NFL Power Rankings Week 11
A tool I have found useful in handicapping college basketball and college football is something I like to call relative conference strength. The basic premise is that you can gauge a team's true strength based on whom they have played and how those teams stack up against the rest of the country. It's a very macro way of looking at the field, rather than focusing on the minutia of matchups and individual players.
The same tactic can be applied to the NFL. But rather than deep dive into individual team schedules, I thought it would be more useful to do a quick ranking of the divisions in the NFL and then use that as a baseline for betting interconference and non-divisional games down the stretch:
1. NFC North - The NFC North has two Super Bowl contenders , a third team that won 13 games last year, and a last-place team that has a winning record outside of its division. I give the North the nod because they cross over against the AFC West, whereas the teams out West have gotten to beat up on the AFC North.
2. NFC West - There is a razor thin margin between the West and the North in the NFC. Collectively, the NFC West has is +135 in scoring margin this year (No. 1) and are a combined 23-15 against the spread (No. 1). Their numbers are inflated by that 9-3 SU mark against the AFC, though.
3. AFC South - With just two wins separating first place from last place, the AFC South is the most parity-driven division in football. It isn't mediocrity, either. I think that all four teams in the South - despite a litany of serious injuries - are rock solid, with most of them sound on both sides of the ball.
4. AFC West - Like the AFC South, this division gets credit for depth. Kansas City is sagging a bit. But they are probably the third best team in the AFC. The other three teams all have their moments. And I have to give the West credit for crossing over against the best division in the NFC.
5. NFC South - This might be low. The Saints are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. And I honestly believe that the Buccaneers and Falcons are much better than their records suggest.
6. AFC North - The Bengals are the worst team in football. The Browns are the most overrated. The Steelers are smoke and mirrors. Baltimore isn't good enough to carry this group past No. 6.
7. AFC East - As always, the Patriots benefit of playing amongst three of the most incompetent franchises in all of sports. Miami and the Jets are two of the five worst teams in football, and the Bills have a record inflated by the easiest schedule in the league.
8. NFC East - Much like the AFC East, the NFC East has two of the worst teams in football. Unlike the AFC East, the NFC East doesn't have one powerhouse team. Dallas and Philadelphia have been pounded by good teams and taken losses from pathetic ones. This division is a joke.
Here is Doc's Sports NFL Power Rankings:
1. New England Patriots (8-1) - The Patriots are probably the squarest wager on the board this week . But that doesn't mean it is the wrong play. New England is 5-0 ATS following a bye week, and they are a sensational 46-21 ATS in their last 67 games after a loss. The Pats have had to stew about that Ravens beat down for two weeks. They are 46-20 ATS in their last 66 games overall and an outstanding 21-10 ATS in their last 31 games against a team with a winning record.
2. New Orleans Saints (7-2) - Marshon Lattimore is likely not going to play this week. Losing your best corner the week before you face Tampa Bay's passing attack is less than optimal. The Bucs have given the Saints all kinds of problems in recent years, and New Orleans is just 6-4 SU and 5-5 ATS in the last 10 meetings.
3. Baltimore Ravens (7-2) - So much for having a letdown after that big win over the Patriots! The home team in the Texans series has been the play, as the host has won five straight. Baltimore really needs to recapture its home-field advantage. They are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven home games.
4. San Francisco 49ers (8-1) - When you have the defense and rushing attack that the 49ers boast, the No. 1 job of your quarterback is to not turn the ball over. Period. End of sentence. Jimmy Garoppolo had three turnovers lead directly to 21 points on Monday, and there were at least three other throws that I thought were going to be picked when they left his hand. Do you trust Garoppolo on the road in January? Me neither. Also, I get Kyle Shanahan's "we were playing to win" idea about that final OT drive. But it was also another example of his horrible game management, allowing Seattle to get the ball back and the 49ers to lose. Never forget: 28-3.
5. Green Bay Packers (8-2) - For as good as this team's offense has been, they need to work on their third down conversions. They are just No. 21 in the league with a 37.2 percent success rate. They are running the ball well and scoring points. But that's something they need to work on during the bye week.
6. Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) - Aggressively bad. That is how I have described the Kansas City defense. They are a complete and total train wreck, and it was on full display Sunday. How do you lose a game in which you have a 16-minute advantage in time of possession and a 160 total yardage edge?
7. Seattle Seahawks (7-2) - Russell Wilson, who gets my unofficial vote for NFL MVP to this point, simply cannot make a mistake like the one he made in overtime against the 49ers. That interception near the goal line was inexcusable and was both a horribly designed play call and a terrible throw. It was second down! And even if the Seahawks had gotten only a field goal out of the drive, they still would've been in the driver's seat.
8. Minnesota Vikings (7-3) - If the Vikings had used that same game plan against the Chiefs two weeks ago, they would've won in Kansas City and been tied with Green Bay for the top of the NFC North. It will be interesting to see if the Vikings are looking past Denver this week and looking ahead to that much-needed bye.
9. Los Angeles Rams (5-4) - Center Brian Allen is going to miss the rest of the season, and right tackle Rob Havenstein will be out at least one game, further depleting the weakest area on the team. Jared Goff has been pretty bad this year. But he's also not getting the support from the run game or the protection that he's benefitted from the last two years.
10. Houston Texans (6-3) - Houston has been excellent out of a bye week, going 4-1 ATS in their last five games after a regular season bye and 5-2 ATS in their last seven games after a week of rest. This week's game at Baltimore will pit two of the four best rushing offenses in the NFL against one another. But the key is that Houston and Baltimore both have Top 10 rushing defenses as well. So the key to this game may be which pass defense holds up the best.
11. Carolina Panthers (5-4) - I know the Panthers lost and Kyle Allen turned the ball over twice in Lambeau on Sunday. But I actually thought Allen played really, really well. He was savvy avoiding pressure all day and made countless plays and big throws. The Panthers came up just one yard short in a game in which they actually outgained the Packers. There's no shame in that loss.
12. Dallas Cowboys (5-4) - How is it not blatantly obvious that Dallas' weekly slow starts and first quarter issues are the product of terrible coaching? I mean, what more do people need to see to understand that Jason Garrett is a loser, pure and simple? With three of their next four games on the road, I think this is the beginning of the end of the Garrett Era in Dallas as these Cowboys look poised for yet another collapse.
13. Philadelphia Eagles (5-4) - Here is where numbers lie. Statistically, the Eagles are No. 8 in total defense this year. But if anyone thinks that the Eagles have one of the Top 10 defenses in the NFL, then that person doesn't know jack about football. Philadelphia is 4-1 ATS in its last five games against the Patriots, and they are 6-1 ATS against teams that are above .500.
14. Indianapolis Colts (5-4) - I understand loyalty. But keeping Adam Vinatieri on the roster at this point is just flagrant stupidity. Any player, at any position, on any team, that singlehandedly costs his team three - THREE! - wins in a season would be cut immediately. It is just insane that Vinatieri, who has missed around 30 percent of his kicks this season, is still on the roster. Cutting him doesn't have to be ugly or nasty. Give him a big handshake, a glowing press conference, and schedule the jersey retirement ceremony. But this guy cannot trot onto the field on Sunday or it undercuts any concept of accountability that Frank Reich is trying to instill.
15. Buffalo Bills (6-3) - That goal line stand against the Browns was impressive. And that right there shows why this team is going to be a tough out in January. The problem is that Josh Allen still stinks. He missed two easy fourth down throws. And I literally have never seen a worse deep ball thrower, maybe ever. I swear I've never seen Allen complete a pass more than 15 yards downfield. Yet all anyone talks about is his arm strength. Any time you see him wind up and lob the ball deep, you just know he is going to miss the mark by at least eight yards.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4) - The Steelers just keep paying out to their backers, and they are now on a league-best 6-1 ATS run. However, they have been outgained in four of their last five games, and that's usually an indicator that a team is starting to take on water. The Steelers have also benefitted from playing five of their last six games at home. The Steelers haven't lost to the Browns since 2014, but they are just 4-1 ATS in their last five in the series.
17. Oakland Raiders (5-4) - I know the Raiders are playing well, winning two straight and four of their last six. But there is no way that I trust them as this large of a favorite. Oakland is 7-1 ATS in its last eight home games, but this is just the second time they have been laying points all year. The first was two weeks ago versus Detroit. And the Raiders were lucky to escape with a win there.
18. Los Angeles Chargers (4-5) - The Chargers offensive line was absolutely pathetic against the Raiders, and I don't see how it is going to improve any time soon. The Raiders pass rush led to three Phil Rivers interceptions. But it was actually worse than that, as Rivers had two more picks that were called back due to penalties. Rivers has eight interceptions in his last six games and is on pace for his most turnovers since 2016.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) - It will be interesting to see how Nick Foles comes back from his injury. There has to be some rust to knock off. And I want to see if he is a little gun shy in the pocket after missing the last two months with a broken collarbone. The road team in the Colts series is a horrendous 1-8 SU. However, the Jaguars are on an 8-0 ATS run against their AFC South rivals.
20. Chicago Bears (4-5) - Drafting David Montgomery might have been the worst thing to happen to this Bears offense. It's not that Montgomery is a bad back. But his presence led them to dump Jordan Howard. And it has also led to Montgomery taking touches from Tarik Cohen. Cohen turned 170 rushes and receptions into 1,169 yards and eight touchdowns last year. This season he is on pace for just 120 touches, 521 yards and four touchdowns. The Bears have to find more (and better) ways to get the ball into the hands of one of their best playmakers.
21. Tennessee Titans (5-5) - Just another ridiculous fluke win in a season full of ridiculous fluke wins for the Titans. They shouldn't even have covered the spread in that game against the Chiefs, much less won the game outright. Toss in garbage last-second wins over the Bucs and Chargers, and the reality is that this Titans squad should be on a six-game losing streak rather than winners of three of four.
22. Detroit Lions (3-5-1) - I'm kind of confused by the books waiting on the Dallas-Detroit line this week. Matt Stafford has fractured bones in his back. He's not playing this week. And the odds are pretty good that he will shut it down for the season. The wheels have come off for this team, and they are on an 0-4 ATS slide. Detroit is also just 2-5 ATS in its last seven home games, and right now the are a wreck on both sides of the ball.
23. Cleveland Browns (3-6) - Do you know how you can tell that Cleveland is a joke and a poorly-coached team? They were 2-6 and barely beating the Bills in a game they should've been up 20 points in, and a bunch of Browns players were continuously and emphatically celebrating the simplest of accomplishments. The fact that the Browns don't have a fullback, or that they don't use a tight end as a lead blocker in a 'heavy' or goal line package, is just further proof that Freddie Kitchens has little idea what he is doing.
24. Denver Broncos (3-6) - It has taken a bit, but the Vic Fangio Effect is starting to take hold on the Denver defense. They are No. 4 in total defense, No. 4 in pass defense and No. 7 in points allowed. After giving up an average of 23.3 points per game in their first four, the Broncos have yielded just 15.4 per game over their last six. Denver is 16-7 ATS following a bye week but just 7-15 ATS in their last 22 road games.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) - My gut feeling is that the Bucs are going to take the bait and this offseason they are going to sign Jameis Winston to a long-term deal. He is completing below 60 percent of his passes this season and has 14 interceptions (along with 10 fumbles) this season. The guy is a joke. But that makes him a perfect match for this franchise. The Bucs have gone 'over' in seven straight games, and their defense absolutely can't stop anyone.
26. Arizona Cardinals (3-6-1) - The Cardinals are in a decent situational spot this week against the 49ers. San Francisco is in a letdown situation and on a short week after their overtime loss to Seattle on Monday Night Football. Also, the 49ers might take Arizona a bit lightly since San Fran just manhandled the Cardinals two weeks ago. Regardless, Arizona is on a 5-1 ATS run, and they are a solid 7-3 ATS on the season.
27. Atlanta Falcons (2-7) - It's not a great sign for Dan Quinn that his defense instantly and miraculously got better the moment he was no longer in charge of it. Matt Ryan has dominated Carolina's Cover-2 in recent years. Atlanta is 6-1 SU and ATS in the last seven meetings with the Panthers.
28. Miami Dolphins (2-7) - I don't understand why, leading 3-0 early in the second quarter, Brian Flores decided to go for it on 4th-and-goal from the 3-yard-line rather than taking the points and going ahead 6-0. Flores isn't the only one. It happened over and over and over again on Sunday. I don't understand what these coaches have against just taking the points! I know they all want to seem like these aggressive, go-for-broke kind of coaches. But most of the time when they make those decisions, it is ridiculous and doesn't work. Be aggressive going for it around your opponent's 40-yard-line when you are on the cusp of field goal range. But when you have an easy three points, take them.
29. New York Jets (2-7) - Even after last week's ATS win, the Jets are just 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games overall. New York is 1-4 ATS against fellow below-.500 teams and they are 1-4 ATS on the road. Last week was one of the biggest games on the Jets' schedule. They won it. Now I fully expect them to go back to sucking.
30. New York Giants (2-7) - For as well as Daniel Jones was throwing the ball on Sunday - and he has shown some outstanding accuracy through his rookie year - it is absolutely asinine that Jones can't hold onto the ball. He had three more fumbles, he's lost eight - EIGHT! - fumbles in four games, and Jamal Adams' strip-and-score completely changed the game.
31. Washington Redskins (1-8) - I understand the theory that Washington's season is over so why not give Dwayne Haskins as many reps as he can get. But I actually don't agree with them going to Haskins right now. When you watch him play, he is obviously overwhelmed and is pretty terrible. You can definitely stunt a young quarterback's growth by playing him too early. They develop bad habits and get shell-shocked and that can stay with them for a long time.
32. Cincinnati Bengals (0-9) - You know what has been driving me insane? Whenever I go to NBA.com, the page stops me and asks if I would turn off my ad blocker. Are you kidding me? This league generated over $8 billion in revenue last year! And they still want to inundate me with ads when I just want to check some scores? GTFO. Oh, and the Bengals? Yeah, they still suck.
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