NFL Power Rankings Week 14
Bill Belichick is the greatest coach in the history of North American team sports. That’s not meant to be a “hot take” or anything. There might be someone out there that would make an argument against my statement. But that argument would be wrong.
There is one very specific thing that all sports bettors should note about Belichick and try to adopt in their gambling: flexibility.
Part of what makes Belichick a genius is his mental flexibility. He has a core belief system: do your job, execute, and be physical and disciplined on both sides of the ball. But Belichick isn’t so stubborn that he can’t adapt his team and his scheme to optimize his odds of winning.
I absolutely loved his game plan on Monday Night Football, throwing just three passes – the fewest in a win in the NFL in over 40 years – and running the ball 46 times down Buffalo’s throat. I’ve also seen Belichick work a game plan in which he threw the ball 25 consecutive times (against the Steelers in 2002). The guy doesn’t care; he’ll do what he has to do to win.
I read an article on New England’s website in which Belichick attributes his flexibility to the teachings of Sun Tzu and “The Art of War”. He was quoted as saying:
"Look at the great generals, you exploit your strengths and attack weaknesses. That's about as fundamental as it gets. If there's something that you can do well, you want to try to do it. If there is something that your opponent is weak at, you want to try to attack it, and if you can match those up, then that's a good way of attack."
I bring this up because I think that too many sports bettors can get too rigid and to too obstinate when it comes to their approach to gambling. Yes, it is good to have a foundational system and core belief system. Stick to the basics. And I don’t mean to suggest that bettors should blow with the breeze of consensus within the general public. However, I think that bettors – in all sports – should always be open to change and should be flexible. Sports all change over time. So, trying to handicap them or wager on them the same way now that we did in 2010 is foolish.
Doc’s Sports offers NFL expert picks for every game on our NFL predictions page.
Here is Doc’s Sports NFL Power Rankings:
1. Green Bay Packers (9-3) – It really doesn’t matter what the spread is this week against the Bears; you are a fool if you don’t blindly bet Green Bay to win and cover against Chicago. The Packers are 21-7 against the spread in their last 28 games against their ‘rival’.
2. Arizona Cardinals (10-2) – The Cardinals should be at least a little concerned with the way they were pushed around by the Bears last Sunday. Chicago bullied the Cardinals for over four yards per rush, and Arizona allowed the Bears to A) outgain them and B) go 3-for-3 in the red zone.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3) – I was surprised that the spread in the Bills-Bucs game actually dropped from 3.5 to 3.0. Tampa Bay has a situational advantage this week. Buffalo is playing on a short week and off a rivalry game. The Bucs are home, healthy and on a three-game SU and ATS winning streak. I would not be surprised to see this line go back up before kickoff.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) – I don’t know if I have ever seen a bigger in-season turnaround from a single group as I have from the Kansas City defense. I mean, these guys couldn’t stop you, me and nine of our friends from ringing up 400 yards and 30 points. Then suddenly they are the 1985 Bears. It is insane, and this team has now held three of four opponents below 10 points while the ‘under’ has hit in six of the past seven games.
5. New England Patriots (9-4) – I know that a late season bye is advantageous. But when you are as hot as the Patriots are right now, I would think that you would want to keep playing.
6. Baltimore Ravens (8-4) – That Marlon Humphrey injury is just a killer for Baltimore. Their secondary has been decimated by injuries. And this is a secondary that has already been victimized by glaring, nonsensical breakdowns all season long.
7. Tennessee Titans (8-4) – I know that the Titans were able to get healthier during their bye week. However, I still don’t love this team in the role of big favorite. Over the last four seasons, the Titans have only been a favorite of seven or more points eight times. They are 2-6 ATS in those games, including losing outright as a 10.5-point favorite to the Texans last month.
8. Indianapolis Colts (7-6) – Indianapolis is converting a whopping 56 percent of their third downs over the last three weeks. Their plus-13 turnover differential also leads the NFL.
9. Los Angeles Rams (8-4) – I still think the Rams are frauds. They excel at beating up on loser teams like the Jaguars. But outside of their win over Tampa Bay – which was almost three months ago – Los Angeles has done nothing but wilt against top competition. The Rams are 8-1 ATS in their last nine games against the Cardinals, and they are 6-0 ATS in their last six games in Arizona.
10. Dallas Cowboys (8-4) – The Cowboys are converting just 24.4 percent of their third downs over the last three games. They have too many weapons to be that bad on such an important down. The Cowboys are 16-7 ATS in their last 23 divisional games and they are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games in Washington.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (7-5) – The public got buried by the Bengals last Sunday. Look, young teams are going to be erratic. They are going to look like world-beaters one week, like Cincinnati did against Pittsburgh, and they are going to look sloppy the next, like the Bengals did against the Chargers. This team is a better underdog than it is a favorite (2-5 ATS in last seven as a home favorite).
12. Buffalo Bills (7-5) – There is plenty of blame to go around for Buffalo’s loss on Monday. Tyler Bass. The OC and DC. Stef Diggs. Dawson Knox. Etc. But Josh Allen missed two wide open receivers on Buffalo’s final two drives, when connecting on either throw would’ve likely been a game-winning touchdown. Allen also waited too long to start running the ball to extend drives (with positive yardage) rather than just extending plays. Allen didn’t play well, and he’s the primary reason the Bills lost that game.
13. Los Angeles Chargers (7-5) – This defense just can’t get off the field. The Chargers are allowing 58 percent third down conversions to their opponents over the last month. They got bailed out by turnovers last Sunday in Cincinnati, but this team has not adjusted well to Brandon Staley’s defensive scheme this year.
14. San Francisco 49ers (6-6) – The Yards Per Point Monster has been coming for the 49ers. This team is No. 6 in the league in total defense. But they are 20th in scoring defense. Their 13.8 defensive yards per point is seventh worst in the NFL, putting them in the same range as loser teams like Chicago, Houston and Carolina. Only three teams in the bottom 10 of the league in DYPP are at .500: the 49ers, Cleveland and Las Vegas.
15. Cleveland Browns (6-6) – For all the criticism of the Browns offense, they really aren’t any different from last year’s unit. Last season the Browns were 16th in total offense, 24th in passing, 3rd in rushing and 14th in scoring. This year Cleveland is 17th, 24th, 3rd and 19th in scoring. They are only averaging three fewer points per game this season.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) – I made one of the largest wagers of my NFL season on Saturday when I found out that Gardner Minshew would be starting for the Eagles at the Jets. I’m not knocking Jalen Hurts, who I really like. I just knew that the Eagles would rally around Minshew, a guy that absolutely should be starting for some team in the NFL.
17. Miami Dolphins (6-7) – Normally I think that teams would prefer a later bye week. But this absolutely the wrong time for the Dolphins to have a week off. You don’t want anything to kill the momentum of a five-game winning streak, but I’m afraid that’s exactly what is going to happen as these players run around South Beach for the next week.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5-1) – It didn’t take long for everyone to get back on the Steelers bandwagon. They are taking over 60 percent of the action in this Thursday’s game against the Vikings. The Steelers are 4-1 ATS in their last five Thursday night games, and they are 13-5 ATS in their last 18 games as a road underdog. Pittsburgh is 36-17 ATS in its last 53 games as an underdog overall.
19. Minnesota Vikings (5-7) – Xavier Woods and Cameron Dantzler have got to be absolutely kidding me. They were the two players in the Vikings secondary that were inexplicably giving up ground to Amon-Ra St. Brown on Detroit’s final play of the game. That was some breathtaking stupidity. Also, it looks like Adam Thielen is going to miss this Thursday’s game against Pittsburgh.
20. New Orleans Saints (5-7) – Last week’s home loss – thanks to Taysom Hill turnovers – marked the first time in his career that Sean Payton has lost five games in a row. It’s pretty sad when the most successful offensive play the Saints had last week was the 1930’s-era single-wing action of snapping the ball directly to the quarterback and having him run it between the tackles. These guys have to figure out how to throw the ball, or December is going to be a long month for them.
21. Las Vegas Raiders (6-6) – I don’t see how the Raiders recover, mentally and emotionally, from that loss to Washington on Sunday. Derek Carr missed a potential game-winning touchdown by inches (the Raiders would settle for a go-ahead field goal). Tre’von Moehrig dropped a potential game-winning interception on Washington’s final drive. And they lost to a last-second field goal. This team has been through the ringer the last two months. I think this game was the final straw.
22. Denver Broncos (6-6) – The Broncos are just 4-11 ATS in their last 15 games as a home favorite. This week marks the largest spread the Broncos have laid out since they were -10.5 in a September home game against the Jets. The Broncos are just 3-6 ATS in their last nine games overall. But Denver is also 11-5 ATS in its last 16 games against sub-.500 opponents.
23. Washington Football Team (6-6) – Last year Washington swept the season series with Dallas for the first time since 2012 and just the third time since 1996. The underdog is an amazing 29-13 ATS in the last 42 meetings between Washington and Dallas, and the home team is 5-2 ATS in the last seven.
24. Atlanta Falcons (5-7) – Not a great 24 hours for North Georgia football fans. First, the Georgia Bulldogs get humiliated by Alabama in the SEC championship game, and then, on the same field, the Falcons get their playoff aspirations snuffed out by Tom Brady and the Bucs.
25. Carolina Panthers (5-7) – I cannot believe that Matt Rhule cut bait with offensive coordinator Joe Brady. I have no idea how Brady is being scapegoated for Carolina’s putrid offense this season, when the Panthers have essentially relied on a wet mop at quarterback and a traffic cone at running back.
26. Seattle Seahawks (4-8) – Gerald Everett had to have been the happiest Seahawk in Seattle’s locker room last week after nearly single-handedly costing his team a win by causing not one, but two turnovers, in the end zone.
27. Chicago Bears (4-8) – Nick Foles! Why haven’t the Bears played Nick Foles this year? Why is he not their starting quarterback? On what planet is Andy Dalton a better option than Foles? Dalton’s four interceptions killed any hope Chicago had of winning last week, and this team is way too talented to be 4-8 right now. Clean house immediately.
28. New York Giants (4-8) – It appears that Jake Fromm is the Next Man Up for the Giants at the quarterback position. New York picked Fromm off Buffalo’s practice squad last week
29. Detroit Lions (1-10-1) – The Lions have covered the spread in four straight games and six of their last eight. This team just keeps playing hard, and I think they will continue to do so even after getting the winless monkey off their back. Detroit has gone 4-0 ATS in its last four road games, losing by 3, 9 and 2 points and tying with Pittsburgh.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) – The Jaguars alienated 1,000-yard running back Leonard Fournette and then let him walk last year in a move of staggering ineptitude. After last week’s benching, and plenty of issues with his usage this year, it looks like the Jaguars are alienating 1,000-yard running back James Robinson this year as well.
31. New York Jets (3-9) – The Jets have now had seven kickers since the start of the 2019 season. That is insane and is kind of the epitome of the depravity and incompetence of Woody Johnson’s organization.
32. Houston Texans (2-10) – Weird: Tyrod Taylor is hurt again. Davis Mills isn’t a CFL-caliber quarterback, so there is only one way to play this group down the stretch. Also, I think Detroit is going to win another game this year. So, Houston is going to be knocking on the door of the No. 1 overall pick, with next week’s game at Jacksonville playing a huge role in who ends up with that selection.
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