NFL Power Rankings Week 9
One of the defining characteristics of this NFL season is the massive inequality between the top and bottom tiers. The good teams are really, really good, and the bad teams are completely and totally pathetic. This flies in the face of the NFL’s structure, which is to promote parity, but it seems like a 2020 truism.
The clearest indication of the disparity between the top and bottom teams could be found in last week’s matchup between the teams I have at the top and the bottom of the my power rankings: Kansas City and the New York Jets, respectively. The Chiefs opened as a 20.5-point favorite, the biggest spread since 2013 and one of the largest spreads in the past 45 seasons.
This is the clearest example of the NFL’s imbalance, but it is hardly the only one. Right now, there are 14 teams with five or more wins, and there are 11 teams with two wins or less.
The problem becomes when NFL bettors start to assume that these teams are going to continue on their current trajectory, though. The assumption is that the good teams are good and will continue to win and the bad teams are bad and will continue to lose. That’s how it goes, right?
The league expanded to 32 teams and four divisions back in 2002. In the 18 seasons since, there have been 85 teams that have finished the season with four wins or fewer. That’s an average of 4.7 teams per season winning four games or less. And over the last 10 seasons, an average of 4.6 NFL teams have won four games or less.
The high-water mark for incompetence was 2005, when a whopping seven teams finished 4-12 or worse. There were three other seasons where six teams won four games or less.
Also, since 2002, there have been 192 teams that won 10 or more games. That’s an 18-year average of 10.7 teams with double-digit wins per season with a high-water mark of 13 in 2012, 2010 and 2003.
Why does all this matter? It matters because over the next two months several of the “good” teams are going to come off the rails. And during that same time, some of the lower-tier squads are going to catch fire – or at least show some baseline competence – and start to put some wins and some quality efforts together.
It is going to be crucial for bettors to identify the teams that are overachieving and underachieving at this point and the ones that are primed to turn it around, for good or ill. The bettors that can lock in on these teams are the ones that are going to be in the best position to cash in over these last two months while the general public gets fleeced because they assume that things this season are going to continue along as they have been.
Here is Doc’s Sports NFL Power Rankings:
1. Kansas City Chiefs (7-1) – In a bit of a scheduling quirk, this week the Chiefs will take on their first NFC opponent. Kansas City is actually just 3-7 ATS in their last 10 regular season games against NFC opponents, and you have to wonder about their motivation level this week against a Panthers team they haven’t seen in four years.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-0) – It is easy to expect a letdown from the Steelers this week after back-to-back emotional wins over the Titans and Ravens. However, the Steelers are 7-4 ATS in their last 11 games following a game against Baltimore. I’d be more worried about them playing a third road game in three weeks than any manner of emotional letdown.
3. Baltimore Ravens (5-2) – Marlon Humphrey will miss this week’s clash with Indianapolis due to a positive COVID-19 test. However, six other players, as yet unnamed, have been put on the COVID list due to being in close contact with Humphrey.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2) – Tampa Bay absolutely has to use Mike Evans more. I understand that Tom Brady loves throwing to his small, quick slot guys. Move Evans into the slot more, then. It is criminal how they are underutilizing one of their best weapons.
5. Seattle Seahawks (6-1) – For all the talk about Seattle’s amazing home-field advantage, the Seahawks have become one of the best road teams in the NFL. Seattle is 14-5 ATS in their last 19 road games, and they are already 2-0 SU and ATS in the Eastern Time Zone this year.
6. Tennessee Titans (5-2) – I’m not going to bail on this team just yet, even though the numbers for them just do not add up. The Titans are just 2-5 ATS this year, and four of their wins have come by three points or fewer or in OT. The fact that they are sporting the No. 25-ranked defense and that they couldn’t get any pressure on a Bengals offensive line that was down three starters is another red flag. This team is tricky.
7. New Orleans Saints (5-2) – The Saints should get back Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders this week. They also made a savvy deadline move to bring in veteran linebacker Kwon Alexander, who is still a hitter.
8. Green Bay Packers (5-2) – This is Green Bay’s third trip to San Francisco in less than a year, and it is their fourth meeting with the 49ers in the last two years. The Packers are 0-3 ATS in those previous meetings, and the Niners physically manhandled them last winter. So, it is more than a little troubling to watch the Packers get pushed around by the Vikings last week just a few days before taking on San Fran.
9. Indianapolis Colts (5-2) – I’m all in on Nyheim Hines becoming the new Colts goal line back if it means more impressive acrobatics after he scores. This is a huge game for the Philip Rivers. He has been the weak link on this offense this year. And Rivers is going to face a relentless Ravens blitz scheme all afternoon. Can Rivers keep from making the backbreaking turnovers that have been the hallmark of his career?
10. Arizona Cardinals (5-2) – The Cardinals have become a big “buzz” team and had a lot of hype going into their week off. That’s why it is a bit surprising that 60 percent of the early action this week is going on Miami and against the Cardinals. Arizona is on an 8-2 ATS run but they are just 2-5 ATS as a favorite.
11. Los Angeles Rams (5-3) – The Rams’ loss last Sunday snapped a 53-game winning streak by teams that had outgained their opponents by 300 or more yards. The Rams get a much-needed week off this week after a brutal first half schedule that has seen them make four cross country flights.
12. Buffalo Bills (6-2) – Underdogs of 2.5 or less this year have gone 18-3 ATS. The Bills are currently catching less than a field goal at home against the Seahawks this Sunday. However, Buffalo is 0-4 ATS as an underdog and 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games as a home underdog.
13. San Francisco 49ers (4-4) – The 49ers have been playing shorthanded all season long, so going into Thursday night’s game undermanned is nothing new for them. San Francisco is 7-3 ATS against teams above .500 and they are 7-2 ATS in their last nine games as an underdog. They are, however, just 3-7 ATS in their last 10 Thursday night games.
14. Chicago Bears (5-3) – Am I the only one that thinks there is little shame in losing in overtime to the Saints? Also, the Bears offense hasn’t been pretty, that’s for sure. But they have faced the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 8 defenses in the NFL in four of their last five games. I’m going to keep saying it: this team is better than people are giving it credit for.
15. Las Vegas Raiders (4-3) – It’s normally a pretty great sign when you dominate time of possession by 16 minutes. The Raiders need to protect their woeful defense by making more of an effort to drain the clock. They won’t have the benefit of 30 mile per hour winds each week.
16. Miami Dolphins (4-3) – The Dolphins are now +58 in scoring differential this year, No. 6 in the NFL. They are No. 1 in scoring defense and have allowed just 11.3 points per game over their three-game winning streak. The defense is overachieving a bit. But the guy I absolutely love is Emmanuel Ogbah. The fifth-year defensive end, who Kansas City let go, is legit.
17. Cleveland Browns (5-3) – Have you ever heard the saying, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it”? There’s a similar one regarding franchise and/or winning quarterbacks: “If you have to debate whether or not a guy is a franchise quarterback, then he’s not one.”
18. Los Angeles Chargers (2-5) – What the hell do you even say about this team? That is now three losses in games in which they had leads of 17 or more points. That’s incredible. Utterly incredible. And somehow the Bolts are favored again this week, despite being just 3-8 ATS at home against the Raiders and the fact that the favorite is 5-17 ATS in the last 22 meetings between these rivals.
19. Carolina Panthers (3-5) – Maybe the Falcons have been reading my power rankings? The book on Teddy Bridgewater is pretty obvious: when you rush four, he can and will pick teams apart, making safe throws and taking calculated risks down the field, exactly what he learned studying under Drew Brees. However, when Bridgewater gets pressured and when teams blitz, he absolutely crumbles. Atlanta saw that on the tape and threw a lot of bodies at Bridgewater last Thursday. The result was his worst game of the season and an injured shoulder.
20. Denver Broncos (3-4) – I don’t think there is any doubt who the lead back of this team should be. Vic Fangio is building a team that wants to win by running the ball and dominating defensively. So that ‘lead back’ designation is actually important. Philip Lindsay is such a better player, such a better runner and such a better leader than Melvin Gordon that it’s ridiculous. That Gordon signing is just another example of how John Elway actually has no clue as a general manager.
21. New England Patriots (2-5) – It’s literally the one thing that you can’t do in the NFL – turn the ball over – and it is absolutely the one thing that Cam Newton can’t stop doing. There’s a reason he was still available this offseason to sign that bargain basement contract in the first place. The Patriots are now on a 4-10 ATS slide and they are 3-8 ATS as a favorite.
22. Detroit Lions (3-4) – So far this year, Matt Stafford is 39-for-68 (57.4 percent) for 395 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions when his team is in the lead. When Stafford is behind? He is 79-for-124 (63.7 percent) for 997 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. I’m willing to bet those numbers track pretty well with what Stafford has done his entire career.
23. Minnesota Vikings (2-5) – The Vikings have dominated the Lions over the past several years, going 5-0 SU and ATS against Detroit with an average margin of victory of 13 points per game. Minnesota is 10-5 ATS at home against Detroit and the Vikings are 38-18 ATS in their last 56 home games.
24. Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1) – That was a monster win for the Bengals. It’s not going to make a difference in this season. But after dealing with the Carlos Dunlap distraction, it was huge for the Bengals coaching staff to be able to rally their players and pull an upset win. It would’ve been a huge red flag if the Bengals had mailed it in or slept through that game against the Titans out of defiance.
25. Atlanta Falcons (2-6) – The Falcons have been favored in all four of their home games this year. They’ve lost all four of them straight up. The Falcons have done a good job beating up on bad teams, going 6-1 ATS against teams with a losing record, but Denver is a team that is a bit better than its record suggests.
26. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1) – I really wish the Eagles were in action this week. Because pretty much no matter whom they played or what the line was I would be betting against them. Philadelphia had no business even winning against that pathetic Dallas team, much less covering the spread. This team is a trash pile.
27. Houston Texans (1-6) – Just ask yourself: do you feel that Romeo Crennel effectively utilized Houston’s bye week? Me neither!
28. Washington Football Team (2-5) – This is a big situational advantage for Washington this week. They are coming off a bye, so they have had extra time to prepare. And they are facing a Giants team that is on a short week after a high-pressure Monday Night Football game against Tampa Bay that came down to the final play. Washington has lost five of six to the Giants, and they are just 2-5 ATS at home against New York.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) – I have to say I’m a little surprised that the Jaguars are going with Jake Luton this week instead of Sean Glennon. I suppose it makes sense that they’d rather see what they have with Luton than waste time on a retread like Glennon. However, this is a winnable game against an equally bad divisional opponent. I guess Doug Marrone has embraced the horror and isn’t even going to pretend to try to save his job with some wild, Hail Mary run in the second half of the season.
30. New York Giants (1-7) – Dan Jones’ 34 turnovers in his first 20 games are the most by any quarterback since Ryan Leaf turned it over 41 times in his first 20 starts. Jones also has that special Nathan Peterman quality in that every time he drops back to pass, I’m kind of expecting an INT.
31. Dallas Cowboys (2-6) – Do you know how difficult it is to go on a 0-8 ATS run in the NFL? Even an overrated POS team like the Cowboys is destined to accidentally cover a spread if you give them two months of games.
32. New York Jets (0-8) – The Jets are maintaining their pace for the worst scoring differential in NFL history. They’ve been outscored by 144 points in eight games. If they hit -288 that would beat the record set by Tampa Bay in the Bucs’ first year of existence (1976) when they were outscored by 287 points.
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