Summer is dead. Winter is coming. The war drums are sounding on the horizon and echo over the hills. This symphony of ritualized violence, brought to you by the National Football League and the global telecommunications apparatus, is about to commence. And We will all follow the tune.
We will allow ourselves to ingest that mystic concoction of gambling and brutality that we've come to know so well. It dulls our collective senses to the ruse that is the NFL. The League, run by the most loathsome and vile collection of sociopaths this side of the "Suicide Squad", has allowed The Game to become diluted. They have watched with incoherent glee as the product on The Field has degenerated into a sloppy, confused mess amidst a sea of scandal and faux outrage.
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But We care not. The time for talk is over. Now is the time for creation and destruction.
Our addiction to our national pastime - this pillar of our American economy - is stronger than any sentiment or rational thought. Our morals are blinded by bloodlust. And this fall the Lord's Day will once again be subsumed by our subconscious longing for chaos and our urge to predict a perfect future.
Whether we want football or not, we need it. It is an opiate for our very souls. And we are set to embrace The Games, like a parent wrapping their arms around a prodigal child.
It is time.
It is time for us to take the first steps on our annual five-month pilgrimage to The Promised Land. We are like the salmon, about to swim against a raging tide of bad luck, horrible beats, and the cruelest twists of fate. We will do so proudly, and without fear. And we will once again arrive to the place of our birth. And death. The Super Bowl. Survivors of The Great Battle. Victors against Chance and Randomness. Lords of all creation.
It will be glorious. And I will see you there, my friend.
Below are my Week 1 NFL Power Rankings. This is a brief sketch of how I see the 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. Carolina Panthers (0-0) - This isn't a projection; I actually don't think that the Panthers will end up being the No. 1 team in the NFL or even the NFC. They won't win the Super Bowl because the irony of the Cover-2 is that with it you can be good but can rarely be great. Remember: deep down the Panthers are simply a system team. And there is a reason that they are the only team in the league that is still clinging to the Cover-2 as a fundamental philosophy. The Panthers have the clear revenge angle going into their date with Denver. But their offensive line isn't any better than it was in February, and Super Bowl losers are just 2-11 ATS (and 5-8 straight up) in Week 1 the following season.
2. Arizona Cardinals (0-0) - All summer I have been saying the Cardinals have the best roster in the NFL. And it is true. They literally have no weakness. Receivers? Stacked. Offensive line? Loaded. Running backs? Stocked. Front seven? Experienced and excellent. Secondary? Ravenous. Coaching staff? Top tier. However, I can't go all-in with this group because Carson Palmer is a loser. No matter how good this team is during the regular season, it's a foregone conclusion that Palmer will melt against pressure in the postseason and singlehandedly cost this team its season. I am also moderately worried about the fact that Arizona's first teamers were the worst in the NFL this preseason, getting outscored 64-20.
3. Green Bay Packers (0-0) - Everything was going great for the Packers this preseason until their bizarre decision to cut Josh Sitton. What the hell? I know the Patriots pulled a similar move with Logan Mankins a few years ago and went to the Super Bowl. But the Packers are no Patriots. Green Bay has looked dedicated to running the football, and their defense looks rock solid. I feel like Mike McCarthy sees the writing on the wall, and he is forcing his team to be more physical and ball-control oriented. We will see if that continues when they head to Jacksonville. Green Bay heads into the regular season with the third-youngest roster in the NFL. The Packers are 5-1 ATS on the road and 30-20 ATS as a road favorite of 6.5 or less.
4. Seattle Seahawks (0-0) - It is easy to forget that Seattle was one of the league's biggest statistical underachievers last season. Their Pythagorean Win Total was nearly two games below (-1.7) their actual number of victories, the third lowest number behind Tennessee and San Diego. The offensive and defensive lines are a little younger and a little lacking depth. But I feel like the Seahawks aren't getting a lot of love coming into the season, and their championship window is definitely not closed. The Seahawks are 36-16 ATS as home favorites since 2007 and they have won seven straight home openers both SU and ATS, with the last four coming via blowout.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) - The conceit of the Steelers is that they know they are one of the best teams in football when their offense is fully stocked and healthy. The problem is that they can't get everyone on the field at the same time! LeVeon Bell, Martavis Bryant and Ladarius Green will all be missing in Week 1 - and longer. So will this team remain a theory or will we ever see Peak Steelers materialize? Injuries have slowed down the expected improvements on the Steelers defense. But we won't know if they are better on that side of the ball until we see who suits up and how they are deployed in Week 1. The Steelers are 10-5 ATS in their last 15 Monday Night Football games. We will see if their decision to essentially take the preseason off leaves them rusty in their first game.
6. New England Patriots (0-0) - If Tom Brady were not enduring this four-game suspension I would definitely have this team No. 1. And if you don't think that Bill Belichick is good enough to get a split in those four games you have been living in a cave for the past 20 years. I think Belichick relishes the return to the underdog role, where the Patriots are 21-12 ATS going back to 2003. Belichick is also 20-10 ATS in his last 30 road games against NFC teams, and I expect the Patriots have to have a great game plan and a ground-and-pound scheme to attack Arizona this week. The Patriots skill players are as healthy coming into the season as I can remember, and you know they will be playing with a chip on their shoulders.
7. Denver Broncos (0-0) - The defending Super Bowl champions are tough to get a read on because no one knows what to expect from Trevor Siemian. From watching him this preseason I can say that he throws a really good, tight ball and he has the arm to go up the field. However, his confidence gets rattled very easily. He is going to make plenty of mistakes as a first-time starter. But how he responds to those will determine what Denver's ceiling is. I didn't like what I saw in that respect this August. But perhaps some success will cushion the errors. The Broncos are 7-1 ATS in their last eight Thursday night games. The Broncos are 24-3 straight up in their last 27 home openers.
8. Minnesota Vikings (0-0) - I know I have an appreciation for Sam Bradford that exactly zero people share. But I think he is a brilliant fit for Minnesota. I do believe the Vikes would be smart to bench him for the first three or four weeks while he learns the offense and gets comfortable. But when Bradford takes over - watch out. This is the best group of skill players that Bradford has ever had, by a mile. The Vikings defense is stacked. Minnesota has one of the league's top rushing attacks. And as long as Bradford stays healthy I think he is capable of leading this team deep into the postseason. Mike Zimmer has gone 24-9 ATS as a head coach, but the Vikes have to make sure they aren't looking forward to the home opener at their new stadium against Green Bay next week.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (0-0) - The Bengals must know something that I don't about their receiving corps outside of A.J. Green. Because Cincinnati really turned the corner the past few years because of the emergence of the offense, only to watch some of their top skill people leave (without replacement) during the offseason. The Bengals are a big public favorite this week, and they are just 1-4 ATS in in their last five meetings with the Jets. Also, Cincinnati hasn't won outright in New York in over 20 years.
10. Kansas City Chiefs (0-0) - I feel like the Chiefs ranking is the line in the sand between the top tier of NFL teams and the mediocre/above-average middle. What can you say about Andy Reid? All this guy does is win. However, a weakness is that he is 5-10 SU and ATS in home openers in his career. The Chiefs have swept the Chargers each of the last two seasons, winning the last three by an average of 17.3 points per game. But the home team is just 1-5 ATS in this series.
11. Baltimore Ravens (0-0) - I know all the media reports said differently, but Joe Flacco definitely did not look sharp in his only preseason action. He looked hesitant and rusty. Flacco is going to face enormous blitz pressure from the Ryan Bros. this weekend, so he better find confidence in his knee from somewhere. Baltimore was one of the worst teams in the NFL in turnover differential and yards per point, and they need to turn both around if they want to get back to the postseason. I think that the Eric Weddle signing was one of the best and most underrated pickups of the offseason, and I expect him to have a monster year stabilizing the secondary for Baltimore. I also can't tell you how happy I am that we get one more season of Steve Smith. That guy is a maniac. Baltimore needs to regain its massive home-field advantage; they are just 1-10 ATS in their last 11 home games.
12. Houston Texans (0-0) - It is still tough to get a real grasp of this Texans team. Are they just the beneficiaries of a feeble division? Or is this team going to be able to ride its powerful defense and explosive young playmakers to back-to-back titles? The way his offenses have performed, you would never know that Bill O'Brien was a former coordinator on that side of the ball. They have finished in the bottom half of the league in yards each of the past two seasons and were No. 21 in scoring last year. You would expect better quarterback play to lead to improved numbers. But is Brock Osweiler really an improvement? He is O'Brien's eighth quarterback, and Brian Hoyer actually put up better numbers last season. Houston is 11-3 ATS as a favorite and 7-3 ATS in their last 10 overall.
13. New York Giants (0-0) - Last year the Giants were one of the league's biggest Pythagorean underachievers (-1.5). That alone should have them primed for a bounce-back season. Add in the fact that they have been in the Top 3 in the NFL in starts lost to injury the past two seasons and their eight close losses last year and New York has a lot of statistical indicators pointing their way. A ton depends on how this team responds to its first-year coach. Also, Steve Spagnuolo needs to prove that he isn't a total incompetent, in spite of his resume. The Giants defense is vastly improved. But they have zero depth. Spags needs to rotate his players enough to keep them healthy.
14. Washington Redskins (0-0) - I don't want to like the Redskins. I don't want to get sucked into the vortex of loserdom that this franchise has emitted over the last 15 years. However, I love the fact that Washington is so rock solid at the point of attack. The Redskins' offensive and defensive lines are comprised of massive, massive mammals, and no one will push Washington around. Their skill players are undervalued, and Josh Norman could stabilize what has been an atrocious secondary. But the Redskins didn't win a single game last year against a team that finished over .500. Washington is 8-16 ATS in September home games and is 1-4 ATS in their last five Monday Night Football games.
15. New York Jets (0-0) - The Jets fielded one of the oldest teams in football last year and came up one game short of making it to the postseason. After an offseason of tumult, they now have to start pushing the boulder all the way back up the hill. Are they up for it? The Jets offense should be better than people realize if Matt Forte still has some juice left. And defensively the front seven should be able to create enough pressure to support a shaky secondary. There is really nothing flashy about this team. They are just solid all around and need to keep their aging offense healthy. But if anything is going to derail this group, it will be one of the toughest schedules in football. The Jets are 4-0 ATS the last four times they hosted the Bengals, and the home team is 6-1 ATS in the last seven meetings.
16. Oakland Raiders (0-0) - Be wary of this team this season. Oakland is Everybody's Sleeper Team. And Everybody's Sleeper team is always a bust at the window and on the field. (Last year Buffalo was Everybody's Sleeper.) I love Oakland's young talent as much as the next guy. Derek Carr is kind of a likeable young Aaron Rodgers. But Oakland will be done in by its schedule this year. Their Week 1 game at New Orleans is one of five games the Raiders have to play at 11 a.m. PST or earlier. Oakland is improving on the defensive side of the ball. But they are still starting two rookies, and their depth is nonexistent.
17. Buffalo Bills (0-0) - Oh look, the circus is in town. The Bills have spent the last month watching starters get hurt, arrested, cut, suspended or hauled off to rehab. Rex Ryan is 34-46 straight up over the past five seasons and brought in his idiot brother to help him finish the demolition of what was a Top 10 defense in 2013 and 2014. The Bills are dangerous because they do still have talent. Tyrod Taylor is legit, and LeSean McCoy and Chuck Clay are playmakers. But you simply cannot count on the Bills week-in and week-out. They gave up 80 penalty yards per game last year and are still a sloppy, undisciplined mess.
18. Atlanta Falcons (0-0) - Would you believe that Atlanta is currently fielding the oldest roster in the NFL? The Falcons don't seem like a team in "win now" mode as they enter Year 2 of the Dan Quinn Experience. The offense added center Alex Mack this offseason, and he should pay dividends. But there is definitely friction between quarterback Matt Ryan and OC Kyle Shanahan. I am a big Ryan fan. And Shanahan is a proven loser in his time in the NFL. But Shanahan's system, which is the same scheme Gary Kubiak and Denver rode to a title last year, is a proven commodity over the past 20 years, so these guys need to find some common ground. The Falcons are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven divisional games and went into a 2-10 ATS nosedive after a promising start last season. The favorite is 5-1 ATS in the Bucs series, and the Falcons are 11-5 ATS in their last 16 season openers.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0) - Here we have another big buzz team. Jacksonville is kind of like the East Coast Oakland in that they have an intriguing young core of skill players and seem to have momentum heading into the season. However, the Jaguars haven't won more than five games since 2010 and they have been outscored by an average of 156.5 points per year the last four seasons. Jacksonville is a healthy 12-5 ATS in their last 17 season openers but an ugly 9-23 ATS in their last 32 September games. If the Jags are going to make a move they will need to find a home-field advantage; they are just 10-22 ATS in their last 32 home games. The Jaguars are the least-bet team on the board this weekend with just 18 percent of the action coming their way.
20. Tennessee Titans (0-0) - I was high on the Titans as a sneaky-good ATS team last year. I might have been one season too early. I am a fan of Marcus Mariota and I think he will be a franchise guy. And the Titans seem to have the right attitude with their newfound focus on the running game. I like their coaching staff beyond Mike Mularkey. And I once again think this team is flying under the radar. Tennessee has been irrationally bad the past two years. By that I mean that their win-loss record and their statistical indicators have been completely out of whack and total outliers. Two years ago it was their offensive yards per point. Last year their defensive yard per point was on the wrong end of the bell curve. Something should accidentally go right for these guys, and they could be an ATS cash cow if it does.
21. New Orleans Saints (0-0) - I don't even know what to do with the Saints. They are basically the NFC Colts: quarterback, one small, explosive receiver, powerful running back behind a terrible offensive line, and a defense full of retreads and past-their-prime veterans thrown together in the hopes that something works. New Orleans has not attempted to cultivate anything close to cohesion on defense over the last four years. On paper, they have some guys that can play. But these guys can't and haven't played together. The Saints are 36-22 ATS as a home favorite and still have one of the best home advantages in football.
22. Dallas Cowboys (0-0) - This is probably still too high for a team that went 4-12 last season and that has finished over .500 just once in the past six years. Jason Garrett must love having broken down Tony Romo as his starting quarterback. Because Romo's injuries are a supremely convenient excuse for Garrett to continue to keep his job despite being a career loser. I will admit that Dak Prescott looks like he is legit and a potentially special player. And the Cowboys almost have to accidentally be better offensively than last year's mess (No. 31 in OYPP). The Cowboys are an ugly 10-26 ATS in their last 36 home games. The 'over' has come through in seven straight Cowboys-Giants games and the 'over' is 20-8 in the last 28 meetings.
23. Indianapolis Colts (0-0) - This team looked like trash this preseason. You can almost feel the anxiety emanating from this franchise because a whole lotta people are going to lose their jobs after this season. I think the Colts stink. I have never been high on Andrew Luck, and I feel like the rest of the country is finally waking up to his deficiencies. And when you look at the roster there really isn't any area that can pick up the slack. T.Y. Hilton is one of the best receivers in football. But that's it. That's the only other guy on that offense I would want on my team. The defense is soft and aging, and they enter Week 1 with a cluster injury problem in the secondary. Whatever your expectations are for this team - lower them. Indianapolis is 25-10 ATS in its last 35 home games.
24. Miami Dolphins (0-0) - Miami's offense has finished No. 26 or below in scoring and total yards in three of the past four seasons. Maybe it is no coincidence that Ryan Tannehill has been under center for those four seasons? I know the stat nerds and fantasy football dweebs will point to Tannehill's numbers. But all you have to do is watch this team blow drive after drive to realize that he is not a player. Miami's front seven has players. But they aren't yet a unit under Vance Joseph. And their Achilles' heel is going to be a leaky secondary that is relying on free agent bust Byron Maxwell as its best player.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) - I'm not sure what is going on with the water down in Florida (let's be honest, no one knows what the hell is going on down with Florida, period), but professional football in the Sunshine State is a mess. What's worse - none of them can win at home! The road team is 64-40 ATS in all Tampa Bay games (as well as 22-10 ATS in Jaguars games and 66-37 ATS in Miami games). Tampa Bay has enticing talent. Doug Martin, Vince Jackson and Mike Evans are three of the best at their respective positions. But the offensive line is a mess, and I still am not buying into Jameis Winston. The Bucs front seven has improved. But any team that is starting Chris Conte - one of the worst safeties of the past decade - is going to be horrid in the back end. The Bucs are 11-5 ATS in their last 16 trips to Atlanta, and the Bucs have revenge after getting swept last year.
26. Detroit Lions (0-0) - Detroit still has way too many holes on its defense to expect to be competitive through the whole season. And that's a shame because this really has the potential to be an explosive offense. Detroit will field one of the youngest offensive lines in the league, and that will be a major subplot for this team. If the line is stable, they have a load of skill position talent and depth. But it is all about the defense for this group. They lack big-time talent or consistent playmakers. So I feel like the Lions are going to be a boom-or-bust turnover team. They were No. 26 in the league last year (-6) in turnover differential. If they can improve there then this team has a chance to surprise some people. The Lions are 1-10 SU and 3-8 ATS against AFC South foes but are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 Week 1 games.
27. Philadelphia Eagles (0-0) - I am very high on the Eagles defense this year - and that is about it. I don't know what the hell they were thinking with Carson Wentz, and now they are throwing him out there at less than 100 percent without the benefit of a full preseason. Huh? Why did they pay Chase Daniels as much as they did ($7 million per) if they weren't going to use him, like, ever? It doesn't make any sense and instantly makes me question Doug Pederson's judgment. Philadelphia is just 17-33 ATS in its last 50 home games.
28. San Diego Chargers (0-0) - Keep an eye on the Chargers this season. They are not good. But Philip Rivers is still one of the best in the business, and this team always seems to win, and be more competitive, more than they should. Melvin Gordon looks like a different human being this year, and as long as Keenan Allen is healthy the passing game will be a threat. The problem for the Chargers is two-fold: they have horrible karma surrounding their impending move and their defense only has about five guys on it that should be NFL starters. San Diego got pushed around by opposing running games this preseason, and it won't get any easier against the Chiefs in Week 1.
29. Los Angeles Rams (0-0) - Can we just go ahead and book the Rams for Jeff Fisher's customary 7-9 and be done with it? The Rams defense isn't as good as it has been and is not as good as Los Angeles thinks it is. And yeah, Todd Gurley is thrilling and will win some games by himself. But the Rams still don't have a passing game - at all - and their depth on both sides of the ball is nil. I applaud the Rams for taking Jared Goff slowly. I am a firm - FIRM - believer that no quarterback should start until at least the second half of his second season. However, even though the Rams are playing it right, they still gave up too much to get the wrong guy. The Rams have the youngest roster in the NFL for the fourth straight season.
30. Chicago Bears (0-0) - Few teams looked as ugly as the Bears this preseason. Their first team was outscored by 33 points (44-11) in the first three weeks, and they were noncompetitive in most of those games. Granted, Chicago played three very good teams (New England, Denver, Kansas City). But John Fox is actually a coach that puts stock into the preseason and tries to win those games. Jay Cutler is one of the NFL's all-time losers, going just 54-78-3 ATS in his career as a starting quarterback. Add in a thin stable of running backs and one of the worst secondaries in the league and Chicago just has too many glaring weaknesses to be expected to contend. The Bears were better and more competitive than I expected last year. I think they will be worse than people expect this season. John Fox is 30-12 ATS in his teams' last 42 road games.
31. San Francisco 49ers (0-0) - Despite my low starting rank, I actually think that San Francisco is going to be a little better than people think. Their roster is still woefully undermanned. And the defense is much less equipped than Philadelphia's with regards to handling Chip Kelly's time of possession aversion. But San Francisco was last in the league in offensive yards per point last season (20.4), and that right there primes them for a bit of a bounce back. It puts the 49ers into a system that has gone 8-2 for teams against their Las Vegas season win total over the past six years. Kelly will never field a consistent winner in the NFL. But that doesn't mean he can't win games simply because of his quirky system. I think the Niners can be a pesky 6-10 this year.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-0) - This is by far the worst team in football, and I will be stunned if they win more than three games. Robert Griffin is a joke and is not an NFL-caliber starter. They have no receivers (well, at least until Josh Gordon gets back) and still have comically bad skill position players. The Browns have traded or cut several of their best players this preseason, and they are obviously clearing the decks this season to try to lay a foundation for the future. The No. 1 overall pick will be a huge motivator for this team this season, especially considering they enter next season with two first-round picks and two second-round selections. But in the meantime get ready for some horrible football.
Throughout the season I will have my NFL Power Rankings every Wednesday. My next ones will be released on Wednesday, Sept. 14.
Robert Ferringo is one of the top football handicappers in the country and tallied an unrivaled $20,800 in football profit between 2011 and 2015, including his amazing 2013 NFL season in which he hit 62.1 percent (95-58). Robert has produced 14 of 22 winning football months and an amazing 37 of 57 winning football months over the past decade. Robert has hit nearly 60 percent winners over his last 750 totals picks and is the most prolific big play football handicapper in the nation, going 101-63 (62%) on all football plays rated 5.0 or higher since 2010. Also, Robert's proprietary KING College Football Betting System has posted three of four winning seasons and is 122-92 over the last three years (57.0 percent).
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