NFL Power Rankings Week 2
The time between Week 1 and Week 2 of the NFL season is one of my favorite times of the sports betting year.
We have seven months between the Super Bowl in February and the start of the regular season in September. In those seven months, everyone and their sister has some kind of opinion about what the following season will entail. The NFL gets analyzed and overanalyzed and hyper-overanalyzed until we get to the point where people have talked themselves into Freddie Kitchens and the Browns winning the Super Bowl.
Then, after one drunken week of watching Week 1 games, all of a sudden those seven months of wild projections and predictions are out the window. And in their place is a bettor’s arch-enemy: certainty.
Let’s look at some of the highlights and headlines following last week’s action:
“Tom Brady is finished!”
“Philip Rivers is done!”
“Mitch Trubisky has turned the corner!”
“The Ravens and Chiefs will both go undefeated (even though they play each other) and the NFL will re-write the rules so that both teams can meet in the Super Bowl!”
Week 2 in the NFL is the overreaction week. And you can see it in the betting action. Six of the games have seen their spreads shift by at least three points from their initial release. Nine of the games currently have at least 70 percent of the betting action on one side.
That type of certainty is death.
Last year Baltimore won 59-10 in Week 1. The following week they barely survived a 23-17 game against Arizona as a 13-point favorite. Tennessee won 43-13 in last year’s opener only to turn around and lose 19-17 at home to the Colts. Six underdogs won outright in Week 2 last year, and the puppies went 9-7 against the spread.
In fact, NFL underdogs are 36-28 over the last four years in Week 2. When you consider the overwhelming and unbalanced action on the favorites, this has been one of the sportsbooks’ most profitable weeks of the season each of the last four years.
So forget what you know and what you think you know. We still have a long way to go in this story.
Here is Doc’s Sports NFL Power Rankings:
1. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) – One of the most overrated handicapping angles in the NFL is the belief that teams that played on Thursday benefit from having “extra days to prepare”. I will admit that I am guilty of leaning on this angle in the past. But there is absolutely no statistical data to back up the claim. So, if you’re backing Kansas City this weekend, don’t claim that as a reason. Instead just say, “I’m betting on Patrick Mahomes” and point to the fact that the Chiefs are 6-1 SU and ATS in their last seven games against the Chargers.
2. New Orleans Saints (1-0) – Michael Thomas is out this week. Whatever is the Saints offense to do? How will Drew Brees, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, cope? How are Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Emmanuel Sanders, Jared Cook, Taysom Hill and Sean Payton going to perform without Thomas? How can this offense handle a Raiders defense that gave up 30 points to Brees’ former backup last week? Oh, and the Saints are 35-16 ATS in their last 51 road games.
3. Baltimore Ravens (1-0) – So much for the Ravens having a letdown after last season. The sophistication of their offense is only overshadowed by the ruthless efficiency in which they run it. I was banking on opposing defenses being better prepared for Baltimore’s run-heavy scheme this year. And Cleveland was; they just couldn’t stop it. I don’t think the Texans’ flimsy front seven will either. Baltimore is 10-2 ATS in their last 12 overall and 4-0 ATS as a road favorite.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) – I don’t know if there is a more enjoyable defense in the NFL to watch than Pittsburgh’s. The complexity of their scheme and the ferocity of their attack is some old-school s#!t, and it is awesome to watch. And how was Bud Dupree not the AFC Defensive Player of the Week? He owned the Giants and almost singlehandedly won that game on Monday night. The Steelers are just 4-10 ATS as a favorite but 5-2 ATS at home.
5. Seattle Seahawks (1-0) – Russell Wilson has never received an MVP vote. Think about that for a second. Wilson is easily one of the five best players in the NFL, on offense or defense, and he proved it again by decimating a pretty good Atlanta team. Now he’ll get a chance to do it again in prime time against the Patriots. Seattle and New England have only played four times in the last 15 years, with all four meetings decided by a touchdown or less and an average margin of victory of just 3.5 points.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) – Everyone is piling on against the Bucs this week. But into the fourth quarter they were down just 24-17 to one of the best teams in football, on the road, with 10 of New Orleans’ points coming off a pick-six and a field goal set up by a turnover. The Bucs are fine. Granted, I did say that I didn’t think Tom Brady was a great fit for Bruce Arians’ offense. But they didn’t play as poorly as they are getting accused of last week.
7. Buffalo Bills (1-0) – Are the Bills trying to get Josh Allen killed? Allen was Buffalo’s leading rusher with 14 attempts. At least half of them were designed runs, and they led to two fumbles and a number of huge hits. Allen’s overall numbers and his accuracy were fine. But the fumbles, the excessive hits, and two embarrassing throws on what would’ve been wide open touchdowns, do take a little of the shine off an otherwise outstanding effort. The Bills are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 road games.
8. Tennessee Titans (1-0) – You can pretend to ignore it all you want, but the reality is that Ryan Tannehill did not look good and did not play well at all on Monday. There are plenty of qualifiers that can explain his poor effort. But the more likely one is that Tannehill is primed for a regression season after playing way over his head last year. The Titans are 5-1 ATS in their last six against the Jaguars and 5-0 ATS in their last five at home against Jacksonville.
9. New England Patriots (1-0) – I said it all offseason: I’m not in a hurry to bet against Bill Belichick. And you shouldn’t be either. That said, I’m not going to go gaga over Cam Newton and the Patriots after one win over Miami. I’m willing to bet that they aren’t going to run for 200+ yards against the Seahawks on Sunday, so we’ll see if they have a counterpunch. The Patriots are 7-3 ATS on the road and 35-16 ATS as an underdog. But they are 0-5 ATS against a team with a winning record.
10. San Francisco 49ers (0-1) – This team is getting sawed in half by injuries. Richard Sherman is out. George Kittle is out. People can point the finger at Jimmy G., but right now he’s throwing passes to a three-legged golden retriever and an 8-year-old on a Segway. The Niners should still be able to squash a pathetic Giants team. But they are just 7-20 ATS as a favorite, and laying a touchdown on the road seems like a dicey proposition.
11. Green Bay Packers (1-0) – If the Packers drafted Jordan Love to piss off and/or motivate Aaron Rodgers: mission accomplished. And for the second week in a row he will get to face a depleted secondary featuring way too many rookies when the Lions come to town. Green Bay swept Detroit last year, but the two wins were by a combined four points. And Detroit has won four of the last six meetings outright while going 6-0 ATS.
12. Arizona Cardinals (1-0) – My top play of Week 1 was on Arizona (+7) over San Francisco. I have seriously been waiting all summer for that bet to cash. The Cardinals offense was relentless against the 49ers. But Arizona’s improved defense is what really stood out. Kyler Murray will have another tall task this weekend against Washington’s fearsome front. But the Cardinals will only cover the spread this week if the defense is as sturdy this week. Arizona is just 2-6 ATS in its last eight games as a favorite.
13. Indianapolis Colts (0-1) – When people tell you who they are – listen. Phil Rivers has been telling all of us for years that he is an erratic, turnover prone psychopath. So, I deserve all the blame for thinking that he would be any different in Indianapolis. After 17 years of watching Rivers lose games EXACTLY like the one he just dumped in Jacksonville, I shouldn’t be surprised that he blew it last Sunday. (T.Y. Hilton didn’t help.) But if form holds, he’ll throw for 440 yards and four touchdowns this week against Minnesota and make everyone think his effort in Jacksonville was a bug and not a feature.
14. Minnesota Vikings (0-1) – So, about those defensive replacements…It’s safe to say that the Vikings are rethinking their offseason secondary purge after Rodgers treated them like Jon Jones facing a blind 15-year-old on Sunday. That performance wasn’t a one-off; Minnesota’s defensive depth chart looks pretty awful right now. And going on the road to face a desperate Colts team is not at all what this group needs right now.
15. Los Angeles Chargers (1-0) – Look, I have defended Tyrod Taylor for years. His limitations are obvious. But the reality is that Philip Rivers threw for nearly 400 yards, turned the ball over a bunch, and his team lost a close game in the final seconds. Taylor was underwhelming. But he didn’t turn the ball over, and his team – the same Chargers team that has choked away dozens of these types of games – ended up winning a three-point game in the final seconds.
16. Dallas Cowboys (0-1) – Listening to Mike McCarthy blame ‘analytics’ for that horrendous call to go for it on 4th-and-3 from the Rams 11 down three points in the fourth quarter is like listening to my seven-year-old blame his sister for why he didn’t clean up his dishes after breakfast. This looks like the same old group of losers, and their young secondary should have its hands full with a stacked Falcons receiving corps this week. That’s a big reason the Falcons-Cowboys total is a whopping 53.0 this week, the highest on the board.
17. Los Angeles Rams (1-0) – I will give the Rams defense credit for only allowing 17 points to a powerful Cowboys offense. However, they would’ve surrendered over 400 total yards if not for that terrible OPI call late in the game. I think the public is overreacting to that Dallas win. Around 75% of the action in the Rams-Eagles game is coming down on Los Angeles, and this spread has moved from -3.5 to a ‘pick’. That seems premature.
18. Atlanta Falcons (0-1) – I know the score suggests differently, but I didn’t think the Falcons played that poorly against Seattle. The Seahawks were just a vastly superior team. Atlanta’s pass rush was improved. But their reconfigured secondary couldn’t cover, and Atlanta just wasn’t physical enough to stand up to Seattle’s running game. Atlanta is 13-3 ATS in Week 2 over the last 16 years, and they are 5-1 ATS in their last six games as an underdog.
19. Chicago Bears (1-0) – Let’s not get too giggly about Mitch Trubisky’s fourth quarter comeback against the Lions. He’s still the second-best quarterback on the Bears roster and worst starter in this division. The Bears defense will have to tighten up against the run vs. the Giants this week. The Bears are just 3-10 ATS in their last 13 games and 1-6 ATS as a favorite.
20. Detroit Lions (0-1) – How the hell does Matt Patricia still have a job? Detroit should fire that massive loser immediately and re-hire Jim Caldwell to do something with what is a halfway decent roster. Darrell Bevell (calling first down pass plays in the fourth quarter with a two-touchdown lead) and De’Andre Swift (dropping game winning touchdown passes) certainly didn’t help. But Patricia’s Lions have now lost 10 straight games.
21. Houston Texans (0-1) – The Texans have faced the Ravens in two of the last three years, losing both meetings. Houston got freight-trained 41-7 on the road against the Ravens last season. And if their opener against Kansas City was any indication, the Texans rush defense is not going to be up to task against Baltimore’s multi-dimensional running game. The Texans are 3-7 ATS at home and 5-11 ATS against teams with a winning record.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (0-1) – You can feel the panic quickly setting in on this team. They’ve made a flurry of moves this week to try to shore up their offensive line, which is a major problem. Now Zach Ertz, whose body language was awful on Sunday, is griping about his contract. Also, the team has been soft-selling injuries all preseason long, so their banged up roster is in worse shape than it seems. Expect a desperate effort from this group on Sunday against the Rams, a team the Eagles are 6-0 ATS in the last six meetings against.
23. Denver Broncos (0-1) – Injuries and attrition are killing this team right now. Von Miller and Courtland Sutton are already out. Now the team is set to lose A.J. Bouye and Philip Lindsey for a few weeks. They are down to two rookies among their top three cornerbacks, and this week they will be rolling with just five of the 11 starters from last year’s defense. Denver has covered five straight against the Steelers, and the underdog is 8-2 ATS in this series.
24. Las Vegas Raiders (1-0) – This week’s MNF game against the Saints would have a completely different feel to it if fans were allowed in the stadium. The Raiders are really losing out on the energy that a packed house would bring into their new home. The Raiders are 5-1 ATS in their last six Monday Night Football games, but they are just 16-34 ATS following a win.
25. Cleveland Browns (0-1) – Odell Beckham is a chump. Everyone always talks about how talented he is. But this guy drops a ridiculous amount of passes and blows a lot of routine plays. His body language and overall negativity is just a drain on his team’s psyche, and he isn’t worth the hassle.
26. Washington Football Team (1-0) – This is the game from Week 1 that I wish I had bet more on. I have been saying all offseason that I like this team and that they have the talent to field a Top 10 defense. They had eight sacks on Sunday and dominated most of that game. The problem is still Dwayne Haskins. I don’t care what his numbers were, and I don’t care that he gave a halftime speech. This guy is a terrible quarterback, and I am expecting the ball to either sail wildly over its intended target or get intercepted every time it leaves his hands.
27. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) – Time will tell if the Bengals offensive line is really that bad or if the Chargers front four is that dominating. Joe Burrow simply never had any time to throw. By the third quarter he had happy feet and missed some open throws down the field. It should be an easier task this week against the Browns, and Cincinnati has gone 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games against Cleveland.
28. Miami Dolphins (0-1) – This Miami-Buffalo line is on one of the biggest movers from its offseason open (3.0) to its current position (6.0). Some of that is an overreaction to the Week 1 results, and some of that is the fact that over 80 percent of the action in this game is on Buffalo. The Dolphins are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games and 4-1 ATS in their last five home games.
29. New York Giants (0-1) – Daniel Jones is still a turnover machine. The worst part about that horrible, game-changing goal line interception is that no one was open! New York was on an epic 19-play drive and had a chance to take the lead. Jones should’ve just airmailed that one through the end zone and moved on to the next down. I don’t blame him for New York’s trouble moving the ball – that offensive line was a sieve – but he is solely to blame for those turnovers, and we’ll see if his ball security improves at all against a ball-hawking Bears defense. The Giants are 12-3 ATS on the road and 10-2 ATS as a road dog.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) – I have been saying since last year that Gardner Minshew is a legit NFL starting quarterback. He is better than at least 10 other starters in this league. He’s accurate, makes good decisions, and is a gamer. The Jaguars defense, however, has major work to do. They allowed 445 yards for the game. And that was with Indianapolis making some major miscues. If the Jags don’t figure something out on that side of the ball, Minshew won’t get a chance to work his magic much this season.
31. Carolina Panthers (0-1) – I have no earthly idea why the Panthers wouldn’t give the ball to Christian McCaffrey on fourth-and-one from near midfield with just over a minute to play. Carolina’s four rookie defensive starters had some moments. But it is a massive red flag that this team allowed 34 points to a Raiders offense that’s running a playbook from 1995.
32. New York Jets (0-1) – What a debacle. If the Jets had been playing just a more competent powerhouse team, they would’ve lost 40-3 in that opening game. Missed opportunities (and field goals) are the only thing that kept that Bills game as close as it was. New York is dealing with a cluster of injuries at the offensive skill positions, and their secondary was atrocious last week. If the Jets front seven defends the run like it did against Buffalo, they stand a chance this weekend. If not, they will lose by 20.
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