True knowledge is knowing that you know nothing.
Socrates was one of the world's great minds and a massive fan of irony, ethics and a strong vertical passing game. And his insight into the comical worthlessness of human understanding has never been more apt heading into Week 4 of the NFL season.
The sportsbooks have been absolutely devouring the players through the first month of the season. The Betting Public loves a big, fat favorites. And underdogs have dominated to this point in the young season, cleaning up again last week to the tune of an 11-5 mark against the spread. It was the third straight profitable weekend for the puppies, and taking the points in all NFL games this year has yielded an outstanding 31-17 ATS mark (64.5 percent) thus far.
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This center will not hold. But at this point most bettors are likely either in a hole or barely above water. Panic is about to give way to fury. And as The Folks struggle to grasp the sobering reality that everything they believed about the NFL heading into this season was a lie, I don't feel confident that the players will be able to react to the changing tides.
There is hope. The sportsbooks are ruthlessly efficient in their trade. So the unprecedented early ATS success of the underdogs tells me a couple things. First, it tells me that the books really haven't done a great job of setting the lines. They are winning. And you can't argue with the results. But if one side of the dog-favorite coin is dominating, that tells me that the books aren't doing a great job of pinpointing hierarchy within the league.
The second thing it tells me is that regression is imminent. Like the rise and release of the tides. Soon bettors will hop on the underdog bandwagon. The books will respond by lowering the price on the favorites. Also, early season favorites are more projection than reality. The more results and statistics that the season produces, and the deeper we dive into it, the more apparent it is which teams actually should be favored. All of this could create a solid storm where chalk starts cleaning up.
But then again, what do I know?
Here is Doc's Sports NFL Power Rankings for Week 4:
1. New England Patriots (3-0) - I can't believe that the Patriots are going to win all four games without Tom Brady. The operating theory was "If they can just go 2-2." But now they appear headed to a clean sweep. We likely won't know until Saturday whether Jacoby Brissett or Jimmy Garappolo will be under center for New England's Week 4 game against the Bills. However, they've proven it doesn't really matter. I expect this spread to be around the Patriots -5.5 or -6.
2. Green Bay Packers (2-1) - I think that people are undervaluing the Packers right now. I mentioned in my first power rankings that I liked how physical the Packers had been playing, especially on defense, during the preseason. Now they are allowing just 1.8 yards per rush and just 42.7 yards per game on the ground. Obviously those numbers won't hold up because they are amazing. The Packers have faced 24 attempts per game also, so it is not as if they haven't been tested.
3. Denver Broncos (3-0) - The Broncos are now 45-13 straight up since the start of the 2013 season. They are an absolute machine. The Broncos are taking the most action of any team this week, with 88 percent of the bets coming down on Denver over Tampa Bay. However, none of the books have moved the number off 3.0 yet, and that move doesn't appear imminent. That's something to watch as the week progresses.
4. Minnesota Vikings (3-0) - If you include the preseason Minnesota has covered the spread in an amazing 12 straight games. Going back to last year they are on a savage 25-4 ATS (including preseason) run since the start of last season. That's astounding. This team is no joke. But that offensive line appears to be getting worse each week. Minnesota finally adjusted in the second half and threw almost exclusively off three-step drops. Just five of Sam Bradford's second-half attempts were longer than 10 yards. While the big play might be off the menu for the Vikings, there is no doubt that, at least for Sunday, they were much more effective with a dink-and-dunk passing game.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) - That is kind of a red flag loss for the Steelers. Their 34-3 dud, in a game that they didn't even bother to show up for, was the franchise's worst loss since 1989. The silver lining is that they get Le'Veon Bell back. But the running game hasn't been a problem. The Steelers have been outgained in each of their two wins (including their win over the Bengals) and they lost 23-13 to the Chiefs last year in Arrowhead. Maybe this team isn't as good as everyone thinks? The Steelers are 7-2 ATS after a loss and they are 13-5 ATS against a team that's above .500.
6. Arizona Cardinals (1-2) - What the hell was that? Look, I have been saying it since the preseason: the Cardinals look hungover. Arizona has not looked sharp, motivated, or cohesive at any point this season. And that was all thrust to the forefront last Sunday while getting embarrassed by the lowly Bills. Arizona has gotten off to slow starts in all three games this season, and they have been outscored 20-0 in the first quarter of their games. We will see if they come out with a bit more urgency this week against the Rams. I think Carson Palmer is a loser. But it is still rare for him to play the part so blatantly as he did last week. You just can't trust that guy with your money.
7. Carolina Panthers (1-2) - Brutal day for Kelvin Benjamin as the Panthers had their 14-game home winning streak snapped. Benjamin got shutout on the day and had a penalty negate a 56-yard touchdown for the Panthers. Carolina has had its way with the Falcons in recent years, going 5-2 SU And 6-2 ATS in the last several meetings between these clubs. The Panthers have revenge for a loss in Atlanta last year, which helped nix Carolina's perfect season. Carolina is 0-5 ATS in its last five road games. But they are an exceptional 21-8 ATS in their last 29 games after failing to cover the spread.
8. Seattle Seahawks (2-1) - Russell Wilson is going to play. Let's just get that out of the way right now. I feel like the books don't want to stake a position in the Seahawks-Jets game. They know they will get flooded with Jets money because New Yorkers are over the top. But they can't defend against that by offering an enticing line with Seattle, lest the public pound the Seahawks because of their impressive success in recent years. On the field, I have no idea how Seattle's ramshackle offensive line is going to protect a hobbled Wilson from that powerful Jets front. The Seahawks are just 19-40 ATS in their last 59 October games but they are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 early start games in the Eastern Time Zone.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (1-2) - The Bengals are going to be able to run the ball down Miami's throat. Cincinnati is so much bigger and so much stronger than the Dolphins at the point of attack that they should be able to force the ball through Miami's No. 32 rushing defense. Cincinnati has been a solid bounce-back team. They are 4-0 ATS in their last four games after a double-digit loss and they are 4-1 ATS in their last five games after failing to cover the spread. The Bengals are 15-5 ATS in their last 20 September games.
10. Kansas City Chiefs (2-1) - I am always wary of teams that win games thanks to a severe turnover advantage. And watching the Chiefs take the ball away from the Jets eight times - EIGHT! - caused red flags to pop up all over place for me. Kansas City parlayed those into two defensive touchdowns, and that is even more reason to worry that last week was a total anomaly. The Chiefs are 5-2 ATS in their last seven road games, and they have confidence after manhandling the Steelers in a 23-13 win last season.
11. Baltimore Ravens (3-0) - I know a lot of people aren't buying into the Ravens just yet. But I am. I know that they have scored two of their three wins over weak sisters Jacksonville and Cleveland. But the Ravens have been one of the best franchises in the NFL over the last 15-18 years. This is no fluke. Baltimore is just 2-10 ATS in its last 12 home games. That came after a six-year run in which they covered the spread in nearly two of every three home games. This team needs to regain its home dominance. The Ravens are 17-7 ATS in their last 24 games against a team with a winning record.
12. New York Giants (2-1) - That game really could come back to haunt the Giants. They blew a 21-9 lead and a golden opportunity to put the first nail in Washington's coffin. The Giants defense is still playing way too passive. They have yet to force a turnover, and Steve Spagnuolo seems blitz-averse. That bend-but-don't-break style can work as long as A) your offense isn't turning the ball over and B) your defense isn't missing tackles. The Giants did both last week. New York could be down two corners this week. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple both left the Washington game and are questionable this week.
13. New York Jets (1-2) - Jesus Ryan Fitzpatrick. Everything that Fitz did well in Buffalo he did horribly down in Kansas City. The only silver lining for the Jets in last week's game is that the defense again looked like one of the best and most underrated units in the AFC. But the Jets are starting to feel the pain of the league's most difficult schedule. They get Seattle this week, travel to Pittsburgh next week and then head to Arizona the week after. Four of the Jets' next six games are on the road, so this one is almost a must-win game. The Jets are 6-0 ATS in their last six games against a team above .500.
14. Dallas Cowboys (2-1) - There is an awful lot to get excited about with Dak Prescott. (Although you just know that three-interception game is coming soon.) However, Dallas needs to figure out a way to get Prescott and Dez Bryant on the same page if this team is going to be able to beat top-tier defenses. I don't understand why Dallas hasn't moved Bryant into the slot for certain sequences, since Prescott is obviously most comfortable dumping off in the middle of the field. And Bryant's body language is starting to become a troubling red flag. The Cowboys are just 3-7 ATS against non-divisional opponents and 5-11 ATS in their last 16 overall. Dallas is 10-2 ATS in its last 12 games on grass.
15. Washington Redskins (1-2) - Why is this team abandoning the running game? Washington is No. 29 in the league in rushing attempts with just 19.7 per game so far. Last year they didn't run the ball particularly well (3.7 yards per attempt), but they were dedicated to it, running the ball 27 times per game. The Redskins need to get back to that. Especially when they are sporting a defense that is allowing 54 percent conversions on third down, worst in the NFL. Washington is just 6-14 ATS after a win and just 6-17 ATS after covering the spread in their previous game.
16. Houston Texans (2-1) - Brock Osweiler proved me right again last week. The guy is spraying the ball all over the field and simply isn't taking care of the football. Not turning it over is going to be even more imperative with J.J. Watt potentially out for the year. Houston has swept Tennessee each of the last two years and they are 8-2 SU and 9-1 ATS against the Titans since 2011. The Texans are 6-2 ATS in their last eight home games and 5-1 ATS in its last six against teams with a losing record.
17. Oakland Raiders (2-1) - This week marks Oakland's third cross-country trip in four weeks. They opened in New Orleans, played at home, flew to Tennessee, flew home, and now have to fly all the way back to Baltimore for another 10 a.m. PST start this week. Teams are averaging 5.1 yards per rush against the Raiders defense, and they are not generating pass rush pressure. They don't have the horses to be a good defense. But can they at least find their way to mediocre? The Raiders are garnering 75 percent of the betting action this week, making them the most popular underdog wager on the board.
18. Atlanta Falcons (2-1) - There aren't going to be a ton of games where Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combine for 296 total yards. But they were something to watch on Monday night. The best part is that they tallied nearly 300 yards on just 32 touches. I think Atlanta's insistence on keeping both backs involved in the offense, as well as two straight uber-efficient performances (one in prime time), is going to jack up the totals on Falcons games and could lead to Atlanta being a decent 'under' play for the next few weeks. They will face three of the best defenses in football - Carolina, at Denver and at Seattle - over the next three weeks.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) - Sorry, I am still not buying these clowns. I would be willing to bet anyone any amount of money that the Eagles don't finish above .500. No way. Zero chance. Their early bye week will kill their momentum, and Philadelphia's schedule after this is among the most difficult in football. I respect this defense and I still love Darren Sproles. But this team is still weak.
20. San Diego Chargers (1-2) - Again, the Chargers not only could be 3-0 right now but they SHOULD be 3-0. Uncle Phil is dealing. Rivers is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes despite having zero receivers to throw to. But the Chargers defense is shaky at best and San Diego has been outgained in all three games this season. San Diego is just 3-11 ATS in its last 14 home games but they are 6-0 ATS in their last six games after a loss.
21. Los Angeles Rams (2-1) - Travel is going to be an issue for the Rams this week. Arizona is one of their shortest road trips. However, the Rams were in a killer letdown spot last week, heading to Tampa after the home opening win over Seattle, and they still found the will to come to play. I really think it is going to be near impossible for this young team to keep that emotional level up for a third straight week and second straight road game. The road team is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings with Arizona and the visitor has won three straight in this series. The Rams are confident and the Cardinals are fragile. And even though the action has been split 50-50 between the two teams this week the spread has plummeted from 9.5 to 7.5 already.
22. Detroit Lions (1-2) - Everyone loves the Lions this week. Apparently no one is the least bit worried about this dumpster fire defense dressing up as a road favorite, because 85 percent of the wagers in their game at Chicago are coming down on the Lions. Detroit has beaten Chicago six straight times and they are a hearty 7-3 ATS in this series. But can we really trust this defense laying points on the road? The Lions scored a garbage backdoor cover last week against the Packers and they are mere seconds in Indianapolis away from being 0-3 and looking just as bad as Chicago.
23. Buffalo Bills (1-2) - Not buying it. It is amazing how much one win can change the perspective of a team. But I feel like the Bills are full of false optimism after their win over Arizona. We've seen this before, though. The Bills are 17-35 ATS in their last 52 games after a win and 6-13 ATS after a win of at least two touchdowns. The road team is 4-0 ATS in the Patriots series and the underdog has covered four straight. But there is simply too much for New England to exploit with this disorganized group. Patriot games are always Super Bowls for Buffalo, though, so expect a max effort.
24. New Orleans Saints (0-3) - No one in NFL history has thrown for 300 or more yards more than Drew Brees, who has done so 98 times. No one in NFL history has thrown for 300 or more yards and lost more than Brees, who has now done so 34 times. There's just nothing to say about the Saints. They can't stop anyone. Their defense is a joke. Brees is doing what he can. But this is a third-tier team that won't be anything more than a nuisance the rest of this season. New Orleans is actually 6-1 ATS in its last seven games after playing on Monday Night Football.
25. San Francisco (1-2) - I'm going to engage in a little early speculation here. I have a feeling that the Bears are going to dump Jay Cutler this offseason and I can see Chip Kelly having the wherewithal to snatch him up while also drafting a young quarterback to groom at his feet. This rumor is based solely on my own hunch. But I think it is a plausible scenario, and Cutler could put up some huge numbers in Kelly's system. This is just the fifth time the 49ers have hosted the Cowboys since 1996. But they are 3-1 ATS in those previous four meetings and three of the four games were decided by just a field goal.
26. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) - I called him out last week, and T.Y. Hilton delivered. Hilton not only caught the game-winning touchdown to beat San Diego for a desperately-needed victory but he was uncoverable all day. The Colts have gone 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS in their last seven games against the Jaguars. However, their last trip down to Jacksonville last December ended in a 51-16 loss. The Colts defense still can't stop anyone (31.7 points per game allowed), and the Jaguars will attack in some unique ways. The Colts are 22-6 ATS against teams below .500 and 20-7 ATS in their last 27 games against divisional opponents.
27. Miami Dolphins (1-2) - That game did it. Anyone, at any point, that tries to defend Ryan Tannehill as a legitimate NFL starter is an idiot. Horrid rookie Cody Kessler essentially outplayed Tannehill. Tannehill's pick-six throw was worse than any throw I've seen from any of the rookie quarterbacks this season. Tannehill misses too many throws and has no sense of game management. He is a loser, and you can see the lack of confidence that his receivers have in him. Miami was outplayed by one of the worst football teams of the last 40 years. And their run defense is going to get demolished by the Bengals on Thursday. Cleveland could get yards whenever it wanted, and the Fins are yielding 147.3 yards per game on the ground.
28. Tennessee Titans (1-2) - The Titans have outgained both the Vikings and Raiders (both losses) but were outgained by Detroit in their lone win. The Titans are only allowing 19 points per game, and the defense has made outstanding strides. They just don't have enough weapons on offense outside of DeMarco Murray, who is quietly off to an outstanding start to the season. The Titans haven't stayed within two touchdowns of the Texans the past two years, losing by an average of 20 points per game. Tennessee is 16-35 ATS in its last 51 games and 15-37 ATS in its last 52 games against teams above .500. The Titans are an unbelievably bad 3-21 ATS in its last 24 divisional games.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2) - Here is a perfect example of how stats on paper don't match true performance on the field. On its face, Jameis Winston's game against the Rams - 36-for-58, 405 yards, three touchdowns - seems like a big day from a promising young signal caller. However, if you watched the game, Winston was a disaster. His fumble-rumble (I am coining that phrase for when a defense returns a fumble for a touchdown as a cousin to the pick-six; let's see if it catches on!) was the turning point in the game. His interception was awful. And his shocking lack of awareness on the final play was unexplainable. Also, I touched on it last week, but Vincent Jackson is checked out. And it is a damn shame. The Bucs are 18-42 ATS in their last 60 home games.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) - Just bet against every Florida-based team, every week. Since the start of the 2013 season those three teams have combined to go 61-92 ATS. That is a 60 percent success rate against these three loser organizations! That includes this season's combined 3-6 ATS mark. And over those last three-plus seasons the Dolphins in 2013 (9-7 ATS) were the only team to post a full season profit against the books. The Jaguars are just 2-5 ATS in their last seven against the Colts. But they are a healthy 12-5 ATS in their last 17 games against AFC opponents.
31. Chicago Bears (0-3) - I've talked many times about how baffling it is to me how few coaches have a great understanding of game management. Even an allegedly strong coach like John Fox is not immune as he mismanaged his timeouts at the end of each half last Sunday night. The Bears were simply overmatched in Dallas because they have too many holes on their roster. But there is also no doubt that the offense was more effective with Brian Hoyer than Jay Cutler.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-3) - I will give Hue Jackson credit for having his team ready to play Sunday against the loser Dolphins. Cleveland's effort was top-notch, and Jackson was creative in his usage of Terrelle Pryor. However, it has to be deflating for the Browns to come so close to getting a win for the second week in a row. And when it comes out afterward that the team settled for Cody Parkey - who missed three field goals in a six-point loss - instead of paying for Robbie Gould, one of the best kickers in NFL history, that has to send a message to the players that management is playing a different game.
Throughout the season I will have my NFL Power Rankings every Wednesday. My next ones will be released on Wednesday, Oct. 5.
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 15 of 23 winning football months and an amazing 38 of 58 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 106-67 (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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