NFL Power Rankings Week 1
There is a storm on the horizon.
A storm of ritualized violence, presented by global telecommunications giants and the insurance industry, is about to make landfall. And it brings with it a hail of gambling and brutality and has helped define the sport of football as America's True National Pastime, a weekly ceremony of our own collective bloodlust and a measure of our national hedonism.
Preparation and steady nerves are crucial. The only way to weather this tempest of freak occurrences, bad beats, statistical anomalies, a stunning moment of physical artistry and unpredictable madness is to keep calm and stay focused. The primary goal of any football season is always simple: survival. But that's just the beginning. We're not here to simply outlast the coming storm. We mean to control it. To stand up to the whirlwind of gambling and drinking and adrenaline and confusion. And to dominate it.
Survival is the baseline. All 32 teams about to embark on this five-month rampage are focused on survival. Yet there are some that see a greater opportunity. They see the possibility for Victory. They are ready to risk everything to attain that fleeting glimpses of perfection; the titles, the crowns, the awards and the championships. They are not trying to protect themselves. They are intent to risk everything, to expose themselves for the sake of greater glory and immortality.
"Be bold. And mighty forces will come to your aid." Damn straight.
The NFL regular season starts this week. It kicks off a 22-week endurance trial that will push you to your breaking point. We aren't seeking fame. We are seeking fortune. We are not simply trying to survive the coming storm. But to harness its power and use it for our own personal gain. Prepare yourself. And don't panic.
With that in mind, here is Doc's Sports NFL Power Rankings:
1. New England Patriots (0-0) - I don't think I've seen a single NFL Power Rankings this season that had New England at No. 1. That's insane to me. Have these people not been watching football the past 20 years? To be the best you've gotta beat the best. And there is no one better. New England is 40-17 against the spread in its last 57 games, and they are 40-16 ATS in its last 56 home games. The Patriots are also 13-5 ATS against their Pittsburgh rivals.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (0-0) - There is a heavy reverse line movement in Kansas City's opener against Jacksonville. The Chiefs are taking 75 percent of the action in this game, and the line has dropped from an open of 5.0 to its current spot at 3.5. The fact that the books dropped this number through a key number (4.0) is significant. The Chiefs beat the Jaguars 30-14 in Arrowhead last season, despite getting outgained by 80 yards, and KC is 4-1 ATS in its last five against Jacksonville.
3. Los Angeles Rams (0-0) - Tough task for the defending NFC Champions in Week 1. They have to fly across the country for a 10 a.m. PST kickoff against a salty, physical Carolina team. The Rams are just 1-3 ATS in their last four East Coast games and just 5-13 ATS in their last 18 season openers.
4. New Orleans Saints (0-0) - Despite what this rating may suggest, I am actually not as high on the Saints this year as it seems. I think their roster is one of the best in the league. But I do think the psychological scars of the past two seasons will linger. I also think that their offense is in a precarious situation, almost entirely reliant on the health of Alvin Kamara and Mike Thomas. If anything happens to either one, these guys are in trouble.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (0-0) - After losing five straight to the Redskins, Philadelphia has now won four straight, both SU and ATS, over Washington by an average of 15.5 points. The favorite is 5-0 ATS in this series, and the Eagles have gone 5-1 against the spread in their last six season openers.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) - I have definitely been enjoying the drama-free Steelers this preseason. This team looked better than anyone I saw in the preseason. That may or may not carry over into the regular season. But I also think that beyond trying to prove themselves without Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell, I think Pittsburgh is motivated by all the hype that Cleveland has been getting.
7. Baltimore Ravens (0-0) - The Ravens crushed Miami in 2016 and 2017, winning those two games by a combined 78-6 margin. Baltimore is 7-1 straight up and 8-0 ATS in their last eight meetings with the Dolphins. I think Lamar Jackson is going to be a big surprise this year, and I love the old school approach that the Ravens are bringing into this season.
8. Chicago Bears (0-0) - This is one of several teams that could be primed for a regression this year. The Bears have had back-to-back seasons with double-digit wins just once in the last 25 years. They benefitted from a massive amount of turnovers last year as well, and that doesn't translate from year to year. They have a much more difficult schedule, and I still don't trust Mitch Trubisky.
9. Seattle Seahawks (0-0) - This is a flawed roster, but they have a great system. They will have a chance to ease into the season at home against an unfamiliar (and rebuilding) Cincinnati team. The Seahawks are 4-1 ATS in their last five home games, and they are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 games overall.
10. Minnesota Vikings (0-0) - The Vikings have really dominated their series with the Falcons. This season is the fourth time the two teams will have met since 2014, and the Vikings have won the previous three meetings, covering the spread as an underdog all three times. The Vikings are 36-16 ATS in their last 52 home games.
11. Houston Texans (0-0) - What in god's name is Houston doing? On one hand they mortgage their future in a "win now" move to get Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills. On the other hand, they give away one of their best defensive players for peanuts, in a decidedly not "win now" move. Can Bill O'Brien get these guys all get on the same page heading into New Orleans on Monday Night Football?
12. Dallas Cowboys (0-0) - This is an entirely different offense without Ezekiel Elliot. Amari Cooper still isn't 100 percent, either, and the idea that they will somehow going to be fine with Elliot is ridiculous. Dallas is just 2-6 ATS in its last eight season openers, and they will need a big defensive effort versus an overmatched Giants offense this Sunday.
13. Cleveland Browns (0-0) - This passing attack should be lethal - as long as Baker Mayfield can control the turnovers. Todd Monken's offenses love to throw the ball down the field and are going to be very aggressive. Mayfield is going to have to keep his cool. That, along with offensive line health and the play of their back seven, is going to define Cleveland's season.
14. Los Angeles Chargers (0-0) - As you can see, I am not high on the Chargers at all. Everyone is penciling this team into the playoffs, but I don't see it happening. They were massive overachievers last season. They are starting the season without their Pro Bowl safety, Pro Bowl running back and Pro Bowl left tackle. That's a problem.
15. Green Bay Packers (0-0) - For the third time in five years, the Packers will enter the season with one of the five youngest rosters in football. They have covered the spread in four straight Thursday night games, and they have owned the Bears for the past two decades. Green Bay is 16-5 ATS in its last 21 games in Chicago and 12-5 ATS in their last 17 games against the Bears overall.
16. Carolina Panthers (0-0) - This season has the feeling of a "last stand" for the Ron Rivera-Cam Newton-Luke Kuechly Panthers. I don't know that they are up for it. Especially with Newton limping into this season. The Panthers have a short week after their opener with the Rams (facing the Bucs on Thursday in Week 2) and then play four of their next five games away from home.
17. Atlanta Falcons (0-0) - This looks like a boom-or-bust team in the NFC this season. If Atlanta is healthy, they can play with any team in the league. But depth is nonexistent at pretty much every position. Atlanta does have a favorable schedule, though, and gets most of its toughest opponents at home.
19. Tennessee Titans (0-0) - Last year the Titans were massive overachievers on defense, leading the league with 17.6 yards per point allowed. There will be some regression on that side of the ball. And if the offense can show some improvement under new coordinator Art Smith, then Tennessee could be primed as a solid bet to go 'over' this year.
20. Denver Broncos (0-0) - On a drunken whim this June, I made a sizeable bet on Denver 'under' 7.5 wins. I've since bought back all of it, and I'm thinking that if you're looking for an AFC sleeper, look here. Vic Fangio is going to take an already excellent defense and make it better. And as long as the offensive line (and Joe Flacco's back) holds up, they have some young playmakers that could do some damage.
21. New York Jets (0-0) - The Jets-Bills opener is one of the most consequential games of Week 1. These are two potential playoff contenders, and one of them is going to leave that game with a load of momentum (and a divisional win). The teams have split their last eight meetings, and home field has meant next to nothing in this series. The underdog is 8-2 ATS in the last 10 meetings.
21. Indianapolis Colts (0-0) - A recurring theme in sports is that when a team loses its star player, the other guys usually stage a short-term rally. I expect the Colts to put forward an inspired effort this week in Los Angeles. They are catching only 28 percent of the action this week, but I think that they are an underdog to watch out for on Sunday.
22. Buffalo Bills (0-0) - Just when I want to believe in the Bills making some progress, they go and do something stupid like cut LeSean McCoy. Here's the bottom line: they are not a better team today without McCoy than they were last week with him. If the owners want to save money, fine. But if they wanted a better chance at making it back to .500, they should've held onto McCoy. Buffalo is 10-4 ATS in its last 14 games in Week 1.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0) - I don't think that this defense is going to be nearly as good as it has been the past two years. They have lost half of their starters from the unit that dominated its way to the 2017-18 AFC Championship Game. That includes two new starting safeties, as they moved away from veterans Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church this offseason, and leading tackler Telvin Smith.
24. San Francisco 49ers (0-0) - Remember last year at this time when the 49ers Hype Train was rolling at full steam? They were actually 12-to-1 to win the Super Bowl last year at this time! Now they are 35-to-1. The 49ers have an excessively young receiving corps, and reports out of camp are that Jimmy Garoppolo has been shaky all preseason. Despite that, the key to San Francisco's season will be the maturation of their defense. It is time for some of these top draft picks to start producing.
25. Oakland Raiders (0-0) - This organization is toxic and has nothing but bad karma. They have improved their roster. But even if they are better in certain areas than the dumpster fire team they fielded last year, the Raiders' schedule is nearly impossible to navigate. They start the season with two home games (and a short week of rest) and then don't return to Oakland until November.
26. Detroit Lions (0-0) - We will see if Matt Patricia has the slightest idea what he's doing. To this point, it's still an open question. Detroit is another team that completely mailed in the preseason. Patricia hasn't earned enough credibility to just ignore that. And the Lions are clearly the shakiest favorite on the board heading into Week 1.
27. New York Giants (0-0) - On the one hand, I like that the Giants seem to be going back to their roots as a run-the-ball-and-play-great-defense team. In the past, Giants teams always played their best when expectations were lowest. I think that even though New York has a three-win roster and budding quarterback controversy that this team will find a way to pound its way to six wins this season.
28. Washington Redskins (0-0) - With all of the drama surrounding the Cowboys and Giants this offseason, not enough ink has been spilled about the dysfunction in Washington. There are some really nice pieces on this roster. There just doesn't seem to be a plan in place.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) - I love the aggressiveness that Bruce Arians brings to the table. But lack of aggressiveness was never a problem under Dirk Koetter. A terrible offensive line, turnover-prone quarterback, and horrible defense were Koetter's problems. And as best as I can tell, none of those issues have been addressed this offseason. The Bucs have the second-youngest roster in football heading into the season.
30. Cincinnati Bengals (0-0) - I understand that Marvin Lewis had to go, but I think it is easy to forget just about bad the Bengals were before he got there. They finished .500 or better 10 times in 16 years under Lewis. In the 13 years prior to Lewis's arrival, they finished .500 just twice in 13 years, winning just 19 games in the five years immediately before they hired him. I am expecting a similar downturn now that Lewis is gone.
31. Arizona Cardinals (0-0) - Kliff Kingsbury is here to revolutionize the NFL with…with…the hurry-up offense! Wow! No one will be ready for that! Kingsbury couldn't win in college and won't win in the pros. I don't know that any team looked worse this preseason. I'm not optimistic about anything that is going on here, and this team is only nominally better than the Dolphins right now.
32. Miami Dolphins (0-0) - This team is in full blown tank mode. It's real. They are making no effort to be even remotely competitive this season, and by Week 4 we won't be able to bet against this team laying fewer than two 10 points. Can you imagine what this locker room feels like right now? It's gotta be pretty grim. Add in the fact that they are spending this week worried about an actual storm - not the metaphoric one in my lead - and this team has to be a mess right now.
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