
4. New England Patriots (0-0) - The Brady saga was probably one of the most immature and incredible issues I've ever seen in professional sports. It is over with, for now, and Brady can play. But he looked worn out from the weight this preseason. The Patriots will be fine, though, and Brady should be able to knock the rust off against Pittsburgh's weak defense. Since 2002 the defending Super Bowl champions have gone 11-2 SU and 8-4-1 ATS in Week 1. The Pats are also 5-2 ATS in their last seven against the Steelers, dating back to 2005.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (0-0) - I have been driving the Sam Bradford bandwagon for years. I think he's a perfect fit in the Philadelphia offense, and I think that on the whole the Eagles absolutely improved themselves this offseason. I don't put a lot of stock in Philadelphia's preseason numbers. But what I do put stock in is what I saw in those games. And they looked sharp, with open receivers and free runners all over the field. Philadelphia's main issue will be maintaining its defense. Their line is underrated. And they clearly improved the secondary. The betting market still doesn't know what to make of the Eagles this year. But I'm all-in with this group, and I think they are a legit Super Bowl contender out of the NFC.
6. Dallas Cowboys (0-0) - Dallas took a real leisurely stroll through the preseason this year. We are going to see if that has any impact on them coming out of the gate. Remember: this entire organization suffered from delusions of grandeur for most of this decade. Last summer they were a league-wide joke and a circus coming into the regular season. They rallied around that, embraced the underdog role, and played last season humble and with an edge. I'd be wary of this year's Cowboys resting on their laurels. They've beaten the Giants in four straight meetings (going 3-1 ATS). But the home team has lost seven of the last 10 in this series.
7. Indianapolis Colts (0-0) - I actually think this is a little high for the Colts. I'm not as high on this group as a lot of people are. They benefit from playing in by far the weakest division in football and over the last few years have cleaned up by hammering the incompetents on their schedule. But this team isn't as solid as people are being led to believe. Five of their six defensive linemen are rookies. They haven't really upgraded their flimsy offensive line. And they're putting a lot of stock in two guys, Frank Gore and Andre Johnson, on the backside of their illustrious careers. Indianapolis is 17-7 ATS in their last 24 games and has been aces in the -3/+3 price range under Andrew Luck. But they are just 16-13 SU on the road and will have their hands full with the Bills.
8. Detroit Lions (0-0) - The Lions are a tough team to trust because they've been such flakes over the past several seasons. But watching this team in the preseason their offense looks unstoppable. With Megatron on one side and sensational Golden Tate on the other, two large tight ends patrolling the middle, and a stable of quality backs, the Lions have given Matt Stafford a plethora of weapons. No, their defense won't be as strong as last year's suffocating groups. But over the last three years they've turned their glaring weakness - the back seven - into a strength. And now that back end of the defense should be able to pick up the slack of the pass rush after the reverse being true the past few seasons. The Lions are just 18-27 ATS in their last 45 road games and have not been good on grass. The spread in their Chargers game has also moved from 2.0 up to the key number of 3.0, indicating sharp money on San Diego.
9. Arizona Cardinals (0-0) - In a lot of ways the Saints are a perfect test for Arizona right out of the gate. The Cardinals season will come down to Carson Palmer. And not just Palmer's health; this is a guy that's been extremely mistake and turnover prone in his career because he'd rather throw the ball up for grabs rather than take a hit. New Orleans is going to blitz all day and Palmer will be under fire. We are going to get a glimpse of how he is going to be able to handle pressure this Sunday and we'll see if the Cardinals can build on their outstanding start last season. Arizona is 17-7 ATS in its last 24 games overall and they are 13-5 ATS in their last 18 games against NFC opponents.
10. Cincinnati Bengals (0-0) - It is do-or-die time for the Bengals. The cloud of their postseason failures has hung over their heads all offseason. But Cincinnati isn't good enough to simply waltz through the regular season, and they need to maintain their focus early in the season if they want to even have a chance to flop in January. The Bengals offense is sound from top to bottom and their secondary is still in the Top 10 in the league. But Cincinnati's linebackers are terrible right now, and they still don't look like they can generate much of a pass rush. The Bengals will be one of the squarest plays on the board this week as a small favorite out in Oakland. But the Raiders won't be a pushover, and the visitor in this series is just 1-5 ATS. The Bengals are 8-2 ATS, however, in their last 10 September games and have been a fast starter.
11. Buffalo Bills (0-0) - We're seeing a vintage reverse line movement in the Bills game this week, with 80 percent of the action coming in on the Colts but the spread dropping from 3.0 to 2.5. Orchard Park is going to be absolutely rocking on Sunday as the Bills fans are more optimistic than they've been in nearly 20 years. Buffalo will be without Marcel Dareus, and rookie Ronald Darby has to hold up after an ugly preseason. But I love it that the Bills are going with Tyrod Taylor - a move that I predicted back in May (and was the only analyst in the country to make that call) - and his scrambling ability is a huge asset. The Bills are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games in Week 1 and 6-1 ATS in their last seven home openers.
12. Baltimore Ravens (0-0) - I want to not worry about the Ravens because they are one of the best organizations in the league. But Baltimore didn't look sharp in the preseason and their first team was outscored by 25 points. That's kind of a red flag considering just how dominant this team has been in August the last few years. The Ravens haven't taken to Marc Trestman's offense, and they don't really have the weapons to run it. They are probably still having nightmares of their opener in Denver two years ago when Manning ripped them for seven touchdown passes. Baltimore's secondary has to improve this year and we'll find out early if they are up to the challenge.
13. Miami Dolphins (0-0) - The Dolphins will hope that the incredible run of road teams covering the spread in their games - the visitor has covered over two-thirds of all Miami games the last five years - continues for one more week. Miami's first-team defense dominated this preseason. And they should chew up a below-average Washington line. But Miami is dealing with o-line issues of its own and will be without Brandon Albert. I am also absolutely stunned that with all the running backs floating around the Dolphins hasn't improved their rushing attack. That kills them in the red zone, and what more do they have to see to know that Lamar Miller isn't a No. 1 back?
14. Houston Texans (0-0) - I think that the Texans-Chiefs is the most evenly-matched game on the board in Week 1. Both teams looked great this preseason. Defense should dominate this one as four or five of the best defensive players in the league will be on display. Houston's offensive roster is still suspect. But I think they made the right choice going with Brian Hoyer; all he's done is win when he's started. Houston is just 5-11 ATS in their last 16 home games, but they did go 6-2 ATS as a favorite last year. The fact that they aren't even a token three-point favorite tells me that the books think Kansas City is the stronger team though.
15. Kansas City Chiefs (0-0) - J.J. Watt is not the guy that you want to be staring at across the way when you are breaking in three new offensive line starters. But the Chiefs have enough experience in Andy Reid's offense to know how to adjust, and their attack looked very efficient this preseason. The Chiefs are still a very difficult team to handicap. They play things very close to the vest, relying on a conservative offense doing just enough to let the defense win games. But I think if the Chiefs are going to take control of the West they are going to have to throw caution to the wind and start throwing the ball downfield more often.
16. Minnesota Vikings (0-0) - I'm a big fan of this Vikings team this season. They were extremely competitive last year with a rookie coach, rookie quarterback, and a load of controversy surrounding the loss of their best player. Now the Vikings look like an NFC version of the Bills: aggressive, powerful defense setting the table of an offense with a lot more skill position talent than people realize. All that said, does Minnesota deserve to be a road favorite on Monday Night Football? The Vikings were dynamite this preseason. But that was the case last year, too. And we'll see if that carries over into the first month of the year.
17. San Diego Chargers (0-0) - Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense seems primed for a big season. I think Keenan Allen will have a big bounce-back year, and Steve Johnson was a savvy veteran pickup. It will hurt a bit playing without Antonio Gates for the first four weeks, and I don't trust their rookie running back. But San Diego's offense should be able to carry the load. And they will need to with a defense that was all over the map last season. The Chargers have gone 13-6 ATS in their last 19 games against NFC opponents (compared to Detroit's feeble 9-19 ATS mark in its last 28 interconference games).
18. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) - I know that this ranking is a lot lower than a lot of people have the Steelers. But I just can't get over how much I dislike their defense. Pittsburgh doesn't have a lot of top-end talent, and I don't think they are going to be able to stop people. They benefitted from one of the league's easiest schedules last season, and I think that their 11-5 mark was a bit of fool's gold. Pittsburgh's first team was outscored by 28 points in their first four preseason games this year and didn't look in sync. It also hurts not having Leveon Bell for these first two games. I am a big Markus Wheaton fan, though, and I think he will breakout opposite Antonio Brown. But in the end this team is kind of an AFC version of the Giants
19. New Orleans Saints (0-0) - There's been a lot of turnover on both sides of the ball, and it's tough to tell where this group is going to land. Offensively they are almost solely dependent on Brandin Cooks to make plays in the passing game, and their red zone offense is going to take a huge hit without Jimmy Graham. I expect the Saints to compensate for their lack of firepower by becoming more of a running-oriented club. They have to try to win the time of possession game because that defense still stinks and Rob Ryan is still a total loser. They desperately need Jarius Byrd to get healthy and Brandon Browner to stay healthy, and contribute. The Saints are going off surface this week and are just 5-11 ATS in their last 16 road games.
20. Chicago Bears (0-0) - What a difference a year makes. Last year the Bears were loaded with talent and expectations. Now they are a team picking up the pieces and trying to learn new systems on both sides of the ball. They are trying to fit a lot of square pegs into round holes in the new 3-4 defense. And Chicago's secondary could again be one of the worst in football. That's going to put more pressure on an offense that is suddenly short on receiving options. Alshon Jeffrey is only 50-50 to play this weekend. And without him I have no idea how the Bears are going to move the ball against Green Bay. Also, if Jay Cutler starts throwing picks this weekend - something he's done 19 times in his last 10 games against Green Bay - the Chicago crowd won't hesitate to turn on him. The Bears have lost 18 of 22 games at home against the Packers and are 0-5 ATS in the last five.
21. Cleveland Browns (0-0) - Two of the best secondaries in the league are going to be doing their thing on Sunday when the Browns head to New York. And with two weak-armed quarterbacks it's an easy prediction to say that turnovers are going to be the determinant on Sunday. The Browns first and second units actually outscored their opponents by 28 points this preseason, second to only the Eagles. We will see if that carries over into this week's games. The 'under' is 11-1 the last 12 times that the Browns have taken the field, and Cleveland is 3-13 ATS (and 1-15 SU) in their last 16 Week 1 games.
22. Carolina Panthers (0-0) - The Kelvin Benjamin injury really crippled Carolina's season. They simply don't have the guns on offense to make things worse. Sure, their defensive scheme and outstanding front seven play will keep them in most games. But they can't close people out with Ted Ginn, Jerricho Cotchery and Jonathan Stewart trying to make plays for 16 games. The public still prefers the Panthers this week, even in the role of weak road favorite, as 60 percent of the bets are coming down on Carolina.
23. San Francisco 49ers (0-0) - The 49ers had one of the worst offseasons in recent memory, with all manner of defection and disaster ravaging this organization from top to bottom. They are in for a long season, and their brutal late-season schedule will likely lead to this team rolling over in December. But they still have pride. And a little talent. And I'm still surprised to see them as a home underdog in a Monday night home opener. This spread has been the largest mover of the Week 1 lines, opening with San Francisco -4.0 before shifting to the 49ers as a 2.5-point underdog.
24. Atlanta Falcons (0-0) - Dan Quinn is doing what he can to clean up the messes made by one of the worst front offices in the NFL. But there's only so much that can be done overnight. If it weren't for Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, who will both put up monster numbers in Kyle Shanahan's system, then Atlanta would have the worst roster in all of football. Their offensive line is a joke and has absolutely no cohesion (or talent). They have upgraded their talent on defense. But that's not saying much considering they were the worst group in the NFL last season. Their pass rush is still nonexistent, their linebackers are mediocre at best, and the secondary is undermanned. Mike Nolan is a great defensive coordinator, and even he couldn't scheme around their lack of players the past two years. It will be the same for Quinn. Atlanta is 7-0 SU and ATS in their last seven home openers.
25. New York Giants (0-0) - New York's back seven is a disaster. They are so desperate for safety help that they picked up one roster cut castoff (Stevie Brown), then dumped him for another roster cut castoff (Craig Dahl). They've been scraping the bottom of the barrel for the last five days, and as of Wednesday morning their two-deep still isn't set on defense. Fortunately, Jon Beason is probable. But New York's defense is going to be a mess for most of this season, and I don't think that the offense, which has looked ugly this preseason, is nearly good enough to pick up the slack. Overall the Giants' first team units were outscored by 31 points this preseason, worst in the league. The Giants are 0-4 ATS in their last four Week 1 games.
26. St. Louis Rams (0-0) - I know a lot of people are looking at the Rams as a potential sleeper team in the NFC West. But I don't see it. The Rams offense is pathetic. They are trotting out the worst collection of skill players in the league, and their offensive line is leaning on two rookie starters and five total rookies among the 10 linemen on the roster. For all the talk about how good and potentially dominant this defense is, the Rams have not finished higher than No. 13 in the league in either points or total yards allowed the past four years. I know that most of the public thinks otherwise, but I think the Rams are trash this year. That said, they've played Seattle tough at home, going 2-1 SU and 3-0 ATS the last three yeas.
27. Tennessee Titans (0-0) - I generally avoid betting on teams with rookie quarterbacks like the plague. And I always laugh at how people just fawn over rookies - at all positions - and how much absurd hype is thrown on first-year players. But I will admit that I like how Marcus Mariota looks right now. He is calm and cool, and I think he'll be better than what the Titans have had under center the last four years. That said, there's something about this team that's just off. They have talent. They have seasoned coaches. They have a schedule that could see them get to seven wins easily. But something hasn't clicked with this group yet, and they seem to lack both physical and mental toughness. The Titans are just 15-33 ATS over their last 48 games.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) - This is going to be a very dangerous team for bettors this season. Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans give the Bucs a skill position grouping that is among the best seven or eight in football. They are going to score points. And these guys are probably going to pull one or two upsets this year and break a lot of hearts in Survivor or Suicide Pools. But they are also going to get bombed. Their offensive line is shaky at best, and Jameis Winston is a turnover waiting to happen. I also think that Lovie Smith's Cover-2 is a relic, and the defense lacks playmakers. Tampa Bay is just 2-7 ATS in Week 1 the last nine years, and they have been the worst home bet in football, going just 15-35 ATS over the last seven years.
29. Oakland Raiders (0-0) - I hate to post the Raiders this low. After nearly 15 years of floundering I think that this team is definitely pointed in the right direction. Their defense looks more organized than it has in years, even if it is undermanned, and they have built a nice young core on offense. Oakland also has the benefit of catching a lot of teams making long flights out West this year. That likely won't help them this week against Cincinnati. But Oakland has a chance to catch some teams unaware.
30. New York Jets (0-0) - This is one of the oldest rosters in the NFL. There are a lot of veterans winding down the back nine of their careers. Are most of them just playing for a paycheck at this point? Or are the guys in this locker room ready to dig deep for one last legit effort at making the playoffs. I don't think that New York's young, inexperienced, and overmatched coaching staff instills a lot of confidence in the locker room. But we'll see how prepared they are coming out of the gate in the favorite role against the bumbling Browns. The Jets finished up last year 5-2 ATS and the favorite in this series is 5-0 ATS in the last five meetings.
31. Washington Redskins (0-0) - What an absolute mess for this karmic disaster of a franchise. For all the drama surrounding Robert Griffin and Kirk Cousins this preseason, the Redskins are ignoring the best quarterback on the roster, Colt McCoy. This group has some decent talent scattered throughout the roster. But they aren't a cohesive unit going into the season, and they already seem worn down by the one-thing-after-the-next preseason they've endured. I can't believe that DeAngelo Hall is still a starting cornerback in the NFL. And without any upgrade to their pass rush, I expect Washington's pass defense to get exposed again. The Redskins are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven home games, and they are just 7-16 ATS as an underdog.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0) - Much like the Raiders, I put the Jaguars this low even though I think they have improved since last year. But we're still talking about one of the worst teams in the league, so improvement for them is on a sliding scale. The problem is still all on the offensive end. Their skill position players are below replacement level. They have no receivers, and if anyone thinks that rookie running back T.J. Yeldon is going to be some miraculous tonic they are kidding themselves. The Jaguars are nearly splitting the action with Carolina this week. And Jacksonville has been a great Week 1 bet (12-4 ATS). But they are just 8-21 ATS in their last 29 September games and just 18-37 ATS in their last 55 home games.
Throughout the season I will have my NFL Power Rankings every Wednesday. My next ones will be released on Wednesday, Sept. 16.
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