NFL Power Rankings Week 5
Compared to the average NFL head coach, my football knowledge is probably about 10 percent of what they know. Seriously. When it comes to schemes and nomenclature and all of the minutia of an actual NFL game plan, I would be completely lost. Any average NFL fan knows probably half as much as I do, and they would be lost too, so this isn’t some big revelation.
I don’t know what Flood Flank FIP R-34 Flash A-Shark or 0 Near Slot R-134 Bow Utah Trail mean. (And yes, those are actual NFL play calls from New England’s offense.) However, I do feel like I have enough knowledge to know when the right time to go for it on 4th-and-3 instead of punting is (like from the opponent’s 36-yard line) and when is the wrong time to go for a two-point conversion is (when you’re leading 23-19 with 11:15 left in the third quarter).
Analytics have grown increasingly important in the NFL game. That’s great, because it gives everyone a better understanding of the game strategy that goes into winning a game (and by extension covering a spread). The problem is that the current NFL coaches didn’t grow up with data-driven decision making, so they don’t know what to do with any of it. That’s why every week there are so many facepalm-inducing moments that pro football bettors have to endure.
It’s enough to drive you insane.
All Sunday I was certain that Mike McCarthy – the poster boy of the pud NFL coach that has absolutely no idea what he’s doing when it comes to analytics-based in-game decision – was going to cost me a huge bet thanks to two foolish two-point conversion attempts early in Dallas’ game with Carolina. Fortunately, Dak Prescott is The Man and bailed McCarthy out (like he’s been doing most of this season). But those were just two of at least 25 decisions that I saw on Sunday that had me staring at the television, dumbfounded by an NFL head coach – who has infinite more football knowledge than I do – that doesn’t understand basic math.
I always say that my biggest frustration in life is that I am forever at the whim of other people’s stupidity. Analytics are supposed to make the game easier. Instead, just like with anything technologically based, it seems to be making things more complicated and convoluted.
I wish I had a silver lining for you here. But I do not, dear reader. I am just preparing you because I expect to see more and more absurd decisions as coaches who are completely ill-equipped to do some of the most basic things (like clock management, which so many coaches still mess up) try to play 12-dimensional chess with one another in an attempt to show how “forward thinking” their “decision making matrix” is.
Sometimes it is easier to just keep things simple. But then again, what do I know?
Doc’s Sports offers NFL expert picks for every game on our NFL predictions page.
Here is Doc’s Sports NFL Power Rankings:
1. Buffalo Bills (3-1) – I would like to point out that I have had the Bills consistently ranked higher than the rest of the bobblehead media and I was the first one to place Buffalo No. 1 in my power rankings. The Bills became the second team in the last 30 years to open the season with two shutouts in their first four games. The others (1991 Washington; 2000 Baltimore) both won Super Bowls.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) – This week is a big-time letdown situation for the Bucs. It’s not just that they may be emotionally drained from a tough, physical, rain-soaked Sunday night game in Foxboro. It’s that the week before they also had a tough, physical, emotional marquee game in Los Angeles as well. This is just Tampa Bay’s second 1 p.m. kickoff. In the first, against Atlanta, Tampa Bay came out sluggish and it was just 28-25 heading into the fourth quarter.
3. Arizona Cardinals (4-0) – Arizona is No. 1 in total offense and No. 1 in scoring offense, putting up 35 points per game through their first four games. However, they are just 2-2 against the total because their underrated defense has been playing well. The Cardinals are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games against San Francisco but the favorite is 0-6 ATS in the last six meetings in this series.
4. Los Angeles Rams (3-1) – Wait, so the Rams aren’t winning the Super Bowl? I really hope that Los Angeles loses on Thursday to Seattle as well. I will admit that I might have underestimated this team a bit. But their defense is falling apart, just like I predicted. They are No. 27 in total defense, No. 25 against the pass and No. 21 against the run. They haven’t allowed a ton of points, but the Rams D looked lost against Arizona.
5. Kansas City Chiefs (2-2) – This defense cannot stop anyone. I mean, anyone. The Chiefs allowed 30 points to the Eagles – not exactly an offensive juggernaut – and Philadelphia had three other touchdowns called back by penalties. Any stop that the Chiefs defense gets at this point is purely accidental. The Chiefs are now just 3-12 ATS in their last 15 games and 1-7 ATS in their last eight home games.
6. Cleveland Browns (3-1) – All quarterbacks have bad days. I get it. But elite quarterbacks never, EVER, have days like Baker Mayfield had on Sunday. His accuracy was ATROCIOUS! He wasn’t just barely missing throws; he was overthrowing guys by 15 yards! Multiple times! That guy stinks. And Cleveland will never be a championship-caliber team with Mayfield under center.
7. Green Bay Packers (3-1) – Aaron Rodgers was DEALING on Sunday against Pittsburgh. If he throws that way against the Bengals, there is no way that the Packers don’t ring up another 30 points. I think the Packers are back to being undervalued. This team is now 29-7 SU in its last 36 regular season games, and I don’t see how they aren’t laying 4.5 against the Bengals this week.
8. Los Angeles Chargers (3-1) – It’s all about Ekeler. Austin Ekeler had 18 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns on Monday. That is eight yards every time he touched the ball. He’s averaging 5.7 yards per rush and 6.2 yards per touch this season. If he can just stay healthy, this team can play with, and beat, anyone. Now they have to show some maturity and avoid a letdown this week after their big Monday night blowout. Remember: win on Monday, lose on Sunday.
9. Seattle Seahawks (2-2) – Rusty Wilson showed in three plays why he has never lost three games in a row in his career. The first was his 19-yard sprint to the end zone for Seattle’s first touchdown. After a 49ers fumble, Wilson threw a touchdown pass two plays later to ring up 14 points in under 30 seconds. Go back and watch that TD pass again, though. He absolutely should’ve been sacked for a big loss. Not only did he escape, but he threw a laser to the end zone. Wilson is an all-timer exactly because of stuff like that.
10. Baltimore Ravens (3-1) – I know I have been critical of Lamar Jackson in the past. But I read an article about Jackson's first 1,000 passes and how he has had the best start to his career of any quarterback ever. (Yes, you read that right.) It’s pretty eye-popping stuff and worth a look. It definitely altered my perspective on him. However, the reason I am against signing him to a massive long-term contract is that, much like Cam Newton, once age or injury saps that running ability, Jackson’s efficiency is likely to plummet.
11. San Francisco 49ers (2-2) – You wanted Trey Lance? You got Trey Lance. His first extended action wasn’t pretty. And I don’t expect it to be much better this weekend on the road against a division rival. If you can want a prop bet for next week’s action, take Lance ‘Over’ 1.5 turnovers.
12. Las Vegas Raiders (3-1) – The Raiders have not scored a single point on their opening drive in 10 straight games dating back to last season. That is kind of bizarre. Las Vegas is just 20-42 ATS in its last 62 games as a favorite. Despite that, and a short week, they are catching more than 75 percent of the action in this week’s game with the Bears.
13. Dallas Cowboys (3-1) – Terrible coaching? Check. Shaky defense? Check. Overrated and overvalued by the general public? Check. The only difference between these Cowboys and the Tony Romo Cowboys is that Dak Prescott is a winner and Romo was a loser. Romo constantly found ways to turn the ball over and cost Dallas games. Prescott is money. He picked right up where he left off last year and has this offense, which is averaging 31.5 points per game, humming.
14. New Orleans Saints (2-2) – I will say it again: it is obvious that Sean Payton has zero trust in Jameis Winston, so why not just go full Tebow and start Taysom Hill? I swear 50 percent of Winston’s throws are screen passes, and he is averaging just over 150 passing yards per game. It’s ridiculous to watch, and that makes Winston a terrible matchup with Washington’s Cover-2 this Sunday. The Saints are 39-17 ATS in their last 56 road games.
15. Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) – Man, Joe Burrow really is the truth, isn’t he? It isn’t just that Burrow has amazing ball placement and that he throws an extremely catchable ball. Burrow has the confidence and the calm temperament to lead this group, and they all believe they have a chance to win with him under center. The defense is still a few pieces away, and the offensive line needs to be bolstered. But this team is oozing potential.
16. Denver Broncos (3-1) – Injuries are an absolute buzzsaw tearing through this Broncos roster. If Ted Bridgewater can’t go this Sunday, then Denver will be down nine of 22 projected Week 1 starters. The Broncos have covered six straight against the Steelers, and Denver is 10-2 ATS in their last 12 games after failing to cover the spread.
17. Carolina Panthers (3-1) – There is a clear reverse line movement in this week’s game with Philadelphia. And I think that some sharp people are starting to see what I see with Carolina: their 3-1 start is a bit of an aberration because of their schedule. Carolina is just 1-5 ATS in its last six games as a favorite, and they are just 4-10 ATS in their last 14 home games.
18. Minnesota Vikings (1-3) – The bad karma continues. At a certain point I can’t keep just saying that Minnesota’s losses are OK because they are losing close games to elite teams. At some point you just have to say, “Something with this team is broken.” They absolutely should’ve beaten the Browns – Minnesota had three drives inside Cleveland’s 40 result in 0 points – and that is now three losses to teams with winning records by an average of just 3.7 points per game.
19. Tennessee Titans (2-2) – If A.J. Brown and Julio Jones continue to miss time, then things can definitely spiral out of control for the Titans. Derrick Henry can only do so much. He’s already on pace to set NFL records for total yards and total touches, and the Titans are barely 2-2. So, without Brown and Jones, the offense is going to fall apart. The defense already stinks, so now if the offense goes south this becomes a bad team really quickly. The Titans are 6-2 ATS against the Jaguars.
20. New England Patriots (1-3) – It’s going to be interesting to see how the Patriots respond, emotionally, to their near miss against Tampa Bay last week. This team is one late red zone fumble and one doinked field goal away from being 3-1. They can’t screw around with the Texans this week, though. A loss here would drive an early dagger into any hope the Pats have of making the playoffs.
21. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) – The lack of discipline with this team is galling. They lead the NFL in penalties, averaging 11 per game, and their 44 total penalties is more than 10 more than the next most penalized team. Can we just blame this on rookie coaching? I don’t know. But the Eagles had three touchdowns come off the board last week because of penalties, and that was a game they could’ve and should’ve won. The Eagles are just 1-7 ATS on the road and just 4-11 ATS after a loss.
22. Chicago Bears (2-2) – Shocking: Matt Nagy gives up play-calling duties, and the Bears offense busts out. That’s exactly what happened last year, too! Look, I still think Nagy has some potential as a head coach. I haven’t seen a ton of glaring mistakes from him in terms of game management, and the Bears always seem motivated in the right spots. But Nagy should never, ever, ever call plays for the Bears – or anyone else – ever again.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3) – I can’t tell if it is sharp action or if it is just muscle memory, but I’m surprised that Pittsburgh was posted as a favorite this week against Denver and more surprised to see more than 60 percent of the early action on the home team. The Steelers are just 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games. But they, like New England, is playing for its season, so that makes them dangerous.
24. Indianapolis Colts (1-3) – Carson Wentz was able to snap a personal seven-game losing streak with that win in Miami last week. He did it by making simple plays and not taking any chances, and he will have to continue that conservative play going forward. The ‘under’ is 8-0 in Indy’s last eight games against the Ravens and is 12-1 in the last 13 meetings between these two teams.
25. Washington Football Team (2-2) – Would you rather have four years of Taylor Heinicke at $18 million per year or four years of Baker Mayfield at $32 million per year? I’m taking Heinicke all day every day. And not to beat a dead horse, but Heinicke is kind of another example of why NFL quarterbacks should sit and watch for a few years, gaining experience a little at a time rather than just being thrown off the deep end.
26. New York Giants (1-3) – Last year the Giants had one of the worst two-minute defenses in the NFL. They clearly haven’t fixed the problem. In fact, it’s gotten worse, and they are ranked No. 32 in the NFL in two-minute defense. They have allowed a whopping 34 points – including two game-winning field goals – in the final two minutes of the first half and the game in four games this year.
27. Miami Dolphins (1-3) – The Dolphins are catching the Bucs in a letdown spot this week. Throw in the fact that Miami is playing for its season, since going 1-4 would make a postseason run almost impossible, and the Dolphins could keep this game competitive. The Dolphins are 5-0 ATS as a road underdog and 7-1 ATS after a loss. Miami is on a 22-10 ATS run, and they are 18-6 ATS overall as a dog.
28. Detroit Lions (0-4) – I’m not going to crush Jared Goff. He’s doing what he can. The guy is running around trying to make plays and trying to lead one of the worst rosters in the NFL. He’s not the problem. Detroit had four drives inside the Chicago red zone, two of which moved inside the 10, that resulted in a total of 0 points last week. They not only should’ve covered last week but they probably should’ve won that game.
29. Atlanta Falcons (1-3) – Arthur Smith was doing his best Dan Quinn impression last week against Washington. Questionable game management decisions, an inability to do simple math (why did they go for two with 11 minutes in the third quarter?), and a way-too-conservative approach with a fourth quarter lead all looked familiar for Falcons fans.
30. Houston Texans (1-3) – Yeah, their last two games have been pretty goddamn bleak. They’ve gained a total of 292 total yards in their last eight quarters, and things could get worse before they get better. They are facing a Patriots team that may be emotionally drained this week, so that could help them keep this one surprisingly close.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4) – Trevor Lawrence has a LONG way to go. I’m not giving up on the guy or anything. But he hasn’t shown me much of anything. He is a one-read guy with terrible ball placement that is constantly missing throws high. And it’s great that they are using him in the running game and all. But I’m predicting a shoulder injury somewhere in his near future.
32. New York Jets (1-3) – I will give credit to C.J. Mosley. The guy has been cashing paychecks for doing absolutely nothing for the past three years. However, he was a beast on Sunday in New York’s first win of the season, racking up 13 tackles. The Jets are in London this week and at least carry a little momentum with them. They are still just 2-7 ATS against teams with a losing record and 1-4 ATS in their last five games as an underdog.
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